# Finite Fields and Error-Correcting Codes

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1 Lecture Notes in Mathematics Finite Fields and Error-Correcting Codes Karl-Gustav Andersson (Lund University) (version September 2015) Translated from Swedish by Sigmundur Gudmundsson

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3 Contents Chapter 1. Finite Fields 3 1. Basic Definitions and Examples 3 2. Calculations with Congruences 8 3. Vector Spaces Polynomial Rings Finite Fields The Existence and Uniqueness of GF (p n ) The Möbius Inversion Formula 32 Chapter 2. Error-Correcting Codes Introduction Linear Codes and Generating Matrices Control Matrices and Decoding Some Special Codes Vandermonde Matrices and Reed-Solomon Codes 50 1

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5 CHAPTER 1 Finite Fields 1. Basic Definitions and Examples In this introductory section we discuss the basic algebraic operations addition and multiplication from an abstract point of view. We consider a set A equipped with two operations defined in such a way that to each pair of elements a, b A there are associated two new elements a + b and a b in A called the sum and the product of a and b, respectively. We assume that for the sum we have the following four axioms. (A1) (A2) (A3) a + (b + c) = (a + b) + c a + b = b + a there exists an element 0 A such that a + 0 = a for all a A (A4) for every a A there exists an element a A such that a + ( a) = 0. These axioms guarantee that subtraction is well-defined in A. It is easily checked that (A1) (A4) imply that the equation a + x = b in A has the unique solution x = b + ( a). In what follows we will write b a for b + ( a). The corresponding axioms for the multiplication are (M1) (M2) (M3) a (b c) = (a b) c a b = b a there exists an element 1 A such that 1 a = a 1 = a for all a A 3

6 4 1. FINITE FIELDS (M4) that for every a 0 in A there exists an element a 1 A such a a 1 = 1. Sometimes we will only assume that some of these axioms for the multiplication are satisfied. If they all apply then, precisely as for the subtraction, a division is well-defined in A i.e. the equation ax = b with a 0 has the unique solution x = a 1 b. Finally, we always assume the distributive laws for A: (D) a (b + c) = a b + a c and (a + b) c = a c + b c Definition 1.1. A ring A is a set equipped with an addition and a multiplication such that all the rules (A1) (A4) are satisfied and furthermore (M1) and (D). If A also satisfies (M2) it is said to be a commutative ring and if (M3) is fulfilled we say that the ring has a unity. A ring that contains at least two elements and satisfies all the rules (M1) (M4) for the multiplication is called a field. Example 1.2. The rational numbers Q, the reals R and the complex numbers C are important examples of fields, when equipped with their standard addition and multiplication. The integers Z form a commutative ring but are not a field since (M4) is not valid in Z. Example 1.3. The set M 2 (R) of 2 2 real matrices forms a ring. Here 0 is the zero matrix and 1 is the unit matrix. In M 2 (R) the commutative law (M2) is not satisfied. The rule (M4) is not fulfilled either, since there exist non-zero matrices that are not invertible. For example we have ( ) ( ) 4 2 = 2 1 ( ) It follows from this relation that none of the two matrices on the lefthand side are invertible. Definition 1.4. Two elements a 0 and b 0 in a ring are called zero divisors if a b = 0. Example 1.5. The two matrices ( ) 1 2 and 2 4 ( ) in Example 1.3 are zero divisors in the ring M 2 (R). We shall now discuss, in more detail, a family of rings that will play an important role in what follows. Let n 2 be a given integer. We

7 1. BASIC DEFINITIONS AND EXAMPLES 5 say that two integers a and b are congruent modulo n if their difference a b is divisible by n. For this we simply write a b (mod n). For example we have 13 4 (mod 3). Denote by [a] the class of integers that are congruent to a modulo n. We can then define an addition and a multiplication of such congruence classes by [a] + [b] = [a + b] and [a] [b] = [a b]. Here we must verify that these definitions do not depend on the choice of representatives for each congruent class. So assume that a a 1 (mod n) and b b 1 (mod n). Then a 1 = a + kn and b 1 = b + ln for some integers k and l. This implies that a 1 + b 1 = a + b + (k + l)n and a 1 b 1 = ab + (al + bk + kln)n, hence a 1 +b 1 is congruent with a+b and a 1 b 1 with ab modulo n. Denote by Z n the set of congruence classes modulo n i.e. Z n = {[0], [1], [2],..., [n 1]}. It is easily checked that the above defined addition and multiplication turn Z n into a commutative ring. Example 1.6. In the ring Z 11 we have [5] + [9] = [14] = [3] and [5] [9] = [45] = [1] and in Z 12 the following equalities hold [4] + [9] = [13] = [1] and [4] [9] = [36] = [0]. As a direct consequence of the example we see that [5] is the multiplicative inverse of [9] in the ring Z 11. The following result gives a criteria for an element of Z n to have a multiplicative inverse. Theorem 1.7. Let [a] in Z n be different from [0]. Then there exists an element [b] in Z n such that [a][b] = [1] if and only if a and n are relatively prime i.e. they do not have a non-trivial common divisor. Proof. Let us first assume that a and n have a common divisor d 2. Then a = kd and n = ld for some integers k and l with 0 < l < n. This implies that [l][a] = [lkd] = [kn] = [0]. Hence there does not exist a multiplicative inverse [b] to [a], because in that case [l] = [l][1] = [l][a][b] = [0][b] = [0]. On the other hand, if a and n are relatively prime then it is a consequence of the Euclidean algorithm that there exist integers b and c such that 1 = ab + nc. This gives [1] = [a][b].

