the arithmetic of elliptic curves

The Arithmetic of Elliptic Curves

An elliptic curveMathworldPlanetmath over a field K is a projective nonsingularPlanetmathPlanetmath curve E defined over K of genus 1 together with a point OE defined over K. In the simple case K= every elliptic curve is isomorphicPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath (over ) to a curve defined by an equation of the form:


where A,B are integers. The most remarkable feature of an elliptic curve is the fact that the group of points can be given the structureMathworldPlanetmath of a group.

The theory of elliptic curves is a very rich mix of algebraic geometryMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmath and number theoryMathworldPlanetmath (arithmetic geometry). As in many other areas of number theory, the conceptsMathworldPlanetmath are simple to state but the theory is extremely deep and beautiful. The intrinsic arithmetic of the points on an elliptic curve is absolutely compelling. The most prominent mathematicians of our time have contributed in the development of the theory. The ultimate goal of the theory is to completely understand the structure of the points on the elliptic curve over any field F and being able to find them.

1.1 Basic Definitions

  1. 1.

    For a basic exposition of the subject the reader should start with the entry elliptic curve ( (defines elliptic curve, the group law and gives some examples with graphs, also treats elliptic curves over the complex numbersMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmath).

  2. 2.

    Some basic objects attached to an elliptic curve: j-invariant (, discriminantPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath and invariant differential. The j-invariant classifies elliptic curves up to isomorphismMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath (

  3. 3.
  4. 4.

    Elliptic curves over finite fieldsMathworldPlanetmath: good reduction, bad reduction, multiplicative reduction, additive reduction, cusp, node.

  5. 5.

    One of the most important objects that one can associate to an elliptic curve is the L-series ( (the entry defines the L-series of an elliptic curve ( and also talks about analytic continuation).

  6. 6.

    The conductorPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath of an elliptic curve is an integer quantity that measures the arithmetic complexity of the curve (the entry contains examples).

  7. 7.

    The Tate module of an elliptic curve (it is also defined in the entry inverse limitMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmath).

  8. 8.

    The canonical heightPlanetmathPlanetmath on an elliptic curve (over ).

  9. 9.

    The height matrix and the elliptic regulator of an elliptic curve.

1.2 Elliptic Curves over Finite Fields

  1. 1.

    See bad reduction (

  2. 2.

    The criterion of Néron-Ogg-Shafarevich.

  3. 3.
  4. 4.

    Hasse’s bound for elliptic curves over finite fields.

1.3 The Mordell-Weil Group E(K)

  1. 1.

    The structure of E(K) is given by the Mordell-Weil theoremMathworldPlanetmath (see also this entry ( The main two ingredients of the proof of the theorem are the concept of height function and the so-called descent theorem.

  2. 2.

    The free rank of the abelian groupMathworldPlanetmath E(K) is called the rank of an elliptic curve ( (the entry contains examples).

  3. 3.

    Together with the Mordell-Weil group, one defines two other rather important groups: the Selmer groupsMathworldPlanetmath and the Tate-Shafarevich group. The Tate-Shafarevich group (or “Sha”) measures the failure of the Hasse principleMathworldPlanetmath on the elliptic curve.

  4. 4.

    Some examples: Mordell curvesMathworldPlanetmath.

1.4 The Torsion Subgroup of E(K)

  1. 1.
  2. 2.

    Mazur’s theorem on torsionPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath of elliptic curves (a classification of all possible torsion subgroups).

  3. 3.

    Examples of torsion subgroups of elliptic curves (includes examples of all possible subgroupsMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmath).

  4. 4.

    A way to determine the torsion group: the torsion subgroup of an elliptic curve injects in the reduction of the curve.

1.5 Computing the Rank

  1. 1.

    Read about the rank (

  2. 2.

    A bound for the rank of an elliptic curve.

1.6 Complex Multiplication

  1. 1.

    Definition of the endomorphism ring ( and complex multiplication.

  2. 2.
  3. 3.
  4. 4.

    Definition of Grössencharacters, in general.

1.7 Famous Problems and Conjectures

  1. 1.

    Fermat’s Last Theorem was finally solved using the theory of elliptic curves and modular formsMathworldPlanetmath.

  2. 2.

    The Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture (relating the L-series of an elliptic curve with the algebraicMathworldPlanetmath rank).

  3. 3.

    The Taniyama-Shimura-Weil Conjecture (now a theorem!).

1.8 Cryptography


  • 1 James Milne, Elliptic Curves, online course notes.
  • 2 Joseph H. Silverman, The Arithmetic of Elliptic Curves. Springer-Verlag, New York, 1986.
  • 3 Joseph H. Silverman, Advanced Topics in the Arithmetic of Elliptic Curves. Springer-Verlag, New York, 1994.
  • 4 Goro Shimura, Introduction to the Arithmetic Theory of Automorphic Functions. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1971.

Note: If you want to contribute to this entry, please send an email to the author (alozano).

Title the arithmetic of elliptic curves
Canonical name TheArithmeticOfEllipticCurves
Date of creation 2013-03-22 15:06:19
Last modified on 2013-03-22 15:06:19
Owner alozano (2414)
Last modified by alozano (2414)
Numerical id 15
Author alozano (2414)
Entry type Topic
Classification msc 14H52
Classification msc 11G05
Synonym concepts in the theory of elliptic curves
Related topic EllipticCurve
Related topic CriterionOfNeronOggShafarevich
Related topic HassesBoundForEllipticCurvesOverFiniteFields
Related topic BirchAndSwinnertonDyerConjecture2
Related topic RankOfAnEllipticCurve
Related topic MazursTheoremOnTorsionOfEllipticCurves
Related topic TorsionSubgroupOfAnEllipticCurveInjectsInTheReductionOfTheCurve