# nrich.maths.org :: Mathematics Enrichment :: ::An Introduction to Galoi...

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1 Introduction
1.1 Motivation
Galois theory is a very big subject, and until you are quite immersed in mathematical study in a way which is unusual unless studying for a degree in maths, it can seem quite pointless. However, there are two problems which provide some motivation for studying Galois theory - the existence of polynomials which aren't soluble by radicals, and some results about classical Eucl idean geometry, for example that you cannot trisect an angle using a ruler and compass, and that certain regular polygons cannot be constructed using a ruler and compass. The first problem is this, given a polynomial p(x) with rational coefficients, for example p(x) = x 2 + 3x + 1, can you express the roots of p(x) using only rational numbers, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction and the operation of raising a number to the power 1 / n for n an integer? So, for example, we can solve ax 2 + bx + c = 0 using only these operations, because we know that the solutions are: √ −b ± b 2 − 4ac x= 2a The coefficients a, b, c are all rational, and we have only used multiplication, division, addition, subtraction and square root (which is raising to the power of 1 / 2). We can find more complicated examples, suppose p(x) = x 4 − 4x 2 + 2. We can factorise this as √ √ p(x) = (x 2 − 2) 2 − 2. So the solutions will satisfy x 2 − 2 = ± 2, or x 2 = 2 ± 2. Square rooting this we get p √ x = ± 2 ± 2. So, x 4 − 4x 2 + 2 can be solved in this way too.
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2 Fields Definition (Field): A field F is a bit like a group.. then the first. 1.. 1 then the rearrangement σ · τ does the following: it rearranges 1. 2. 2.. (F. x p − 1 with the operation x n · x m = x n + m and also the relation that x p = 1 . 1 and τ for the rearrangement 1. You can tell this is a group because the inverse of x n is x p − n . x 2 . n. If you're happy with the idea of sets and functions then you can prove that S X is a group even if X is an infinite set. Another way of thinking about it. 2 to 3 and 1 to 2).. 1 (that's τ ) then it rearranges this to 1. usually written · and + . So. 3 to 3. The symmetric group above..e. 3. 2. F is a field if F has elements 0 and 1 such that F with the operation + is agroup (i. Suppose we rearrange the numbers 1. · ) is a group) and we have relations like (x + y) · z = x · z + y · z (we say that · is distributive over + ).maths. n. we could rearrange 1. . This is the set of elements 1.. all it means is 4 of 10 5/26/2008 12:23 PM . The collection of all of these rearrangements forms a group. 2. g ∈ S X we have the function f · g defined to be ( f · g)(x) = f (g(x)). (F ∖ {0}.. In other words. See if you can prove that S n is a group and that it has n ! elements.org/public/viewer. the set F without the element 0 is a group with the operation · (i. + ) is a group). 3 to 2. For example.. the symmetric group on n elements. So. Definition (Cyclic Group): Important finite groups are things like C p which is the cyclic group of order p. you may want to check you've followed so far. 2. is to define the symmetric group on a set X to be S X = { f : X → X | f is invertible} with the operation that for the functions f . 3 goes to 3. The definition of a field above is quite abstract..e.nrich. The operation is do the second one. in C 5 we have that x 2 · x 4 = x 6 = x 5 · x = x. but we have two operations. x. 0 · x = 0 = x · 0.maths. 3. for example. 2. 3. So the group S n is the collection of rearrangements of 1. if we write σ for the rearrangement 1. x · y = y · x and x + y = y + x (which isn't always true for a group) and so on.. 2... 2. for those who are happy with the ideas of sets and functions. 3 goes to 2. 2 to 3 and 3 to 1.org :: Mathematics Enrichment :: ::An Introduction to Galoi. At this point. Definition (Symmetric Group): Another important example of a finite group is S n .. . we take 1 to 2. 2 (because σ takes 3 to 1. . 3. 2.php?obj_id=1422&part=index&no. http://nrich.

