$\mathbb{F}_1$ and the ABC-conjecture

Finally, we’re closing in on Smirnov’s approach to the ABC-conjecture via geometry over the field with one element.

The geometric defect

Let $\phi : C_1 \mapsto C_2$ be a cover of curves defined over $k$, then the scheme-version of the Riemann-Hurwitz inequality is

$$2 g_{C_1} – 2 \geq deg(\phi) (2 g_{C_1} -2) + \sum^{scheme}_{P \in C_1} (e_{\phi}(P)-1) deg(P)$$

In the special case, when $f$ is a non-constant rational function in $k(C)$ and $f~:~C \mapsto \mathbb{P}^1_k$ is the corresponding cover, this reads

$$2g_C-2 \geq -2 deg(f) + \sum^{scheme}_{P \in C} (e_f(P)-1) deg(P)$$

which can be turned into the inequality

$$\sum^{scheme}_{P \in C} \frac{(e_f(P)-1) deg(P)}{deg(f)} \leq 2 – \frac{2-2g_C}{deg(f)}$$

We call the expression $\delta(P) = \tfrac{(e_f(P)-1) deg(P)}{deg(f)}$ the defect of $P$. Observe that $\delta(P) \geq 0$ and so this inequality only improves it we restrict the summation to some subset of schematic $C$-points.

The arithmetic defect

Take a positive rational number $q = \frac{m}{n}$ with $1 \leq n < m$ and $(m,n)=1$ and consider the cover

$$q~:~\mathsf{Spec}(\mathbb{Z}) \mapsto \mathbb{P}^1 / \mathbb{F}_1$$

Recall that the fiber over the point $[d] \in \mathbb{P}^1 / \mathbb{F}_1$ consists of all prime divisors of $m^d-n^d$ not dividing any $m^e-n^e$ for $e < d$. The fiber of $[0]$ (resp. of $[\infty]$) consists of all prime divisors of $m$ (resp. of $n$ together with $\infty$). Here's part of the cover for $q=\frac{104348}{33215}$ (a good rational approximation for $\pi$).


It is tempting to define the ramification index $e_q(p)$ for the map $q$ in the prime $p$ lying in the fiber $q^{-1}([d])$ to be the largest power of $p$ dividing $m^d-n^d$. Likewise, for $p \in q^{-1}([0])$ (resp. in $q^{-1}([\infty])$) take for $e_q(p)$ the largest power of $p$ dividing $m$ (resp. dividing $n$). Finally, take $e_q(\infty) = log(q)$.

Combine this with our previous definitions for the degree of $p$ to be $log(p)$ and of the degree of the map $q$ to be $log(m)$, to define the arithmetic defect of $q$ in the prime $p$ to be

$$\delta(p) = \frac{(e_q(p)-1) log(p)}{log(m)}$$

We can now define the total defect of the cover $q$ over the point $[d] \in \mathbb{P}^1 / \mathbb{F}_1$ to be

$$\delta_{[d]} = \sum_{p \in q^{-1}([d])} \delta(p)$$

It is easy to work out these total defects for the four $\mathbb{F}_1$-rational points of $\mathbb{P}^1 / \mathbb{F}_1$ : $\{ [0],[1],[2],[\infty] \}$ (the primes lying on the blue lines in the graph).

For a natural number $a$ let $a_0$ be its square-free part and $a_1 = \tfrac{a}{a_0}$ the remaining part. Then

  • $\delta_{[0]} = \frac{log(m_1)}{log(m)}$
  • $\delta_{[\infty]} = \frac{log(n_1)+log(q)-1}{log(m)}$
  • $\delta_{[1]} = \frac{log((m-n)_1)}{log(m)}$
  • $\delta_{[2]}= \frac{log(k_1)}{log(m)}$

where $k$ is $m+n$ divided by the largest $2$-power it may contain.

