Jacobian conjecture

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In mathematics, the Jacobian conjecture is a celebrated problem on polynomials in several variables. It was first posed in 1939 by Ott-Heinrich Keller. It was later named and widely publicised by Shreeram Abhyankar, as an example of a question in the area of algebraic geometry that requires little beyond a knowledge of calculus to state.

The Jacobian conjecture is notorious for the large number of attempted proofs that turned out to contain subtle errors. As of 2015, there are no plausible claims to have proved it. Even the two variable case has resisted all efforts. There are no known compelling reasons for believing it to be true, and according to van den Essen (1997) there are some suspicions that the conjecture is in fact false for large numbers of variables.

The Jacobian determinant[edit]

Let N > 1 be a fixed integer and consider the polynomials f1, ..., fN in variables X1, ..., XN with coefficients in a field k. Then we define a vector-valued function F: kNkN by setting:

F(c1, ..., cN) = (f1(c1, ...,cN),..., fN(c1,...,cN))

The Jacobian determinant of F, denoted by JF, is defined as the determinant of the N × N Jacobian matrix consisting of the partial derivatives of fi with respect to Xj:

J_F = \left | \begin{matrix} \frac{\partial f_1}{\partial X_1} & \cdots & \frac{\partial f_1}{\partial X_N} \\
\vdots & \ddots & \vdots \\
\frac{\partial f_N}{\partial X_1} & \cdots & \frac{\partial f_N}{\partial X_N} \end{matrix} \right |,

then JF is itself a polynomial function of the N variables X1, …, XN.

Formulation of the conjecture[edit]

It follows from the multivariable chain rule that if F has a polynomial inverse function G: kNkN, then JF has a polynomial reciprocal (so is a nonzero constant).

The Jacobian conjecture is the following partial converse:

Jacobian conjecture: If JF is a non-zero constant and k has characteristic 0, then F has an inverse function G: kNkN, and G is regular (in the sense that its components are given by polynomial expressions).

The obvious analogue of the Jacobian conjecture fails if k has characteristic p > 0 even for 1 variable, as the polynomial x - xp has derivative 1 but no inverse function.

For real maps, the condition JF ≠ 0 is related to the inverse function theorem in multivariable calculus. In fact for smooth functions (and so in particular for polynomials) a smooth local inverse function to F exists at every point where JF is non-zero. The example x + x3 has a smooth global inverse.


Wang (1980) proved the Jacobian conjecture for polynomials of degree 2, and Bass, Connell & Wright (1982) showed that the general case follows from the special case where the polynomials are of degree 3, more particularly, of the form F = (X1 + H1, ..., Xn + Hn), where each Hi is either zero or a homogeneous cubic. Drużkowski (1983) showed that one may further assume that the nonzero Hi are cubes of homogeneous linear polynomials. These reductions introduce additional variables and so are not available for fixed N.

Connell & van den Dries (1983) proved that if the Jacobian conjecture is false, then it has a counterexample with integer coefficients and Jacobian determinant 1. In consequence, the Jacobian conjecture is true either for all fields of characteristic 0 or for none. For fixed N it is true if it holds for at least one algebraically closed field of characteristic 0.

Moh (1983) checked the conjecture for polynomials of degree at most 100 in two variables.

de Bondt & Van den Essen (2005)and Drużkowski (2005) showed that it is enough to prove the Jacobian Conjecture for complex maps with a symmetric Jacobian matrix.

The strong real Jacobian conjecture was that a real polynomial map with a nowhere vanishing Jacobian determinant has a smooth global inverse. That is equivalent to asking whether such a map is topologically a proper map, in which case it is a covering map of a simply connected manifold, hence invertible. Sergey Pinchuk (1994) constructed two variable counterexamples of total degree 25 and higher.

P.K. Adjamagbo and A. van den Essen (2007) and Alexei Belov-Kanel and Maxim Kontsevich (2007) showed that the Jacobian conjecture is equivalent to the Dixmier conjecture.

Adjamagbo (1995) suggested modifying the Jacobian conjecture in characteristic p>0 by adding the condition that the degree of a certain field extension associated to F is not divisible by p.


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