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Don Knuth found this sequence so fascinating:

0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 14, 19, 18, 17, 16, 11, 12, 13, 8, 7, 6, 5, 10, 15, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 49

I stumbled over it when looking for OEIS sequences with keyword unkn.


The values listed in base 5 are: 00,01,02,03,04,14,24,34,33,32,31,21,22,23,13,12,11,10,20,30,40,41,42,43,44,144

Some elementary observations and conditions (disregarding the trailing 49):

  • a(n=0..24) is a permutation of the numbers 0..24
  • a(n=0..12) = 24 - a(24-n)
  • Symmetricy around n=12, a(12) = 2*(51 + 50)
  • Groups of length 5n - 1, n=0,1,2 ...
  • Only one base-5 digit is incremented or decremented by 1 (without carry) in each step.

In the following I will refer to generations which correspond to the powers of 5. Knuth's values are generations 0,1,2 and the first of 3 (49).

I wrote a Perl program which plots the values of b-files with SVG. The image shows a slighty distorted "Z" shape with "handles" on the diagonal. The nodes' values are showed in base 5.

First Proposal

Then I produced a big sheet of quad paper and tried to extend the basic shape to 125 elements. Please have a look at my proposal for a continuation with some "fractal" appearance.

I thought that a(n=0..125) could read:

1, 2,3,4,9, 14,19,18,17,16,11,12,13,8,7,6,5,10,15,20,21,22,23,24, 

I would have explained this proposal (for generation 3) as follows: For the "Z"s on the main diagonal, the upper, horizontal stroke consists of 4 nodes spanning a lenthagth of 3*5n. Before that upper stroke and behind the lower stroke there is a "handle" consisting of the shape of generation 2. Whenever the generation 2 shape occurs again in the sequence, it is mirrored on the vertical axis. Please note that the "shape" of generation 1 consists of the values 1,2,3 which are also visible - each time mirrored - on the "/"-stroke of generation 2.

For generation 2, the program which evaluates the conditions above found 2 similiar variants:

History of Sequence A220952

Since sequence A220952 still had the keyword unkn after 4 years, I wrote my proposal to the Seqfan Mailing list. The discussion there showed quickly that:

  • The problem had been stated by Donald Knuth in more detail in A twisted enumeration of the positive integers; Problem 11733, Amer. Math. Monthly, 120 (9) (2013), 76.
  • It was solved by Richard Stong in Amer. Math. Monthly, 123 (1) (2016), 98-100.

The entry for the sequence was written by R. J. Mathar, together with a Maple program. Since I do not have a Maple license, I wrote Perl program which generates the same output.

Why is it so fascinating?

Maybe (also?) because it is a FASS curve. Please read on to see what I have collected for these curves in the meantime.