# Topics in Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry. Ambar N. Sengupta

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1 Topics in Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry Ambar N. Sengupta December, 2006

2 2 Ambar N. Sengupta

3 Contents Introductory Remarks Topics in Number Theory Basic Notions and Notation Euclid s Greatest Common Divisor Algorithm Consequences of Euclid s Algorithm Euclid s Algorithm for Magnitudes: The Geometric Viewpoint From Euclid s Algorithm to Continued Fractions Continued Fractions: The Basics Pell s Equation Solving Equations Using Continued Fractions Fibonacci Numbers and Euclid s Algorithm Continued Fractions: A Working Scheme Problem Set Topics from the Theory of Equations Polynomials in One Variable The Division Algorithm for Polynomials The Greatest Common Divisor for Polynomials Prime Factorization Descartes Theorem on Factors of Polynomials Newton Polynomials The Discriminant The Derivative Multiple Roots and the Derivative Problem Sets 3 and

4 4 Ambar N. Sengupta 3 Geometry Hilbert s Axioms for Plane Geometry Axioms I: Incidence Axioms II: Order Some Definitions: Segment, Ray, and Angle Axioms III: Congruence Axiom of Parallelism Axiom of Continuity or Completeness Constructions with Ruler and Compass Theory of Proportions Problem Set Bibliography

5 Topics in Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry 5 Introductory Remarks These notes were written for a History of Mathematics class (Math 4700) at LSU in Spring There is, however, very little history in the notes. I chose a few topics, many of which are related to the Euclidean Algorithm, with roots in history, and followed their development, sometimes anachronistically. In Chapter 1, we first begin with Euclid s algorithm (Book VII of his Elements) for finding the greatest common divisor of two numbers. The algorithm is then applied to deduce several basic results on divisibility, and eventually to two fundamental facts about numbers: every number greater than 1 is a product of primes in a unique way, and there are infinitely many primes. After this we return to Euclid s algorithm in the geometric setting (Book X of Euclid s Elements), of finding common measures of like magnitudes. This leads to the notion of both rational numbers (those for which the Euclidean algorithm terminates) and irrational numbers (those for which the algorithm does not terminate), understood in terms of continued fractions, which emerge naturally from Euclid s geometric algorithm for the greatest common measure. We then develop the basic facts about continued fractions, and apply them to solving Pell s equation and simple Diophantine equations. We also take a look at the Fibonacci numbers in the context of continued fractions. The notes don t include additional material, such as the Chinese remainder theorem, and properties of the icosahedron, covered in class. Chapter 2 examines topics in the theory of polynomials and polynomial equations. The role of the Euclidean algorithm, now in the setting of the algebra of polynomials, is underlined. The present form of the notes don t include all the topics in the theory of equations which were discussed in class, such as methods of solving cubic and quartic equations, and some facts about determinant and resultants. Chapter 3 presents axiomatics, due to Hilbert, of Euclidean geometry, but the objective is to understand how the Euclidean axioms and geometric ruler-compass constructions (producing points and lines consistent with the axioms) lead to an algebraic structure: ratios of segments can be added and multiplied, and these, together with 0 and negatives, form a field. With a sufficiently strong axiom of completeness, this is the field of real numbers.

6 6 Ambar N. Sengupta Thus, from the Euclidean viewpoint, real numbers (or numbers in extensions of the field of rationals) are ratios of segments, or, more generally, of magnitudes. In class we also looked at projective geometry and, very briefly, conic sections. These are not discussed in the notes. Historical dates cited are all taken from Wikipedia. References to Euclid s Elements are most conveniently looked up online at edu/~djoyce/java/elements/elements.html Hilbert s axioms are taken from Hilbert s book [1]. These notes have not been proof read carefully. I will update them time to time.

