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# 3/22/2015

NataliaNezvanova,SahalKaushik,DavidJoyce,DmitriyGenzeland30othersrecentlyupvotedthis

Howdoyouprovethatanumberisa
transcendentalnumber?

JackHuizenga

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MathProfessor,UniversityofIlli
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JackHuizenga,MathProfessor,UniversityofIllinoi...(more)
MathematicsatClarkUniversity),AnuragBishnoi(Ph.D.studentinMathematicsatGhent

underdevelopednotforlackoftrying,butbecauseitisextremelydifficult.In
thispostIwillexplainsomeofthemaintoolsandmethodsinthefield.

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proofthat istranscendental,andacorrectproofofthisfactdidnotexist
untilaround150yearsafterhisdeath.Thisisarelativelydifficultresult,and
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unfortunatelythereisnoknownsimpleargumentwhichcanexplainthe
transcendentalityof inafewlineswithoutcomplicatedequations.

Forwhatfollows,firstrecallthatatranscendentalnumber
(orinthe
complexnumbersifyouprefer)isanynumberwhichisnottherootofa
nonzeroonevariablepolynomial

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withinteger(equivalentlybyclearingdenominators,rational)coefficients.

Almostallnumbersaretranscendental.Thisobservationisfairlyuseless
inpracticeitwillneverletyousay"thisnumberistranscendental"butitis
theeasiestwaytoseethattranscendentalnumbersexistatall.Observethat
thesetofallfinitelistsofintegersiscountablyinfinite,sinceitisthecountable
disjointunion

ofthesetsoflistsoffixedlength .Thustheset
ofpolynomialsinone
variableiscountable.Eachsuchnonzeropolynomialhasfinitelymanyroots,
sothesetofalgebraicnumbersiscountableaswell.Ontheotherhand,the
realnumbersareuncountablebyCantor'sdiagonalizationargument,sothe
complementofthesetofalgebraicnumbers(whichissimplythe
transcendentalnumbers)isuncountable.

Liouvillenumbers.Historically,thefirstexplicittranscendentalnumbers
wereonesconstructedby"bruteforce."OneexampleofaLiouvillenumberis

.
Itisnothardtoprovedirectlythatthisnumberistranscendental.Essentially,
theonesinthepowers
areeventuallytoofarapartfromone
anotherfortheretobecancellationwhenyoucompute

polynomial .

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3/22/2015

Diophantineapproximation.Itiswellknownthateveryirrational
numberisalimitofrationalnumbers,forexamplebytruncatingthedecimal
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numberhasagoodrationalapproximation.Forexample,theapproximation

isfairlygood,inthesensethatthedenominator7isfairlysmallrelativetohow
goodtheapproximationis.
Roughlyspeaking,theirrationalitymeasure

ofanumber

isthe

largestnumbersuchthatthereareinifinitelymanyrationalapproximations
with

As

getsbiggerandbigger,thenumber canbemoreandmoreclosely

approximatedbyrationalnumberswith"small"denominators.Liouville
numbersare,bydefinition,thosenumberswithinfiniteirrationalitymeasure.
theincrediblydeepThueSiegelRoththeorem,forwhichRothwontheFields
Medal:
Theorem(Roth).Algebraicnumbershaveirrationalitymeasure2.
Inparticular,theonlynumberswithirrationalitymeasurebiggerthan2are
transcendentalLiouvillenumbersareparticularextremeexamples.
Unfortunately,"almostall"numbershaveirrationalitymeasure2.Thus,ifyou
havesomeparticulartranscendentalnumberinmind,unlessyougotluckyit
willnotbepossibletoshowthatitistranscendentalbythismethod.Worse,it
isusuallyimpossiblydifficulttoevencalculatetheirrationalitymeasurefora
Forextremelyspecialnumbers,however,ideasrelatedtoRoth'stheoremand
itsgeneralizationtheSchmidtSubspaceThoremcanactuallybeusedtoshow
thatthenumbersaretranscendental.Hereisabizarretheoreminthis
directionforpeoplewhoknowwhatcontinuedfractionsare:
suchthatthecontinuedfractionexpansion

bearealnumber

number(andthesequence eventuallyrepeats)or istranscendental.
Forexample,theexpansionofthenumber

beginsinapalindromeoflength2,6,and15,andifthesequenceisexpanded
inanappropriatewaythen willbetranscendentalbythetheorem.
Letmejustremarkthat,ascrazyasthisresultsounds,itisactuallyuseful.In
transcendental,andtheyactuallyfellintothisveryrestrictedclassofnumbers

## Specialconstants.Whenitcomestoprovingnumberslike and are

transcendental,thereareasmallhandfulofhappyaccidents,butforthevast
majorityofmathematicalconstantswearecompletelyinthedark.Jaimal
transcendentalnumberscannotbestudiedwiththeseresults.

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3/22/2015

Summary.Ihopetohaveconvincedyouthatthereareahandfulofbeautiful
methodsforstudyingtranscendentalnumbers,whichunfortunatelyonlybarely
scrapethesurfaceofthemostspecialtranscendentalnumbers.Whenitcomes
toasufficiently"random"transcendentalnumber,wecurrentlyhaveessentially
nohopeofshowingthatnumberistranscendental.Theexplicitnumbers
whichcanbeshowedtobetranscendentaleitherhaveremarkablenumber
theoretic,analytic,orgeometricproperties,andintheabsenceofthesestrong
propertiesessentiallynothingcanbesaid.

References:
Transcendentalnumber
Liouvillenumber
Diophantineapproximation
ThueSiegelRoththeorem
Subspacetheorem
LindemannWeierstrasstheorem
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