## Ackermann Function

The Ackermann function is the simplest example of a well-defined Total Function which is Computable but not Primitive Recursive, providing a counterexample to the belief in the early 1900s that every Computable Function was also Primitive Recursive (Dötzel 1991). It grows faster than an exponential function, or even a multiple exponential function. The Ackermann function is defined by

 (1)

Special values for Integer include
 (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)

Expressions of the latter form are sometimes called Power Towers. follows trivially from the definition. can be derived as follows,
 (7)

has a similar derivation,
 (8)

Buck (1963) defines a related function using the same fundamental Recurrence Relation (with arguments flipped from Buck's convention)

 (9)

but with the slightly different boundary values
 (10) (11) (12) (13)

Buck's recurrence gives
 (14) (15) (16) (17)

Taking gives the sequence 1, 2, 4, 16, 65536, , .... Defining for , 1, ... then gives 1, 3, 4, 8, 65536, , ... (Sloane's A001695), where , a truly huge number!

See also Ackermann Number, Computable Function, Goodstein Sequence, Power Tower, Primitive Recursive Function, TAK Function, Total Function

References

Buck, R. C. Mathematical Induction and Recursive Definitions.'' Amer. Math. Monthly 70, 128-135, 1963.

Dötzel, G. A Function to End All Functions.'' Algorithm: Recreational Programming 2.4, 16-17, 1991.

Kleene, S. C. Introduction to Metamathematics. New York: Elsevier, 1971.

Péter, R. Rekursive Funktionen. Budapest: Akad. Kiado, 1951.

Reingold, E. H. and Shen, X. More Nearly Optimal Algorithms for Unbounded Searching, Part I: The Finite Case.'' SIAM J. Comput. 20, 156-183, 1991.

Rose, H. E. Subrecursion, Functions, and Hierarchies. New York: Clarendon Press, 1988.

Sloane, N. J. A. Sequence A001695/M2352 in An On-Line Version of the Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences.'' http://www.research.att.com/~njas/sequences/eisonline.html and Sloane, N. J. A. and Plouffe, S. The Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. San Diego: Academic Press, 1995.

Smith, H. J. Ackermann's Function.'' http://pweb.netcom.com/~hjsmith/Ackerman.html.

Spencer, J. Large Numbers and Unprovable Theorems.'' Amer. Math. Monthly 90, 669-675, 1983.

Tarjan, R. E. Data Structures and Network Algorithms. Philadelphia PA: SIAM, 1983.

Vardi, I. Computational Recreations in Mathematica. Redwood City, CA: Addison-Wesley, pp. 11, 227, and 232, 1991.

© 1996-9 Eric W. Weisstein
1999-05-25