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1 SIMPLE RADICAL EXTENSIONS KEITH CONRAD 1. Introduction A field extension L/K is called simple radical if L = K(α) where α n = a for some n 1 and a K. Examples of simple radical extensions of Q are Q( 2), Q( 3 2), and more generally Q( n 2). A root of T n a will be denoted n a, so a simple radical extension of K looks like K( n a), but the notation n a in general fields is ambiguous: different nth roots of a can generate different extensions of K, and they could even be nonisomorphic (e.g., have different degrees over K) if T n a is reducible in K[T ]. Example 1.1. In C the three roots of T 3 8 are 2, 2ω, and 2ω 2, where ω is a nontrivial cube root of unity; note ω 2 = 1/ω and ω is a root of (T 3 1)/(T 1) = T 2 + T + 1. While Q(2) = Q, the extension Q(2ω) = Q(ω) = Q(2/ω) has degree 2 over Q, so when the notation 3 8 denotes any of the roots of T 3 8 over Q then the field Q( 3 8) has two different meanings and R( 3 8) is R if 3 8 = 2 and it is C if 3 8 is 2ω or 2ω 2. Example 1.2. In the field Q( 5) the number is a cube: = ( ) 3. The polynomial T 3 (2 + 5) factors over Q( 5) as T 3 (2 + 5) = ( T ) ( T T and the second factor is irreducible over Q( 5) since it is irreducible over the larger field R (it is a quadratic with negative discriminant 3(3 + 5)/2). If means (1 + 5)/2 then Q( ) = Q((1 + 5)/2) = Q( 3 5), and if is a root of the quadratic factor of T 3 (2 + 5) above then Q( ) is a quadratic extension of Q( 5). We will focus here on the degree [K( n a) : K] and irreducibility relations for T n a among different values of n, and intermediate fields between K and K( n a). 2. Basic properties of T n a and n a Theorem 2.1. The degree [K( n a) : K] is at most n, and it equals n if and only if T n a is irreducible over K, in which case the field K( n a) up to isomorphism is independent of the choice of n a. Proof. Since n a is a root of T n a, which is in K[T ], the minimal polynomial of n a over K is at most n, and thus [K( n a) : K] n. If [K( n a) : K] = n then the minimal polynomial of n a over K has degree n, so it must be T n a since that polynomial has degree n in K[T ] with n a as a root. As a minimal polynomial in K[T ] for some number, T n a is irreducible over K. 1 )

2 2 KEITH CONRAD Conversely, assume T n a is irreducible over K. Then n a has minimal polynomial T n a over K (the minimal polynomial of a number over K is the unique monic irreducible polynomial in K[T ] with that number as a root), so [K( n a) : K] = deg(t n a) = n. When T n a is irreducible over K, the field K( n a) is isomorphic to K[T ]/(T n a) using evaluation at n a and thus, up to isomorphism (not up to equality!), the field K( n a) is independent of the choice of n a. Example 2.2. The polynomial T 3 2 is irreducible over Q and the three fields Q( 3 2), Q( 3 2ω), and Q( 3 2ω 2 ) are isomorphic to each other, where 3 2 is the real cube root of 2 (or any cube root of 2 in characteristic 0) and ω is a nontrivial cube root of unity. This is no longer true if we replace Q by R, since T 3 2 has one root in R. Theorem 2.3. The roots of T n a in a splitting field over K are numbers of the form ζ n a where ζ is an nth root of unity (ζ n = 1) in K. Proof. Set α = n a, which is a fixed choice of root of T n a over K. If β is another root in a splitting field of T n a over K then β n = a = α n, so (β/α) n = 1. Set ζ = β/α K, so β = ζα = ζ n a and ζ n = (β/α) n = 1. Conversely, if ζ n = 1 and ζ K then (ζ n a) n = ζ n a = a, so ζ n a is a root of T n a in K. 3. Prime exponents In degree greater than 3, lack of roots ordinarily does not imply irreducibility. Consider (T 2 2)(T 2 3) in Q[T ]. The polynomial T p a, where the exponent is prime, is a surprising counterexample: for these polynomials lack of a root is equivalent to irreducibility. Theorem 3.1. For an arbitrary field K and prime number p, and a K, T p a is irreducible in K[T ] if and only if it has no root in K. Equivalently, T p a is reducible in K[T ] if and only if it has a root in K. Proof. Clearly if T p a is irreducible in K[T ] then it has no root in K (since its degree is greater than 1). In order to prove that T p a not having a root in K implies it is irreducible we will prove the contrapositive: if T p a is reducible in K[T ] then it has a root in K. Write T p a = g(t )h(t ) in K[T ] where m = deg g satisfies 1 m p 1. Since T p a is monic the leading coefficients of g and h multiply to 1, so by rescaling (which doesn t change degrees) we may assume g is monic and thus h is monic. Let L be a splitting field of T p a over K and α = p a be one root of T p a in L. Its other roots in L are ζα where ζ p = 1 (Theorem 2.3), so in L[T ] T p a = (T ζ 1 α)(t ζ 2 α) (T ζ p α) where ζ p i = 1. (Possibly ζ i = ζ j when i j; whether or not this happens doesn t matter.) By unique factorization in L[T ], every monic factor of T p a in L[T ] is a product of some number of (T ζ i α) s. Therefore (3.1) g(t ) = (T ζ i1 α)(t ζ i2 α) (T ζ im α) for some pth roots of unity ζ i1,..., ζ im. Now let s look at the constant terms in (3.1). Set c = g(0), so c = ( 1) m (ζ i1 ζ im )α m.

3 SIMPLE RADICAL EXTENSIONS 3 Since g(t ) K[T ], c K and c 0 on account of g(0)h(0) = 0 p a = a. Therefore (3.2) c = ( 1) m (ζ i1 ζ im )α m K. We want to replace α m with α, and will do this by raising α m to an additional power to make the exponent on α congruent to 1 mod p. Because p is prime and 1 m p 1, m and p are relatively prime: we can write mx + py = 1 for some x and y in Z. Raise the product in (3.2) to the x-power to make the exponent on α equal to mx = 1 py: c x = ( 1) mx (ζ i1 ζ im ) x α mx = ( 1) mx (ζ i1 ζ im ) x α 1 py = ( 1) mx (ζ i1 ζ im ) x α (α p ) y = ( 1) mx (ζ i1 ζ im ) x α a y, so (ζ i1 ζ im ) x α = a y ( 1) mx c x K and the left side has the form ζα where ζ p = 1, so K contains a root of T p a. Remark 3.2. For an odd prime p and any field K, the irreducibility of T p a over K implies irreducibility of T pr a for all r 1, which is not obvious! And this doesn t quite work when p = 2: irreducibility of T 4 a implies irreducibility of T 2r a for all r 2 (again, not obvious!), but irreducibility of T 2 a need not imply irreducibility of T 4 a. A basic example is that T is irreducible in Q[T ] but T = (T 2 + 2T + 2)(T 2 2T + 2). See [2, pp ] for a precise irreducibility criterion for T n a over any field, which is due to Vahlen [4] in 1895 for K = Q, Capelli [1] in 1897 for K of characteristic 0, and Rédei [3] in 1959 for positive characteristic. 4. Irreducibility relations among T n a for different exponents Theorem 4.1. Let K be a field, a K, and assume T n a is irreducible over K. If d n then T d a is irreducible over K. Equivalently, if [K( n a) : K] = n for some nth root of a over K then for all d n we have [K( d a) : K] = d for every dth root of a. Proof. We prove irreducibility of T n a implies irreducibility of T d a in two ways: working with polynomials and working with field extensions. Polynomials: assume T d a is reducible over K, so T d a = g(t )h(t ) where 0 < deg g(t ) < d. Replacing T with T n/d in this equation, we get T n a = g(t n/d )h(t n/d ) where deg g(t n/d ) = (n/d) deg g < (n/d)d = n and clearly deg g(t n/d ) > 0. Field extensions: let n a be an nth root of a over K, so [K( n a) : K] = n by Theorem 2.1. Define d a = n a n/d. This is a root of T d a since d a d = ( n a n/d ) d = n a n = a. To prove T d a is irreducible over K we will prove [K( d a) : K] = d using that choice of d a. In the tower K K( d a) K( n a), we have [K( d a) : K] d and [K( n a) : K( d a)] n/d by Theorem 2.1, since d a is a root of T d a K[T ] and n a is a root of T n/d d a K( d a)[t ]. We have [K( n a) : K] = [K( n a) : K( d a)][k( d a) : K] and our irreducibility hypothesis implies the left side is n, so it follows that our upper bounds n/d and d for the factors on the right must be equalities. In particular, [K( d a) : K] = d so T d a is irreducible over K (it has a root with degree d over K).

