On Heights of Algebraic Numbers

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Mathematics (CMC)

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Weil height h of an algebraic number z measures its "arithmetic complexity", and h(z) is always non-negative. In fact, h(z) = 0 if and only if z is a root of unity. So suppose z is an algebraic number of degree d which is not a root of unity. How small can h(z) be? A famous conjecture of D. H. Lehmer (1932) states that h(z) cannot be arbitrarily close to 0, in fact there is (conjecturally) a gap between 0 and the smallest height value of an algebraic number of degree d, where this gap depends on d. There are many results in the direction Lehmer's conjecture, although the conjecture is still open. We will discuss Lehmer's conjecture, some related results, and a fascinating development of Zhang, Zagier, and others (mid-90's) on height restrictions for points on certain curves.


This lecture was given during the Algebra/Number Theory/Combinatorics Seminar at the Claremont Colleges in March 2009.

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© 2009 Lenny Fukshansky

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