I recently started writing up some material on finite presentation for the CRing project. There seems to be a folk “finitely presented” approach in mathematics: to prove something over a big, scary uncountable field like $\mathbb{C}$, one argues that the problem descends to some much smaller subobject, for instance a finitely generated subring of the complex numbers. It might be possible to prove using elementary methods the analog for such smaller subobjects, from which one can deduce the result for the big object.

One way to make these ideas precise is the characteristic p principle of Abraham Robinson, which I blogged about in the past when describing the model-theoretic approach to the Ax-Grothendieck theorem. Today, I want to describe a slightly different (choice-free!) argument in this vein that I learned from an article of Serre.

Theorem 1 Let ${F: \mathbb{C}^n \rightarrow \mathbb{C}^n}$ be a polynomial map with ${F \circ F = 1_{\mathbb{C}^n}}$. Then ${F}$ has a fixed point.

We can phrase this alternatively as follows. Let ${\sigma: \mathbb{C}[x_1, \dots, x_n] \rightarrow \mathbb{C}[x_1, \dots, x_n]}$ be a ${\mathbb{C}}$-involution. Then the map on the ${\mathrm{Spec}}$‘s has a fixed point (which is a closed point).

In fact, this result can be proved using directly Robinson’s principle (exercise!). The present argument, though, has more of an algebro-geometric feel to it, and it now appears in the CRing project — you can find it in the chapter currently marked “various.(more…)

Model theory often provides a framework from one which one can obtain “finitary” versions of infinitary results, and vice versa.

One spectacular example is the Ax-Grothendieck theorem, which states that an injective polynomial map ${P: \mathbb{C}^n \rightarrow \mathbb{C}^n}$ is surjective. The key idea here is that the theorem for polynomial maps of a fixed degree is a statement of first-order logic, to which the compactness theorem applies. Next, the theorem is trivial when ${\mathbb{C}}$ is replaced by a finite field, and one then deduces it for ${\overline{\mathbb{F}_p}}$ (and maps ${P: \overline{\mathbb{F}_p} \rightarrow \overline{\mathbb{F}_p}}$ by an inductive limit argument. It then holds for algebraically closed fields of nonzero characteristic, because ${ACF_p}$ is a complete theory—any first-order statement true in one algebraically closed field of characteristic ${p}$ is true in any such field. Finally, one appeals to a famous result of Abraham Robinson that any first-order statement true in algebraically closed fields of characteristic ${p>p_0}$ is true in algebraically closed fields of characteristic zero.

There is a discussion of this result and other proofs by Terence Tao here.

For fun, I will formally state and prove Robinson’s theorem.

Theorem 1 (A. Robinson) Let ${S}$ be a statement in first-order logic in the language of fields (i.e., referring to the operations of addition and multiplication, and the constants ${0,1}$). Then ${S}$ is true in algebraically closed fields of characteristic zero if and only if ${S}$ is true algebraically closed fields of arbitrarily high (or sufficiently high, ${p>p_0}$) characteristic ${p}$. (more…)