# Szemerédi's theorem

In arithmetic combinatorics, Szemerédi's theorem is a result concerning arithmetic progressions in subsets of the integers. In 1936, Erdős and Turán conjectured[1] that every set of integers A with positive natural density contains a k-term arithmetic progression for every k. Endre Szemerédi proved the conjecture in 1975.

## Statement

A subset A of the natural numbers is said to have positive upper density if

${\displaystyle \limsup _{n\to \infty }{\frac {|A\cap \{1,2,3,\dotsc ,n\}|}{n}}>0}$ .

Szemerédi's theorem asserts that a subset of the natural numbers with positive upper density contains infinitely many arithmetic progressions of length k for all positive integers k.

An often-used equivalent finitary version of the theorem states that for every positive integer k and real number ${\displaystyle \delta \in (0,1]}$ , there exists a positive integer

${\displaystyle N=N(k,\delta )}$

such that every subset of {1, 2, ..., N} of size at least δN contains an arithmetic progression of length k.

Another formulation uses the function rk(N), the size of the largest subset of {1, 2, ..., N} without an arithmetic progression of length k. Szemerédi's theorem is equivalent to the asymptotic bound

${\displaystyle r_{k}(N)=o(N)}$ .

That is, rk(N) grows less than linearly with N.

## History

Van der Waerden's theorem, a precursor of Szemerédi's theorem, was proven in 1927.

The cases k = 1 and k = 2 of Szemerédi's theorem are trivial. The case k = 3, known as Roth's theorem, was established in 1953 by Klaus Roth[2] via an adaptation of the Hardy–Littlewood circle method. Endre Szemerédi[3] proved the case k = 4 through combinatorics. Using an approach similar to the one he used for the case k = 3, Roth[4] gave a second proof for this in 1972.

The general case was settled in 1975, also by Szemerédi,[5] who developed an ingenious and complicated extension of his previous combinatorial argument for k = 4 (called "a masterpiece of combinatorial reasoning" by Erdős[6]). Several other proofs are now known, the most important being those by Hillel Furstenberg[7][8] in 1977, using ergodic theory, and by Timothy Gowers[9] in 2001, using both Fourier analysis and combinatorics. Terence Tao has called the various proofs of Szemerédi's theorem a "Rosetta stone" for connecting disparate fields of mathematics.[10]

## Quantitative bounds

It is an open problem to determine the exact growth rate of rk(N). The best known general bounds are

${\displaystyle CN\exp \left(-n2^{(n-1)/2}{\sqrt[{n}]{\log N}}+{\frac {1}{2n}}\log \log N\right)\leq r_{k}(N)\leq {\frac {N}{(\log \log N)^{2^{-2^{k+9}}}}},}$

where ${\displaystyle n=\lceil \log k\rceil }$ . The lower bound is due to O'Bryant[11] building on the work of Behrend,[12] Rankin,[13] and Elkin.[14][15] The upper bound is due to Gowers.[9]

For small k, there are tighter bounds than the general case. When k = 3, Bourgain,[16][17] Heath-Brown,[18] Szemerédi,[19] and Sanders[20] provided increasingly smaller upper bounds. The current best bounds are

${\displaystyle N2^{-{\sqrt {8\log N}}}\leq r_{3}(N)\leq C{\frac {(\log \log N)^{4}}{\log N}}N}$

due to O'Bryant[11] and Bloom[21] respectively.

For k = 4, Green and Tao[22][23] proved that

${\displaystyle r_{4}(N)\leq C{\frac {N}{(\log N)^{c}}}}$

for some c > 0.

## Extensions and generalizations

A multidimensional generalization of Szemerédi's theorem was first proven by Hillel Furstenberg and Yitzhak Katznelson using ergodic theory.[24] Timothy Gowers,[25] Vojtěch Rödl and Jozef Skokan[26][27] with Brendan Nagle, Rödl, and Mathias Schacht,[28] and Terence Tao[29] provided combinatorial proofs.