8 6 1. FINITE FIELDS Example 1.8. We will now use the Euclidean algorithm to determine whether or not [235] has a multiplicative inverse in Z = = = = = This shows that 567 and 235 are relatively prime, and by following the calculations backwards we see that 1 = = 4 ( ) 15 = = = Hence the multiplicative inverse of [235] is [ 152] = [415]. If n = p is a prime, then it is clear that none of the numbers 1, 2,..., p 1 has a common divisor with p. This shows that all the classes [1], [2],..., [p 1] in Z p, different from [0], have a multiplicative inverse, so Z p is a field. If n is not a prime, then n = kl for some integers k, l 2. Then none of the two classes [k] and [l] has an inverse in Z n, so Z n is not a field. We summarize: Theorem 1.9. The ring Z n is a field if and only if n is a prime. We conclude this section by defining the notion of an isomorphism between rings. Let A 1 and A 2 be two rings and assume that there exists a bijective map f from A 1 to A 2 such that f(a + b) = f(a) + f(b) and f(a b) = f(a) f(b) for all elements a and b in A 1. In that case, we say that the rings A 1 and A 2 are isomorphic and that f is an isomorphism from A 1 to A 2. Two rings that are isomorphic are actually just two different representations of the same ring. An isomorphism corresponds to just changing the names of the elements. All calculations in one of the rings correspond to exactly the same calculations in the other. Example Let M be the ring of all 2 2 matrices of the form ( ) a b b where a and b are real numbers and the operations are the standard matrix addition and matrix multiplication. Then the map ( ) a b M a + ib C b a a

9 1. BASIC DEFINITIONS AND EXAMPLES 7 defines an isomorphism from M to the ring C of complex numbers. The reader is encouraged to check this fact. Exercises Exercise 1.1. Show that the following rules are valid in any ring: (1) 0 a = a 0 = 0, (Hint: 0 a + 0 a = 0 a.) (2) ( a)b = a( b) = ab, (3) ( a)( b) = ab. Exercise 1.2. Show that a field does not have any zero divisors. Exercise 1.3. Show that if a is not a zero divisor in the ring A then the following cancelation law applies for all x and y in A. ax = ay x = y Exercise 1.4. Let M be the set of all matrices ( ) a 2b, b a where a and b are integers. Show that, with the standard matrix addition and multiplication, M forms a commutative ring with unity. Does M have any zero divisors? Exercise 1.5. Let Q[ 2] be the set of all numbers of the form a + b 2, where a and b are rational. Show that the usual addition and multiplication of real numbers turn Q[ 2] into a field. Exercise 1.6. Let Z[i] be the set of Gaussian integers a+ib, where a and b are integers. Show that Z[i], with the usual addition and multiplication of complex numbers, is a commutative ring with unity. For which elements u Z[i] does there exist a multiplicative inverse v i.e. an element v such that uv = 1? Exercise 1.7. Show that a ring A is commutative if and only if for all a and b in A. (a + b) 2 = a 2 + 2ab + b 2 Exercise 1.8. Find out if the determinant

10 8 1. FINITE FIELDS is an odd number or an even one. Exercise 1.9. Solve in Z 23 the equations [17] x = [5] and [12] x = [7]. Exercise Determine if [121] and [212] are invertible in Z 9999 or not. Find the inverses if they exist. Exercise Consider the elements [39], [41], [46] and [51] in Z 221. (1) Which of these are zero divisors? (2) Which have a multiplicative inverse? Find the inverses if they exist. Exercise Solve the following systems of equations { { 4x + 7y 3 (mod 11) 8x + 5y 9 (mod 11), 4x + 7y 5 (mod 13) 7x + 5y 8 (mod 13). Exercise Determine the digits x and y such that the following decimal numbers are divisible by 11 (Hint: 10 n ( 1) n (mod 11).) 2x653874, 37y Exercise Let A be a finite commutative ring with a unity. Show that if a A is not a zero divisor, then a has a multiplicative inverse. (Hint: Consider the map x ax, x A.) Exercise Let a be a non-zero element in a field A. (1) Show that if a 1 = a, then either a = 1 or a = 1. (2) Prove Wilson s theorem stating that for every prime p we have (p 1)! 1 (mod p). 2. Calculations with Congruences Let F be a finite field with q elements and F = {x F ; x 0}. We order the elements of F in a sequence x 1, x 2,..., x q 1. Then for every fixed a F the sequence ax 1, ax 2,..., ax q 1 contains exactly the same elements i.e. those of F, since if ax i = ax j then multiplication by a 1 gives x i = x j. We have therefore shown that q 1 q 1 (ax i ) = x i. i=1 i=1

11 2. CALCULATIONS WITH CONGRUENCES 9 By collecting a from each of the different factors on the left-hand side and dividing by q 1 i=1 x i, we obtain a q 1 = 1 and have thereby proven the following result. Theorem 2.1. Let F be a finite field with q elements and a 0 be an element of F. Then a q 1 = 1. Specializing to the case when F = Z p, for some prime p, we obtain the following result due to Pierre de Fermat in 1640: Theorem 2.2 (Fermat s little theorem). If p is a prime number and a is an integer not divisible by p, then a p 1 1 (mod p). Example 2.3. We now want to calculate the least positive remainder when dividing by 17. Since 17 is a prime, Fermat s theorem tells us that (mod 17). Hence = (mod 17). A continued calculation modulo 17 gives 3 14 = 9 7 = ( 4) 3 = 9 ( 4) 16 9 ( 4) ( 1) = The remainder that we are looking for is therefore 2. Alternatively, one can show that by observing that = This implies that [3 14 ] = [9] 1 = [2], since 2 9 = The next result generalizes Fermat s little theorem. Theorem 2.4. Let p and q be different prime numbers and m be a positive integer. Then for every integer a. a m(p 1)(q 1)+1 a (mod pq) Proof. If p does not divide a, then it follows from Fermat s theorem that a p 1 1 (mod p). This implies that a m(p 1)(q 1) 1 (mod p). Multiplication by a gives a m(p 1)(q 1)+1 a (mod p). This equality is of course also valid when p divides a, since then a 0 (mod p). In the same way, we see that a m(p 1)(q 1)+1 a (mod q).

12 10 1. FINITE FIELDS Since both p and q divide the difference a m(p 1)(q 1)+1 a so does the product pq and the statement is proven. Example 2.5. Theorem 2.4 has an interesting application in cryptology. Assume that a receiver, for example a bank, receives messages from a large number of senders and does not want the content to be read by unauthorized individuals. Then the messages must be encrypted. This means that an encrypting key must me available to the sender. One way to achieve this is to use a system with a public key. Such systems are based on the idea that there exist functions that are easily computed but the inverse operation is very difficult without some additional information. The following method (the RSA-system) was suggested by Rivest, Shamir and Adelman in Choose two large 1 different primes p and q and set n = pq. Then pick a large number d relatively prime to (p 1)(q 1). According to Theorem 1.7 of the last section, d has a multiplicative inverse e in the ring Z (p 1)(q 1), which can be determined by the Euclidean algorithm. The numbers n and e are made public as well as necessary information on how they should be used for the encrypting. The numbers p, q and d are kept secret by the receiver. Assume that all the messages are of the form of one or more integers between 1 and n. A sender interested in sending such a number M will encrypt it by calculating C M e (mod n). After receiving C, the receiver calculates the unique number D between 1 and n satisfying D C d (mod n). According to Theorem 2.4 we have the equality D M (mod n). Indeed, since e is the multiplicative inverse of d in the ring Z (p 1)(q 1), it follows that ed = m(p 1)(q 1) + 1 for some integer m, so D C d M ed = M m(p 1)(q 1)+1 M (mod n). Now the interesting question is, if it is possible to use only the public information e and n to get hold of the content of the message sent. To do this within a reasonable amount of time one would need to know the prime numbers p and q. These can be determined by factorizing n. Even with our modern computers this should in general be an impossible task. In the next example we deal with the problem of finding a simultaneous solution to several different congruences. Example 2.6. In a 2000 years old book by the Chinese author Sun-Tsu one can read: 1 By large numbers we here mean numbers with hundreds of digits.

