Szemerédi's theorem

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In arithmetic combinatorics, Szemerédi's theorem is a result concerning arithmetic progressions in subsets of the integers. In 1936, Erdős and Turán conjectured[1] that every set of integers A with positive natural density contains a k-term arithmetic progression for every k. Endre Szemerédi proved the conjecture in 1975.


A subset A of the natural numbers is said to have positive upper density if


Szemerédi's theorem asserts that a subset of the natural numbers with positive upper density contains infinitely many arithmetic progressions of length k for all positive integers k.

An often-used equivalent finitary version of the theorem states that for every positive integer k and real number , there exists a positive integer

such that every subset of {1, 2, ..., N} of size at least δN contains an arithmetic progression of length k.

Another formulation uses the function rk(N), the size of the largest subset of {1, 2, ..., N} without an arithmetic progression of length k. Szemerédi's theorem is equivalent to the asymptotic bound


That is, rk(N) grows less than linearly with N.


Van der Waerden's theorem, a precursor of Szemerédi's theorem, was proven in 1927.

The cases k = 1 and k = 2 of Szemerédi's theorem are trivial. The case k = 3 was established in 1953 by Klaus Roth[2] via an adaptation of the Hardy–Littlewood circle method. Endre Szemerédi[3] proved the case k = 4 through combinatorics. Using an approach similar to the one he used for the case k = 3, Roth[4] gave a second proof for this in 1972.

The general case was settled in 1975, also by Szemerédi,[5] who developed an ingenious and complicated extension of his previous combinatorial argument for k = 4 (called "a masterpiece of combinatorial reasoning" by Erdős[6]). Several other proofs are now known, the most important being those by Hillel Furstenberg[7][8] in 1977, using ergodic theory, and by Timothy Gowers[9] in 2001, using both Fourier analysis and combinatorics. Terence Tao has called the various proofs of Szemerédi's theorem a "Rosetta stone" for connecting disparate fields of mathematics.[10]

Quantitative bounds[edit]

It is an open problem to determine the exact growth rate of rk(N). The best known general bounds are

where . The lower bound is due to O'Bryant[11] building on the work of Behrend,[12] Rankin,[13] and Elkin.[14][15] The upper bound is due to Gowers.[9]

For small k, there are tighter bounds than the general case. When k = 3, Bourgain,[16][17] Heath-Brown,[18] Szemerédi,[19] and Sanders[20] provided increasingly smaller upper bounds. The current best bounds are

due to O'Bryant[11] and Bloom[21] respectively.

For k = 4, Green and Tao[22][23] proved that

for some c > 0.

Extensions and generalizations[edit]

A multidimensional generalization of Szemerédi's theorem was first proven by Furstenberg and Katznelson using ergodic theory.[24] Gowers,[25] Rödl–Skokan[26][27] with Nagle–Rödl–Schacht,[28] and Tao[29] provided combinatorial proofs.

Leibman and Bergelson[30] generalized Szemerédi's to polynomial progressions: If is a set with positive upper density and are integer-valued polynomials such that , then there are infinitely many such that for all . Leibman and Bergelson's result also holds in a multidimensional setting.

The finitary version of Szemerédi's theorem can be generalized to finite additive groups including vector spaces over finite fields.[31] The finite field analog can be used as a model for understanding the theorem in the natural numbers.[32]

The Green–Tao theorem asserts the prime numbers contain arbitrary long arithmetic progressions. It is not implied by Szemerédi's theorem because the primes have density 0 in the natural numbers. As part of their proof, Green and Tao introduced a "relative" Szemerédi theorem which applies to subsets of the integers (even those with 0 density) satisfying certain pseudorandomness conditions. A more general relative Szemerédi theorem has since been given by Conlon, Fox, and Zhao.[33][34]

