# A Generalization of Wilson s Theorem

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1 A Generalization of Wilson s Theorem R. Andrew Ohana June 3, 2009 Contents 1 Introduction 2 2 Background Algebra Groups Rings Quotient Rings Homomorphisms and Isomorphisms Fields Polynomials Chinese Remainder Theorem Wilson s Theorem and Gauss Generalization Wilson s Theorem Gauss Generalization Wilson Primes 12 5 Conclusion 13 References 13 1

2 1 Introduction In 1770 Edward Waring published the text Meditationes Algebraicae, in which several original statements in number theory were formed. One of the most famous was what is now referred to as Wilson s Theorem - named after the student who made the conjecture, John Wilson - which states that all primes p divide (p 1)! + 1. No proof was originally given for the result, as Wilson left the field of mathematics quite early to study law, however the same year in which it was published, J. L. Lagrange gave it proof. In this paper, we will cover the necessary algebra, a proof of Wilson s Theorem, and a proof of Gauss generalization of Wilson s Theorem. Finally, we ll conclude with a brief discussion of Wilson primes, primes that satisfy a stronger version of Wilson s Theorem. 2 Background Algebra In order to discuss Wilson s Theorem, we will need to develop some background in algebra. Nearly all the proofs in this section will be left for the reader, for more on basic algebra consult [1], [2], or [4]. 2.1 Groups Much of algebra builds off of the idea of a group. The idea is rather basic, given a set and an operator - such as multiplication or addition - the pair is a group if there is closure and associativity. By closure we mean that if x and y are in the set, then x y and x 1 are in the set, where is our operator. Thus we arrive to our formal definition of group. Definition A group G is a set along with an operator multiplication, denoted by, such that 1. for all x, y G, x y G, 2. for all x, y, z G, x (y z) = (x y) z, 3. there exists an e G such that for all x G, x e = e x = x, 4. for all x G, there exists an x 1 G where x x 1 = x 1 x = e. It is convention to denote a b as ab. A few basic properties follow directly from the definition of a group. Theorem Let G be a group, then 1. for all x, y, z G, if xy = xz, then y = z. 2. for all x, y, z G, if xy = zy, then x = z. 3. the identity element e is unique. 2

3 4. the inverse x 1 is unique. Note that commutativity is not required in a group, we call a group abelian if all its elements commute. Definition A group G is abelian if xy = yx for all x, y G. In this paper we will discuss only abelian groups. Next, we would like to have the ability of generating a group. By this we mean that if we look at an element, and apply an operator repetitively to it, we create a group. We define x 0 = e, x n = x x, n times x n = x 1 x 1, n times which we can easily verify behaves in the way we expect exponents to behave. Example Consider ζ = e 2πi/n and the operator of multiplication, then ζ generates the group of the n-th roots of unity, G = { ζ k : 0 k < n }. 1. We have closure under multiplication: for all x, y G, xy G. 2. We have associativity: for all x, y, z G, x(yz) = (xy)z. 3. We have identity element 1: for all x G, x 1 = 1 x = x. 4. We have closure under inverses: for all x G, x(x n 1 ) = (x n 1 )x = 1. ζ 2 ζ 1 ζ 4 ζ 3 ζ 2 ζ 1 ζ 3 ζ 0 ζ 0 ζ 4 ζ 5 ζ 5 ζ 6 ζ 7 ζ 8 (a) The 6th roots of unity. (b) The 9th roots of unity. Figure 1: Examples of the n-th roots of unity. In general, when we consider a group generated by an element x we have the set { e, x, x 2, x 3,..., x 1, x 2, x 3,... }. This leads us to the idea of a cyclic group. 3