7 Chapter 1 Topics in Number Theory We shall examine some key ideas of elementary number theory, from a historical, primarily Greek, viewpoint. Euclid, in his Elements, considers both numbers and magnitudes. Numbers are cardinal numbers, arising from counting, i.e. measuring sizes of abstract sets. Magnitudes are of geometric origin, measuring sizes of geometric sets, and include positive rationals and, if one is granted a powerful enough axiom system, all positive real numbers. The central theme of this chapter will be Euclid s algorithm for finding the greatest common divisor of two numbers, and his corresponding algorithm for the common measure of two magnitudes. 1.1 Basic Notions and Notation We need a few basic notions and notation first. These notions and notation arose in the 19th and 20th centuries, but will provide us with a convenient and precise language necessary to discuss mathematical concepts from antiquity. A set is a collection of objects. These objects are called the elements of the set. We often display a set by listing its elements within brackets; for example, S = {a,b,c} displays a set S whose elements are a, b, and c. If x is an element of a set B then we denote this symbolically as: x B. Thus, in the example above, a S. 7

8 8 Ambar N. Sengupta The set of natural numbers is The set of integers is N = {1,2,3,...}. Z = {0,1, 1,2, 2,...}. Sometimes we shall use the set of whole numbers: W = {0,1,2,3,...}. The set which has no elements at all is called the empty set and is denoted /0. To stress that a particular set is not empty, we will use the adjective non-empty. A fundamental fact about the natural numbers is the principle of well-ordering: Every non-empty subset of N has a least element. (1.1) For example, the set of positive even numbers has 2 as its least element. This principle may seem at first to be too obvious a fact to bother mentioning, but as we shall see, a vast body of facts about numbers can be established using this principle as a tool of reasoning. Such obvious principles were not often recognized in the early days of mathematics. An integer x Z is said to be a factor or divisor of an integer y if y is an exact multiple of x, i.e. if y = mx, for some integer m Z. Notationally, we shall often write this as x y, which should be read x divides y, or as x is a factor of y. By our convention we have to say that every integer (including 0) is a divisor of 0. A number p N is said to be a prime number if it is not equal to 1 and if its only divisors are 1 and itself. The first few primes numbers are: 2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19,23,29,31,...

9 Topics in Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry Euclid s Greatest Common Divisor Algorithm Euclid presents an exposition of number theory in Book VII of the Elements. In Proposition 2 of this book, he describes an algorithm for finding the greatest common divisor of two numbers. In this section we will describe Euclid s algorithm. Quite separately, Euclid also developed, in Book X of the Elements, an analogous theory applicable to magnitudes (such as line segments or plane areas), as opposed to numbers. We shall discuss this theory in a later section. In this section, we use the term number to mean a natural number, i.e. a positive integer. Consider numbers a,b. A common divisor of a and b is a number integer which divides both a and b. The greatest common divisor, or gcd, of a and b is the largest number which divides both a and b, and is denoted gcd(a,b). For example, gcd(45,63) = 9. We say that a and b are co-prime if their gcd is 1. For example, 16 and 21 are co-prime. Euclid Book VII Proposition 2 describes how to work out the gcd of two numbers (the procedure is believed to have been known in the Greek mathematical community prior to Euclid). The idea is simple, and Euclid states it in one sentence: Subtract the smaller number from the larger repeatedly until the smaller number turns out to be a divisor of the larger; the gcd is the last smaller number. This method, and related procedures of reducing a number theoretic problem to one involving smaller numbers, was known in India (around 500 AD in the works of Aryabhatta and others) as the method of pulverizing. To see this in action, let us work out gcd(288, 90).

10 10 Ambar N. Sengupta Subtracting the smaller from the larger we obtain the following pairs: : the process halts here because 18 is a divisor of 90. We halt the process here on observing that 18 is a divisor of 90. The gcd is 18. The procedure becomes a little easier to analyze if we change the halt instruction to the following: halt the process when the two numbers become equal, this common value being the gcd. Carrying this out in our example we have: :the process halts here because the two values are equal. A moment s thought shows that there is no real difference between Euclid s prescription and the longer one stated above in terms of the answer that would be produced. Let us now state the algorithm more formally. Let a and b be the numbers whose gcd is the be found. The following is the procedure: 1. Set a 1 = a and b 1 = b. 2. If a i b i define the next pair a i+1, b i+1, by: a i+1 = max{a i,b i } min{a i,b i } b i+1 = min{a i,b i }.

