Tag Archives: real numbers

Polynomials and Commutativity

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In high school, I came to know about the statement of the fundamental theorem of algebra:

Every polynomial of degree n with integer coefficients have exactly n complex roots (with appropriate multiplicity).

In high school, a polynomial = a polynomial in one variable. Then last year I learned 3 different proofs of the following statement of the fundamental theorem of algebra [involving, topology, complex analysis and Galois theory]:

Every non-zero, single-variable, degree n polynomial with complex coefficients has, counted with multiplicity, exactly n complex roots.

A more general statement about the number of roots of a polynomial in one variable is the Factor Theorem:

Let R be a commutative ring with identity and let p(x)\in R[x] be a polynomial with coefficients in R. The element a\in R is a root of p(x) if and only if (x-a) divides p(x).

A corollary of above theorem is that:

A polynomial f of degree n over a field F has at most n roots in F.

(In case you know undergraduate level algebra, recall that R[x] is a Principal Ideal Domain if and only if R is a field.)

The key fact that many times go unnoticed regarding the number of roots of a given polynomial (in one variable) is that the coefficients/solutions belong to a commutative ring (and \mathbb{C} is a field hence a commutative ring). The key step in the proof of all above theorems is the fact that the division algorithm holds only in some special commutative rings (like fields). I would like to illustrate my point with the following fact:

The equation X^2 + X + 1 has only 2 complex roots, namely \omega = \frac{-1+i\sqrt{3}}{2} and \omega^2 = \frac{-1-i\sqrt{3}}{2}. But if we want solutions over 2×2 matrices (non-commutative set) then we have at least  3 solutions (consider 1 as 2×2 identity matrix and 0 as the 2×2 zero matrix.)

\displaystyle{A=\begin{bmatrix} 0 & -1 \\1 & -1 \end{bmatrix}, B=\begin{bmatrix} \omega & 0 \\0 & \omega^2 \end{bmatrix}, C=\begin{bmatrix} \omega^2 & 0 \\0 & \omega \end{bmatrix}}

if we allow complex entries. This phenominona can also be illusttrated using a non-commutative number system, like quaternions. For more details refer to this Math.SE discussion.

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Real vs Complex Plane

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Real plane is denoted by \mathbb{R}^2 and is commonly referred to as  Cartesian plane. When we talk about \mathbb{R}^2 we mean that \mathbb{R}^2 is a vector space over \mathbb{R}. But when you view \mathbb{R}^2 as Cartesian plane, then it’s not technically a vector space but rather an affine space, on which a vector space acts by translations, i.e. there is no canonical choice of where the origin should go in the space, because it can be translated anywhere.

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Cartesian Plane (345Kai at the English language Wikipedia [Public domain, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

On the other hand, complex plane is denoted by \mathbb{C} and is commonly referred to as Argand plane. But when we talk about \mathbb{C}, we mean that \mathbb{R}^2 is a field (by exploiting the tuple structure of elements) since there is only way to explicitly define the field structure on the set \mathbb{R}^2 and that’s how we view \mathbb{C} as a field (if you allow axiom of choice, there are more possibilities; see this Math.SE discussion).

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Argand Plane (Shiva Sitaraman at Quora)

So, when we want to bother about the vector space structure of \mathbb{R}^2 we refer to Cartesian plane and when we want to bother about the field structure of \mathbb{R}^2 we refer to Argand plane. An immediate consequence of the above difference in real and complex plane is seen when we study multivariable analysis and complex analysis, where we consider vector space structure and field structure, respectively (see this Math.SE discussion for details). Hence the definition of differentiation of a function defined on \mathbb{C} is a special case of definition of differentiation of a function defined on \mathbb{R}^2.

Real vs Complex numbers

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I want to talk about the algebraic and analytic differences between real and complex numbers. Firstly, let’s have a look at following beautiful explanation by Richard Feynman (from his QED lectures) about similarities between real and complex numbers:

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From Chapter 2 of the book “QED – The Strange Theory of Light and Matter” © Richard P. Feynman, 1985.

Before reading this explanation, I used to believe that the need to establish “Fundamental theorem Algebra” (read this beautiful paper by Daniel J. Velleman to learn about proof of this theorem) was only way to motivate study of complex numbers.

The fundamental difference between real and complex numbers is

Real numbers form an ordered field, but complex numbers can’t form an ordered field. [Proof]

Where we define ordered field as follows:

Let \mathbf{F} be a field. Suppose that there is a set \mathcal{P} \subset \mathbf{F} which satisfies the following properties:

  • For each x \in \mathbf{F}, exactly one of the following statements holds: x \in \mathcal{P}, -x \in \mathcal{P}, x =0.
  • For x,y \in \mathcal{P}, xy \in \mathcal{P} and x+y \in \mathcal{P}.

If such a \mathcal{P} exists, then \mathbf{F} is an ordered field. Moreover, we define x \le y \Leftrightarrow y -x \in \mathcal{P} \vee x = y.

Note that, without retaining the vector space structure of complex numbers we CAN establish the order for complex numbers [Proof], but that is useless. I find this consequence pretty interesting, because though \mathbb{R} and \mathbb{C} are isomorphic as additive groups (and as vector spaces over \mathbb{Q}) but not isomorphic as rings (and hence not isomorphic as fields).

Now let’s have a look at the consequence of the difference between the two number systems due to the order structure.

Though both real and complex numbers form a complete field (a property of topological spaces), but only real numbers have least upper bound property.

Where we define least upper bound property as follows:

Let \mathcal{S} be a non-empty set of real numbers.

