# discriminant

## Summary.

There are other ways to do this of course; one can look at the formal derivative of the polynomial (it will be coprime   to the original polynomial if and only if that original had no multiple roots). But the discriminant turns out to be valuable in a number of other contexts. For example, we will see that the discriminant of $X^{2}+bX+c$ is $b^{2}-4c$; the quadratic formula states that the roots are $-b/2\pm\sqrt{b^{2}-4c}/2$, so that the discriminant also determines whether the roots of this polynomial are real or not. In higher degrees, its role is more complicated.

There are other uses of the word “discriminant” that are closely related to this one. If $\mathbb{Q}(\alpha)$ is a number field  , then the http://planetmath.org/node/2895discriminant of $\mathbb{Q}(\alpha)$ is the discriminant of the minimal polynomial  of $\alpha$. For more general extensions of number fields, one must use a different definition of discriminant generalizing this one. If we have an elliptic curve  over the rational numbers defined by the equation $y^{2}=x^{3}+Ax+B$, then its modular discriminant is the discriminant of the cubic polynomial on the right-hand side. For more on both these facts, see  on number fields and  on elliptic curves.

## Definition.

The discriminant of order $n\in\mathbb{N}$ is the polynomial, denoted here 11 The discriminant of a polynomial $p$ is oftentimes also denoted as “$\mathop{\rm disc}(p)$ by $\delta^{(n)}=\delta^{(n)}(a_{1},\ldots,a_{n})$, characterized by the following relation:

 $\delta^{(n)}(s_{1},s_{2},\ldots,s_{n})=\prod_{i=1}^{n}\prod_{j=i+1}^{n}(x_{i}-% x_{j})^{2},$ (1)

where

 $s_{k}=s_{k}(x_{1},\ldots,x_{n}),\quad k=1,\ldots,n$

is the $k^{\text{th}}$ elementary symmetric polynomial.

The above relation is a defining one, because the right-hand side of (1) is, evidently, a symmetric polynomial  , and because the algebra   of symmetric polynomials is freely generated by the basic symmetric polynomials, i.e. every symmetric polynomial arises in a unique fashion as a polynomial of $s^{1},\ldots,s^{n}$.

###### Proposition 1.

The discriminant $d$ of a polynomial may be expressed with the resultant  $R$ of the polynomial and its first derivative  :

 $d\;=\;(-1)^{\frac{n(n-1)}{2}}R/a_{n}$

###### Proposition 2.

Up to sign, the discriminant is given by the determinant  of a $2n\!-\!1$ square matrix  with columns 1 to $n\!-\!1$ formed by shifting the sequence$1,\,a_{1},\,\ldots,\,a_{n}$,  and columns $n$ to $2n\!-\!1$ formed by shifting the sequence  $n,\,(n\!-\!1)a_{1},\;\ldots,\;a_{n-1}$,  i.e.

 $\delta^{(n)}=\left|\begin{array}[]{ccccccccc}1&0&\ldots&0&n&0&\ldots&0&0\\ a_{1}&1&\ldots&0&(n-1)\,a_{1}&n&\ldots&0&0\\ \vdots&\vdots&\ddots&\vdots&\vdots&\vdots&\ddots&\vdots&\vdots\\ a_{n-2}&a_{n-3}&\ldots&1&2\,a_{n-2}&3\,a_{n-3}&\ldots&n&0\\ a_{n-1}&a_{n-2}&\ldots&a_{1}&a_{n-1}&2\,a_{n-2}&\ldots&(n-1)a_{1}&n\\ a_{n}&a_{n-1}&\ldots&a_{2}&0&a_{n-1}&\ldots&(n-2)a_{2}&(n-1)a_{1}\\ \vdots&\vdots&\ddots&\vdots&\vdots&\vdots&\ddots&\vdots&\vdots\\ 0&0&\ldots&a_{n-1}&0&0&\ldots&a_{n-1}&2\,a_{n-2}\\ 0&0&\ldots&a_{n}&0&0&\ldots&0&a_{n-1}\end{array}\right|$ (2)