Alexander Leibman and Vitaly Bergelson[30] generalized Szemerédi's to polynomial progressions: If ${\displaystyle A\subset \mathbb {N} }$  is a set with positive upper density and ${\displaystyle p_{1}(n),p_{2}(n),\dotsc ,p_{k}(n)}$  are integer-valued polynomials such that ${\displaystyle p_{i}(0)=0}$ , then there are infinitely many ${\displaystyle u,n\in \mathbb {Z} }$  such that ${\displaystyle u+p_{i}(n)\in A}$  for all ${\displaystyle 1\leq i\leq k}$ . Leibman and Bergelson's result also holds in a multidimensional setting.

The finitary version of Szemerédi's theorem can be generalized to finite additive groups including vector spaces over finite fields.[31] The finite field analog can be used as a model for understanding the theorem in the natural numbers.[32] The problem of obtaining bounds in the k=3 case of Szemerédi's theorem in the vector space ${\displaystyle \mathbb {F} _{3}^{n}}$  is known as the cap set problem.

The Green–Tao theorem asserts the prime numbers contain arbitrary long arithmetic progressions. It is not implied by Szemerédi's theorem because the primes have density 0 in the natural numbers. As part of their proof, Ben Green and Tao introduced a "relative" Szemerédi theorem which applies to subsets of the integers (even those with 0 density) satisfying certain pseudorandomness conditions. A more general relative Szemerédi theorem has since been given by David Conlon, Jacob Fox, and Yufei Zhao.[33][34]

The Erdős conjecture on arithmetic progressions would imply both Szemerédi's theorem and the Green–Tao theorem.

## Notes

1. ^ Erdős, Paul; Turán, Paul (1936). "On some sequences of integers" (PDF). Journal of the London Mathematical Society. 11 (4): 261–264. doi:10.1112/jlms/s1-11.4.261. MR 1574918.
2. ^ Roth, Klaus Friedrich (1953). "On certain sets of integers". Journal of the London Mathematical Society. 28 (1): 104–109. doi:10.1112/jlms/s1-28.1.104. MR 0051853. Zbl 0050.04002.
3. ^ Szemerédi, Endre (1969). "On sets of integers containing no four elements in arithmetic progression". Acta Math. Acad. Sci. Hung. 20 (1–2): 89–104. doi:10.1007/BF01894569. MR 0245555. Zbl 0175.04301.
4. ^ Roth, Klaus Friedrich (1972). "Irregularities of sequences relative to arithmetic progressions, IV". Periodica Math. Hungar. 2 (1–4): 301–326. doi:10.1007/BF02018670. MR 0369311.
5. ^ Szemerédi, Endre (1975). "On sets of integers containing no k elements in arithmetic progression" (PDF). Acta Arithmetica. 27: 199–245. doi:10.4064/aa-27-1-199-245. MR 0369312. Zbl 0303.10056.
6. ^ Erdős, Paul (2013). "Some of My Favorite Problems and Results". In Graham, Ronald L.; Nešetřil, Jaroslav; Butler, Steve (eds.). The Mathematics of Paul Erdős I (Second ed.). New York: Springer. pp. 51–70. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-7258-2_3. ISBN 978-1-4614-7257-5. MR 1425174.
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8. ^ Furstenberg, Hillel; Katznelson, Yitzhak; Ornstein, Donald Samuel (1982). "The ergodic theoretical proof of Szemerédi's theorem". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 7 (3): 527–552. doi:10.1090/S0273-0979-1982-15052-2. MR 0670131.
9. ^ a b Gowers, Timothy (2001). "A new proof of Szemerédi's theorem". Geom. Funct. Anal. 11 (3): 465–588. doi:10.1007/s00039-001-0332-9. MR 1844079.
10. ^ Tao, Terence (2007). "The dichotomy between structure and randomness, arithmetic progressions, and the primes". In Sanz-Solé, Marta; Soria, Javier; Varona, Juan Luis; Verdera, Joan (eds.). Proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians Madrid, August 22–30, 2006. International Congress of Mathematicians. 1. Zürich: European Mathematical Society. pp. 581–608. arXiv:math/0512114. doi:10.4171/022-1/22. ISBN 978-3-03719-022-7. MR 2334204.
11. ^ a b O'Bryant, Kevin (2011). "Sets of integers that do not contain long arithmetic progressions". Electronic Journal of Combinatorics. 18 (1). doi:10.37236/546. MR 2788676.
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