4 4 KEITH CONRAD There was an important calculation in this proof that we will use repeatedly below: if d n then K( n a) contains K( d a), where d a := n a n/d. This is a root of T d a, so the notation is reasonable, but note that d a is not an arbitrary dth root of a: it depends on the choice made first of n a. By Theorem 4.1 and Remark 3.2, for odd primes p irreducibility of T p a is equivalent to irreducibility of T pr a for any single r 1, and for the prime 2 irreducibility of T 4 a is equivalent to irreducibility of T 2r a for any single r 2. Theorem 4.2. For relatively prime positive integers m and n, T mn a is irreducible over K if and only if T m a and T n a are each irreducible over K. Equivalently, if m and n are relatively prime positive integers then [K( mn a) : K] = mn if and only if [K( m a) : K] = m and [K( n a) : K] = n. Proof. That irreducibility of T mn a over K implies irreducibility of T m a and T n a over K follows from Theorem 4.1. To prove irreducibility of T m a and T n a over K implies irreducibility of T mn a over K we will work with roots of these polynomials. It is convenient to select mth, nth, and mnth roots of a in a multiplicatively compatible way: fix a root mn a of T mn a over K and define m a := mn a n and n a := mn a m. Then m a is a root of T m a and n a is a root of T n a, so we have the following field diagram, where the containments are due to m a and n a being powers of mn a. n K( mn a) m K( m a) K( n a) m K The bottom field degree values come from T m a and T n a being irreducible over K, and the top field degree upper bounds come from mn a being a root of T n m a K( m a)[t ] and T m n a K( n a)[t ]. Let d = [K( mn a) : K], so by reading the field diagram along either the left or right we have d mn. Also d is divisible by m and by n since field degrees are multiplicative in towers, so from relative primality of m and n we get m d, n d = mn d, so mn d. Thus d = mn, so T mn a is the minimal polynomial of mn a over K and thus is irreducible over K. Corollary 4.3. For an integer N > 1 with prime factorization p e 1 1 pe k k, T N a is irreducible over K if and only if each T pe i i a is irreducible over K. Proof. Use Theorem 4.2 with the factorization N = p e 1 1 (pe 2 2 pe k k ) to see irreducibility of T N a over K is equivalent to irreducibility of T pe 1 1 a and T pe 2 2 p e k k a over K, and then by induction on the number of different prime powers in the degree, irreducibility of T pe 2 2 p e k k a over K is equivalent to irreducibility of T pe i i a over K for i = 2,..., k. Example 4.4. Irreducibility of T 90 a over K is equivalent to irreducibility of T 2 a, T 9 a, and T 5 a over K. n

5 SIMPLE RADICAL EXTENSIONS 5 Remark 4.5. By Remark 3.2, if N is odd then irreducibility of T N a over K is equivalent to irreducibility of T p i a over K as p i runs over the prime factors of N (the multiplicities e i don t matter!), and for these we know the story for irreducibility by Theorem 3.1: it s the same thing as T p i a not having a root in K for each p i. Example 4.6. Irreducibility of T 75 a over K is equivalent to a not having a cube root or fifth root in K. 5. Intermediate fields in a simple radical extension For a choice of nth root n a and a factor d n, d a := n a n/d is a root of T d a in K( n a), so we have the following field diagram. K( n a) K( d a) K It s natural to ask if every field between K and K( n a) is K( d a) for some d dividing n. The simplest setting to study this is when T n a is irreducible over K (and thus also T d a is irreducible over K, by Theorem 4.1), so [K( d a) : K] = d. Is K( d a) the only extension of K of degree d inside K( n a)? This is not always true. Example 5.1. Let K = Q and consider the field Q( 4 1). Set α = 4 1, so α = 0. The polynomial T is irreducible over Q because it becomes Eisenstein at 2 when T is replaced with T + 1. Since [Q( 4 1) : Q] = 4, any field strictly between Q and Q( 4 1) is quadratic over Q. One of these is Q( 1), but it is not the only one. Q( 4 1) Q( 2) Q( 1) Q( 2) Q If α 4 = 1 then (α + 1/α) 2 = α /α 2 = (α 4 + 1)/α = 2 and (α 1/α) 2 = α /α 2 = (α 4 + 1)/α 2 2 = 2, so Q( 4 1) contains Q( 2) and Q( 2). None of the fields Q(i), Q( 2), and Q( 2) are the same, so we have at least three (and in fact there are just these three) quadratic extensions of Q in Q( 4 1). In the above example, the reason for the appearance of more intermediate fields between Q and Q( 4 1) than just Q( 1) is that there are 4th roots of unity in Q( 4 1) that are not in Q, namely ± 1. The following theorem shows we get no such unexpected fields if all nth roots of unity in the top field are actually in the base field.