Hurwitz-conjecture for $\mathbb{Q}$

If we sum the defects of $q$ in all primes over the points $\{ [0],[1],[\infty] \}$ we would get, in analogy with the Hurwitz-inequality in the function field case

$$\delta_{[0]}+\delta_{[1]}+\delta_{[\infty]} \leq 2 – \frac{2 – 2g_{\mathsf{Spec}(\mathbb{Z})}}{log(m)}$$

We do not know what the genus of the arithmetic curve $\mathsf{Spec}(\mathbb{Z})$ might be, but is sure is a constant not depending on the map $q$. If we could develop a geometry over $\mathbb{F}_1$ such that all wild guesses we made before would turn out to be the correct ones for an $\mathbb{F}_1$-version of the Hurwitz inequality, we would have the statement below :

For every $\epsilon > 0$ there exists a constant $C(\epsilon)$ such that the following inequality holds for every pair $1 \leq m < n$ with $(m,n)=1$

$$\frac{log(m_1) + log((m-n)_1) + log(n_1) + log(m)-log(n)-1}{log(m)} \leq 2 + \epsilon + \frac{C(\epsilon)}{log(m)}$$

‘Proof’ of the ABC-conjecture

The ABC-conjecture requires for every $\epsilon > 0$ a constant $D(\epsilon)$ such that for all coprime natural numbers $A$ and $B$ we have with $A+B=C$

$$C \leq D(\epsilon) (A_0B_0C_0)^{1+\epsilon}$$

Well, take $m=C$ and $n=min(A,B)$ then in the conjectural Hurwitz inequality for the cover corresponding to $q=\frac{m}{n}$ above we have that

  • $\frac{log(m_1)}{log(m)} = 1 – \frac{log(m_0)}{log(m)}$
  • $\frac{log(n_1)+log(m)-log(n)-1}{log(m)} = 1 – \frac{log(n_0)}{log(m)} – \frac{1}{log(m)}$
  • $\frac{log((m-n)_1)}{log(m)}=\frac{log(m-n)}{log(m)}-\frac{log((m-n)_0)}{log(m)} \geq 1 – \frac{log((m-n)_0)}{log(m)} – \frac{log(2)}{log(m)}$

(the latter inequality because $m-n \geq \frac{m}{2}$ and so $log(m-n) \geq log(m)-log(2)$). Plug this into the inequality above and get

$$3-\frac{log(n_0m_0(m-n)_0)}{log(m)} \leq 2 + \epsilon + \frac{C(\epsilon) + 1 + log(2)}{log(m)}$$

Take $log(C’(\epsilon))=C(\epsilon)+1+log(2)$ and reshuffle in order to get the inequality $m^{1-\epsilon} \leq C’(\epsilon)(n_0m_0(m-n)_0)$. But then, finally (finally!) with $D(\epsilon)=C’(\epsilon)^{1+\epsilon}$

$$C=m \leq D(\epsilon)(n_0m_0(m-n)_0)^{1+\epsilon} = D(\epsilon)(A_oB_0C_0)^{1+\epsilon}$$

ABC-theorem for Curves

Here we give the promised proof of the ABC-conjecture for function fields.

As always, $k$ is a perfect (e.g. finite) field and $K=k(X)$ is the function field of a smooth projective curve $X$ defined over $k$. We take elements $u,v \in K^*$ satisfying $u+v=1$ and consider the cover $u : X \mapsto \mathbb{P}^1_k$ corresponding to the embedding $k(u) \hookrightarrow K$. We want to determine the (schematic) zero- and pole-divisors of $u$ and $v$ and call them $A=div_0(u), B=div_0(v)$ and $C=div_{\infty}(u)=div_{\infty}(v)$.

