Number theory
Traditionally, number theory is that branch of pure mathematics concerned with the properties of integers and contains many open problems that are easily understood even by non-mathematicians. More generally, the field has come to be concerned with a wider class of problems that arose naturally from the study of integers. Number theory may be subdivided into several fields according to the methods used and the questions investigated. See for example the list of number theory topics.The term "arithmetic" is also used to refer to number theory. This is a somewhat older term, which is no longer as popular as it once was. Nevertheless, the term remains prevalent --e.g. in the names of mathematical fields (arithmetic algebraic geometry and the arithmetic of elliptic curves and surfaces). This sense of the term arithmetic should not be confused with the branch of logic which studies arithmetic in the sense of formal systems.
In elementary number theory, the integers are studied without use of techniques from other mathematical fields. Questions of divisibility, the Euclidean algorithm to compute greatest common divisors, factorization of integers into prime numbers, investigation of perfect numbers and congruences belong here. Typical statements are Fermat's little theorem and Euler's theorem extending it, the Chinese remainder theorem and the law of quadratic reciprocity. The properties of multiplicative functions such as the Möbius function and Euler's φ function; are investigated; so are integer sequences such as factorials and Fibonacci numbers.
Many questions in elementary number theory are exceptionally deep and require completely new approaches. Examples are
- The Goldbach conjecture concerning the expression of even numbers as sums of two primes,
- Catalan's conjecture regarding successive integer powers,
- The twin prime conjecture about the infinitude of prime pairs, and
- The Collatz conjecture concerning a simple iteration.
Analytic number theory employs the machinery of calculus and complex analysis to tackle questions about integers. The prime number theorem and the related Riemann hypothesis are examples. Waring's problem (representing a given integer as a sum of squares, cubes etc.), the Twin Prime Conjecture (finding infinitely many prime pairs with difference 2) and Goldbach's conjecture (writing even integers as sums of two primes) are being attacked with analytical methods as well. Proofs of the transcendence of mathematical constants, such as π or e, are also classified as analytical number theory. While statements about transcendental numbers may seem to be removed from the study of integers, they really study the possible values of polynomials with integer coefficients evaluated at, say, e; they are also closely linked to the field of Diophantine approximation, where one investigates "how well" a given real number may be approximated by a rational one.
In algebraic number theory, the concept of number is expanded to the algebraic numbers which are roots of polynomials with rational coefficients. These domains contain elements analogous to the integers, the so-called algebraic integers. In this setting, the familiar features of the integers (e.g. unique factorization) need not hold. The virtue of the machinery employed -- Galois theory, field cohomology, class field theory, group representations and L-functions -- is that it allows to recover that order partly for this new class of numbers.
Many number theoretical questions are best attacked by studying them modulo p for all primes p (see finite fields). This is called localization and it leads to the construction of the p-adic numbers; this field of study is called local analysis and it arises from algebraic number theory.
Geometric number theory incorporates all forms of geometry. It starts with Minkowski's theorem about lattice points in convex sets and investigations of sphere packings. Algebraic geometry, especially the theory of elliptic curves, may also be employed. The famous Fermat's last theorem was proved with these techniques.
Finally, computational number theory studies algorithms relevant in number theory. Fast algorithms for prime testing and integer factorization have important applications in cryptography
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2 Quotations 3 References |
History of number theory
The theory of numbers, a favorite study among the ancient Greeks, had its renaissance in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the labors of Viète, Bachet de Meziriac, and especially Fermat. In the eighteenth century Euler and Lagrange contributed to the theory, and at its close the subject began to take scientific form through the great labors of Legendre (1798), and Gauss (1801). With the latter's Disquisitiones Arithmeticae (1801) may be said to begin the modern theory of numbers.
Chebyshev (1850) gave useful bounds for the number of primes between two given limits. Riemann (1859) conjectured the limit of the number of primes not exceeding a given number (the prime number theorem), introduced complex analysis into the theoryof the Riemann zeta function, and derived the explicit formulae of prime number theory from its zeroes.
The theory of congruencess may be said to start with Gauss's Disquisitiones. He introduced the symbolism
Besides summarizing previous work, Legendre stated the law of quadratic reciprocity. This law, discovered by induction and enunciated by Euler, was first proved by Legendre in his Théorie des Nombres (1798) for special cases. Independently of Euler and Legendre, Gauss discovered the law about 1795, and was the first to give a general proof. To the subject have also contributed: Cauchy; Dirichlet whose Vorlesungen über Zahlentheorie is a classic; Jacobi, who introduced the Jacobi symbol; Liouville, Zeller(?), Eisenstein, Kummer, and Kronecker. The theory extends to include cubic and biquadratic reciprocity, (Gauss, Jacobi who first proved the law of cubic reciprocity, and Kummer).
To Gauss is also due the representation of numbers by binary quadratic forms. Cauchy, Poinsot (1845), Lebesgue(?) (1859, 1868), and notably Hermite have added to the subject. In the theory of ternary forms Eisenstein has been a leader, and to him and H. J. S. Smith is also due a noteworthy advance in the theory of forms in general. Smith gave a complete classification of ternary quadratic forms, and extended Gauss's researches concerning real quadratic forms to complex forms. The investigations concerning the representation of numbers by the sum of 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 squares were advanced by Eisenstein and the theory was completed by Smith.
Dirichlet was the first to lecture upon the subject in a German university. Among his contributions is the extension of Fermat's theorem on
Quotations
Mathematics is the queen of the sciences and number theory is the queen of mathematics. GaussReferences
- History of Modern Mathematics by David Eugene Smith, 1906 (adapted public domain text)
- Essays on the Theory of Numbers, Richard Dedekind, Dover Publications, Inc., 1963. ISBN 0-486-21010-3
- Number Theory and Its History, Oystein Ore, Dover Publications, Inc., 1948,1976. ISBN 0-486-65620-9
- Unsolved Problems in Number Theory, Richard K. Guy, Springer-Verlag, 1981. ISBN 0-387-90593-6 ISBN 3-540-90593-6
- Important publications in number theory
Topics in mathematics related to structure | Edit |
Abstract algebra | Number theory | Algebraic geometry | Group theory | Monoids | Analysis | Topology | Linear algebra | Graph theory | Universal algebra | Category theory | Order theory |