Absolute value (algebra)

Absolute value (algebra)

In mathematics, an absolute value is a function which measures the "size" of elements in a field or integral domain. More precisely, if "D" is an integral domain, then an absolute value is any mapping | ⋅ | from "D" to the real numbers R satisfying:

* | "x" | ≥ 0,
* | "x" | = 0 if and only if "x" = 0,
* | "xy" | = | "x" || "y" |,
* | "x" + "y" | ≤ | "x" | + | "y" |.

Note that some authors use the term valuation or norm instead of "absolute value".

Types of absolute value

If | "x" + "y" | satisfies the stronger property | "x" + "y" | ≤ max(|"x"|, |"y"|), then | ⋅ | is called an ultrametric or non-Archimedean absolute value, and otherwise an Archimedean absolute value.

If | "x" | = 1 for all nonzero values, the absolute value is called trivial and otherwise nontrivial.


If |&thinsp;&sdot;&thinsp;|1 and |&thinsp;&sdot;&thinsp;|2 are two absolute values on the same integral domain "D", then the two absolute values are "equivalent" if nowrap| |&thinsp;"x"&thinsp;|1 < 1 if and only if nowrap| |&thinsp;"x"&thinsp;|2 1. If two nontrivial absolute values are equivalent, then for some exponent "e", we have |&thinsp;"x"&thinsp;|1"e" = |&thinsp;"x"&thinsp;|2. Absolute values up to equivalence, or in other words, an equivalence class of absolute values, is called a place.

Ostrowski's theorem states that the nontrivial places of the rational numbers Q are the ordinary absolute value and the "p"-adic absolute value for each prime "p". For a given prime "p", the "p"-adic absolute value of the rational number "q" = "p""n"("a"/"b"), where "a" and "b" are integers not divisible by "p", is :left|p^n frac{a}{b} ight|_p = p^{-n}. Since the ordinary absolute value and the "p"-adic absolute values are normalized, these define places.


If for some ultrametric absolute value we define &nu;("x") = −log"b"|&thinsp;"x"&thinsp;| for any base "b" > 1, and extend by defining &nu;(0) = &infin;, which is ordered to be greater than all real numbers, we obtain a function from "D" to R ∪ {∞}, with the following properties:

* &nu;("x") &le; &infin;,
* &nu;("x") = &infin; &rArr; "x" = 0,
* &nu;("xy") = &nu;("x") + &nu;("y"),
* &nu;("x" + "y") &ge; min(&nu;("x"), &nu;("y")).

Such a function is known as a "valuation" in the terminology of Bourbaki, but other authors use the term "valuation" for "absolute value" and then say "exponential valuation" instead of "valuation".


Given an integral domain "D" with an absolute value, we can define the Cauchy sequences of elements of "D" with respect to the absolute value by requiring that for every "r" > 0 there is a positive integer "N" such that for all integers "m", "n" > "N" one has |&thinsp;"x""m" − "x""n"&thinsp;| &lt; "r". It is not hard to show that Cauchy sequences under pointwise addition and multiplication form a ring. One can also define null sequences as sequences of elements of "D" such that |&thinsp;"a""n"&thinsp;| converges to zero. Null sequences are a prime ideal in the ring of Cauchy sequences, and the quotient ring is therefore an integral domain. The domain "D" is embedded in this quotient ring, called the completion of "D" with respect to the absolute value |&thinsp;&sdot;&thinsp;|.

Since fields are integral domains, this is also a construction for the completion of a field with respect to an absolute value. To show that the result is a field, and not just an integral domain, we can either show that null sequences form a maximal ideal, or else construct the inverse directly. The latter can be easily done by taking, for all nonzero elements of the quotient ring, a sequence starting from a point beyond the last zero element of the sequence. Any nonzero element of the quotient ring will differ by a null sequence from such a sequence, and by taking pointwise inversion we can find a representative inverse element.

Another theorem of Alexander Ostrowski has it that any field complete with respect to the usual Archimedean absolute value is isomorphic to either the real or the complex numbers. Ultrametric complete fields are far more numerous, however.

Fields and integral domains

If "D" is an integral domain with absolute value |&thinsp;&sdot;&thinsp;|, then we may extend the definition of the absolute value to the field of fractions of "D" by setting

:|x/y| = |x|/|y|.,

On the other hand, if "F" is a field with ultrametric absolute value |&thinsp;&sdot;&thinsp;|, then the set of elements of "F" such that |&thinsp;"x"&thinsp;| ≤ 1 defines a valuation ring, which is a subring "D" of "F" such that for every nonzero element "x" of "F", at least one of "x" or "x"−1 belongs to "D". Since "F" is a field, "D" has no zero divisors and is an integral domain. It has a unique maximal ideal consisting of all "x" such that |&thinsp;"x"&thinsp;| < 1, and is therefore a local ring.

See also

* Valuation (algebra)
* Absolute value
* Valuation ring
* Local ring


*cite book
author = Nicolas Bourbaki
title = Commutative Algebra
publisher = Addison-Wesley
year = 1972

*cite book
author = Gerald J. Janusz
title = Algebraic Number Fields
publisher = American Mathematical Society
year = 1996, 1997
id = ISBN 0-8218-0429-4
edition = 2nd edition

*cite book
author = Nathan Jacobson
title = Basic algebra II
publisher = W H Freeman
year = 1989
id = ISBN 0-7167-1933-9
edition = 2nd ed.
Chapter 9, paragraph 1 "Absolute values".

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