13 2. CALCULATIONS WITH CONGRUENCES 11 There exists an unknown number which divided by 3 leaves the remainder 2, by 5 the remainder 3 and by 7 the remainder 2. What is this number? In other words, one should find an integer x that simultaneously solves the three congruences x 2 (mod 3) x 3 (mod 5) x 2 (mod 7). The method that Sun-Tsu presented for solving the problem gives the Chinese remainder theorem. Theorem 2.7. Assume that the integers n 1, n 2,..., n k are pairwise relatively prime. Then the system of congruences x a 1 (mod n 1 ) x a 2 (mod n 2 )... x a k (mod n k ) has a unique solution x modulo n = n 1 n 2 n k. Proof. Define N i = n n i = j i n j. Then the numbers N i and n i are relatively prime for each i. Hence there exist integers s i and t i such that Set x = s i N i + t i n i = 1. k a j s j N j = a 1 s 1 N a k s k N k. j=1 We have s i N i 1 (mod n i ) and N j 0 (mod n i ) when j i. This implies that x a i (mod n i ), i = 1,..., k. We still have to show that the solution x is uniquely determined modulo n. Assume that x was another solution. Then x x (mod n i ) for all i. Since the numbers n i are pairwise relatively prime, it follows that x x (mod n) and the result follows.

14 12 1. FINITE FIELDS Example 2.8. In the last example we have n 1 = 3, n 2 = 5, n 3 = 7 and N 1 = 35, N 2 = 21, N 3 = 15. We find = = = 1. So the above method gives the solution The least positive solution is x = = n = = 23. The Chinese remainder theorem has another, a bit more abstract, formulation. If A 1,..., A k are k rings, then we can form a new ring denoted by A 1 A k consisting of all elements (a 1,..., a k ) where a i A i. The addition and the multiplication in the new ring are defined by (a 1,..., a k ) + (b 1,..., b k ) = (a 1 + b 1,..., a k + b k ) (a 1,..., a k ) (b 1,..., b k ) = (a 1 b 1,..., a k b k ). Assume now that n = n 1 n 2 n k where the numbers n i are pairwise relatively prime. Then the Chinese remainder theorem states that for given integers a 1,..., a k with 0 a i < n i, there exists precisely one integer a with 0 a < n such that a a i (mod n i ), i = 1,..., k. It is easily checked that the map that takes a to (a 1,..., a k ) is an isomorphism between Z n and Z n1 Z nk. Example 2.9. Let n = 1001 = and consider the two elements [778] and [431] in Z Then (mod 7) (mod 7) (mod 11) (mod 11) (mod 13) (mod 13). Instead of calculating the product modulo 1001, we can also calculate (1, 8, 11) (4, 2, 2) = (4, 16, 22) (4, 5, 9) in the ring Z 7 Z 11 Z 13 and then, as in the proof of the Chinese remainder theorem, determine the corresponding element in Z This sort of arithmetic is sometimes useful when performing this type of calculations with large numbers.

15 2. CALCULATIONS WITH CONGRUENCES 13 Exercises Exercise 2.1. Find the multiplicative inverse of [45] in Z 101. Then determine the integer x between 1 and 100 such that x (mod 101). Exercise 2.2. In each of the following cases, find the least nonnegative integer x satisfying x (mod 13), x (mod 101), x 3 40 (mod 23), x (mod 7). Exercise 2.3. Show that if p and q are different primes, then p q 1 + q p 1 1 (mod pq). Exercise 2.4. Let p 1, p 2,..., p k be different primes and r be a positive integer divisible by p i 1 for all i = 1,..., k. Show that for all integers a. a r+1 a (mod p 1 p 2 p k ) Exercise 2.5. Show that all integers n satisfy (1) n 7 n (mod 42), (2) n 13 n (mod 2730). (Hint: Use the result from Exercise 2.4.) Exercise 2.6. Find the least positive integer M, such that M (mod 209). Exercise 2.7. Show that if p is a prime and m is a positive integer, then a (p 1)pm 1 1 (mod p m ) for all integer a not divisible by p. (Hint: Copy the proof of Theorem 2.1 with F equal to the set of all invertible elements in Z p m.) Exercise 2.8. Show that all odd integers k satisfy (1) k 4 1 (mod 16), (2) k 2n 1 (mod 2 n+2 ) where n 2. Exercise 2.9. Find all integers x such that x 1 (mod 3) x 3 (mod 7) x 7 (mod 16).

16 14 1. FINITE FIELDS Exercise Find the least positive integer x satisfying { 2x 9 (mod 11) 7x 2 (mod 19). Exercise Verify that { 95 3 (mod 23) 95 2 (mod 31) and apply this to calculate (mod 713). 3. Vector Spaces Definition 3.1. A vector space (or a linear space) over a field F is a set V, containing an element denoted by 0, and for each pair u, v V and each α F having a well-defined sum u + v V and a product αu V such that the following rules are satisfied (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v) (vi) (vii) u + (v + w) = (u + v) + w u + v = v + u α(βu) = (αβ)u 1u = u 0u = 0 α(u + v) = αu + αv (α + β)u = αu + βu. Remark 3.2. It follows from these rules that all the axioms for addition, (A1) (A4) from Section 1, are satisfied in a vector space. From (iv), (v) and (vii) we get u + 0 = 1u + 0u = (1 + 0)u = 1u = u so (A3) applies. The axiom (A4) can be verified as follows u + ( 1)u = 1u + ( 1)u = (1 + ( 1))u = 0u = 0. Remark 3.3. The elements of a vector space are often called vectors. In (v) we underlined the zero on the right-hand side to emphasize that it is a vector. In what follows, we will simply denote also the zero vector by 0. The basic theory for vector spaces over a general field F is the same as for the special case when F = R. A number of vectors u 1,..., u l in