The Erdős conjecture on arithmetic progressions would imply both Szemerédi's theorem and the Green–Tao theorem.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Erdős, Paul; Turán, Paul (1936). "On some sequences of integers" (PDF). Journal of the London Mathematical Society. 11 (4): 261–264. MR 1574918. doi:10.1112/jlms/s1-11.4.261. 
  2. ^ Roth, Klaus Friedrich (1953). "On certain sets of integers". Journal of the London Mathematical Society. 28 (1): 104–109. MR 0051853. Zbl 0050.04002. doi:10.1112/jlms/s1-28.1.104. 
  3. ^ Szemerédi, Endre (1969). "On sets of integers containing no four elements in arithmetic progression". Acta Math. Acad. Sci. Hung. 20: 89–104. MR 0245555. Zbl 0175.04301. doi:10.1007/BF01894569. 
  4. ^ Roth, Klaus Friedrich (1972). "Irregularities of sequences relative to arithmetic progressions, IV". Periodica Math. Hungar. 2: 301–326. MR 0369311. doi:10.1007/BF02018670. 
  5. ^ Szemerédi, Endre (1975). "On sets of integers containing no k elements in arithmetic progression" (PDF). Acta Arithmetica. 27: 199–245. MR 0369312. Zbl 0303.10056. 
  6. ^ Erdős, Paul (2013). "Some of My Favorite Problems and Results". In Graham, Ronald L.; Nešetřil, Jaroslav; Butler, Steve. The Mathematics of Paul Erdős I (Second ed.). New York: Springer. pp. 51–70. ISBN 978-1-4614-7257-5. MR 1425174. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-7258-2_3. 
  7. ^ Furstenberg, Hillel (1977). "Ergodic behavior of diagonal measures and a theorem of Szemerédi on arithmetic progressions". J. D'Analyse Math. 31: 204–256. MR 0498471. doi:10.1007/BF02813304. .
  8. ^ Furstenberg, Hillel; Katznelson, Yitzhak; Ornstein, Donald Samuel (1982). "The ergodic theoretical proof of Szemerédi’s theorem". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 7 (3): 527–552. MR 0670131. doi:10.1090/S0273-0979-1982-15052-2. 
  9. ^ a b Gowers, Timothy (2001). "A new proof of Szemerédi's theorem". Geom. Funct. Anal. 11 (3): 465–588. MR 1844079. doi:10.1007/s00039-001-0332-9. 
  10. ^ Tao, Terence (2007). "The dichotomy between structure and randomness, arithmetic progressions, and the primes". In Sanz-Solé, Marta; Soria, Javier; Varona, Juan Luis; Verdera, Joan. International Congress of Mathematicians. 1. Zürich: European Mathematical Society. pp. 581–608. MR 2334204. arXiv:math/0512114Freely accessible. doi:10.4171/022-1/22. 
  11. ^ a b O'Bryant, Kevin (2011). "Sets of integers that do not contain long arithmetic progressions". Electronic Journal of Combinatorics. 18 (1). MR 2788676. 
  12. ^ Behrend, Felix A. (1946). "On the sets of integers which contain no three terms in arithmetic progression". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 23 (12): 331–332. MR 0018694. Zbl 0060.10302. doi:10.1073/pnas.32.12.331. 
  13. ^ Rankin, Robert A. (1962). "Sets of integers containing not more than a given number of terms in arithmetical progression". Proc. Roy. Soc. Edinburgh Sect. A. 65: 332–344. MR 0142526. Zbl 0104.03705. 
  14. ^ Elkin, Michael (2011). "An improved construction of progression-free sets". Israel Journal of Mathematics. 184 (1): 93–128. MR 2823971. doi:10.1007/s11856-011-0061-1. 
  15. ^ Green, Ben; Wolf, Julia (2010). "A note on Elkin's improvement of Behrend's construction". In Chudnovsky, David; Chudnovsky, Gregory. Additive number theory. Festschrift in honor of the sixtieth birthday of Melvyn B. Nathanson. New York: Springer. pp. 141–144. ISBN 978-0-387-37029-3. MR 2744752. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-68361-4_9. 
  16. ^ Bourgain, Jean (1999). "On triples in arithmetic progression". Geom. Funct. Anal. 9 (5): 968–984. MR 1726234. doi:10.1007/s000390050105. 
  17. ^ Bourgain, Jean (2008). "Roth's theorem on progressions revisited". J. Anal. Math. 104 (1): 155–192. MR 2403433. doi:10.1007/s11854-008-0020-x. 
  18. ^ Heath-Brown, Roger (1987). "Integer sets containing no arithmetic progressions". Journal of the London Mathematical Society. 35 (3): 385–394. MR 889362. doi:10.1112/jlms/s2-35.3.385. 
  19. ^ Szemerédi, Endre (1990). "Integer sets containing no arithmetic progressions". Acta Math. Hungar. 56 (1-2): 155–158. MR 1100788. doi:10.1007/BF01903717. 
  20. ^ Sanders, Tom (2011). "On Roth's theorem on progressions". Annals of Mathematics. 174 (1): 619–636. MR 2811612. doi:10.4007/annals.2011.174.1.20. 
  21. ^ Bloom, Thomas F. (2016). "A quantitative improvement for Roth's theorem on arithmetic progressions". Journal of the London Mathematical Society. Second Series. 93 (3): 643–663. MR 3509957. arXiv:1405.5800Freely accessible. doi:10.1112/jlms/jdw010. 
  22. ^ Green, Ben; Tao, Terence (2009). "New bounds for Szemeredi's theorem. II. A new bound for r4(N)". In Chen, William W. L.; Gowers, Timothy; Halberstam, Heini; Schmidt, Wolfgang; Vaughan, Robert Charles. Analytic number theory. Essays in honour of Klaus Roth on the occasion of his 80th birthday. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 180–204. ISBN 978-0-521-51538-2. MR 2508645. Zbl 1158.11007. arXiv:math/0610604Freely accessible. 
  23. ^ Green, Ben; Tao, Terence (2017). "New bounds for Szemerédi's theorem, III: A polylogarithmic bound for r4(N)". arXiv:1705.01703Freely accessible. 
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  30. ^ Bergelson, Vitaly; Leibman, Alexander (1996). "Polynomial extensions of van der Waerden's and Szemerédi's theorems". Journal of the American Mathematical Society. 9 (3): 725–753. MR 1325795. doi:10.1090/S0894-0347-96-00194-4. 
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  32. ^ Wolf, Julia (2015). "Finite field models in arithmetic combinatorics—ten years on". Finite Fields and Their Applications. 32: 233–274. MR 3293412. doi:10.1016/j.ffa.2014.11.003. 
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  34. ^ Zhao, Yufei (2014). "An arithmetic transference proof of a relative Szemerédi theorem". Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 156 (2): 255–261. MR 3177868. doi:10.1017/S0305004113000662. 

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