fermat theorem

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fermat theorem

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2015

1. Background

In 1995, Princeton professor Andrew Wiles quenched the quest for a proof of Fermats last theorem as he accomplished the

task in his 109-page tome Modular Elliptic Curves and Fermats Last Theorem [1]. However, Fermats truly marvelous proof,

which the margin of his copy of the Arithmetica was too narrow to contain, has remained unknown. By Wiless own admission,

his proof, which involves such modern mathematics as the category of schemes and Iwasawa theory, could not have been the proof

Fermat had in mind.

The most recent additions to our Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library feature contributions from the estate of Oliver Wendell

Holmes, Jr., which include letters and legal manuscripts of Pierre de Fermat (a lawyer by vocation). It is in the density of Fermats

litigation records during the period 1660-1662 that his lost mathematical proof is finally to be found.

It turns out that Fermats proof employs what is now known as the Mason-Stothers theorem (proved independently by

Stothers [2] and Mason [3] in the late 20th century). In the discovered manuscript, Fermat himself gave an elementary proof of the

Mason-Stothers theorem, but his approach resembles that presented in An alternate proof of Masons theorem by Snyder [4]. For

this reason we here omit Fermats proof of the Mason-Stothers theorem, and only reproduce the subsequent part of his proof of his

last theorem, paraphrased in modern terminology.

2. A Reproduction of Fermats Proof

Theorem. For any positive integer n 3, there do not exist positive integers x, y and z, with x, y, z 6= 0, satisfying the equation

xn + y n = z n .

Proof. We shall invoke the following theorem proved by W. Wilson Stothers [2] and R. C. Mason [3].

Theorem (Mason-Stothers). For any polynomials A(t), B(t) and C(t), with complex coefficients, satisfying A + B = C,

max{deg A, deg B, deg C} N (ABC) 1,

where N (f ) is the number of distinct roots of f .

Now, suppose there is a solution to the equation xn + y n = z n , where x, y and z are integers with x, y, z 6= 0, and n is a

positive integer. Then (xt)n + (yt)n = (zt)n , and hence

(xt)n + (yt)n + (zt)n = 0,

n

where is a complex number satisfying = 1. Thus there exist polynomials X(t), Y (t) and Z(t), with complex coefficients,

satisfying X n + Y n + Z n = 0, where deg X, deg Y, deg Z 1 (since x, y, z 6= 0).

By the Mason-Stothers theorem, deg X n N (X n Y n Z n )1. But note that deg X n = n deg X and N (X n Y n Z n ) = N (XY Z)

(for a number is a root of XY Z if and only if it is a root of (XY Z)n ). Hence

n deg X N (XY Z) 1 deg(XY Z) 1 = deg X + deg Y + deg Z 1.

Similarly we may obtain n deg Y deg X + deg Y + deg Z 1 and n deg Z deg X + deg Y + deg Z 1. Adding the three equations,

we have

n(deg X + deg Y + deg Z) 3(deg X + deg Y + deg Z) 3,

or

(3 n)(deg X + deg Y + deg Z) 3.

Since deg X, deg Y, deg Z 1, we must have 3 n > 0, i.e. n < 3.

3. Remarks

Indeed, the course of true mathematics never did run smooth. The patient reader is wished a happy April Fools Day. It is

the sincere hope of the Organising Committee of the 57th International Mathematical Olympiad 2016, Hong Kong, that the falsity

of this note will not discourage the reader from joining the search for beautiful solutions to hard mathematical problems.

References

[1] Wiles, Andrew (1995), Modular Elliptic Curves and Fermats Last Theorem, Annals of Math. 141 (3): 443-551.

[2] Stothers, W. W. (1981), Polynomial identities and hauptmoduln, Quaterly J. Math. Oxford 2 (32): 349-370.

[3] Mason R. C. (1984), Diophantine Equations over Function Fields, London Math. Soc. Lecture Note Series 96, Cambridge, England:

Cambridge University Press.

[4] Snyder, Noah (1999), An alternate proof of Masons theorem, Elemente Mathematik 55 (2000), no. 3, 93-94.

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