17 3. VECTOR SPACES 15 V are said to be linearly dependent if there exist α 1,..., α l F, not all zero, such that α 1 u α l u l = 0. We say that u 1,..., u l are linearly independent if they are not linearly dependent. The vectors u 1,..., u l generate the vector space V if every vector u V is a linear combination of u 1,..., u l i.e. if u = α 1 u α l u l for some α 1,..., α l F. A basis for V is a collection of vectors e 1,..., e n which are linearly independent and generate V. This is equivalent to the statement that every vector u V can, in a unique way, be written as u = α 1 e α n e n, where α 1,..., α n F. The coefficients α 1,..., α n are called the coordinates of the vector u in the basis e 1,..., e n. Two different bases for a given vector space always contain equally many elements and a vector space is said to have the dimension n if it has a basis with n vectors. If a vector space V is generated by a finite number of vectors v 1,..., v m, then we can always pick a basis from these. If the vectors v 1,..., v m are linearly independent then they form a basis. Otherwise, one of them, for example v m, is a linear combination of the others. Then V is generated by v 1,..., v m 1. In this way, we can continue until we obtain a collection of linearly independent vectors which generate V. Example 3.4. For a given field F the standard example of a vector space over F is its n-fold product F n = {(α 1,..., α n ) ; α i F } with addition and multiplication, by elements from F, in each component. Every vector space V over F of dimension n can be identified with F n by choosing a basis in V. Example 3.5. Let f be a subfield of a larger field F. This means that f is a subset of F and that f is itself a field with the same operations as defined in F. For this to be the case, it is necessary that f contains at least two elements, that the operations addition and multiplication applied to two elements in f again give an element in f, and that α and α 1 also belong to f for every α 0 in f. In this case, we can think of F as a vector space over the subfield f. It follows from the rules for F that the axioms (i) (vii) for a vector space are satisfied. It is clear, that if we view the finite field F as a vector space over f, then it is generated by a finite number of vectors. In other words there

18 16 1. FINITE FIELDS exists a basis e 1,..., e n of elements in F such that every u F can, in a unique way, be written as u = α 1 e α n e n with α 1,..., α n f. Here the dimension of F is n. If p is the number of elements in the subfield f, then each coordinate α i can be chosen in p different ways, so F has exactly p n elements. In connection with error-correcting codes, we will later deepen our discussion on vector spaces over finite fields. Here we just show how Example 3.5 can be used to see that the number of elements of a finite field must be a power of a single prime. Let F be a finite field and as usual denote the unity in F by 1. Consider the sums 1, 1 + 1, ,..., m1,... where m1 means the sum of m copies of the unity. Since F is finite, there exist integers r < s such that r1 = s1. If m = s r, then m1 = 0. The least positive integer p such that p1 = 0 is called the characteristic of the field F. The characteristic p must be a prime, since if p were the product of two integers p 1 and p 2 greater than 1 then (p 1 1) (p 2 1) = p1 = 0 and hence p 1 1 = 0 or p 2 1 = 0. This contradicts the fact that p is the least positive integer with p1 = 0. Now set f = {m1 ; m Z} = { 0, 1, 1 + 1,..., (p 1)1 }. Then it is easily checked that f is a subfield of F and that the map m m1 gives an isomorphism between Z p and f. Because f has p elements, it follows from Example 3.5 that the field F has p n elements for some positive integer n. We can now formulate our result as the following theorem. Theorem 3.6. For every finite field F there exist a prime number p and a positive integer n such that the number of elements in F is p n. The prime p is the characteristic of the field. Remark 3.7. The notion of a characteristic can also be defined for infinite fields, but here there are two cases. Either, there exists a least positive integer p such that p1 = 0 which we then call the characteristic, or the elements m1 are non-zero for all non-zero m. In the latter case we say that the characteristic is 0. As examples we have Q, R and C which all are fields of characteristic 0.

19 4. POLYNOMIAL RINGS 17 Exercises Exercise 3.1. Let V be a vector space over a field F. A subset U of V is called a subspace of V if u, v U αu + βv U, for all α, β F. Check that every subspace U of V is a vector space with the same operations as in V. Let F be the field Z 3 and U be the subspace of F 4 generated by the vectors (0, 1, 2, 1), (1, 0, 2, 2) and (1, 2, 0, 1). Find a basis for U and determine its dimension. Exercise 3.2. Let F be a field with characteristic p 0. (1) Show that pa = 0 for all a F. (2) Show that (a + b) p = a p + b p for all a, b K. (Hint: Show first that for 0 < k < p the binomial coefficients ( p k) are divisible by p.) Exercise 3.3. (1) Show that for a field of characteristic p 0 (a 1 + a a l ) p = a p 1 + a p a p l. (2) Prove Fermat s little theorem by choosing all a i = 1 in (1). 4. Polynomial Rings According to Theorem 3.6, any finite field must have p n elements, where p is a prime number and n is some positive integer. So far, we have only dealt with the fields Z p for which n = 1. To be able to construct fields with n > 1, we need to discuss polynomials with coefficients in finite fields. A polynomial with coefficients in a field F is an expression of the form (1) f(x) = a n x n + a n 1 x n a 1 x + a 0, where a i F. Strictly speaking, a polynomial is just a finite sequence a 0, a 1,..., a n of elements in F and the letter x should be seen as a formal symbol. The value f(α) of the polynomial f at α F is a n α n + a n 1 α n a 1 α + a 0 F.

