Minerva Lecture I: Sets with few ordinary lines

Minerva Lecture I: Sets with few ordinary lines

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Prof. Terence Tao, UCLA
McDonnell Hall A02

Given n points in the plane, an _ordinary line_ is a line that contains exactly two of these points, and a _3-rich line_ is a line that contains exactly three of these points.  An old problem of Dirac and Motzkin seeks to determine the minimum number of ordinary lines spanned by n noncollinear points, and an even older problem of Sylvester (the "orchard planting problem") seeks to determine the maximum number of 3-rich lines.  In recent work with Ben Green, both these problems were solved for sufficiently large n, by combining tools from topology (Euler's formula), algebraic geometry (the Cayley-Bacharach theorem, and the classification of cubic curves), additive combinatorics (via the group structure of said cubic curves), and even some Galois theory (through the theorem of Poonen and Rubinstein that a non-central interior point in the unit disk can pass through at most seven chords connecting roots of unity).  We will discuss how these ingredients enter into the solution to these problems in this talk.  

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