the real ).. You can extend this idea to define. So we have that x = a / p − (b / p) 2. because the reals are a field and every rational is also a real number. c ∈ Q} is a field. β ] is a field.3 Field extensions Definition (Field Extension): A field extension of a field F is a field K containing F (we write a field extension as F ⊆ K or F / \K For example. if 1 / (a + b 2) can be written as c + d 2. b. A good example of a field is the real numbers or the rational numbers.maths. then we say that α is an algebraic number.. for α . So Q[ 2] really is a field (the other axioms are clearly true.maths. check them if you like). you might like to see if you can show that Q[α . Firstly. and you can divide by any element other than 0. that a field is a set in which you can add. you √ √ can always do this. and so on. α + α 2 β . Definition (Algebraic Number): More generally. Q[ 3 2] = {a + b 3 2 + c 3 2 2 : a. This shows that Q[α . This gives us even√ more √ examples of fields.org :: Mathematics Enrichment :: ::An Introduction to Galoi. To test yourself. If x = 1 / (a + b 2) then (multiplying the top and bottom by a − b 2): √ a−b 2 √ √ x= (a + b 2)(a − b 2) √ √ √ √ And (a + b 2)(a − b 2) = a 2 − 2b 2 = p say. subtract and multiply any elements. For example. We can think of Q[α ] in two ways.nrich. this is explained in the next section. β ] = Q[α ][β ] (the right hand side makes sense because Q[α ][β ] = K[β ] where K = Q[α ] which is a field). http://nrich. This is the set of all √ numbers which can be written a + b 2 for a and b rational numbers. β ] to be the set of all expressions like 2αβ . d ∈ Q}.. It is not immediately obvious that this √ √ is a field. but you need to know a theorem called the Remainder Theorem.) √ A less obvious example of a field (the important example for Galois theory) is Q[ 2]. β both algebraic. However. 3] = {a + b 2 + c 3 + d 6 : a. (Check the axioms. numbers are a field extension of the rational numbers. for example. If α is an algebraic number then Q[α ] is a field. b.org/public/viewer. 2.php?obj_id=1422&part=index&no. as the set of elements a0 + a1 α + … + an − 1 α n − 1 where each ai is a rational number and n is the smallest integer such that there is a polynomial p(x) of degree n with p(α ) = 0. 5 of 10 5/26/2008 12:23 PM . c. if α is a real number with the property that p(α ) = 0 for some polynomial p(x). because we do not know.. for example √ √ √ Q[ 2. √ √ √ This gives us lots of examples of fields. You can try to prove that Q[α ] is a field if you like. The second way is that Q[α ] is the smallest field extension of Q containing α . Q[α .

do all √ √ our calculations and then change the symbol − 2 back to 2 and we get the right answer.. because the conditions that f (x + y) = f (x) + f (y) preserve multiplication. Definition (F-Automorphism): More specifically. Definition (Field Automorphism): A field automorphism f has to be an invertible function (which the f above clearly is) such that f (x + y) = f (x) + f (y). √ √ Another example is that the splitting field of p(x) = x 4 − 5x 2 + 6 is Q[ 2.php?obj_id=1422&part=index&no. Field automorphisms are the right way of expressing this idea..maths. Let's use Q[ 2] as an example. then an F-automorphism of K is an automorphism f of K with the additional property that f (x) = x for all x in F. Q[ 2] is a field extension of Q since if a ∈ Q then a + 0 2 ∈ Q[ 2].1 Automorphisms At this point you may be wondering why I was talking about symmetries of roots at the beginning of this √ article. The idea of a field automorphism is that it is just a way of relabelling the √ elements of the field without √ changing the structure at all.. 2. f (ax) = f (a) f (x) and f (1 / x) = 1 / f (x). You can check that for the function f above really does satisfy all the conditions. So. if we have a field extension K of a field F..org/public/viewer. Here's where the idea of a field automorphism comes in. addition and so on. Can you see why? 3 Automorphisms and Galois Groups 3.nrich.maths. so Q ⊆ Q[ 2]. we can replace the symbol 2 with the symbol − 2. More generally we have that Q[α ] is a field extension of Q for α an algebraic number. 3].4 Splitting Fields Here's where the Galois theory bit starts. 6 of 10 5/26/2008 12:23 PM . Definition (Splitting Field): Given a polynomial p(x) we have what is called the splitting field of p(x) which is the smallest field extension of Q that contains all the roots of p(x). http://nrich.org :: Mathematics Enrichment :: ::An Introduction to Galoi. if p(x) = x 2 − 2 then the √ splitting field of p(x) is Q[ 2] (it contains all the roots of p(x) and if it had fewer elements it either wouldn't contain all the roots or wouldn't be a field). In other words. If we √ √ √ √ define a function f : Q[ 2] → Q[ 2] by taking f (a + b 2) = a − b 2 then we find that f is what is called a field automorphism. √ √ √ √ The example above.