20 18 1. FINITE FIELDS Example 4.1. Consider the polynomials f(x) = x and g(x) = x 4 + x 2 + x + 1 with coefficients in Z 2 (observe that we do not write out the terms with coefficient 0). Despite the fact that the values of f and g are equal for all α Z 2 = {0, 1}, the polynomials should be considered as different. If a n 0 in equation (1), then we say that the polynomial f(x) is of degree n and f(x) is said to be monic if a n = 1. The set of all polynomials with coefficients in a field F is denoted by F [x]. The addition and multiplication of polynomials are defined as usual when the coefficients lie in R or C. The division algorithm, the factor theorem and the Euclidean algorithm can be proven, in the general case, in exactly the same way as when F = R. The division algorithm tells us that if f and g are polynomials such that deg f deg g, then there exist polynomials q and r such that f(x) = q(x)g(x) + r(x), where either r(x) is the zero polynomial or deg r < deg g. If r is the zero polynomial, then we say that g divides f and write g f. The statement of the factor theorem is that f(α) = 0 if and only if (x α) divides f(x). Finally, the Euclidean algorithm gives a method for finding a greatest common divisor of two polynomials f and g. That h is a greatest common divisor of f and g means that h divides both f and g, furthermore that any other polynomial that divides both f and g must divide h. The greatest common divisor is not uniquely determined, but two different greatest common divisors h 1 and h 2 only differ by a constant multiple. This follows from the fact that h 1 divides h 2 and h 2 divides h 1. This is only possible if h 1 = ah 2 for some a F. If we demand that the greatest common divisor of f and g is a monic polynomial, then it is uniquely determined and is denoted by (f, g). Example 4.2. We will now illustrate the Euclidean algorithm by calculating the greatest common divisor of the following polynomials in Z 3 [x]: f(x) = x 5 + 2x 3 + x 2 + 2, g(x) = x 4 + 2x 3 + 2x 2 + 2x + 1. Observe that since the coefficients are in Z 3, we can apply identities such as 4 1 and 2 1. (In what follows, we will leave out the brackets around elements in Z n.) x 5 + 2x 3 + x = (x + 1)(x 4 + 2x 3 + 2x 2 + 2x + 1) + (x 3 + 1) x 4 + 2x 3 + 2x 2 + 2x + 1 = (x + 2)(x 3 + 1) + (2x 2 + x + 2)

21 4. POLYNOMIAL RINGS 19 x = (2x + 2)(2x 2 + x + 2). The last non-vanishing remainder 2x 2 + x + 2 is a greatest common divisor of f and g. The corresponding monic polynomial is obtained by multiplying by 2 1 = 2. This gives (f, g) = x 2 + 2x + 1. Definition 4.3. A polynomial s(x) in F [x] of degree n 1 is said to be irreducible if it does not have a non-trivial divisor i.e. if there does not exist a polynomial g(x), with 1 deg g < n, that divides s(x). Irreducible polynomials are also called prime polynomials. Example 4.4. The polynomial f(x) = x 3 + 2x + 1 is irreducible in Z 3 [x]. To checking this, observe that if f(x) were reducible then at least one if its factors would be of degree 1. Then f(x) would necessarily have a zero in Z 3, but this is not the case since f(0) = 1, f(1) = 1 and f( 1) = 1. We will now prove that every monic polynomial in F [x] can be written as a product of monic prime polynomials and that this product is unique up to the order of its factors. For this we need the following lemma. Lemma 4.5. Assume that f, g and h are three polynomials in F [x] such that f(x) divides the product g(x)h(x). If f and g are relatively prime i.e. (f, g) = 1 then f divides h. Proof. It follows from the Euclidean algorithm that since (f, g) = 1 there exist two polynomials c(x) and d(x) such that 1 = c(x)f(x) + d(x)g(x). Hence h(x) = c(x)f(x)h(x) + d(x)g(x)h(x). Both terms on the right-hand side are divisible by f so f must divide h. Theorem 4.6. Let F be a field and f(x) be a monic polynomial with coefficients in F. Then there exist a number of different monic prime polynomials s 1 (x),..., s l (x) in F [x] and positive integers m 1,..., m l such that f(x) = s 1 (x) m1 s l (x) m l. The prime polynomials s i and the integers m i are, up to order, uniquely determined. Proof. We prove by induction, over the degree of f, that f can be written as a product of prime polynomials. When the degree of f is 1 there is nothing to prove. Now assume that the degree of f

22 20 1. FINITE FIELDS is n and that the statement is correct for any polynomial of lower degree. If f is a prime polynomial we are done. Otherwise, we can write f(x) = g 1 (x)g 2 (x) for some polynomials of g 1 and g 2 both of degree less than n. According to the induction hypothesis these can be written as a product of prime polynomials. This proves that f has a prime factorization. What is left to prove is the uniqueness. Assume that we have two prime factorizations for f(x) (2) s 1 (x) m1 s l (x) m l = t 1 (x) n1 t j (x) n j. Let us first consider t 1 (x). We shall show that t 1 (x) is equal to one of the factors s i (x) on the left-hand side. Since s 1 and t 1 are monic prime polynomials, we know that either s 1 = t 1 or s 1 and t 1 are relatively prime. If s 1 = t 1 we are done. Otherwise s 1 (x) m 1 and t 1 (x) are relatively prime. According to Lemma 4.5, t 1 (x) must then divide the product s 2 (x) m2 s l (x) m l. We can now continue the same procedure. Either t 1 = s 2 or else divides t 1 (x) the product s 3 (x) m3 s l (x) m l. Sooner or later we end up with t 1 (x) = s i (x) for some i. We can then divide both sides of equation (2) by t 1 (x) and repeat the procedure now for t 2 (x). When we have, in this way, divided out all the factors t i (x) on the right-hand side, all the factors s i (x) on the left-hand side must have disappeared. Otherwise a product of such factors would be equal to 1, which is impossible. This proves the uniqueness of the prime factorization. For a given field F the set F [x], equipped with the polynomial addition and the polynomial multiplication, forms a ring. As we have seen above, there are great similarities between F [x] and the ring Z of integers. For both Z and F [x] we have the division algorithm, the Euclidean algorithm and furthermore a unique prime factorization. The prime numbers in Z correspond to the prime polynomials in F [x]. We shall now copy the construction of the rings Z n from Z to F [x]. Let s(x) be a given non-zero polynomial with coefficients in F. Two polynomials f(x) and g(x) in F [x] are said to be congruent modulo s(x) if their difference f(x) g(x) is divisible by s(x). For this we simply write f g (mod s). Denote by [f(x)] the class of polynomials which are congruent to f(x) modulo s(x). Then we define an addition and a multiplication by [f(x)] + [g(x)] = [f(x) + g(x)] and [f(x)] [g(x)] = [f(x)g(x)].

