Algebraic geometry

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Algebraic geometry is a branch of mathematics which uses abstract algebraic techniques, mainly from commutative algebra, to solve geometrical problems. Classically, it studies zeros of multivariate polynomials; the modern approach generalizes this in a few different aspects.

This Togliatti surface is an algebraic surface of degree five. The picture represents a portion of its real locus.

The fundamental objects of study in algebraic geometry are algebraic varieties, which are geometric manifestations of solutions of systems of polynomial equations. Examples of the most studied classes of algebraic varieties are lines, circles, parabolas, ellipses, hyperbolas, cubic curves like elliptic curves, and quartic curves like lemniscates and Cassini ovals. These are plane algebraic curves. A point of the plane lies on an algebraic curve if its coordinates satisfy a given polynomial equation. Basic questions involve the study of points of special interest like singular points, inflection points and points at infinity. More advanced questions involve the topology of the curve and the relationship between curves defined by different equations.

Algebraic geometry occupies a central place in modern mathematics and has multiple conceptual connections with such diverse fields as complex analysis, topology and number theory. As a study of systems of polynomial equations in several variables, the subject of algebraic geometry begins with finding specific solutions via equation solving, and then proceeds to understand the intrinsic properties of the totality of solutions of a system of equations. This understanding requires both conceptual theory and computational technique.

In the 20th century, algebraic geometry split into several subareas.

Much of the development of the mainstream of algebraic geometry in the 20th century occurred within an abstract algebraic framework, with increasing emphasis being placed on "intrinsic" properties of algebraic varieties not dependent on any particular way of embedding the variety in an ambient coordinate space; this parallels developments in topology, differential and complex geometry. One key achievement of this abstract algebraic geometry is Grothendieck's scheme theory which allows one to use sheaf theory to study algebraic varieties in a way which is very similar to its use in the study of differential and analytic manifolds. This is obtained by extending the notion of point: In classical algebraic geometry, a point of an affine variety may be identified, through Hilbert's Nullstellensatz, with a maximal ideal of the coordinate ring, while the points of the corresponding affine scheme are all prime ideals of this ring. This means that a point of such a scheme may be either a usual point or a subvariety. This approach also enables a unification of the language and the tools of classical algebraic geometry, mainly concerned with complex points, and of algebraic number theory. Wiles' proof of the longstanding conjecture called Fermat's Last Theorem is an example of the power of this approach.

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