4 Definition A group G is cyclic if there exists an x G such that for all y G, y = x n for some n Z. We call x a generator of G. Example Consider the integers under addition 1. We have closure under addition: for all m, n Z, m + n Z. 2. We have associativity: for all m, n, q Z, m + (n + q) = (m + n) + q. 3. We have identity element 0: for all n Z, n + 0 = 0 + n = n. 4. We have closure under inverses: for all n Z, n + ( n) = ( n) + n = We have commutativity: for all m, n Z, m + n = n + m. Hence the integers are an abelian group. In addition we have that the integers are a cyclic group since 1 n = n, for n Z. Notice how the integers are both abelian and cyclic, we actually have something stronger. Theorem All cyclic groups are abelian. The converse however is not true, we can note this by considering the rationals under addition, for the same reasons we have that Q is abelian, but note that we cannot find a generator for the group. Next we would like a notion of size. Notice, that while there are an infinite number of integers, which form a group, we saw in Example that we had a group with only a finite number of elements (namely n). This leads us into the order of a group. Definition The order of a group G, denoted G, is the number of elements in G. Similarly, we have for elements in a group a definition of order. Definition The order of an element x G is the minimum natural n such that x n = e. Hence for the group of integers is infinite order since there are an infinite number of elements, in addition every non-zero element has infinite order since there is no power k in for which n k = 0 when n 0. On the other hand, the n-th roots of unity have order n, and have at least one element of order n, the generator. Finally, we will introduce the idea of a subgroup. Definition Let G be a group, a subgroup H is a subset of G such that H is a group. We denote this relation as H < G. Example Consider the integers, Z, and the multiples of n, nz. Clearly nz Z, we also have that nz is a group (since we have closure, associativity, and the identity element). Thus nz < Z. 4

6 Definition A ring R is commutative if xy = xy for all x, y G. Hence, we see that the integers form a commutative ring with identity. Where as on the other hand M n (R) is a ring with identity, but it is not commutative. Finally, we consider a special subset of a commutative ring. Definition Let R be a commutative ring, an ideal I is a subset of R for which I < R + and for all x I and y R, xy I. Example Again consider the integers, Z, and the multiples of n, nz. We already know from Example that nz < Z +, thus consider m Z and q nz. Clearly we have mq nz, hence nz is an ideal of Z. If we consider all the multiples of an element in a ring, we can create an ideal, hence we have the theorem. Theorem Let R be a ring and x R, then the set (x) = {xy : y R} is an ideal. We call (x) the principle ideal generated by x. Example From our definition of nz in Example we clearly have that nz = (n). 2.3 Quotient Rings Based off of what we have covered, it is difficult to produce examples of finite rings, therefore we need to introduce the idea of a quotient ring. Theorem Let I be an ideal of a commutative ring R, then the set R/I = {x + I : x R}, where x + I = {x + y : y I}, is a ring. We call such rings quotient rings. Example Consider Z and (n), then we know Z/(n) = {m + (n) : m Z} is a ring. To get an idea of what this ring looks like, consider an element k + (n) and k + n + (n), we know k + (n) = {k + q : q (n)} and that k + n + (n) = {k + n + q : q (n)}. Since n + q (n), we know that k + n + (n) = {k + q : q (n)} = k + (n). This follows the laws of modular arithmetic that we already know. Generally instead of denoting an element of Z/(n) by k + (n), we drop the (n) and generally denote it by k. 2.4 Homomorphisms and Isomorphisms To compare rings in a well defined fashion, we need to discuss relationships between them. Hence we define a homomorphism. Definition Let R, R be rings and f : R R, be a function that has the following properties: 1. For all x, y R, f(x + y) = f(x) + f(y). 2. For all x, y R, f(xy) = f(x)f(y). 6

