The Density of Numbers Represented by Diagonal Forms of Large Degree

The Density of Numbers Represented by Diagonal Forms of Large Degree

Brandon Hanson Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA
 and  Asif Zaman University of Toronto
Toronto, ON

Let be a fixed positive integer and be arbitrary. We show that, on average over , the density of numbers represented by the degree diagonal form

decays rapidly with respect to .

1. Introduction

The classical version of Waring’s problem asks whether every positive integer can be written as a sum of at most positive integers, each of which is a ’th power. In other words, is there an integer (which depends on ) such that for each we have a solution to the equation


in non-negative integers ? The least value of which is admissible is usually referred to as , and Waring’s problem is thus the assertion that for any . Waring’s problem has a long history; for a nice exposition see [8].

The “easier” version of Waring’s problem, a name attributed to Wright [10], asks whether there is a solution to the equation


The least for which this equation is soluble for each is usually referred to as , and establishing that is a fairly simple argument, which can be found in [6]. Clearly any upper bound for in the usual Waring problem extends to a bound for as well. However, the freedom to use negative summands may make considerably smaller.

One can verify that . Indeed, in order for to be written as a sum of ’th powers, we only have ’s at our disposal. For these reasons, one usually considers instead , which is the least such that (1) is soluble for all sufficiently large. Here, the bound is still quite simple. To represent each in the range , the variables can be no larger than . Thus the vector is a lattice point in the box , and there are at most such lattice points. To represent all integers in the desired range, we must therefore have . The introduction of negative summands causes this argument to fail completely, because one is no longer counting lattice points in a bounded region. This motivates the following question, which was asked in [2]:


For sufficiently large, is it true that the set of integers of the form

has asymptotic density zero?

A result of Wooley (see [2] and [9]) asserts that, for , the set of integers of the form

has density zero and in fact more is true – one can obtain fairly good decay rates in the proportion of integers up to which can be represented. However, Wooley’s result is conditional on a generalized version of the -conjecture and, as far as the authors are aware, there seems to be little known unconditionally for large values of , say . We prove a result in this direction which is much weaker, but unconditional. We will not be able to prove that the set of integers represented has zero density, but we will establish bounds on the asymptotic density of these integers. These bounds will, on average, decay quite rapidly with respect to .

In fact, we will establish something a bit more general in that we will allow for arbitrary integer coefficients, not just ’s and ’s. Let be fixed and let be arbitrary. We consider the form


and the set

of numbers which this form represents.

We shall estimate the average asymptotic (upper)-density


as a function of . This number implicitly depends on a, but the results we shall prove about are uniform over a. For , the following theorem establishes that the value of is large on average.

Theorem 1.

Let be fixed and be arbitrary. Let be sufficiently large depending at most on and define as in (4). Then


We will use the convention that when . Thus, we expect that the quantity on the lefthand side in (5) is infinite for all sufficiently large depending only on and a. Perhaps it is instructive to compare Theorem 1 to a conditional result. Let denote the number of primes satisfying and let denote Euler’s totient function.

Proposition 2.

Let be fixed and be arbitrary. Let be sufficiently large depending at most on and define as in (4). If


for any and then


Assumption (6) is one of the strongest widely-believed conjectures regarding the distribution of primes in arithmetic progressions and Theorem 1 unconditionally obtains the corresponding average result for . Note that the special case is addressed by classical work of Mahler [5] which implies for . For further details on the case , see for example [1] and [7].

2. Local densities and a conditional result

The method of proof for Theorem 1 and Proposition 2 is to bound the density by considering local constraints. For instance, a very simple first observation is that for prime

This is just the trivial observation that the set of powers modulo consist of the residue classes and modulo . Thus there are at most admissible values of the diagonal form modulo . Our aim is then to improve this estimate for a given , and subsequently obtain good density estimates for the average exponent . To this end, define

The Chinese Remainder Theorem then gives:

Lemma 3.

For any integer ,

We will combine this with a simple development of the idea we used to bound . Let denote the greatest common divisor of two integers and .

Lemma 4.

Let and let be a prime. Then



By the structure theorem for cyclic groups, the set non-zero powers modulo forms a subgroup of the unit group of size . Adding in the class modulo , there are values of modulo . Thus, the proportion of admissible residue classes modulo is at most . ∎

Using these two lemmas, we can establish Proposition 2.

Proof of Proposition 2.

Suppose is a prime satisfying . With defined as in Lemma 4, observe that if and only if

Since , we have that whenever

Let be sufficiently large and set . Thus, by Lemmas 3 and 4,

Since , the above is

after fixing to be sufficiently large, depending at most on . Then, using assumption (6) to bound the sum on the right in the above inequality, it follows that

after bounding trivially by . This proves the proposition. ∎

3. Global density is small on average

This section is dedicated to proving Theorem 1 for which we require one additional lemma. For integers and , let


where equals if is a power of a prime and equals otherwise.

Lemma 5.

Let be arbitrary. For ,


Additionally, if is fixed then


We divide the sum in (9) dyadically. For , note . Hence, by the Bombieri-Vinogradov theorem [3, Theorem 17.1], we have that

In the last step, we applied the classical fact [4] that, for ,

Summing the prior estimate over with and recalling yields desired result. To prove (10), we proceed similarly. For and , we may apply the Brun-Titchmarsh inequality [3, Theorem 6.6] to and deduce that

The desired bound follows by dyadically summing this estimate. ∎

Proof of Theorem 1.

By Lemma 3, observe that


It suffices to show . By Lemma 4,

for each prime . Let , so for some integer with . Thus, each pair in the above sum corresponds to a unique triple of positive integers and such that and . Moreover,

Collecting these observations, we deduce that

Whenever , the inner sum over contains . Thus, the above is

By positivity, we may restrict the outer sum to for some parameter satisfying


Recalling (8), it follows by partial summation that


Set where is a parameter which will be specified. For , we have that


If , then from (13) we see that

Otherwise, for , we similarly have that

Substituting these bounds into (12) and noting , we deduce that

Since for , Lemma 5 therefore implies that

Note the implied constant is independent of and depends only on . Choose where is a fixed sufficiently large constant depending only on . Thus, satisfies (11) and it follows that . ∎


  • [1] M. A. Bennett, N. P. Dummigan, and T. D. Wooley. The representation of integers by binary additive forms. Compositio Math., 111(1):15–33, 1998.
  • [2] B. Bukh ( bukh). Lower bounds on the easier Waring problem. MathOverflow. URL:
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  • [7] C. L. Stewart and S. Y. Xiao. On the representation of integers by binary forms. May 2016. arXiv:1605.03427.
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