The following proposition shows that $x^{\gamma_1}, \dots x^{\gamma_n}$ are indeed always linearly independent if $x \in \mathbb{R}^n$ has $n$ mutually distinct strictly positive entries.

**Proposition.** For all real numbers $\gamma_1 < \dots < \gamma_n$ (be they positive or not) and each tuple $0 \not= (\alpha_1, \dots, \alpha_n) \in \mathbb{R}^n$ the function
$$
f_n: (0,\infty) \ni t \mapsto \alpha_1 t^{\gamma_1} + \dots + \alpha_n t^{\gamma_n} \in \mathbb{R}
$$
has at most $n-1$ distinct zeros (by "distinct" I mean that we do not count multiplicities of zeros).

*Proof.* We show the proposition by induction. The assertion is obvious for $n = 1$, so assume that the claim has been proved for some $n \in \mathbb{N}$ and consider $n+1$ terms now.

Assume that $f_{n+1}$ has at least $n+1$ distinct zeros in $(0,\infty)$. Then all the coefficients $\alpha_1, \dots, \alpha_{n+1}$ are non-zero (otherwise $f_{n+1}$ would be a non-trivial linear combination of $n$ terms with at least $n+1$ zeros).

The function $t^{-\gamma_1}f_{n+1}(t)$ also has at least $n+1$ distinct zeros, and hence, its derivative $(t^{-\gamma_1}f_{n+1}(t))'$ has at least $n$ distinct zeros (as a consequence of Rolle's theorem). This is a contradiction since $(t^{-\gamma_1}f_{n+1}(t))'$ is a non-trivial linear combination of the $n$ terms $t^{\gamma_2-\gamma_1-1}, \dots, t^{\gamma_{n+1}-\gamma_1 - 1}$.

**Remark.** It is important in the above proof that we show the result for all real numbers $\gamma_k$ (and not only for positive ones), since even if all $\gamma_k$ are positive we need the induction hypotheses for negative exponents, too. So this is a nice example where strengthening the hypothesis is needed to make induction work..