  • A real number x is called an upper bound for \mathcal{S} if x \geq s for all s\in \mathcal{S}.
  • A real number x is the least upper bound (or supremum) for \mathcal{S} if x is an upper bound for \mathcal{S} and x \leq y for every upper bound y of \mathcal{S} .

The least-upper-bound property states that any non-empty set of real numbers that has an upper bound must have a least upper bound in real numbers.
This least upper bound property is referred to as Dedekind completeness. Therefore, though both \mathbb{R} and \mathbb{C} are complete as a metric space [proof] but only \mathbb{R} is Dedekind complete.

In an arbitrary ordered field one has the notion of Dedekind completeness — every nonempty bounded above subset has a least upper bound — and also the notion of sequential completeness — every Cauchy sequence converges. The main theorem relating these two notions of completeness is as follows [source]:

For an ordered field \mathbf{F}, the following are equivalent:
(i) \mathbf{F} is Dedekind complete.
(ii) \mathbf{F} is sequentially complete and Archimedean.

Where we defined an Archimedean field as an ordered field such that for each element there exists a finite expression 1+1+\ldots+1 whose value is greater than that element, that is, there are no infinite elements.

As remarked earlier, \mathbb{C} is not an ordered field and hence can’t be Archimedean. Therefore, \mathbb{C}  can’t have least-upper-bound property, though it’s complete in topological sense. So, the consequence of all this is:

We can’t use complex numbers for counting.

But still, complex numbers are very important part of modern arithmetic (number-theory), because they enable us to view properties of numbers from a geometric point of view [source].

Not all numbers are computable

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When we hear the word number, symbols like 1,\sqrt{2},¼, π (area enclosed by a unit circle), ι (symbol for \sqrt{-1}), ε (infinitesimal),  ω (ordinal infinity), ℵ (cardinal infinity), …. appear in our mind.  But not all numbers are  computable:

A computable number [is] one for which there is a Turing machine which, given n on its initial tape, terminates with the nth digit of that number [encoded on its tape].

In other words, a real number is called computable if there is an algorithm which, given n, returns the first n digits of the number. This is equivalent to the existence of a program that enumerates the digits of the real number. For example, π is a computable number (why? see here).

Using Cantor’s diagonal argument on a list of all computable numbers, we get a non-computable number (here is the discussion). For example, a sum of series of real numbers called Chaitin’s constant, denoted by Ω, is a non-computable number (why? see here).

Fun fact: We don’t know whether π is a normal number or not (though we want it to be a normal number), but Ω is known to be a normal number (just like the Mahler’s Number discussed here).

Real Numbers

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Few days ago I found something very interesting on 9gag:

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When I first read this post, I was amazed because I never thought about this obvious fact!!

There are lots of interesting comments, but here is a proof from the comments:

…. Infinite x zero (as a limit) is indefinite. But infinite x zero (as a number) is zero. So lim( 0 x exp (x²) ) = 0 while lim ( f(X) x exp(X) ) with f(X)->0 is indefinite …

Though the statement made in the post is very vague and can lead to different opinions, like what about doing the product with surreal numbers, but we can safely avoid this by considering the product of real numbers only.

Now an immediate question should be (since every positive real number has a negative counterpart):

Is the sum of all real numbers zero?

In my opinion the answer should be “no”. As of now I don’t have a concrete proof but the intuition is:

Sum of a convergent series is the limit of partial sums, and for real numbers due to lack of starting point we can’t define a partial  sum. Hence we can’t compute the limit of this sum and the sum of series of real numbers doesn’t exist.

Moreover, since the sum of all “positive” real numbers is not a finite value (i.e. the series of positive real numbers is divergent) we conclude that we can’t rearrange the terms in series of “all” real numbers (Riemann Rearrangement Theorem). Thus the sum of real numbers can only be conditionally convergent. So, my above argument should work. Please let me know if you find a flaw in these reasonings.

Also I found following interesting answer on Quora:

The real numbers are uncountably infinite, and the standard notions of summation are only defined for countably many terms.

Note: Since we are dealing with infinite product and sum, we can’t argue using algebra of real numbers (like commutativity etc.).

Rationals…

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A few days ago I noticed some fascinating properties of so called rational numbers.

Natural Bias:

Our definition of a number being rational or irrational is very much biased. We implicitly assume our numbers to be in decimals (base 10), and then define rational numbers as those numbers which have terminating or recurring decimal representation.

But it is interesting to note that, for example, √5 is irrational in base-10 (non-terminating, non-repeating decimal representation) but if we consider “golden-ratio base“, √5 = 10.1, has terminated representation, just like rational number!!

Ability to complete themselves:

When we construct numbers following Peano’s Axioms we can “easily” create (set of) natural numbers (\mathbb{N}), and from them integers (\mathbb{Z}) and rational numbers (\mathbb{Q}). Notice that \mathbb{N} \subset \mathbb{Z} \subset \mathbb{Q}.

But it is comparatively difficult to create real numbers (\mathbb{R}) from rational numbers (\mathbb{Q}) although still we want to create a set from its subset. Notice that unlike previous cases, to create \mathbb{R} we will first have to create so-called irrational numbers (\overline{\mathbb{Q}}) from \mathbb{Q}. The challenge of creating the complementary set (\overline{\mathbb{Q}}) of a given set (\mathbb{Q}) using the given set (\mathbb{Q}) itself makes it difficult to create \mathbb{R} from \mathbb{Q} . We overcome this difficulty by using specialized techniques like Dedekind cut or Cauchy sequences (the process is called “completion of rational numbers”).