Snapshot 1: the graphs of the step function
and the formula using no zeta zeros
Snapshot 2: the graphs of
and the formula using 30 pairs of zeta zeros
Snapshot 3: a closeup showing that the formula with no zeta zeros misses some jumps of
, but when 40 pairs of zeros are used, the formula closely matches
This Demonstration uses the following formula to calculate
complex zero of the Riemann zeta function. See .
The first three complex zeros of the zeta function are approximately
. The zeros occur in conjugate pairs, so if
is a zero, then so is
. The important Riemann hypothesis is the unproven conjecture that all these complex zeros have real part 1/2. So far, it has been verified that the first
complex zeros do, indeed, have real part 1/2 (see ).
If you use the slider to choose, say, one pair of zeta zeros, then the first sum in the above formula, in effect, combines two terms corresponding to the first conjugate pair of zeta zeros
. So, when these terms are added, their imaginary parts cancel while their real parts add. The
applied to the first sum is simply an efficient way to combine the two terms for each pair of zeta zeros.
Notice that the second sum has the same form as the first, except that the second sum extends over the so-called "trivial" zeros of the zeta function, namely,
. The second sum is small when
The dominant term in the formula is
, which is the density of the squarefree integers, that is, the limiting proportion of integers up to
that are squarefree as
All known zeta zeros have multiplicity 1, which the formula assumes. At those values of
, the formula converges to the midpoint,
As we include more zeta zeros in the first sum, we more closely replicate the jumps in the step function
. This means that the zeros of the Riemann zeta function somehow know which integers are divisible by squares of primes.
To prove formulas like the one above, see . Define
to be 1 if
is squarefree and 0 otherwise. Then this identity holds for
When we apply Perron's formula to this identity, we get the above equation for
 G. H. Hardy and E. M. Wright, An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers
, 4th ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965 p. 255.
 H. L. Montgomery and R. C. Vaughan, Multiplicative Number Theory: I. Classical Theory
, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007 p. 397.