7 3. If R, R have identity, then f(1 R ) = f(1 R ). We call f a ring homomorphism. If we want to describe equivalence among rings R and R we would like for the two act in the exact same manner. It can be shown that if there exists a bijective ring homomorphism f : R R, then the two rings behave the same. Definition Let R, R be rings, if there exists a bijective ring homomorphism f : R R, then R and R are said to be isomorphic. 2.5 Fields The idea of a field extends the idea of ring. We have already fully developed the idea the integers, however we still can still develop the rationals. For example, when it comes to rings, we would like to avoid the idea of division since many elements don t have multiplicative inverses, however when dealing with the rationals, it is almost unnatural not to talk about division. Hence, we would like a construct which has the property that every non-zero element has a multiplicative inverse (like the rationals and the reals), this leads us to our definition of fields. Definition A field K is a commutative ring with identity where all non-zero elements of K are units. For the next example, we need Bézout s Lemma. Bézout s Lemma. Let a and b be integers, and (a, b) = d, then there exist integers x and y such that ax + by = d. Example Consider Z and (p), where p is prime. We already know Z/(p) is a ring, we now want to show that it is in fact a field. Let n Z/(p) be non-zero, since p is prime and n < p, we know (n, p) = 1. Hence by Bézout s Lemma we know their exist integer solutions for x and y to the equation nx + yp = nx = 1. Thus n has an inverse, and therefore n is a unit. Ergo Z/(p) is a field. While at first look this may not seem like a very restrictive definition, the results we gain are quite significant. We will specifically be looking at finite fields, ones in which there are a finite number of elements. For finite fields, we have Theorem Let p be a prime, and q = p α be a prime power, then 1. there exists a field of order q. 2. all fields of order q are isomorphic. 3. if K = q, then K is a cyclic group of order q 1. Since all finite fields of the same order act the same, we denote the unique finite field of order q as F q. Notice that from Example we have already found F p where p is prime. While we have found F p, we have not found F q by the following theorem. 7

8 (a) The additive cycle of 1. (b) The additive cycle of (c) The multiplicative cycle of (d) The multiplicative cycle of 6. Figure 2: The structure of Z/(13). Theorem The quotient ring Z/(n) is a field if and only if n is prime. Proof. By Example we only need to show that if n is not prime, then Z/(n) is not a field. Suppose that n is composite and that Z/(n) is a field, then we know there exists a, b such that n = ab and 1 < a, b < n. In addition, we know there exists a 1 and b 1, thus since ab = 0 we have aba 1 b 1 = 1 = 0 = 0 a 1 b 1. But this is a contradiction since 0 1, hence Z/(n) is not a field. In this paper, we only have the need for finite fields of prime order, for examples of other finite fields, consult [1], [2], or [4]. 8

9 2.6 Polynomials Now that we have developed through the idea of a field, we may begin to talk about more general polynomials. To start off with we have a theorem. Theorem Let R be a ring, and consider the set R[x] of functions of the form f(x) = a n x n + a n 1 x n 1 + a 1 x + a 0, where a i R, n Z 0, and x is a variable in R. The set R[x] is a ring, which we call the polynomial ring over R. Example Let R = Z/(2), then some sample arithmetic in R[x] is (x + 1) + (x 2 + x + 1) = x 2 (x 2 + 1) + (x 2 + x) = x + 1. For the most part, our discussion will be on polynomial rings over fields, denoted as K[x]. To start with our study of polynomials, we need to find the units of R[x]. Theorem The units of R[x] are the units of R. In other words, the constant functions which are units in R are the units in R[x]. When studying polynomials over fields we talk about the factorization of polynomials. Definition An irreducible polynomial f(x) K[x] has the property that if f(x) = g(x)h(x), where g(x), h(x) K[x], then either g(x) or h(x) are units. In the sense that primes form a primitive factorization for integers, we have irreducible polynomials forming a primitive factorization for polynomials. Theorem Let f(x) K[x] and let f(x) = p 1 (x)p 2 (x) p n (x) be a factorization into irreducibles p 1 (x), p 2 (x),..., p n (x), then the factorization is unique up to a unit. This allows us to study all polynomials over a field, by studying just the irreducible polynomials. Finally, we need the definition of a root. Definition Let f(x) R[x] and α R. If f(α) = 0 then we call α a root of f(x). 2.7 Chinese Remainder Theorem While more of a number theoretic result, the Chinese remainder theorem can help in finding roots to very specific polynomials in Z/(n)[x]. Theorem (Chinese Remainder Theorem). Suppose that n 1, n 2,..., n k are positive integers which are pairwise relatively prime. Then, for any given integers a 1, a 2,..., a k there exists an integer α which is a simultaneous root to each f i (x) = x a i in Z/(n i ). This result is necessary for Gauss Generalization of Wilson s Theorem. 9