23 4. POLYNOMIAL RINGS 21 In the same way as for the integers, one can check that these definitions are independent of the choice of the representatives for the congruence classes. Denote by F [x]/(s(x)) the set of congruence classes modulo s(x). It is easily checked that F [x]/(s(x)), equipped with this addition and this multiplication, is a commutative ring. Example 4.7. For the ring Z 5 [x]/(x 3 + 1) we have [x 2 + 2x + 1] [x 2 + x + 2] = [x 4 + 3x 3 + 5x 2 + 5x + 2] = [x 4 + 3x 3 + 2] = [(x + 3)(x ) + 2] = [(x + 3)( 1) + 2] = [ x 1] = [4x + 4]. Observe that x 3 can always be substituted by 1, since we are calculating modulo x In analogy with the rings Z n one can show that F [x]/(s(x)) is a field if and only if s(x) is a prime polynomial. If s(x) is not a prime polynomial, then s(x) = s 1 (x)s 2 (x) for some polynomials s 1 and s 2 of positive degree. Then [s 1 (x)][s 2 (x)] = 0, so F [x]/(s(x)) has zero divisors and hence is not a field. If s(x) is a prime polynomial, then (f, s) = 1 for every non-zero polynomial f(x) of degree less than s. By the Euclidean algorithm there exist polynomials c(x) and d(x) such that 1 = c(x)f(x) + d(x)s(x). This implies that [1] = [c(x)][f(x)], so [c(x)] is the inverse of [f(x)]. According to the division algorithm, every congruence class in F [x]/(s(x)) is represented by a polynomial of degree less than s(x). This means that every non-zero element has an inverse, so F [x]/(s(x)) is a field. Example 4.8. The polynomial x 2 +1 is irreducible in the ring R[x] of polynomials with real coefficients. This means that R[x]/(x 2 + 1) is a field. Every congruence class is represented by a polynomial of degree one and if we apply [x 2 + 1] = 0, then we easily get [a + bx][c + dx] = [(ac bd) + (ad + bc)x] With this we easily see that R[x]/(x 2 + 1) is isomorphic to the field C of complex numbers. Exercises

24 22 1. FINITE FIELDS Exercise 4.1. Let f(x) be the polynomial x x x in Z 5 [x]. Find the value f(3) in Z 5. Exercise 4.2. Show that if f(x) is a polynomial of degree n with coefficients in a field F, then f has at most n zeros in F. Exercise 4.3. Determine the greatest common divisor (f, g) of the following polynomials in Z 2 [x]: (1) f(x) = x 7 + 1, g(x) = x 5 + x 3 + x + 1. (2) f(x) = x 5 + x + 1, g(x) = x 6 + x 5 + x 4 + x + 1. Exercise 4.4. Find the greatest common divisor h = (f, g) of the polynomials f(x) = x and g(x) = x in Z 2 [x] and determine two polynomials c(x) and d(x) such that h(x) = c(x)f(x) + d(x)g(x). Exercise 4.5. Show that there exists only one irreducible polynomial in Z 2 [x] of degree two. Determine whether the polynomial x 5 + x in Z 2 [x] is irreducible or not. Exercise 4.6. Determine all monic irreducible polynomials in Z 3 [x] of degree 2. Exercise 4.7. Find in Z 3 [x] the prime factorization for the following polynomials: (1) x 5 + x 4 + x 3 + x 1 (2) x 4 + 2x 2 + 2x + 2 (3) x (4) x Exercise 4.8. How many zero divisors do there exist in the ring Z 5 [x]/(x 3 + 1)? Exercise 4.9. (1) Let F be a finite field. Show that the product of all non-zero elements in F is equal to 1. (Hint: Apply Theorem 2.1 and the relationship between zeros and coefficients.) (2) Show that for every prime number p we have (p 1)! = 1 (mod p). (Compare this result with Exercise 1.15.) Exercise Let F be a field with q elements, where q = 2m+1 is odd. Show that x F is the square of some non-zero element in F if and only if x m = 1. (Hint: Show first that a 2 = b 2 implies that a = b or a = b and then use Exercise 4.2.) Exercise Show that for a field with an even number of elements, every element is the square of one and only one element.

25 5. FINITE FIELDS Finite Fields Example 5.1. We shall here determine all irreducible polynomials in Z 2 [x] of degree less than or equal to 4. There exist only two polynomials of degree 1, namely x and x + 1. These are trivially irreducible. A polynomial of degree 2 or 3 is irreducible if and only if it has no zeros in Z 2. It is easily checked that such a polynomial has no zeros exactly when it has an odd number of terms and the constant term is 1. This shows that the irreducible polynomials of degree 2 and 3 are exactly the following: x 2 + x + 1 x 3 + x and x 3 + x + 1. If a polynomial of degree 4 is irreducible, then necessarily it does not have a factor of degree 1, i.e. it does not have a zero in Z 2, and it is not a product of two irreducible factors of degree 2. The second condition only excludes (x 2 + x + 1) 2 = x 4 + x 2 + 1, since there only exists one prime polynomial of degree 2. The other polynomials in Z 2 of degree 4 that do not have a zero are x 4 + x 3 + 1, x 4 + x + 1 and x 4 + x 3 + x 2 + x + 1. These are all the prime polynomials in Z 2 [x] of degree 4. If s(x) is any of the irreducible polynomials of degree 4 mentioned above, then Z 2 [x]/(s(x)) is a field with 2 4 = 16 elements. This follows from the fact that every congruence class is represented by a unique polynomial of degree 3 and for this each coefficient can be chosen in exactly two ways, namely as 0 or 1. Any irreducible polynomial of degree 2 or 3 induces a field with 2 2 = 4 or 2 3 = 8 elements, respectively. In the next section, we will show that for every prime number p and every positive integer n there exists an irreducible polynomial in Z p [x] of degree n. As a direct consequence of this, there exists for each such p and n a field with p n elements. We shall also show that any two finite fields with the same number of elements are isomorphic. This means that up to isomorphism there exists, for each prime p and each positive integer n, exactly one finite field with p n elements. These fields are denoted by GF (p n ) and called the Galois field of order p n in honour of the French mathematician Évariste Galois ( ). In this section we shall give examples of how to do calculations in finite fields.