which we can think of as the symmetries of the roots. you may want to see if you can find the splitting field and the Q-automorphisms of p(x) = x 2 − 5 (two Q-automorphisms). 3. taking the polynomial p(x) = x 2 − 2. √ √ So..e. K / \Q is a field extension. So now we can see why a Q. √ √ For example. see if you can prove this. because 7 of 10 5/26/2008 12:23 PM . This collection G is a group (with the operation defined by: if f and g are in G. they are Q-automorphisms of F.maths.2 The Galois Group Definition (Galois Group): Now.e. (b) The Q-automorphisms of p(x). usually written Gal(F / \Q If F is the splitting field of a ). then f · g is a Q-automorphism defined by ( f · g)(x) = f (g(x)) . If p(x) is any polynomial (with rational coefficients. you could try x 4 − 1 (also two Q-automorphisms). However. Here..maths. are √ √ f (a + b 2) = a − b 2 and g(x) = x.check that this really is a group).php?obj_id=1422&part=index&no.nrich. doesn't change the structure at all). g is the identity element of thegroup. If p(α ) = 0 then p( f (α )) = f ( p(α )) = f (0) = 0. and f is a Q -automorphism of K then f ( p(x)) = p( f (x)). we can go further than this and show that knowing how a Q-automorphism of a splitting field rearranges the roots of p(x) is enough to tell us precisely what that Q-automorphism does to every element of the splitting field.org :: Mathematics Enrichment :: ::An Introduction to Galoi. not every rearrangement of the roots of p(x) comes from a Q-automorphism. usually written Gal( p). i. so f (α ) is then a root of p(x). if we have a field F which is a field extension of Q then we have a collection G of Q-automorphisms of F. 3]) which has roots √ √ √ √ ± 2 and ± 3 then there is no Q-automorphism f of K with f ( 2) = 3. 2 = 3 which is clearly nonsense. we have G = Gal( p) = { f . and we have that f · f = g. as always). It is called the Galois group of the field extension F over Q. g} where f (a + b 2) = a − b 2 and g(x) = x.org/public/viewer. i. then √ √ f ( 2) 2 = f ( 2 2 ) = f (2) = 2 because f preserves multiplicative structure and f (x) = x for rational x. http://nrich. because the F -automorphism leaves all elements of F unchanged and only relabels the new elements we added to form √ K.. polynomial p(x) then G is called the Galois group of the polynomial p(x). The reason this is useful is that it shows that a Q-automorphism of a splitting field K of a polynomial p(x) rearranges the roots of p(x). Suppose there was.. At this point. and if you know about complex numbers. This is the precise way of defining the symmetry of the roots that I talked about above.e. It turns out that for Q[ 2] the function f I defined above is the only Q-automorphism other than the obvious g(x) = x. In fact.of a splitting fieldgives us exactly the right idea of a symmetry of the roots which doesn't matter (i. So for the polynomial p(x) = x 2 − 2 we have the following: √ (a) The splitting field of p(x) is Q[ 2]. But if √ √ √ √ f ( 2) = 3 then f ( 2) 2 = 3 2 . if p(x) = x 4 − 5x 2 + 6 (which we showed has splitting field K = Q[ 2.