# Is There an Algebraic Closure for Every Field?

• Greg Bernhardt
In summary, a field is a commutative division ring where division is defined for all non-zero elements. Examples include the rational, real, and complex numbers, as well as finite fields such as GF(p). Field extensions, algebraic closures, and characteristics are important concepts in the study of fields.
Definition/Summary

A field is a commutative division ring.

That is, a commutative ring (a group under addition, and with multiplication, a multiplicative identity, and associative and distributive rules) in which division (the inverse of multiplication) is defined, except for division by zero.

So the non-zero elements of a field form a group under multiplication.

Note this is not the same notion as, say, an electromagnetic field in physics.

Equations

A ring is a set, closed under operations $+$ and $\cdot$, with identity elements 0 and 1 respectively, with inverses under $+$, and with the following rules:

Associative:
$$a\ +\ (b\ +\ c)\ =\ (a\ +\ b)\ +\ c$$
$$a\ \cdot\ (b\ \cdot\ c)\ =\ (a\ \cdot\ b)\ \cdot\ c$$

Distributive:
$$a\ \cdot\ (b\ +\ c)\ =\ (a\ \cdot\ b)\ +\ (a\cdot\ c)$$
$$(b\ +\ c)\ \cdot\ a\ =\ (b\ \cdot\ a)\ +\ (c\cdot\ a)$$

A commutative ring also has the rules:

Commutative:
$$a\ +\ b\ =\ b\ +\ a$$
$$a\ \cdot\ b\ =\ b\ \cdot\ a$$

Extended explanation

Fields

Conventions and definitions

It is traditional to denote a generic field by $\mathbb{F}$, or $k$. We shall use $k$ in this topic.

Definition
A field $k$ is a commutative ring where the non-zero elements form a group under multiplication. By convention fields must have at least two distinct elements: $0$ the additive identity; $1$ the multiplicative identity.Examples

Examples abound since fields are some of the most important objects in mathematics.

1) The rational numbers $\mathbb{Q}$

2) The real numbers $\mathbb{R}$

3) The complex numbers $\mathbb{C}$

4) For each prime $p$ in $\mathbb{N}$, the finite field $\mathbb{F}_p$, or $GF(p)$.

5) The algebraic numbers: the set of all roots of polynomial equations with rational coefficients.

Field Extensions

Given some field $k$, one frequently wishes to extend the field. An example of when might wish to do this is to allow more polynomials to have roots. For example, consider the field $\mathbb{F}_p$. By Fermat's little theorem, the polynomial

$$f(x)=x^p-x+1$$

has no roots in the field $\mathbb{F}_p$. We may declare $\alpha$ to be a symbol that satisfies $f$, and form the field $\mathbb{F}_p[\alpha]$. Elements of this extension are formal linear combinations (i.e. with coefficients in $\mathbb{F}_p$) of powers of $\alpha$, with the rule that $f(\alpha)=0$.

Equivalently, one could define this as the quotient of a polynomial ring:

$$\frac{\mathbb{F}_p[x]}{x^p-x+1}$$.

If $x^p-x+1$ is irreducible (e.g. if $p=2$ then this is a field wth $p^p$ elements. One can construct fields with $p^r$ elements for any $r$ by quotienting the polyonomial ring by any irreducible poly of degree $r$. Of course the reader must take on trust here that there is an irreducible polynomial of each degree. The field with $p^r$ elements is a subfield of the field with $p^s$ elements if and only if $r$ divides $s$.

Number fields

One important and well understood class of field extensions are number fields. These merit a separate entry on their own.

Algebraic closures

Definition
A field $k$ is algebraically closed if any polyomial with coefficients in $k$ has a root in $k$.

Remark
Note, by the euclidean algorithm this implies that any polynomial has all its roots in $k$, and is the product (essentially uniquely) of linear factors with coefficients in $k$. In particular, over an algebraically closed field a polynomial of degree $r$ has $r$ roots (with multiplicity). Contrast this to the ring $\mathbb{Z}/8\mathbb{Z}$ where the polynomial $x^2-1$ has more than 2 roots: 1,3,5 and 7 are all square roots of 1.

Examples

The complex numbers, and algebraic numbers are algebraically closed. No other field in our list of examples is algebraically closed.

Given an arbitrary field, $k$, we define its algebraic closure to be the smallest algebraically closed field containing $k$. It is not clear a priori that one can always form the algebraic closure of $k$. Indeed, one needs to appeal to the axiom of choice in general.

Note that there are no algebraically closed finite fields.

Characteristic of a field

The examples given above of $\mathbb{F}_p$ are so-called fields of positive characteristic.

Definition
Let $k$ be a field. Its characteristic is the minimal integer $m$ such that $1$ added to itself $m$ times is equal to $0$. If no such $m$ exists, we say $k$ has characteristic zero.

It is usually an introductory exercise to show that $m$ is prime if it is non-zero.

* This entry is from our old Library feature. If you know who wrote it, please let us know so we can attribute a writer. Thanks!

Interesting fields are also the p-adic numbers here. They have characteristic zero and their algebraic closure is of infinite degree, other than ##[\mathbb{C}:\mathbb{R}]=2##.

We can always find an algebraic closure if we adjoint all roots of polynomials, as we did to define the complex numbers. But ##\mathbb{C} \cong \mathbb{R}[x]/ \langle x^2+1\rangle## is certainly the most important one.

## Related to Is There an Algebraic Closure for Every Field?

H2 What is an algebraic field?H2 What are the basic properties of an algebraic field?H2 How is an algebraic field different from a regular field?H2 Can all numbers be represented in an algebraic field?H2 What are some real-world applications of algebraic fields?

An algebraic field is a mathematical structure that consists of a set of elements, along with two operations (addition and multiplication), that follow a set of rules or axioms. These rules ensure that the field is closed under addition and multiplication, has an identity element for both operations, and every element has an inverse for both operations.

The basic properties of an algebraic field are commutativity, associativity, distributivity, and the existence of additive and multiplicative identities and inverses. These properties ensure that the field is well-defined and can perform basic mathematical operations.

An algebraic field differs from a regular field in that it has additional structure and follows a specific set of rules. Regular fields, such as the real numbers, may have additional properties or operations that are not defined in an algebraic field.

No, not all numbers can be represented in an algebraic field. For example, the square root of -1, also known as the imaginary unit, cannot be represented in a real algebraic field. However, it can be represented in a complex algebraic field, which is an extension of a real algebraic field.

Algebraic fields have many real-world applications. They are used in computer science, engineering, cryptography, physics, and many other fields. For example, algebraic fields are used to encrypt data in secure communication systems, model physical systems in engineering, and analyze data in statistics. They are also essential in understanding and solving complex mathematical problems.

• General Math
Replies
5
Views
985
• General Math
Replies
50
Views
1K
• General Math
Replies
8
Views
1K
• General Math
Replies
21
Views
2K
• General Math
Replies
2
Views
1K
• Calculus and Beyond Homework Help
Replies
2
Views
485
• Linear and Abstract Algebra
Replies
6
Views
2K
• General Math
Replies
8
Views
2K
• Calculus and Beyond Homework Help
Replies
3
Views
671
• Calculus and Beyond Homework Help
Replies
1
Views
561