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Tetration is a binary mathematical operator defined by the recurrence relation:

More intuitively, with b copies of a. is pronounced "a tetrated to b" or "to-the-b a."

Tetration leads to very large numbers, even with small inputs. For example, , which has 3638334640025 digits.


The problem with the above definition is that works only for nonnegative integers b. What is , for example?

Generalizing b to the real numbers is a tricky and interesting problem. We present a solution proposed by Daniel Geisler of Heavy differential calculus is ahead, so be warned. This is intended to be a gentle introduction; visit the original page if you don't need a tutorial.

Tetration is part of a class of general problems involving function iteration. Function iteration is defined by the recurrence relation , , so , , etc. Tetration could be defined as where . So if we can define for real , we're all set for defining continuous tetration.

First, we translate f so that . This simplifies a lot of the math. Then we consider the Maclaurin series (Taylor series around 0) of :

This converges to for for some radius . What we need to do is find .

Constant term

First, because .

First derivative

To compute , we need to find . Define for convenience:

(Chain Rule)

Plugging in , we can take advantage of the fact that :

Since we'll see them a lot, we'll define , , etc. So we can write our latest finding as .

Second derivative

This one is somewhat nastier. Again define :

(Chain Rule)
(Product Rule)
(Product Rule)

Setting :

Third derivative

(Chain Rule + Product Rule)
(Product Rule, 2x)
(combining like terms)

External links