11 Topics in Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry If a i = b i then and the process halts. gcd(a,b) = b i, Note that in step 2, assuming the two numbers at stage i are unequal shows that in the next stage we do again obtain numbers 1 (the max of a i,b i is not equal to their min). Let us now see why the process will definitely produce the gcd of a and b. The first question to ask (which was not explicitly done by Euclid) is why this procedure would ever halt. To see why the procedure does halt eventually, observe that at each stage we have numbers a i and b i (both 1), and if they are unequal then in the next stage the larger of the numbers a i,b i gets reduced by at least 1. Let a = max{a,b}. If the process were to be continued to A number of steps then the resulting numbers would be 0, which is impossible. Thus the procedure must halt in less than A steps. Now observe that if a number is a divisor of two numbers then it is certainly also a divisor of their difference. Formally, if x a and x b then and so a = mx and b = nx for some numbers m and n, a b = mx nx = (m n)x which shows that x is a divisor of a b. The preceding observation shows that any common divisor of a i and b i would be a common divisor of a i+1,b i+1 in the algorithm. Conversely, observe that a i+1 + b i+1 = max{a i,b i } and b i+1 = min{a i,b i }. Therefore, a common divisor of a i+1 and b i+1 would be a divisor of a i and b i. Thus, the common divisors of the pairs (a i,b i ) remain the same as one continues through the algorithm. The final step in the algorithm produces the output c = a N = b N. The greatest common divisor of c and c, is, of course, c itself. Thus, gcd(a,b) = c.

12 12 Ambar N. Sengupta Each step in the preceding algorithm used very simple arithmetic operations: picking the smaller of two given numbers, and subtracting the smaller from the larger. Let us look back at our example: :the process halts here because the two values are equal. Notice that in the first four steps, the number 90 is subtracted from 288 repeatedly, until a smaller number, 18, results. More generally, if A and B are numbers then we can keep subtracting B from A stopping only when the resulting number is smaller than B; thus, we see that A is a multiple of B plus a number smaller than B: A = qb + r where q,r are integers, with 0 r < B. Note that if we began with a number B larger than A then the process terminates immediately, produce q = 0 and r = B. The integer q is the quotient on dividing A by B, and r is the remainder. If we use this division algorithm as a sub-routine in the algorithm then we have a shorter algorithm: 1. Set a 1 = a and b 1 = b. 2. If b i is not a divisor of a i then divide a i by b i, obtaining quotient q and remainder r, and then set a i+1 = r and b i+1 = min{a i,b i }.

13 Topics in Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry If b i is a divisor of a i then gcd(a,b) = b i, and the process halts. 1.3 Consequences of Euclid s Algorithm In this section we shall explore some profound results about numbers that follow from applying the Euclidean algorithm. Examining the algorithm a i+1 = max{a i,b i } min{a i,b i }, b i+1 = min{a i,b i }, we see that each number produced at this stage is an integer combination of the preceding two: a i+1 = Ea i + Fb i, b i+1 = Ga i + Hb i, where E,F,G,H are integers (possibly 1,0, or 1). It follows from this that each of a i and b i is an integer linear combination of the original a and b. In particular, going to the very last line, we see that c can be expressed as where m and n are integers. Thus, c = ma + nb, gcd(a,b) = ma + nb for some integers m and n. (1.2) It is useful to note that if d is a common divisor of a and b then d divides any integer linear combination Ma + Nb, (1.3) because here both Ma and Nb are multiples of d and hence so is the sum. For example, the greatest common divisor of 45 and 35 is 5, and this can be expressed in terms of 45 and 35 as 5 = 4 } {{ 35 } +( 3) 45. } {{ }

