# Stufe (algebra)

In field theory, the Stufe (/ʃtuːfə/; German: level) s(F) of a field F is the least number of squares that sum to -1. If -1 cannot be written as a sum of squares, s(F)=${\displaystyle \infty }$. In this case, F is a formally real field. Albrecht Pfister proved that the Stufe, if finite, is always a power of 2, and that conversely every power of 2 occurs.[1]

## Powers of 2

If ${\displaystyle s(F)\neq \infty }$ then ${\displaystyle s(F)=2^{k}}$ for some ${\displaystyle k\in {\mathbb {N}}}$.[1][2]

Proof: Let ${\displaystyle k\in {\mathbb {N}}}$ be chosen such that ${\displaystyle 2^{k}\leq s(F)<2^{k+1}}$. Let ${\displaystyle n=2^{k}}$. Then there are ${\displaystyle s=s(F)}$ elements ${\displaystyle e_{1},\ldots ,e_{s}\in F\setminus \{0\}}$ such that

${\displaystyle 0=\underbrace {1+e_{1}^{2}+\cdots +e_{n-1}^{2}} _{=:a}+\underbrace {e_{n}^{2}+\cdots +e_{s}^{2}} _{=:b}\;.}$

Both ${\displaystyle a}$ and ${\displaystyle b}$ are sums of ${\displaystyle n}$ squares, and ${\displaystyle a\neq 0}$, since otherwise ${\displaystyle s(F)<2^{k}}$, contrary to the assumption on ${\displaystyle k}$.

According to the theory of Pfister forms, the product ${\displaystyle ab}$ is itself a sum of ${\displaystyle n}$ squares, that is, ${\displaystyle ab=c_{1}^{2}+\cdots +c_{n}^{2}}$ for some ${\displaystyle c_{i}\in F}$. But since ${\displaystyle a+b=0}$, we also have ${\displaystyle -a^{2}=ab}$, and hence

${\displaystyle -1={\frac {ab}{a^{2}}}=\left({\frac {c_{1}}{a}}\right)^{2}+\cdots +\left({\frac {c_{n}}{a}}\right)^{2}\;,}$

and thus ${\displaystyle s(F)=n=2^{k}}$.

## Positive characteristic

The Stufe ${\displaystyle s(F)\leq 2}$ for all fields ${\displaystyle F}$ with positive characteristic.[3]

Proof: Let ${\displaystyle p=\operatorname {char} (F)}$. It suffices to prove the claim for ${\displaystyle {\mathbb {F}}_{p}}$ .

If ${\displaystyle p=2}$ then ${\displaystyle -1=1=1^{2}}$, so ${\displaystyle s(F)=1}$.

If ${\displaystyle p>2}$ consider the set ${\displaystyle S=\{x^{2}\mid x\in {\mathbb {F}}_{p}\}}$ of squares. ${\displaystyle S\setminus \{0\}}$ is a subgroup of index ${\displaystyle 2}$ in the cyclic group ${\displaystyle {\mathbb {F}}_{p}^{\times }}$ with ${\displaystyle p-1}$ elements. Thus ${\displaystyle S}$ contains exactly ${\displaystyle {\tfrac {p+1}{2}}}$ elements, and so does ${\displaystyle -1-S}$. Since ${\displaystyle {\mathbb {F}}_{p}}$ only has ${\displaystyle p}$ elements in total, ${\displaystyle S}$ and ${\displaystyle -1-S}$ cannot be disjoint, that is, there are ${\displaystyle x,y\in {\mathbb {F}}_{p}}$ with ${\displaystyle S\ni x^{2}=-1-y^{2}\in -1-S}$ and thus ${\displaystyle -1=x^{2}+y^{2}}$.

## Properties

The Stufe s(F) is related to the Pythagoras number p(F) by p(F) ≤ s(F)+1.[4] If F is not formally real then s(F) ≤ p(F) ≤ s(F)+1.[5][6] The additive order of the form (1), and hence the exponent of the Witt group of F is equal to 2s(F).[7][8]

## Notes

1. ^ a b Rajwade (1993) p.13
2. ^ Lam (2005) p.379
3. ^ a b Rajwade (1993) p.33