## Multiple root test.

Let $\mathbb{K}$ be a field, let $x$ denote an indeterminate, and let

 $p=x^{n}+a_{1}x^{n-1}+\ldots+a_{n-1}x+a_{n},\quad a_{i}\in\mathbb{K}$

be a monic polynomial  over $\mathbb{K}$. We define $\delta[p]$, the discriminant of $p$, by setting

 $\delta[p]=\delta^{(n)}\left(a_{1},\ldots,a_{n}\right).$

The discriminant of a non-monic polynomial is defined homogenizing the above definition, i.e by setting

 $\delta[ap]=a^{2n-2}\delta[p],\quad a\in\mathbb{K}.$
###### Proof.

It isn’t hard to show that a polynomial has multiple roots if and only if that polynomial and its derivative share a common root. The desired conclusion now follows by observing that the determinant formula in equation (2) gives the resolvent of a polynomial and its derivative. This resolvent vanishes if and only if the polynomial in question has a multiple root. ∎

## Some Examples.

Here are the first few discriminants.

 $\displaystyle\delta^{(1)}$ $\displaystyle=1$ $\displaystyle\delta^{(2)}$ $\displaystyle=a_{1}^{2}-4\,a_{2}$ $\displaystyle\delta^{(3)}$ $\displaystyle=18\,a_{1}a_{2}a_{3}+a_{1}^{2}a_{2}^{2}-4\,a_{2}^{3}-4\,a_{1}^{3}% a_{3}-27a_{3}^{2}$ $\displaystyle\delta^{(4)}$ $\displaystyle=a_{1}^{2}a_{2}^{2}a_{3}^{2}-4\,a_{2}^{3}a_{3}^{2}-4\,a_{1}^{3}a_% {3}^{3}+18\,a_{1}a_{2}a_{3}^{3}-27\,a_{3}^{4}$ $\displaystyle-4\,a_{1}^{2}a_{2}^{3}a_{4}+16\,a_{2}^{4}a_{4}+18\,a_{1}^{3}a_{2}% a_{3}a_{4}-80\,a_{1}a_{2}^{2}a_{3}a_{4}$ $\displaystyle-6\,a_{1}^{2}a_{3}^{2}a_{4}+144\,a_{2}a_{3}^{2}a_{4}-27\,a_{1}^{4% }a_{4}^{2}+144\,a_{1}^{2}a_{2}a_{4}^{2}$ $\displaystyle-128\,a_{2}^{2}a_{4}^{2}-192\,a_{1}a_{3}a_{4}^{2}+256\,a_{4}^{3}$

Here is the matrix used to calculate $\delta^{(4)}$:

 $\delta^{(4)}=\left|\begin{array}[]{ccccccc}1&0&0&4&0&0&0\\ a_{1}&1&0&3a_{1}&4&0&0\\ a_{2}&a_{1}&1&2a_{2}&3a_{1}&4&0\\ a_{3}&a_{2}&a_{1}&a_{3}&2a_{2}&3a_{1}&4\\ a_{4}&a_{3}&a_{2}&0&a_{3}&2a_{2}&3a_{1}\\ 0&a_{4}&a_{3}&0&0&a_{3}&2a_{2}\\ 0&0&a_{4}&0&0&0&a_{3}\\ \end{array}\right|$

## References

• 1 Daniel A. Marcus, Number Fields, Springer, New York.
• 2 Joseph H. Silverman, . Springer-Verlag, New York, 1986.

See also the bibliography for number theory (http://planetmath.org/BibliographyForNumberTheory) and the bibliography for algebraic geometry (http://planetmath.org/BibliographyForAlgebraicGeometry).

 Title discriminant Canonical name Discriminant Date of creation 2013-03-22 12:31:12 Last modified on 2013-03-22 12:31:12 Owner rspuzio (6075) Last modified by rspuzio (6075) Numerical id 17 Author rspuzio (6075) Entry type Definition Classification msc 12E05 Synonym polynomial discriminant Related topic Resolvent Related topic DiscriminantOfANumberField Related topic ModularDiscriminant Related topic JInvariant Related topic DiscriminantOfAlgebraicNumber