14 14 Ambar N. Sengupta Now consider three numbers x, y, and z, and suppose z is co-prime to x. Thus, gcd(z,x) = 1. Let D denote the greatest common divisor of z and y: gcd(z,y) = D. Our objective is to show that the gcd of z and xy is also D. First note that D is a divisor of z and of xy, because we know that D is a common divisor of z and y. Next we will show that any common divisor of z and xy will also be divisor of D. For this we will show that a relation of the type (1.3) holds for a = z and b = xy. To this end we use the fact that there are integers m and n such that and integers s and t such that mz + nx = 1, sz +ty = D. In order to get to the product xy, we multiply the preceding equations together: Thus, (mz + nx)(sz +ty) = D. msz 2 + mtzy + nsxz + ntxy = D. Regrouping terms on the left, this becomes: (msz + mty + nsx)z + (nt)xy = D. Thus, we have established that any common divisor of z and xy is also a divisor of D. We had already noted the converse, that D is a common divisor of z and xy. Thus, D is the greatest common divisor of z and xy. We summarize these observations: Proposition 1 Suppose x, y, and z are numbers. (i) If z is co-prime to x then gcd(z, xy) = gcd(z, y). (1.4) (ii) If z is co-prime to both x and y then z is co-prime to xy.

15 Topics in Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry 15 (iii) If z is co-prime to x and z is a divisor of xy then z is a divisor of y. Parts (ii) and (iii) follow from (i). For example, for (iii), if z is co-prime to x and is a divisor of xy then gcd(z,xy) = z. Consequently, by (i) it follows that gcd(z,y) = z. But this means that z is a divisor of y. We can deduce Euclid s Proposition 32 (Book VII) from the preceding result (Euclid s proof uses a different strategy): Theorem 1 Every number greater than one is divisible by a prime. Suppose there is a number > 1 not divisible by any prime. Then, by the wellordering principle, there is a least such number; call this x. Since x divides itself, and x has no prime divisor, x cannot be prime. Therefore, x has a divisor y which is neither 1 nor x. In particular, 1 < y < x. Therefore, y must have a prime divisor p. But then p would also divide x. This contradiction proves the theorem. Now we can prove that Theorem 2 Every number > 1 is a product of primes. If this were not so then there would be a least number x > 1 not a product of primes. Now we know that x has a prime divisor p. Therefore, x = py, for some number y, and 1 < y < x. But then y, being a number greater than 1 but less than x, would be a product of primes. But then it would follow that x = py itself would be a product of primes. The contradiction proves the result. The Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic says: Theorem 3 Every number > 1 is a product of primes in a unique way. (Though definitely known in Euclid s time, this does not appear explicitly in Euclid s Elements.) For example, 240 =

16 16 Ambar N. Sengupta It is somewhat complicated to state the uniqueness part in a precise way: If a number can be expressed as both and as p a pa r r, q b qb s s, where the p i s are distinct primes in increasing order (p 1 < p 2 < < p r ), the q i s are distinct primes in increasing order, and the a i and b j numbers, then r = s, and each p i = q i, and each a i = b i. The proof of the uniqueness part of the fundamental theorem was presented in class. Finally, let us look at one of the most celebrated results from Euclid (Proposition 20 of Book IX in the Elements): Theorem 4 There are infinitely many prime numbers. At first it may seem to be impossible to prove such a result: how could one actually produce infinitely many primes? Euclid s argument was by the reduction to absurdity method, i.e. by the the method of contradiction. Suppose in fact there are only finitely many primes, these being Consider then the number p 1,..., p k. x = 1 + p 1...p k. If this were divided by p 1 it would leave a remainder of 1. Similarly, x is not divisible by any of the primes p i. But x is a number > 1, and so must have a primes divisor. Thus, we have reached a contradiction. 1.4 Euclid s Algorithm for Magnitudes: The Geometric Viewpoint In Book X of Euclid s Elements, Euclid develops the notion of commensurate and incommensurate magnitudes. A magnitude is an abstract entity which measures a geometric object, and, in practice, may refer to length, area of volume.

