power of two

A power of two is a number of the form 2n, with n generally understood to be a nonnegative integer. The first few powers of two are 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 and so forth. These are listed in A000079 of Sloane’s OEIS. Because computers use the binary numeral system for their computations, the powers of two are of paramount importance in computer science.

With n a negative integer, the larger powers of two are the fractions 12, 14, 18, 116, 132, 164, 1128, 1256, which are so often used in conjunctionMathworldPlanetmath with units of the British Weights and Measures Act of which some have been inherited and are still used in the United States. These fractions are also used in music for gradually smaller rhythmic units, as well as in photography, though somewhat relabelled (e.g., the readout of a camera might read 1250 rather than 1256).

The binary representation of an power of two greater than 1 is always a digit 1 as the most significant digit followed by as many zeroes as indicated by the exponent for 2, such as 24 is in binary 100002. Hence 2nXOR2n-1=0.

For 2n, the value of τ(2n) (the divisor functionMathworldPlanetmath) is always n+1, and the divisorsMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmath are the powers of two from 20 to 2n. The value of the sum of divisors function σ(2n) is therefore a Mersenne number 2n+1-1. The powers of two are therefore deficient numbers always 1 short of being a perfect numbers. In fact, they are the only known almost perfect numbers. So the sum of consecutive powers of two from i=-1 down to some other negative i is a fraction with a Mersenne number as its numerator and a power of two as its denominator. This suggests that


Only a Collatz sequence starting with a power of two is in strictly descending order, and will reach 1 in precisely n steps. Any other starting value guarantees that there will be steps at which the value will be tripled and incremented rather than just halved.

For n>0, a number 2n is an impolite number, it cannot be represented as the sum of consecutive nonnegative integers, whereas all other positive integers can be (and are thus polite numbers).

Title power of two
Canonical name PowerOfTwo
Date of creation 2013-03-22 18:09:56
Last modified on 2013-03-22 18:09:56
Owner 1and2and4 (20899)
Last modified by 1and2and4 (20899)
Numerical id 4
Author 1and2and4 (20899)
Entry type Definition
Classification msc 11A25
Related topic AllPositiveIntegersArePoliteNumbersExceptPowersOfTwo
Defines impolite number