Mats1 is actually kind of correct. The thing is that the sum of the natural numbers is indeed infinite. In order to get -1/12 you have to use a different concept of numbers, called p-adic numbers.I'm not a mathematician, but according to wikipedia and wolframalpha, ζ(−1) = -1/12
This is in fact, not true. If you evaluate the sum of all the natural numbers (1 + 2 + 3 + 4...) it is infinitely large. To evaluate this sum to have a value of -1/12th is not really correct. =/
If you want to learn the mathematical reasoning behind why the answer is infinity, but why you could evaluate a similar looking sum to have a value of -1/12th, I suggest looking up the zeta function.If you have an interest in maths, I really recommend it, there are some surprising results and really beautiful mathematics to be found there. If you don't want to learn the maths, just take it as 1 + 2 + 3 + 4... = infinity
For the curious, this question and answer give good a good introduction to the subject.
Anyway, this is further complicated by the fact that we aren't actually talking about 1 + 2 + 3 + ... = -1/12. What we're really talking about are limits and convergence, which isn't necessarily the same (or as strict) as equality. Because it's a limit we're computing, there are more ways to show 1 + 2 + 3 + ... = -1/12 than just the zeta function. So you might say 1 + 2 + 3 + ... is infinity just as much as you might say it's -1/12.
Edited by Cornstalks, 02 June 2014 - 09:45 PM.