Here at PSU, Sergei Tabachnikov just finished giving a two-week mini-course on the “geometry of polynomials.” The collection of topics was diverse: various proofs of the fundamental theorem of algebra, resultant and discriminants, Chebyshev polynomials, harmonic functions in three-space, and a sketch of the proof of the four-vertex theorem. The lectures presupposed familiarity with no more than elementary analysis and linear algebra, though more advanced topics were referenced (without proofs).

Two weeks really means about seven days; class was cancelled because apparently people thought that most of us were interested in an art show.

For the benefit of the huddled masses yearning to be educated, here are the notes that I took from these lectures.  The file is rather large (40 MB) because of the insertion of jpg images that someone else in the REU drew. The djvu file is a lot smaller, but WordPress won’t let me post it, so email me if you want it.

The notes are mostly a faithful representation of what I took in class, but I have edited them lightly to moderate my tendency to embarrass myself.

Next week, Yakov Pesin is lecturing on fractal geometry and dynamics; I’ll post those notes when I’m done with them.

So, in a break from the earlier series I was doing on Lie algebras, I want to discuss a very elementary question about polynomials. The answer is well-known but is interesting.   It would make a good competition type problem (indeed, it’s an exercise in Serge Lang’s Algebra).  Moreover, ironically, it’s useful in algebra: At some point one of us will probably discuss Hilbert polynomials, which take integer values, so this result tells us something about them.

We have a polynomial {P(X) \in \mathbb{Q}[X]} which takes integer values at all sufficiently large {n \in \mathbb{N}}. What can we say about {P}?

Denote the set of such {P} by {\mathfrak{I}}. Then clearly {\mathbb{Z}[X] \subset \mathfrak{I}}. But the converse is false.


Today I want to talk (partially) about a general fact, that first came up as a side remark in the context of my project, and which Dustin Clausen, David Speyer, and I worked out a few days ago.  It was a useful bit of algebra for me to think about.

Theorem 1 Let {A} be an associative algebra with identity over an algebraically closed field {k}; suppose the center {Z \subset A} is a finitely generated ring over {k}, and {A} is a finitely generated {Z}-module. Then: all simple {A}-modules are finite-dimensional {k}-vector spaces.

We’ll get to this after discussing a few other facts about rings, interesting in their own right.