Existence of Logarithm

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Theorem

Let $b, y \in \R$ such that $b > 1$ and $y > 0$.

Then there exists a unique real $x \in \R$ such that $b^x = y$.


This $x$ is called the logarithm of $y$ to the base $b$.


Also see the definition of a (general) logarithm.


Proof

We start by establishing a lemma:

Lemma 1

Let $t \in \R$ be such that $t > 1$, and let $n \in \N$ be such that $n > \dfrac {b - 1} {t - 1}$.

Then $b^{\frac 1 n} < t$.

Proof of Lemma 1

Because $b > 1$, we have that $b^{\frac 1 n} > 1$.

From Sum of Geometric Progression and this observation, we find that:

$\displaystyle \frac {\left({b^{\frac 1 n} }\right)^n - 1} {b^{\frac 1 n} - 1} = \sum_{k \mathop = 0}^{n - 1} \left({ b^{\frac 1 n} }\right)^k > n$

Rewriting this inequality, we obtain:

$b - 1 > n \left({b^{\frac 1 n} - 1}\right)$

As $n > \dfrac {b - 1} {t - 1}$, this means that:

$t - 1 > b^{\frac 1 n} - 1$

We conclude that:

$b^{\frac 1 n} < t$

$\Box$


Now let $w \in \R$ be any number satisfying $b^w < y$.

Then $t = b^{-w} y > 1$, so we can apply the lemma 1.

It follows that for $n > \dfrac {b - 1} {t - 1}$:

$b^{\frac 1 n} < b^{-w} y$

and thus:

$b^{w + \frac 1 n} < y$

Similarly, when $b^w > y$ and $n > \dfrac {b - 1} {t - 1}$, we have:

$b^{w - \frac 1 n} > y$


Next, let $W = \left\{ {w \in \R: b^w < y }\right\}$.

Let $x = \sup W$. The following lemma helps us to verify existence of $x$.


Lemma 2

For any real number $z > 0$, we have $n \in \N$ such that:

$b^{-n} < z < b^n$

Proof of Lemma 2

Observe that, as $z > 0$, $b^{-n} < z$ whenever $b^n > \dfrac 1 z$.

Therefore, it suffices to show that there is an $n \in \N$ such that $b^n > z$ exists.


By Sum of Geometric Progression, we obtain for any $n \in \N$:

$\displaystyle \left({b - 1}\right) \sum_{k \mathop = 0}^{n - 1} b^k = b^n - 1$

As $b > 1$, we obtain:

$n \left({b - 1}\right) < b^n - 1$

This implies that any $n$ with $n \left({b - 1}\right) > z - 1$ has the desired property.

$\Box$


Lemma 2 shows that $x$ is the supremum of a non-empty set with an upper bound, and therefore it exists.

We will now prove that $b^x = y$.


Suppose $b^x < y$.

We have seen that there exists an $n \in \N$ such that $b^{x + \frac 1 n} < y$.

That is:

$x + \dfrac 1 n \in W$

But this is impossible as $x = \sup W$.

Thus:

$b^x \ge y$


Now suppose $b^x > y$.

We have seen that there exists an $n \in \N$ such that $b^{x - \frac 1 n} > y$.

That is:

$x - \dfrac 1 n \not \in W$

As $x - \frac 1 n$ is not the supremum of $W$, we find a $w \in W$ such that:

$x - \dfrac 1 n < w < x$

But then we have, as $b > 1$:

$b^{x - \frac 1 n} - b^w = b^{x - \frac 1 n}\left({1 - b^{w - x + \frac 1 n}}\right) < 0$

This is contradicts our initial choice of $x - \dfrac 1 n$ outside $W$.

We conclude that $b^x = y$.


Lastly, suppose that $b^x = y = b^z$.

Then:

$b^{z-x} = \dfrac {b^z} {b^x} = 1 = \dfrac {b^x} {b^z} = b^{x-z}$

It is concluded that $x = z$.

$\blacksquare$