Transcendental number

In mathematics, a transcendental number is a number that is not algebraic—that is, not the root of a non-zero polynomial of finite degree with rational coefficients. The best known transcendental numbers are π and e.[1][2]

The name "transcendental" comes from the Latin transcendĕre 'to climb over or beyond, surmount',[7] and was first used for the mathematical concept in Leibniz's 1682 paper in which he proved that sin x is not an algebraic function of x.[8][9] Euler, in the 18th century, was probably the first person to define transcendental numbers in the modern sense.[10]

Johann Heinrich Lambert conjectured that e and π were both transcendental numbers in his 1768 paper proving the number π is irrational, and proposed a tentative sketch of a proof of π's transcendence.[11]

Joseph Liouville first proved the existence of transcendental numbers in 1844,[12] and in 1851 gave the first decimal examples such as the Liouville constant

in which the nth digit after the decimal point is 1 if n is equal to k! (k factorial) for some k and 0 otherwise.[13] In other words, the nth digit of this number is 1 only if n is one of the numbers 1! = 1, 2! = 2, 3! = 6, 4! = 24, etc. Liouville showed that this number belongs to a class of transcendental numbers that can be more closely approximated by rational numbers than can any irrational algebraic number, and this class of numbers are called Liouville numbers, named in his honour. Liouville showed that all Liouville numbers are transcendental.[14]

The first number to be proven transcendental without having been specifically constructed for the purpose of proving transcendental numbers' existence was e, by Charles Hermite in 1873.

In 1874, Georg Cantor proved that the algebraic numbers are countable and the real numbers are uncountable. He also gave a new method for constructing transcendental numbers.[15][16] Although this was already implied by his proof of the countability of the algebraic numbers, Cantor also published a construction that proves there are as many transcendental numbers as there are real numbers.[17] Cantor's work established the ubiquity of transcendental numbers.

In 1882, Ferdinand von Lindemann published the first complete proof of the transcendence of π. He first proved that ea is transcendental if a is a non-zero algebraic number. Then, since eiπ = −1 is algebraic (see Euler's identity), iπ must be transcendental. But since i is algebraic, π therefore must be transcendental. This approach was generalized by Karl Weierstrass to what is now known as the Lindemann–Weierstrass theorem. The transcendence of π allowed the proof of the impossibility of several ancient geometric constructions involving compass and straightedge, including the most famous one, squaring the circle.

In 1900, David Hilbert posed an influential question about transcendental numbers, Hilbert's seventh problem: If a is an algebraic number that is not zero or one, and b is an irrational algebraic number, is ab necessarily transcendental? The affirmative answer was provided in 1934 by the Gelfond–Schneider theorem. This work was extended by Alan Baker in the 1960s in his work on lower bounds for linear forms in any number of logarithms (of algebraic numbers).[18]

A transcendental number is a (possibly complex) number that is not the root of any integer polynomial, meaning that it is not an algebraic number of any degree. Every real transcendental number must also be irrational, since a rational number is, by definition, an algebraic number of degree one. The set of transcendental numbers is uncountably infinite. Since the polynomials with rational coefficients are countable, and since each such polynomial has a finite number of zeroes, the algebraic numbers must also be countable. However, Cantor's diagonal argument proves that the real numbers (and therefore also the complex numbers) are uncountable. Since the real numbers are the union of algebraic and transcendental numbers, it is impossible for both subsets to be countable. This makes the transcendental numbers uncountable.

No rational number is transcendental and all real transcendental numbers are irrational. The irrational numbers contain all the real transcendental numbers and a subset of the algebraic numbers, including the quadratic irrationals and other forms of algebraic irrationals.

Any non-constant algebraic function of a single variable yields a transcendental value when applied to a transcendental argument. For example, from knowing that π is transcendental, it can be immediately deduced that numbers such as 5π, π-3/2, (π-3)8, and 4π5+7 are transcendental as well.

However, an algebraic function of several variables may yield an algebraic number when applied to transcendental numbers if these numbers are not algebraically independent. For example, π and (1 − π) are both transcendental, but π + (1 − π) = 1 is obviously not. It is unknown whether e + π, for example, is transcendental, though at least one of e + π and must be transcendental. More generally, for any two transcendental numbers a and b, at least one of a + b and ab must be transcendental. To see this, consider the polynomial (xa)(xb) = x2 − (a + b)x + ab. If (a + b) and ab were both algebraic, then this would be a polynomial with algebraic coefficients. Because algebraic numbers form an algebraically closed field, this would imply that the roots of the polynomial, a and b, must be algebraic. But this is a contradiction, and thus it must be the case that at least one of the coefficients is transcendental.

The non-computable numbers are a strict subset of the transcendental numbers.

All Liouville numbers are transcendental, but not vice versa. Any Liouville number must have unbounded partial quotients in its continued fraction expansion. Using a counting argument one can show that there exist transcendental numbers which have bounded partial quotients and hence are not Liouville numbers.

Using the explicit continued fraction expansion of e, one can show that e is not a Liouville number (although the partial quotients in its continued fraction expansion are unbounded). Kurt Mahler showed in 1953 that π is also not a Liouville number. It is conjectured that all infinite continued fractions with bounded terms that are not eventually periodic are transcendental (eventually periodic continued fractions correspond to quadratic irrationals).[19]

Numbers which have yet to be proven to be either transcendental or algebraic:

The first proof that the base of the natural logarithms, e, is transcendental dates from 1873. We will now follow the strategy of David Hilbert (1862–1943) who gave a simplification of the original proof of Charles Hermite. The idea is the following:

Assume, for purpose of finding a contradiction, that e is algebraic. Then there exists a finite set of integer coefficients c0, c1, ..., cn satisfying the equation:

By splitting respective domains of integration, this equation can be written in the form

Proof. Each term in P is an integer times a sum of factorials, which results from the relation

which is valid for any positive integer j (consider the Gamma function).

It is non-zero because for every a satisfying 0< an, the integrand in

is e−x times a sum of terms whose lowest power of x is k+1 after substituting x for x+a in the integral. Then this becomes a sum of integrals of the form

with k+1 ≤ j, and it is therefore an integer divisible by (k+1)!. After dividing by k!, we get zero modulo (k+1). However, we can write:

A similar strategy, different from Lindemann's original approach, can be used to show that the number π is transcendental. Besides the gamma-function and some estimates as in the proof for e, facts about symmetric polynomials play a vital role in the proof.

For detailed information concerning the proofs of the transcendence of π and e, see the references and external links.