What I’m working on…

So it’s been over two months since a post; more attentive readers will have noticed that there was one, but now there isn’t. I’ve moved away from thinking about cryptography to generalising some number/graph theoretic results of my supervisor, concerning matrices with constrained eigenvalues. However, this creates a problem: unless I ‘blog every up and down of the research process (which could be interesting, but would slow me down!) information on here becomes decreasingly accurate or relevant as I revise my thinking on the topic. Certainly it would be premature to present firm results at the moment.

But I can at least set the stage for more technically-minded readers (a friendlier explanation/illustration will hopefully follow once I truly understand all this!). Chris has characterised all symmetric integer matrices with the property that their eigenvalues are at most 2 in modulus; under a suitable transformation of their characteristic polynomials, these give cyclotomic polynomials and thus are referred to as cyclotomic matrices. Conveniently, any submatrix of a cyclotomic matrix is itself cyclotomic, so it suffices to find maximal examples. Although there are infinite families of these matrices, there are only a few ‘types’ possible.

These types are best understood by considering not the matrix, but an associated graph, where values in the matrix determine the weights on edges and nodes of the graph. This introduces a notion of equivalence, since many matrices will correspond to the same graph or certain well-defined variations on it. Further, we can adjoin nodes and edges to the corresponding graph to try and ‘grow’ towards maximal examples.

The motivation comes from finding polynomials of small Mahler measure- whilst a cyclotomic polynomial has measure 1, all others seem to be pushed away, with the smallest known value being 1.176… The question is how to generate small examples, and these matrices provide a way: by adjoining a single extra node to a maximal cyclotomic graph, a non-cyclotomic graph/matrix is obtained and thus a non-cyclotomic polynomial. The minimal graphs with this property (non-cyclotomic, but all subgraphs cyclotomic) often correspond to polynomials with some of the smallest known Mahler measures.

But some examples are not generated in this way, which is where I’ve stepped in. There is no reason to restrict attention to integer matrices, and I’ve established which imaginary quadratic extensions of the rationals give rise to rings of integers over which suitable matrices can be found. For a couple of fields, there are very few new (non rational-integer) cyclotomic matrices, and I have a complete description of them, but in others there are again infinite families as well as occasional examples that don’t generalise.

So I explore this behaviour by growing graphs/matrices, and try to spot patterns as they emerge from the fragments. I use the university’s parallel computing cluster Eddie for brute force work in SAGE, but such is the nature of the combinatorial explosion that even this doesn’t suffice without some mathematical insight along the way, as I try to refine my growing algorithms and capture equivalence as early as possible. I’m hopefully nearing the point where all examples fit into known families, at which point I’ll need to switch into serious mathematician mode and try and prove why this should be so. But for now I need to make sure that nothing unexpected tumbles out of each batch of calculations!

On a completely unrelated note, I’ve dragged modulo errors up to date with wordpress 2.5 and switched themes; please shout if you find I’ve broken something along the way.

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