Yesterday afternoon I met professor Halfbrain at an art gallery. The professor looked tired and exhausted. He told me that he had spent many working days and many sleepless nights with lengthy calculations. Here is what the professor did:
- The professor picked an arbitrary integer $n\ge2$ as starting number.
- If $n$ was even, he replaced it by $n/2$.
If $n$ was odd, he replaced it by $3n-1$.
- If the professor reached the number $1$, then the process terminated.
Otherwise, the professor iterated this replacement procedure (over and over again).
The professor had tested thousands of possible starting numbers, and for each of his test cases the replacement process eventually led him to the number $1$ and terminated.
Hence the professor formulated the following number-theoretic conjecture:
Professor Halfbrain's conjecture:
For every starting integer $n\ge2$, the Halfbrain replacement procedure must eventually reach the number $1$.
Is the professor's conjecture indeed true, or has the professor once again made one of his well-known mathematical blunders?