Degree of the Zero polynomial

  • #1
255
3
I understand that mathematicians have had to define the number '0' also as a polynomial because it acts as the additive identity for the additive group of poly's.What I do not understand is why they define the degree of the zero polynomial as [ tex ]-\infty[ /tex ].

An explanation on planetMath wasn't that helpful,at the end they point-out to refer to the extended real numbers(don't they mean 'projectively extended real numbers??)
 
Last edited:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Mute
Homework Helper
1,388
10
Well, I guess it's similar to how one sometimes regards zero as both a real and an imaginary number because you can write 0 = 0 + i0. Similarly, you can write

0 = 0 + 0x + 0x2 + 0x3 + ...

i.e., you can write '0' as an infinite degree polynomial with all coefficients zero.

(There may be a more rigorous reason, but that's an intuitive one).
 
  • #3
255
3
Thanks!Could you explain what extended real numbers have got to do with this?
But,polynomials always have non-negative degrees.
deg[P(x)]=+n
Why would mathematicians define a polynomial with a negative degree?
 
  • #4
eumyang
Homework Helper
1,347
10
Huh, I'm looking at a precalculus textbook (Larson, 8th Ed.), and it states that the zero polynomial has no degree. Is that wrong? (Note that no degree ≠ zero degree -- a polynomial that consists of a single non-zero number has a degree of zero.)
 
  • #5
22,089
3,293
The choice is pretty arbitrary. Sometimes it defined as having no degree, sometimes it's -1, sometimes it's [itex]-\infty[/itex].

A handy formula for polynomials is

[tex]deg(P)+deg(Q)=deg(PQ)[/tex]

If we want this formula to hold for the zero polynomial, then we see (by taking Q=0) that

[tex]deg(P)+deg(0)=deg(0)[/tex]

must hold for all P. This is only satisfied with [itex]deg(0)=-\infty[/itex]. This is the reason why they defined it this way. But again, it's pretty arbitrary.
 
  • #6
eumyang
Homework Helper
1,347
10
This is only satisfied with [itex]deg(0)=-\infty[/itex]. This is the reason why they defined it this way. But again, it's pretty arbitrary.
I see now. Thank you.
 
  • #7
255
3
The choice is pretty arbitrary. Sometimes it defined as having no degree, sometimes it's -1, sometimes it's [itex]-\infty[/itex].

A handy formula for polynomials is

[tex]deg(P)+deg(Q)=deg(PQ)[/tex]

If we want this formula to hold for the zero polynomial, then we see (by taking Q=0) that

[tex]deg(P)+deg(0)=deg(0)[/tex]

must hold for all P. This is only satisfied with [itex]deg(0)=-\infty[/itex]. This is the reason why they defined it this way. But again, it's pretty arbitrary.
Awesome!Thanks a ton.
 

Related Threads on Degree of the Zero polynomial

Replies
2
Views
1K
Replies
12
Views
699
Replies
5
Views
1K
Replies
6
Views
903
  • Last Post
Replies
13
Views
1K
Replies
30
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
11
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
1K
Replies
11
Views
2K
Top