## Section: Scientific Foundations

### Number fields, class groups and other invariants

Participants : Karim Belabas, Jean-François Biasse, Jean-Paul Cerri, Henri Cohen, Andreas Enge, Pierre Lezowski, Pascal Molin, Anna Morra.

Modern number theory has been introduced in the second half of the 19th
century by Dedekind, Kummer, Kronecker, Weber and others, motivated by
Fermat's conjecture: There is no non-trivial solution in integers to the
equation x^{n} + y^{n} = z^{n} for .
For recent textbooks, see [6] .
Kummer's idea for solving Fermat's problem was to rewrite the equation as
for a primitive n -th root of unity , which seems to imply that
each factor on the left hand side is an n -th power, from which a
contradiction can be derived.

The solution requires to augment the integers by *algebraic
numbers* , that are roots of polynomials in . For instance,
is a root of X^{n}-1 , is a root of X^{3}-2
and is a root of 25X^{2}-3 . A *number
field* consists of the rationals to which have been added finitely
many algebraic numbers together with their sums, differences, products
and quotients. It turns out that actually one generator suffices, and
any number field K is isomorphic to , where f(X)
is the minimal polynomial of the generator. Of special interest
are *algebraic integers* , “numbers without denominators”,
that are roots of a monic polynomial. For instance, and
are integers, while is not. The
*ring of integers* of K is denoted by ; it plays
the same role in K as in .

Unfortunately, elements in may factor in different ways, which
invalidates Kummer's argumentation. Unique factorisation may be
recovered by switching to *ideals* , subsets of that
are closed under addition and under multiplication by elements of .
In , for instance, any ideal is *principal* , that is,
generated by one element, so that ideals and numbers are essentially
the same. In particular, the unique factorisation of ideals then
implies the unique factorisation of numbers. In general, this is not
the case, and the *class group* Cl_{K} of ideals of
modulo principal ideals and its *class number* h_{K} = |Cl_{K}|
measure how far is from behaving like .

Using ideals introduces the additional difficulty of having to deal
with , the invertible elements of : Even when
h_{K} = 1 , a factorisation of ideals does not immediately yield a
factorisation of numbers, since ideal generators are only defined
up to units. For instance, the ideal factorisation
(6) = (2)·(3) corresponds to the two factorisations
6 = 2·3 and 6 = (-2)·(-3) . While in , the only
units are 1 and -1 , the unit structure in general is that of
a finitely generated -module, whose generators are the
*fundamental units* . The *regulator* R_{K} measures
the “size” of the fundamental units as the volume of an associated
lattice.

One of the main concerns of algorithmic algebraic number theory is to
explicitly compute these invariants (Cl_{K} and h_{K} , fundamental
units and R_{K} ), as well as to provide the data allowing to efficiently
compute with numbers and ideals of ; see [1]
for a recent account.

The *analytic class number formula* links the invariants
h_{K} and R_{K} (unfortunately, only their product) to the
-function of K ,
, which is meaningful when
(s)>1 , but which may be extended to arbitrary complex s1 .
Introducing characters on the class group yields a generalisation of
- to L -functions. The *generalised Riemann hypothesis
(GRH)* , which remains unproved even over the rationals, states that
any such L -function does not vanish in the right half-plane (s)>1/2 .
The validity of
the GRH has a dramatic impact on the performance of number theoretic
algorithms. For instance, under GRH, the class group admits a system of
generators of polynomial size; without GRH, only exponential
bounds are known. Consequently, an algorithm to compute Cl_{K}
via generators and relations (currently the only viable practical approach)
either has to assume that GRH is true or immediately becomes exponential.

When h_{K} = 1 the number field K may be norm-Euclidean, endowing
with a Euclidean division algorithm. This question leads to the
notions of the Euclidean minimum and spectrum of K , and another task in
algorithmic number theory is to compute explicitly this minimum and the upper
part of this spectrum, yielding for instance generalised Euclidean gcd
algorithms.