10 3 Wilson s Theorem and Gauss Generalization Wilson s Theorem is a peculiar result in number theory which has only two major results. Firstly it serves as a primality test which is less efficient than a brute force divisor test. Secondly, and undoubtedly the more important result, is that it has as a corollary the famous result in quadratic residues which states 1 is a square mod p if p 1 (mod 4). While its results aren t very significant, it is an interesting curiosity in its own right, and has lead to the unsolved problem of Wilson primes. 3.1 Wilson s Theorem Here we will give proof of Wilson s Theorem in its original form. Theorem (Wilson s Theorem). A positive integer n > 1 is prime if and only if (n 1)! + 1 is divisible by n. Proof. We will first suppose that n is prime. Consider the polynomial f(x) = x p 1 1 inside F p [x] where p is an odd prime. By Theorem we know that for each non-zero α F p, that α p 1 = 1, since F p is cyclic. Hence the roots of f(x) are 1, 2,..., p 1, and thus we have the factoring p 1 f(x) = x p 1 1 = (x k). Evaluating f(0) we find 1 = (p 1)! in F p, hence (p 1)! + 1 is divisible by p. If p = 2, then we have (2 1)! + 1 = 2 which is divisible by 2. Now we will prove the converse. Suppose that n is composite, then we have two cases, either n = p 2 for some prime p, or n = ab where 1 < a < b < n. First suppose the second, since n > 2 we know b < n 1, hence we have a (n 1)! and b (n 1)!. This gives us n (n 1)!, which implies (n 1)!+1 is not divisible by n. Now suppose n = p 2 for some prime p. If n = 4, then (4 1)! + 1 = 7 which is not divisible by 4, so suppose n > 4. Since p > 2, we know 2p < n 1, and therefore p (n 1)!, 2p (n 1)!, and n 2p 2. This gives us n (n 1)!, which implies (n 1)! + 1 is not divisible by n. 3.2 Gauss Generalization Gauss noted that Wilson s Theorem was actually a special case of a more general theorem about all positive integers. Gauss generalization of Wilson s Theorem states that if n is four, an odd prime power, or twice an odd prime power, then the product of relatively prime integers less than itself add one is divisible by n. In addition, it states that otherwise, the same product subtract one is divisible by n. We can see that this is a generalization of Wilson s Theorem, by observing how when n is a prime, the product is simply (n 1)!. In order to state Gauss generalization of Wilson s Theorem, we need to define Euler s totient function. k=1 10

11 Definition (Euler s Totient Function). Euler s totient function, denoted by ϕ(n), is defined to be the number of positive integers less than or equal to n which are relatively prime with n. Theorem (Gauss Generalization). Let p be an odd prime and α be a positive integer, then in Z/(n) ϕ(n) 0 n = 1, a k = 1 n = 4, p k=1 α, 2p α, 1 otherwise, where each a i is a distinct positive integer less to or equal to n which is relatively prime with n. Proof. Our proof is based off of the proofs given in [5] and [6]. For n = 1 and n = 2, the result is immediate, so assume n > 2. Since (a i, n) = 1, we know there exists an a j such that a i a j = 1. ( ) Hence whenever i j, we can pair terms together. Now consider the polynomial f(x) = x 2 1 in Z/(n)[x], clearly i = j if and only if a i or a j is a root of f(x). If a i is a root of f(x), then because n > 2, n a i is also a root. Let Q 1 denote the product of the roots of f(x). We wish to show that unless n = 4, n = p α, or n = 2p α, the number of roots is divisible by four. We start by considering n = p α, then by factoring f(x) = (x 1)(x + 1) we find that there are exactly two roots. Now consider n = 2, then we notice that since 1 = 1, there is a single root. Next consider n = 4, again we clearly have 2 solutions. Finally consider n = 2 β, β > 2, if one of the factors of f(x) is divisible by 2, so is the other, but only one of them can be divisible by 4 or a higher power of 2. Hence if x + 1 is divisible by 2 only to the first power, we must have that 2 is a root of f(x) in Z/(2 β 1 ). This represents two different roots x = 1 and x = β 1 of f(x) in Z/(n). Similarly, when x 1 contains only the first power of 2, we find the roots x = 1 and x = 1 2 β 1. Hence we can easily verify these four roots are distinct. Finally, we consider a general n by writing it in terms of its prime factors n = 2 β p γ1 1 pγr r and finding the roots of f(x) in Z/(2 β ) and Z/(p γi i ). The Chinese remainder theorem shows that the roots of f(x) is Z/(n) are obtained by selecting a particular root for each of the prime powers and finding the roots of f(x) in each of Z/(p γi i ) simultaneously. When n is not divisible by 2, each of the equations have two roots so we obtain a total of 2 r roots. When β = 1, in Z/(2) we have a single root, so we will still have 2 r roots. When β = 2, in Z/(4) we have two roots, and so the total number in this case is 2 r+1. Finally, when β > 2, in 11