6 6 KEITH CONRAD Theorem 5.2. Let K be a field, a K, and assume T n a is irreducible over K. If all nth roots of unity in K( n a) are in K then for each d n the only field between K and K( n a) of degree d over K is K( d a), where d a := n a n/d. Proof. Every field between K and K( n a) has degree over K that divides n. For d n suppose L is a field with K L K( n a) and [L : K] = d. To prove L = K( d a), it suffices to show d a L, since that would give us K( d a) L and we know K( d a) has degree d over K, so the containment K( d a) L would have to be an equality. K( n a) L K Let f(t ) be the minimal polynomial of n a over L, so f(t ) (T n a) and deg f = n/d. We can write any other root of f(t ) as ζ n a for some nth root of unity ζ. (Theorem 2.3). In a splitting field of T n a over K, the factorization of f(t ) is i I (T ζ n i a) for some nth roots of unity ζ i (I is just an index set). The constant term of f(t ) is in L, so ( i I ζ i) n a n/d L. Therefore ( i I ζ i) n a n/d K( n a), so i I ζ i K( n a). The only nth roots of unity in K( n a) are, by hypothesis, in K, so i I ζ i K L. Therefore n a n/d = d a is in L, so we re done. Example 5.3. If K = Q, a > 0, and T n a is irreducible over Q then Q( n a) is isomorphic to a subfield of R (using the real positive nth root of a), which implies the only roots of unity in Q( n a) are ±1 and those both lie Q. For example, the only fields between Q and n/d Q( n 2) are Q( d 2) where d n and d 2 = n 2 n/d. Example 5.4. Let F be a field and K = F (u), the rational functions over F in one indeterminate. The polynomial T n u is irreducible over F (u) since it is Eisenstein at u. We let n u denote one root of T n u, so K( n u) = F ( n u) has degree n over F (u). All roots of unity in F ( n u) not just nth roots of unity are in F, because F ( n u) is itself a rational function field in one indeterminate over F (since n u is transcendental over F ) and all elements of a rational function field in one indeterminate over F that are not in F are transcendental over F and thus can t be a root of unity. Therefore by Theorem 5.2, the fields between F (u) and F ( n u) are F ( d u) for d n. Example 5.5. An example where the hypothesis that all nth roots of unity in K( n a) are in K is false, yet the conclusion of Theorem 5.2 is true, is K = Q(i), a = 2, and n = 8: it can be shown that [Q(i, 8 2) : Q(i)] = 8 and the only fields between Q(i) and Q(i, 8 2) are Q(i, d 2) for d = 1, 2, 4, 8 while 1+i 2 is an 8th root of unity in Q( 8 2, i) that is not in Q(i). d References [1] A. Capelli, Sulla riduttibilità delle equazioni algebriche, Nota prima, Rend. Accad. Sci. Fis. Mat. Soc. Napoli 3 (1897), [2] S. Lang, Algebra, 3rd revised ed., Springer-Verlag, New York, [3] L. Rédei, Algebra, Erster Teil, Akad. Verlagsges, Geest & Portig K.-G., Leipzig, [4] K. T. Vahlen, Über reductible Binome, Acta Math. 19 (1895),

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