17 Topics in Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry 17 For definiteness, let us focus on line segments in Euclidean geometry. There is the notion of congruence of two segments. A segment x is greater than a segment y if there are points on x which mark off a segment congruent to y. A segment x measures a segment y if a whole number of copies of x form a segment congruent to y. The segments x and y are commensurate if they have a common measure. (This is essentially Definition I of Book X in the Elements. If m copies of z cover x, and n copies of z cover y, then the formal ratio x : y corresponds to the rational number m/n, and may well be considered good reason for defining the notion of a rational number. Two magnitudes are incommensurable if they are not commensurate. In Proposition 2 of Book X, Euclid lays out his algorithm for finding the greatest common measure of two commensurable magnitudes: Given two magnitudes, continue to subtract the larger from the smaller. If equal magnitudes are obtained at some stage then this is the greatest common measure of the original pair of magnitudes. If equal magnitudes are never obtained then the original magnitudes are incommensurable. Though structurally identical to the procedure for finding the greatst commond divisor, the contex is quite different, and, furthermore, it leads to the discovery of incommensurable magnitudes. This is the geometric basis for introducing irrational numbers; they are ratios of incommensurable magnitudes. It should be kept in mind that a segment is not a magnitude. Rather, an equivalence class of all segments congruent to each other is a magnitude. (A similar formulation may be made for planar regions.) However, we have not been and will not be too precise about this distinction. Suppose q copies of CD can be placed in AB, starting at A, and leaves a segment EB smaller than CD: AB = q CD + EB. Thus, q is the quotient and EB the remainder. Euclid s algorithm for finding the greatest common measure (which we continue to call gcd) works as follows: 1. Draw a rectangle of length x and width y; 2. Mark off on the longer side, say y, as many copies as possible, say q, of the shorter side x, and remove the rectangle thus formed with sides qx by x (this may be done step by step, removing x-by-x squares); 3. If the remaining rectangle, r by x, is not a square, then apply Step 2 to it;

18 18 Ambar N. Sengupta 4 If the remaining rectangle at any stage is a square then halt the process; the side of this square is the greatest common measure (gcd) of the original segments of length x and y. If we do start with x and y which are commensurate, say x = mz, y = nz, then the procedure above is simply that of finding the gcd of m and n and we have seen that the process will halt in at most m steps, and produce the segment where gz, g = gcd(m,n). Conversely, if the process halts after a finite number of steps then we will have obtained a common measure (indeed the greatest common measure) z of x and y, and so both x and y would be whole multiples of z. Thus, if we happen to have x and y for which the Euclid algorithm never halts then x : y is irrational, which is another way of saying that x and y are incommensurate. 1.5 From Euclid s Algorithm to Continued Fractions In this section we shall explore further consequences of the geometric form of Euclid s algorithm. However, for practical convenience, we will use standard notation and knowledge about the real number system. It is possible to rewrite the material below with 1 replaced by any particular magnitude and 2 replaced by the diagonal of the square on that segment. The algebraic manipulations could also be replaced by geometric constructs. We can apply this to 2. Consider the rectangle R 0 of height 1 and length 2. The first rectangle R 1 we mark off will have side 1 and will leave a remainder of 2 1: 2 = 1 + ( 2 1). Next, we have a rectangle R 2 of sides 1 and 2 1. Marking off the largest multiple of 2 1 in 1 we have: 1 = 1 ( 2 1)

19 Topics in Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry 19 The next rectangle R 3 has sides 2 2 by 2 1. But here we notice that 2 2 = ( 2 1) 2, and so our rectangle R 3 has sides X by X 2, where X = 2 1. Thus, R 3 is the original rectangle R 0 scaled by the factor X. Then it is clear that as we continue on applying Euclid s algorithm we will keep repeating the sequences R 0,R 1,R 2, with a scaling factor of X applied at each run. Clearly then this process will never halt. Thus, we have proved that 2 is irrational. Here is a way to lay out the Euclidean algorithm in this context: 2 = 1 + ( 2 1) = = = (1.5) You should try out a proof of the irrationality of 3 in this way. Let us now extract the essence of the preceding procedure. Consider positive real numbers x and y. We write the ratio x y by using the division x = q 0 y + r 1, where q 0, the quotient, is a whole number, and 0 r 1 < y. Then we apply the same to the ratio y/r 1 : y = q 1 r 1 + r 2,