Let $R$ be the integral closure of $k[u]$ in $K$, then in $R$ we can write the ideals $u$ and $(v)=(1-u)$ as products of prime-ideals (which correspond to schematic points of $X$)

$(u) = P_1^{e_u(P_1)} \cdots P_r^{e_u(P_r)}$
$(v) = Q_1^{e_u(Q_1)} \cdots Q_s^{e_u(Q_s)}$

and so $A = \sum_i e_u(P_i) [P_i]$ and $B = \sum_j e_u(Q_j) [Q_j]$. If $S$ is the integral closure of $k[\frac{1}{u}]$ in $K$, then we have in $S$ a decomposition

$(\frac{1}{u}) = R_1^{e_u(R_1)} \cdots R_t^{e_u(R_t)}$

and therefore $C = \sum_l e_u(R_l)[R_l]$. We already know that $deg(A)=deg(B)=deg(C)=n=[K : k(u)]$.

Case 1 : Let us assume that the field extension $K/k(u)$ is separable. Then, by the Riemann-Hurwitz formula (or rather, the scheme-version of it) we get the inequality (use that the genus of $\mathbb{P}^1_k$ is zero) :

$2 g_K – 2 \geq -2n + \sum^{scheme}_{P \in C} (e_u(P)-1) deg(P)$

Because for all points $e_u(P)-1 \geq 0$, the inequality only becomes better if we restrict the sum to a subset of points, say to the support of $A+B+C$ (that is to ${ P_1,\cdots,P_r,Q_1,\cdots,Q_s,R_1,\cdots,R_t }$). Then we get

$2 g_K -2 \geq -2n + \sum_{P \in Supp(A+B+C)} e_u(P)deg(P) – \sum_{P \in Supp(A+B+C)}deg(P)$
$~\qquad = -2n+3n-\sum_{P \in Supp(A+B+C)} deg(P)$

which gives us the required form of the ABC-conjecture for curves

$n=deg(u)=deg_s(u) \leq 2g_K – 2 + \sum_{P \in Supp(A+B+C)} deg(P)$

Case 2 : If $K/k(u)$ is not separable, take a maximal separable subfield $k(u) \subset M \subset K$, then by definition of $deg_s(u)$ and case 1 we have

$deg_s(u) \leq 2g_M – 2 + \sum_{P’ \in Supp(A’+B’+C’)} deg(P’)$

where $A’$ (resp. $B’$,$C’$) are the schematic fibers of the cover $Y \mapsto \mathbb{P}^1_k$ over the $k$-rational points $0$ (resp. $1$, $\infty$) and where $Y$ is the curve with function field $M$. We are done if we can show that $g_K=g_M$ and that in the cover $X \mapsto Y$ there is a unique point $P$ lying over each point $P’$ with $deg(P)=deg(P’)$.

As $K/M$ is purely inseparable, we have a tower of subfields

$M=M_0 \subset M_1 \subset \cdots \subset M_z=K$

such that $M_i / M_{i-1}$ is purely inseparable of degree $p$ for all $i$. That is, raising to the $p$-th power gives a field-isomorphism $M_i \simeq M_{i-1}$. The genus is a field-invariant, so $g_{M_i}=g_{M_{i-1}}$ and there is a bijection between the dvr’s in $M_i$ and $M_{i-1}$. That is, a bijection between points $P_i \leftrightarrow P_{i-1}$ of the corresponding curves $Y_i \mapsto Y_{i-1}$. Finally, because $t_{P_i}^p = t_{P_{i-1}}$ it follows that $deg(P_i)=deg(P_{i-1})$, and we are done by induction on $i$.

The ABC-conjecture

In 1985 Joseph Oesterle (left) and David Masser (right) formulated the conjecture that for three relative prime integers satisfying $A+B=C$, the product of the prime divisors of $ABC$ is rarely much smaller than $C$.

More precisely, if $A,B,C \in \mathbb{Z}$ are such that $A+B=C$ and $\gcd(A,B,C)=1$, then their conjecture states that for each $\epsilon > 0$ there is a constant $M_{\epsilon}$ such that for all triples $(A,B,C)$ satisfying the conditions we have

$$\max( |A|, |B|, |C|) \leq M_{\epsilon}\left(\underset{p | ABC}{\prod} p\right)^{1+\epsilon}$$

The ABC-conjecture has several consequences, some obvious ones such as proving Fermat’s last theorem for large exponents, some less obvious such as Falting’s theorem. However, many people consider a proof the ABC-conjecture to be beyond the range of the available methods.

