Algebraic variety

Algebraic varieties are the central objects of study in algebraic geometry, a sub-field of mathematics. Classically, an algebraic variety is defined as the set of solutions of a system of polynomial equations over the real or complex numbers. Modern definitions generalize this concept in several different ways, while attempting to preserve the geometric intuition behind the original definition.[1]:58

The twisted cubic is a projective algebraic variety.

Conventions regarding the definition of an algebraic variety differ slightly. For example, some definitions require an algebraic variety to be irreducible, which means that it is not the union of two smaller sets that are closed in the Zariski topology. Under this definition, non-irreducible algebraic varieties are called algebraic sets. Other conventions do not require irreducibility.

The fundamental theorem of algebra establishes a link between algebra and geometry by showing that a monic polynomial (an algebraic object) in one variable with complex number coefficients is determined by the set of its roots (a geometric object) in the complex plane. Generalizing this result, Hilbert's Nullstellensatz provides a fundamental correspondence between ideals of polynomial rings and algebraic sets. Using the Nullstellensatz and related results, mathematicians have established a strong correspondence between questions on algebraic sets and questions of ring theory. This correspondence is a defining feature of algebraic geometry.

Many algebraic varieties are manifolds, but an algebraic variety may have singular points while a manifold cannot. Algebraic varieties can be characterized by their dimension. Algebraic varieties of dimension one are called algebraic curves and algebraic varieties of dimension two are called algebraic surfaces.

In the context of modern scheme theory, an algebraic variety over a field is an integral (irreducible and reduced) scheme over that field whose structure morphism is separated and of finite type.


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