20 20 Ambar N. Sengupta and so on, producing x = q 0 y + r 1 y = q 1 r 1 + r 2 r 1 = q 2 r 2 + r 3 r 2 = q 3 r 3 + r 4. =. Notice that we can display this also as x y = q 0 + r 1 y = q y r 1 = q q 1 + r 2 r 1 1 = q 0 + q q 2 + r 3 r2 We know that if the original ratio is rational then this procedure terminates, while if x/y is irrational then the procedure does not terminate. Given a sequence of numbers q 0,q 1,...,q n, with q 0 being possibly 0, we can form the continued fraction which is denoted in short by q q q q n [q 0 ;q 1,...,q n ]., (1.6) Of course, we have seen that an irrational number would generate an infinite continued fraction [q 0 ;q 1,q 2,...]. Note that by allowing q 0 to range over {0,1,2,...} we obtain in this way all real numbers 0, and by allowing q 0 to be any integer (possibly negative) we are able to obtain any real number.

21 Topics in Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry Continued Fractions: The Basics In this section we shall develop the essential facts about continued fractions. The first objective will be to work out the continued fraction in the form [q 0 ;q 1,...,q n ] P n Q n = [q 0 ;q 1,...,q n ], with integer P n and Q n. For reasons which will become clear shortly let us introduce the notation P 1 = 1, Q 1 = 0. The simplest continued fraction is given by a whole number q 0 itself. We can write this as P 0 Q 0 = q 0, with P 0 = q 0, Q 0 = 1 (1.7) Now that we have (P 1,Q 1 ) and (P 0,Q 0 ), we will show that all the numbers P n and Q n can be generated by applying a simple recursive scheme: P n+1 = q n+1 P n + P n 1, Q n+1 = q n+1 Q n + Q n 1. The proof of this will keep us busy for a page. Consider, as a first step, the continued fraction [q 0 ;q 1 ] = q q 1 = q 1q q 1. (1.8) The numerator and denominator of the right side are denoted P 1 and Q 1 : Observe that we can write these as: P 1 = q 1 q 0 + 1, Q 1 = q 1. P 1 = q 1 P 0 + P 1, Q 1 = q 1 Q 0 + Q 1. (1.9)

22 22 Ambar N. Sengupta We can move to the next level [q 0 ;q 1,q 2 ] = q q q 2, by observing that this is readily obtained from (1.8) by replacing q 1 with q 1 + q 1 2. Thus, we can write down ) (q 1 + 1q2 q [q 0 ;q 1,q 2 ] = ), (q 1 + 1q2 and so So we write [q 0 ;q 1,q 2 ] = (q 2q 1 + 1)q 0 + q 2 q 2 q = q 2(q 1 q 0 + 1) + q 0. q 2 q P 2 = q 2 P 1 + P 0, Q 2 = q 2 Q 1 + Q 0. (1.10) Now let s move on to the general step. Suppose that we have written [q 0 ;q 1,...,q n ] = P n Q n, (1.11) where P n and Q n are integer linear combinations of the q 0,...,q n, and suppose we have the pattern: P n = q n P n 1 + P n 2, Q n = q n Q n 1 + Q n 2. Then we can get to the next step readily: [q 0 ;q 1,...,q n+1 ] = [q 0 ;q 1,...,q n 1,q n + 1 ] q ( n+1 q n + q 1 n+1 )P n 1 + P n 2 = ( ). q n + q 1 n+1 Q n 1 + Q n 2 (1.12) Simplifying this as before, we obtain [q 0 ;q 1,...,q n+1 ] = q n+1(q n P n 1 + P n 2 ) + P n 1 q n+1 (q n Q n 1 + P n 2 ) + Q n 1,

23 Topics in Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry 23 and so indeed we have where [q 0 ;q 1,...,q n+1 ] = P n+1 Q n+1, P n+1 = q n+1 P n + P n 1, Q n+1 = q n+1 Q n + Q n 1. (1.13) Thus, there is a simple scheme to generate the value of a finite continued fraction. Let s look at an example. Let s work out the value of the continued fraction [3;4,3,1,2]. So the convergents of [3;4,3,1,2] are n q n P n Q n Note that 3, 13 4, 42 13, 55 17, P n+1 P n + P n 1, and Q n+1 Q n + Q n 1. (1.14) In particular each P n exceeds the preceding by at least 1, and so P n is at least n. The same holds for Q n. Thus P n n, Q n n. (1.15) (A little thought here shows that these lower bounds are really cheap ones. Indeed, in view of (1.14), one would guess that the P n and Q n have lower bounds related to the Fibonacci numbers.) How much do P n /Q n and P n+1 /Q n+1 differ? To this end we have P n+1 Q n+1 P n Q n = P n+1q n P n Q n+1 Q n Q n+1 = h n+1 Q n Q n+1, (1.16)

