# Smooth functions that resemble random walks

If the Riemann hypothesis holds, then the Mertens function $$M(n)\equiv\sum_{x\leq n} \mu(n)$$ behaves much like a 1D random walk. This includes the statements that

1. $$M(n)$$ changes sign infinitely often
2. $$M(n)=O(\sqrt{n})$$ (ignoring subleading logarithmic corrections).

It is also believed that 3) $$\mu(n)=M(n)-M(n-1)$$ "looks random". This seems to be a topic of current research, but is sometimes phrased as the "Mobius randomness law" (Eq 5 here), which says that for functions of low complexity $$\xi (n)$$

$$\sum_{n\leq N} \xi(n) \mu(n) = o(\sum_{n\leq N} |\xi(n)|)$$

Some weaker analogue of this conjecture is proved in the linked note.

Now, the Mertens function can be extended to the reals through an integral expression

$$M(x) = \int^{c+\mathrm{i}\infty}_{c-\mathrm{i}\infty } \frac{ds}{2\pi \mathrm{i}} \, \frac{x^s}{s \zeta(s)}\,\,\,\,\, (*)$$

My question is: Does anyone know of a function $$f:\mathbb{R}\rightarrow \mathbb{R}$$, which is a deterministic$$\dagger$$ combination of known analytic functions (e.g., Eq. $$(*)$$) and which can also be proved to obey conditions 1., 2., and 3. above? Here 3. would mean that $$f(n)-f(n-1)$$ "looks random" in some sense, e.g., the sense described above. Perhaps there are many examples; if so, what's the simplest? I don't particularly care whether $$f(n)$$ takes integer values; I just want it to look like a random walk.

**EDITS/ I've updated the wording of this question. There is an obvious set of examples if I merely insist on 1. and 2. I should have emphasized the need for $$f(n)-f(n-1)$$ to "look random".

$$\dagger=$$ I want $$f$$ to be expressible as a deterministic combination of known functions; so I won't accept e.g., a fourier series with randomly chosen coefficients (see Carlo's answer below). Morally, I'm interested in the appearance of randomness from seemingly deterministic expressions (e.g., $$(*)$$).

• Well, for example $\sqrt{n}\sin n$. In general it’s not useful to ask for soft-analytic properties like smoothness, since for any function from the integers to the reals, there is a smooth function that extends the domain to the reals. Aug 2, 2020 at 16:18
• @user36212 Does $\sqrt{n} \sin n$ obey (1)? Even if you add floor functions I'd be surprised if that's known (or even true). Aug 2, 2020 at 18:11
• Thank you both for your comments. What I really want is for $f(x)$ to "look like a random walk" at integer points. This will certainly require that 1 and 2 are satisfied. However, I obviously need to add an extra condition; something along the lines that $f(n+1)-f(n)$ and $f(m+2)-f(m+1)$ are uncorrelated i.e., steps at different times are uncorrelated. Aug 2, 2020 at 19:48
• Marcus M - no, I presume it doesn’t go through integers at integer values; but that you can fix by smoothly transforming $n$. Point is it looks nothing like a random walk. Aug 2, 2020 at 22:15
• If your interest is mainly in understanding the appearance of randomness (or something that 'looks like it') from compact deterministic expressions, then wouldn't you have more luck looking at pseudo-random number generators than anything to do with analytic functions? Aug 3, 2020 at 11:54

Smooth random functions, random ODEs, and Gaussian processes (2018) describes an approach that takes a finite Fourier series on the interval $$(0,1)$$ with randomly chosen coefficients. The integral of this function approaches Brownian motion in the limit that the number $$M$$ of Fourier coefficients tends to infinity.
The plot shows three such functions, for $$M=1/\lambda=5,25,$$ and $$125$$.
For $$M=1000$$ the curve is a Brownian path within plotting accuracy, the plot below shows 10 realizations.
• Carlo: Thank you for the example. It's not quite what I was looking for, although interesting. Your answer has led me to refine my question. In particular, I'd like $f(x)$ to have an expression as a deterministic combination of known functions. In your example, it seems to be important that the fourier coefficients are chosen randomly. Aug 3, 2020 at 7:54
• I'm not sure that I understand your point: this is a fully deterministic construction, the Fourier coefficients are just a fixed string of numbers, how I arrived at them should not matter. If you wish, you can construct the coefficients from the digits of $\pi$ --- wouldn't that satisfy your requirement of "appearance of randomness from seemingly deterministic expressions"? Aug 3, 2020 at 8:32
• Hi Carlo, the construction using the digits of pi almost certainly works. It's not quite as compact as $(*)$ but I'll grant that it satisfies my requirements. However, I think you'd struggle to prove this, as $\pi$ is only conjectured to be a normal number (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_number). I'll look into known examples of normal numbers and see whether they could be consistent with 3). Aug 3, 2020 at 12:29
• @curt Because Chowla's conjecture implies Sarnak's conjecture, every normal number (such as the Champernowne constant $.12345679101112\dots$) satisfies a form of 3. Aug 4, 2020 at 17:30