Since 2006 the ABC@Home project tries to find triples $(A,B,C)$ of large ‘quality’ meaning that the ratio

$$\operatorname{q}(A,B,C) = \frac{\log(C)}{\log(\operatorname{rad}(ABC))}$$

is as large as possible. To date, the champion-triple is $2+3^{10}109 = 23^5$ (discovered by Eric Reyssat) with a quality of $1.6299$.

If we write $u = \tfrac{A}{C}$ and $v=\tfrac{B}{C}$ then the ABC-conjecture can be recast as the statement that there is a constant $M_{\epsilon}$ such that when $u,v \in \mathbb{Q}^*$ satisfy $u+v=1$ we have

$$\max\left(\operatorname{ht}(u),\operatorname{ht}(v)\right) \leq M_{\epsilon} + (1+\epsilon)\left(\sum_{p | ABC} \log(p)\right)$$

where $A$ and $B$ are the numerators of $u$ and $v$ and $C$ is their common denominator, and where the ‘height’ $\operatorname{ht}(u)$ of a rational number $u=\tfrac{A}{C}$ with $(A,B)=1$ is $\max\left(\log|A|, \log|C|\right)$.

The latter formulation can be extended to the case of function fields of curves. So, let $K \in \mathsf{1Fields}$ with a perfect field of constants $k$ and suppose $u,v \in K^*$ are non-constants satisfying $u+v=1$. We need a substitute for the notion of height.

If $L$ is the maximal separable extension of $k(u)$ in $K$, then we call the dimension $[L : k(u)]$ the separability degree of $u$ and denote it with $\deg_s(u)$. Clearly, $\deg_s(u) \leq \deg(u) = [K : k(u)]$.

If $R$ is the integral closure of $k[u]$ in $K$, then there are maximal ideals $P_i$ in the Dedekind domain $R$ such that

$$(u) = P_1^{e_1} \cdots P_r^{e_r}$$

Because the local ring in $P_i$ is a discrete valuation ring in $K$ it determines a point in the curve $C$ with $K=k(C)$ (see here) also denoted $P_i$. But then, the zero-divisor of $u$ is $\operatorname{div}_0(u) = A = \sum_i e_i [P_i]$ with degree $\deg(A) = \sum_i e_i \deg(P_i)$.

Similarly, in the integral closure $S$ of $k[\tfrac{1}{u}]$ we have a decomposition

$$(\tfrac{1}{u}) = Q_1^{f_1} \cdots Q_s^{f_s}$$

and the pole-divisor of $u$ is $\operatorname{div}_{\infty}(u) = C = \sum_j f_j [Q_j]$ with degree $\deg(C) = \sum_j f_j \deg(Q_j)$. With these conventions, the ABC-conjecture for function fields can now be formulated as the following claim:

Let $K \in \mathsf{1Fields}/k$ and $u,v \in K^*$ with $u+v=1$, then

$$\deg_s(u) = \deg_s(v) \leq 2 g_K – 2 + \sum_{P \in \operatorname{Supp}(A+B+C)} \deg(P)$$

where $A=\operatorname{div}_0(u)$, $B=\operatorname{div}_0(v)$, $C=\operatorname{div}_{\infty}(u)=\operatorname{div}_{\infty}(v)$ and $g_K$ is the genus of $C$. Observe that there is no $\epsilon$ in this function field ABC-conjecture.

Perhaps surprisingly, the function-field ABC-conjecture can be proved fairly easily from the Riemann-Hurwitz genus formula. Details are in the book Number Theory in Function Fields by Michael Rosen (theorem 7.17) or in an upcoming prep-notes post.