24 24 Ambar N. Sengupta where h k denotes the numerator: which we can develop a step further: h k = P k Q k 1 P k 1 Q k, h k = (q k P k 1 + P k 2 )Q k 1 P k 1 (q k Q k 1 + Q k 2 ) = P k 2 Q k 1 P k 1 Q k 2 ) = (P k 1 Q k 2 P k 2 Q k 1 = h k 1. Thus, each time we reduce the subscript of h k by 1 we pick up a factor of ( 1). So h k = ( 1) k h 0. Recalling the initial values of P and Q, we have h 0 = P 0 Q 1 P 1 Q 0 = q = 1. So In other words, h k = ( 1) k ( 1) = ( 1) k+1. P k Q k 1 P k 1 Q k = ( 1) k+1. (1.17) Consequently, P n+1 Q n+1 P n Q n = ( 1)n Q n Q n+1. (1.18) The difference between successive ratios P n /Q n is thus 1 Q n Q n+1. As n increases the denominator here, Q n Q n+1, also increases, and so the difference between successive ratios P n /Q n decreases.

25 Topics in Number Theory, Algebra, and Geometry 25 Recall that Q n n, and Q n+1 n + 1. So P n+1 P n 1 Q n+1 Q n n 2. (1.19) The relation (1.18) also shows that Again, similarly, and P 1 Q 1 = P 0 Q Q 0 Q 1 > P 0 Q 0. P 2 Q 2 < P 1 Q 1, P 3 > P 2. Q 3 Q 2 Putting everything together we have P 0 Q 0 < P 2 Q 2 < P 4 Q 4 < P3 Q 3 < P 1 Q 1. Suppose now that we take an infinite sequence q 0,q 1,q 2,... Given that successive ratios P n /Q n differ by 1/n 2, there is a unique real number x that lies between all the odd-ratios and the even-ratios: P 0 < P 2 < P 4 < x < P3 < P 1. (1.20) Q 0 Q 2 Q 4 Q 3 Q 1 We have x P n 1 < Q n n 2. (1.21) This real number x is denoted as an infinite continued fraction: and the continued fraction x = [q 0 ;q 1,q 2,...], (1.22) P n Q n = [q 0 ;q 1,...,q n ] is called the n th convergent to x. Using what we know about the differences between successive convergents, we can write [q 0 ;q 1,q 2,...] = q (1.23) Q 1 Q 1 Q 2 Q 2 Q 3

26 26 Ambar N. Sengupta 1.7 Pell s Equation Let D be a number which is not a perfect square (for instance, D could be 2). The equation x 2 Dy 2 = 1 (1.24) is called Pell s equation. The name comes the English mathematician Pell (17th century); Euler (apparently mistakenly) credited Pell for a study of this equation, and the name has stuck. The task is to find integers x and y satisfying (1.24). The simplest case of Pell s equation is with D = 2: Note that if x and y satisfy the Pell equation (1.24) then and so, if y is a large number, then x 2 2y 2 = 1. (1.25) x 2 y 2 = D + 1 y 2, x y D. Thus solutions of Pell s equation with large denominators provide rational approximations to the irrational number D. A solution of Pell s equation appears implicitly in one of the Sulva Sutras authored by Baudhayana (approx. 800 BC; but these dates are not always trustworthy, with some dating Baudhayana to around 400 BC). In describing the construction of an altar, the following approximate value of 2 is given: As we can check, = (408) 2 = 1. In fact, even the first three terms of Baudhayana give and we can check that = 17 12, (12) 2 = 1.

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