23 is Largest Integer not Sum of Distinct Perfect Powers

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Theorem

The largest integer which cannot be expressed as the sum of distinct perfect powers is $23$.


Proof

The first few perfect powers are:

$1, 4, 8, 9, 16, 25, 27, 32, \dots$


First we show that $23$ cannot be expressed as the sum of distinct perfect powers.

Only $1, 4, 8, 9, 16$ are perfect powers less than $23$.

Suppose $23$ can be so expressed.

Since $1 + 4 + 8 + 9 = 22 < 23$, $16$ must be used in the sum.

However $23 - 16 = 7$ cannot be expressed as a sum of $1$ and $4$.

Thus $23$ cannot be expressed as the sum of distinct perfect powers.

$\Box$


Now we show that all numbers greater than $23$ can be so expressed.

By Richert's Theorem, we just need to show:

For any $23 < n \le 23 + 32$, $n$ can be expressed as a sum of distinct elements in $\set {1, 4, 8, 9, 16, 25, 27}$
$s_{i + 1} \le 2 s_i$ for every $i \ge 7$, where $s_i$ is the $i$th perfect power

Verification of the first statement is included in the bottom of this proof.


To verify the second statement:

Let $i \ge 7$.

Let $m$ be the integer satisfying:

$2^{m + 1} > s_i \ge 2^m$

We have that $m \ge 4$.

Hence $2^{m + 1}$ is also a perfect power.

There must be a perfect power greater than $s_i$ but not greater than $2^{m + 1}$.

Thus:

$2 s_i \ge 2^{m + 1} \ge s_{i + 1}$


Therefore $23$ is the largest integer that cannot be expressed as the sum of distinct perfect powers..

$\Box$


Here is $23 < n \le 55$ expressed as a sum of distinct elements in $\set {1, 4, 8, 9, 16, 25, 27}$:

\(\ds 24\) \(=\) \(\ds 16 + 8\)
\(\ds 25\) \(=\) \(\ds 25\)
\(\ds 26\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 1\)
\(\ds 27\) \(=\) \(\ds 27\)
\(\ds 28\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 1\)
\(\ds 29\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 4\)
\(\ds 30\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 4 + 1\)
\(\ds 31\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 4\)
\(\ds 32\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 4 + 1\)
\(\ds 33\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 8\)
\(\ds 34\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 9\)
\(\ds 35\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 9 + 1\)
\(\ds 36\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 9\)
\(\ds 37\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 9 + 1\)
\(\ds 38\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 9 + 4\)
\(\ds 39\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 9 + 4 + 1\)
\(\ds 40\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 9 + 4\)
\(\ds 41\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 9 + 4 + 1\)
\(\ds 42\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 9 + 8\)
\(\ds 43\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 9 + 8 + 1\)
\(\ds 44\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 9 + 8\)
\(\ds 45\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 9 + 8 + 1\)
\(\ds 46\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 9 + 8 + 4\)
\(\ds 47\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 9 + 8 + 4 + 1\)
\(\ds 48\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 9 + 8 + 4\)
\(\ds 49\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 9 + 8 + 4 + 1\)
\(\ds 50\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 16 + 9\)
\(\ds 51\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 16 + 9 + 1\)
\(\ds 52\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 25\)
\(\ds 53\) \(=\) \(\ds 27 + 25 + 1\)
\(\ds 54\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 16 + 9 + 4\)
\(\ds 55\) \(=\) \(\ds 25 + 16 + 9 + 4 + 1\)

$\blacksquare$


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