12 Z/(2 β ) there are four roots so the total number of roots is 2 r+2. Thus, unless n = 4, n = p α, or n = 2p α, the number of roots is divisible by four. Now, note that if a i is a root of f(x), then a i (n a i ) = a 2 i = 1. Hence if the number of roots of f(x) are divisible by four then Q 1 = 1, otherwise, Q 1 = 1. Now let Q 2 be the product of a i s which aren t roots of f(x), or if there are no such a i s let Q 2 = 1. By ( ) we can clearly see that if such a i s exist then Q 2 = 1. Therefore we always have Q 2 = 1. Finally note ϕ(n) k=1 a k = Q 1 Q 2, hence, since Q 2 = 1 and Q 1 = 1 when n = 4, n = p α, or n = 2p α, and Q 1 = 1 otherwise, we conclude ϕ(n) 0 n = 1, a k = 1 n = 4, p k=1 α, 2p α, 1 otherwise. 4 Wilson Primes After proving Wilson s Theorem, one can naturally lead into the question How many primes p have their square divide (p 1)! + 1? One could continue this question onto having the n-th power divide (p 1)! + 1, but asking such a question would presently be pointless as no one has been able to answer the first question. Definition 4.1. We define a Wilson prime p to be a positive integer for which (p 1)! + 1 is divisible by p 2. The only known Wilson primes are 5, 13, and 563, it is however conjectured that their are infinitely many of them. In fact, while it is conjectured that there are infinitely many of them, it is shown computationally in [3] that if there exist any more Wilson primes, then they all must be greater than Wilson s Theorem is quite a isolated theorem in number theory, and as such no real progress has been made towards the answer of Wilson primes. One can see the importance of neighboring theorems when we look at Wieferich primes, which extend Fermat s little theorem in the exact same manner. While it hasn t been shown that there are infinitely many Wieferich primes, there are many more easily derivable properties Wieferich primes satisfy. 12

13 5 Conclusion While Wilson s Theorem is quite isolated, it can be generalized extensively, becoming on its own right a powerful result about numbers. It has also sparked interest in a new set of primes, which like many set of primes, very little is known, and in this case all is conjecture. What Wilson first recognized and Gauss extended was a very clear relationship between the primality of a number and the product of its important predecessors. References [1] Artin, M. Algebra. Prentice Hall, New Jersey, [2] Childs, L. N. A Concrete Introduction to Higher Algebra. Springer-Verlag, New York, [3] Crandall, R., Dilcher, K., and Pomerance, C. A search for wierferich and wilson primes. Mathematics of Computation 66, 217 (January 1997), [4] Lang, S. Undergraduate Algebra. Springer-Verlag, New York, [5] Nagell, T. Introduction to Number Theory. Chelsea, New York, [6] Ore, O. Number Theory and its History. McGraw-Hill,

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