26 24 1. FINITE FIELDS Example 5.2. In order to find the multiplicative inverse of [x 2 + 1] in the field Z 2 [x]/(x 3 + x 2 + 1) we apply the Euclidean algorithm: x 3 + x = (x + 1)(x 2 + 1) + x x = x x + 1. This leads to (observe that + = in Z 2 ) 1 = (x 2 + 1) + x x = (x 2 + 1) + x((x 3 + x 2 + 1) + (x + 1)(x 2 + 1)) = (x 2 + x + 1)(x 2 + 1) + x(x 3 + x 2 + 1). We end up with [x 2 + 1] 1 = [x 2 + x + 1]. We will now turn our attention to calculations concerning powers. If a is a non-zero element of a finite field F then some of its power must be 1. We know for example from Theorem 2.1 that a q 1 = 1, where q is the number of elements in F. Definition 5.3. The order of a non-zero element a in a finite field is the least positive integer m such that a m = 1. We denote the order of a by o(a). Example 5.4. Here we determine the order of [10] in the field Z 73 : 10 2 = This implies that , , and The order of [10] is therefore 8. According to Fermat s little theorem, we know that for any non-zero element a in the field Z 73 we have a 72 = 1. The following result shows that it is not a coincidence that the order 8 in Example 5.4 divides 72. Lemma 5.5. Let a be a non-zero element in a finite field. If a n = 1 for some positive number n, then the order of a divides n. Proof. Assume the converse. If m is the order of a, then there exist integers q and r with 0 < r < m, such that From this it follows that n = qm + r. 1 = a n = (a m ) q a r = a r. This contradicts the fact that m = o(a), since 0 < r < m.

27 5. FINITE FIELDS 25 The next result gives us a method for constructing elements of high order. Lemma 5.6. Assume that the elements a 1 and a 2 in a finite field have the orders m 1 and m 2, respectively, and that m 1 and m 2 are relatively prime. Then a = a 1 a 2 has the order m 1 m 2. Proof. Assume that a k = 1. Then we have 1 = a km 1 = a km 1 1 a km 1 2 = a km 1 2. According to Lemma 5.5, m 2 must divide km 1. Since (m 1, m 2 ) = 1 the number m 2 must divide k. Using a similar argument, we see that m 1 divides k. This means that k is divisible by m 1 m 2, since m 1 and m 2 are relatively prime. The order of a is therefore at least m 1 m 2. That it is exactly m 1 m 2 follows from a m 1m 2 = (a m 1 1 ) m2 (a m 2 2 ) m 1 = 1. Example 5.7. In the field Z 73 we have 8 2 = so the order of [8] is 3. According to Example 5.4 and Lemma 5.6 the order of [80] = [7] is 8 3 = 24. Before we can formulate the main result of this section we need the following lemma. Lemma 5.8. Let a and b be elements of a finite field F of order m and n, respectively, and assume that m does not divide n. Then there exists an element in F of order greater that n. Proof. If m does not divide n, then there exists a prime power p k that divides m but not n. Then m = m p k and n = n p l, where 0 l < k and n is not divisible by p. According to Lemma 5.6, this means that (p k, n ) = 1 and the order of a m b pl is p k n > n. Theorem 5.9. If F is a finite field with q elements, then there always exists an element in F of order q 1. Proof. Let b be a non-zero element in F such that the order of b is larger than or equal to the order of any other element of F. Set n = o(b). According to Lemma 5.8 the order of any element in F must divide n, since otherwise there would exist an element of order greater

28 26 1. FINITE FIELDS than n. This means that any non-zero element of F must satisfy the equation x n = 1. The polynomial x n 1 has therefore q 1 different zeros. Following the factor theorem we therefore have n q 1. On the other hand Theorem 2.1 tells us that the order never can be greater than q 1. Hence n = q 1 so we have proven the result. Definition Let F be a field with q elements. An element of order q 1 in F is said to be a primitive element. Example We shall show that [3] is a primitive element for Z 101. Since the order of [3] must divide 100 = , it is enough to check the powers 2, 4, 5, 10, 20, 25 and 50: 3 2 = = The least positive integer m for which 3 m 1 is therefore 100. For a primitive element a in a field F with q element the powers a 0, a 1, a 2,..., a q 2 are all different. Otherwise we would have a j = a k for some integers j < k between 0 and q 2. Then a k j = 1, which contradicts the fact that the order of a is q 1. For every non-zero b in F there exists a uniquely determined j with 0 j q 2 such that b = a j. We call j the index of b and write j = ind(b). The index is also called the discrete logarithm of b with respect to the primitive element a. The index can be used to simplify calculations of products and quotients in finite fields. If the field has q elements then we have ind(b 1 b 2 ) ind(b 1 ) + ind(b 2 ) (mod q 1) ind(b 1 b 1 2 ) ind(b 1 ) ind(b 2 ) (mod q 1). Example We have seen in Example 5.1 that the polynomial x 4 + x is irreducible Z 2 [x]. The field F = Z 2 [x]/(x 4 + x 3 + 1)

29 5. FINITE FIELDS 27 has 2 4 = 16 elements. Each element in F can be described with a string of four binary digits given by the coefficients of the polynomial of degree 3 representing the congruence class. As an example, the string 1011 denotes the class [x 3 + x + 1]. The class [x] is a primitive element in F and this induces a table containing each element in F : index element index element As an example, the calculation of the element of degree 5 goes as follows [x 5 ] = [x x 4 ] = [x (x 3 + 1)] = [x 4 + x] = [(x 3 + 1) + x] = [x 3 + x + 1]. We illustrate how the table can be used by calculating The index for this element is Hence (1111) (1101) = 5 10 (mod 15) (1111) (1101) 1 = (1010). Exercises Exercise 5.1. Determine all irreducible polynomials of degree 5 in Z 2 [x]. Exercise 5.2. Prove that Z 3 [x]/(x 3 + x 2 + 2) is a field with 27 elements and determine the multiplicative inverse to [x + 2]. Exercise 5.3. Prove that Z 11 [x]/(x 2 +x+4) is a field and determine the multiplicative invers to [3x + 2]. How many elements does the field have? Exercise 5.4. (1) Determine the order of the elements [3] and [4] in Z 37. (2) Determine a primitive element in Z 37. Exercise 5.5. Determine a primitive element in Z 73. Exercise 5.6. (1) Show that L = Z 2 [x]/(x 3 + x + 1) is a field. (2) Show that [x] is a primitive element and calculate, as in Example 5.12, an index table for L. (3) Calculate [x 2 + 1] [x 2 + x + 1] 1.

