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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S017313/1
Title: Exponentially Algebraically Closed Fields
Principal Investigator: Kirby, Dr J
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Mathematics
Organisation: University of East Anglia
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2019 Ends: 31 August 2022 Value (£): 319,862
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Algebra & Geometry Logic & Combinatorics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
28 Nov 2018 EPSRC Mathematical Sciences Prioritisation Panel November 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Exponentiation is the most fundamental mathematical operation after addition and multiplication. It arises when describing exponential growth and decay, in the Gaussian curves describing normal distributions for statistics, and in solutions to many of the basic differential equations which arise in physics. On the complex numbers, exponentiation also captures the sine and cosine functions, and is essential to model periodic behaviour more generally.

Despite its ubiquity, some of the most basic algebraic questions about the exponential function remain unanswered. Specifically, given a system of equations in several variables using the operations of addition, multiplication and exponentiation, in general it is not known if that system has a solution in the complex numbers. The answer to the corresponding question without exponentiation, that is, for systems of polynomial equations, is yes. It boils down to the so-called Fundamental Theorem of Algebra and Hilbert's Nullstellensatz, and has been known since the end of the 19th century.

The aim of this project is to prove the exponential analogue of the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra, that is, to show that the complex numbers are Exponentially Algebraically Closed (EAC). In modern terms, The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra states that the field of complex numbers is algebraically closed, and Hilbert's Nullstellensatz then characterizes whether or not a system of polynomial equations has solutions in an algebraically closed field. The exponential analogue of the latter theorem was given by Zilber, and is sometimes called Zilber's Nullstellensatz. Thus proving the EAC property for the complex numbers would solve the problem of whether a system of exponential equations has a solution in the complex numbers.

The project will proceed in several directions. The desired result is known in the special case when the system contains only one equation, and also under certain conditions for two or more equations. In one direction we will push existing techniques from analysis further, aiming to get the complete result for two, three, or more equations. Analytic techniques involve finding approximate solutions, and then improving the approximations and showing that they converge to exact solutions.

In a second direction we will develop new techniques using ideas from algebraic geometry and homotopy theory to attack the same problems.

This approach involves considering how solutions must vary continuously as the equations vary, and concluding that the solutions must actually exist even without knowing exactly where they are.

In a third direction we will find a new classification of the systems of equations along geometric lines, which will guide our use of the other methods. A fourth direction is to use the techniques we develop to tackle other related problems, such as solving systems of equations which involve operations other than exponentiation.

In many cases, the solutions of the systems of equations under consideration can be graphically illustrated in the complex plane or via animations. A further aspect of this project is to develop such illustrations and use them to explain the research to an audience outside the mathematics research community.
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