30 28 1. FINITE FIELDS Exercise 5.7. Use the table in Example 5.12 to calculate the following (1) (1001) ((1011) 2 + (0011) 2 ), (2) ((1010) 2 + (0101) 3 ) ((0001) + (1101) 2 ) The Existence and Uniqueness of GF (p n ) To show that there exists a field with p n elements we shall here prove that for each prime p and every positive integer n there exists an irreducible polynomial of degree n in Z p [x]. We start by noticing that the total number of monic polynomials f(x) = x n + a n 1 x n a 1 x + a 0 with coefficients in Z p is equal to p n. According to Theorem 6, every such polynomial can, in a unique way, up to the term order, be written as a product (3) f(x) = s 1 (x) m1 s l (x) m l, where s 1 (x),..., s l (x) are monic prime polynomials in Z p [x]. If d i is the degree of s i (x) then (4) n = m 1 d m l d l. The number of monic polynomials of degree n in Z p [x] is equal to the number of ways, as in (3), to write monic polynomials of degree n as a product of prime polynomials. If I d denotes the number of monic prime polynomials of degree d, then according to (4), the total number of monic polynomials of degree n in Z p [x] is equal to the coefficient for t n in the product (1 + t + t 2 + ) I 1 (1 + t 2 + t 4 + ) I 2 (1 + t 3 + t 6 ) I3. Since we know that the number of these coefficients is equal to p n, we have ( ) Id 1 = 1. 1 t d 1 pt d By taking logarithms on each side we obtain ( I d ln(1 t d ) ) = ln(1 pt) d and by Taylor expanding on both sides we get

31 6. THE EXISTENCE AND UNIQUENESS OF GF (p n ) 29 I 1 (t+ t2 2 + t3 3 + )+I 2(t 2 + t4 2 + t6 3 + )+I 3(t 3 + t6 2 + t9 + )+ 3 = pt + p2 t p3 t Comparing coefficients of each side for t n gives I d d n = pn n. d n Observe that on the left-hand side we only have terms where d divides n. Multiplying by n gives the following result: Theorem 6.1. If I d is the number of monic irreducible polynomials of degree d in Z p [x], then di d = p n. Example 6.2. If p = 2 and n = 6 then we obtain d n I 1 + 2I 2 + 3I 3 + 6I 6 = 2 6 = 64. According to Example 5.1 we have I 1 = 2, I 2 = 1 and I 3 = 2, so I 6 = 9. By applying Theorem 6.1 repeatedly we can, in this way, determine the numbers I d. But to do this in one go, we will make use of the Möbius inversion formula proven in the next section. The Möbius function µ(n) is defined for positive integers n and takes only three values 0, 1 and 1. It is given by 1 if n = 1 µ(n) = ( 1) k if n is the product of k different primes 0 otherwise. If we apply the Möbius inversion formula to the equation in Theorem 6.1 then we get ni n = µ(d)p n/d. d n The right-hand side contains a lowest power of p. If the lowest power is p m, then ni n = ±1 + (a number of p-powers with coefficients ±1). pm Hence ni n = ±1 (mod p) pm and in particular ni n 0.

32 30 1. FINITE FIELDS Theorem 6.3. For each prime number p and each positive integer n there exists an irreducible polynomial of degree n in Z p [x]. It is a direct consequence of Theorem 6.3 that there exists a field with p n elements. We shall now focus our attention on proving that, up to isomorphisms, there exists only one such field. Let F be an arbitrary finite field of characteristic p. Then F contains the subfield f = { 0, 1,..., (p 1)1 } which is isomorphic to Z p. If m1 f and β F, then (m1) β = mβ. We can therefore consider F as a vector space over Z p. Since F is finite, this vector space is finite dimensional. This implies that for every α F there exists a positive integer d such that the powers α 0, α 1, α 2,..., α d are linearly dependent, i.e. there exist a 0, a 1,..., a d Z p not all zero such that a a 1 α + a 2 α a d α d = 0. Let d be the smallest such integer and set s(x) = a 0 + a 1 x + + a d x d. Then s(x) has the lowest degree amongst the non-trivial polynomials in Z p [x] having α as a zero. We can always choose a d = 1, and then s(x) is uniquely determined and called the minimal polynomial to α. The minimal polynomial is irreducible in Z p [x] because if s(x) was a product s 1 (x)s 2 (x) of factors of lower degree than d, then s 1 or s 2 would have α as zero and this would contradict the fact that s(x) is the minimal polynomial of α. Theorem 6.4. Let F be a finite field of charateristic p and let α be an element of F. If L is the smallest subfield of F containing α and if s(x) is the minimal polynomial to α, then L is isomorphic to the field Z p [x]/(s(x)). Proof. Set L = {f(α) ; f Z p [x]}. Every subfield of F containing α must include L, since such a field contains all powers of α and all linear combinations of such powers. We shall show that L is isomorphic to the field Z p [x]/(s(x)). It follows from this that L itself is a field and hence the smallest subfield of F containing α. Consider the map Z p [x]/(s(x)) [f(x)] f(α) L.

33 6. THE EXISTENCE AND UNIQUENESS OF GF (p n ) 31 It is well-defined since if f and g belong to the same congruence class i.e. if f(x) = g(x) + h(x)s(x) for some polynomial h, then f(α) = g(α) + h(α)s(α) = g(α). It immediately follows from the definition that [f(x)]+[g(x)] is mapped to f(α) + g(α) and [f(x)] [g(x)] to f(α)g(α). It remains to show that the map is bijective. It is clear that it is surjective. To show that it is injective, we first observe that if the minimal polynomial s(x) has degree d, then it is enough to consider polynomials f(x) of degree less than d. Every congruence class in Z p [x]/(s(x)) is represented by such a polynomial. Assume that f(α) = g(α) for two different polynomials of degree less than d. Then α is a zero of f g, which contradicts the fact that s(x) is the minimal polynomial of α. This shows that the map is injective and the statement is proven. Corollary 6.5. Let F be a field with p n elements and let s(x) be a monic prime polynomial in Z p [x] with zero α in F. Then s(x) is the minimal polynomial of α and the degree of s divides n. Proof. The element α is a zero of both s(x) and its minimal polynomial t(x). Hence α is a zero to the greatest common divisor (s, t). Since s and t are irreducible, we must have s = (s, t) = t. If s(x) has the degree d and L is the smallest subfield containing α, then Theorem 6.4 tells us that L has p d elements. Because F can be seen as a vector space over L, we have F = L m for some positive integer m, where F and L denote the number of elements in F and L, respectively. This means that p n = p dm and from this follows that d divides n. We now have all the tools needed to prove that two finite fields with the same number of elements must be isomorphic. Let F be an arbitrary field with q = p n elements. According to Theorem 2.1 every element in F is a zero of the polynomial x q x. We have multiplied the equation in the theorem by x to include x = 0. According to Theorem 4.6, x q x can be written as a product of prime polynomials in Z p [x]: (5) x q x = s i (x). i Here is the sum of the degrees of the polynomials s i equal to q. Since x q x has q different zeros in F, the prime polynomials on the righthand side must all be different and for each polynomial s i its degree

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