Exploring the Enigma: The Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem

Hilbert’s 16th problem called “Problem of the topology of algebraic curves and surface

By syonfox started on sept 4 2023

Restricted version of the infinitesimal Hilbert 16th problem.pdf

Introduction: Imagine a world where mathematics meets art, where equations transform into shapes, and where the beauty of algebraic curves intertwines with the mysteries of critical points. Welcome to the realm of the Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem, a mathematical puzzle that has intrigued researchers for decades. In this blog post, we will embark on a journey to understand this enigmatic problem, but first, let's lay the groundwork by exploring some essential prerequisites.

Prerequisite 1: Real Algebraic Geometry

Before delving into the Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem, it's crucial to grasp the fundamentals of real algebraic geometry. This branch of mathematics deals with real solutions of polynomial equations and their geometric interpretations. To get started, check out this Wikipedia article on Real Algebraic Geometry.

Prerequisite 2: Singularities and Critical Points

Understanding critical points and singularities plays a pivotal role in solving the Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem. These concepts are fundamental in singularity theory, which has wide-ranging applications in various fields. To learn more, visit the Wikipedia page on Singularity Theory.

example concept the idea of flattening a one-dimensional string to create singularities in the context of Singularity Theory.

Imagine a String: Start by picturing a long, thin string. In its natural state, it's like a one-dimensional line, stretching out indefinitely. This string can be thought of as a simple mathematical object, almost like a perfectly straight road.

The Ideal Manifold: In mathematics, we often work with idealized shapes and objects called manifolds. A manifold is like the perfectly smooth road without any bumps or irregularities. In the case of the string, it would be like considering it as a one-dimensional manifold—a smooth, straight line with no kinks or twists.

Creating Singularities: Now, let's introduce a transformation. Imagine taking this string and crumpling it up into a messy ball in your hand. You're intentionally adding irregularities and complexities to it.

The Flattening Process: Next, you drop this crumpled string onto the floor and decide to flatten it out. As you press it down and smooth it out, something interesting happens. The string may not perfectly return to its initial straight line shape. Instead, in some places, it might intersect with itself, forming shapes that resemble the letter "X."

The "X" Shape: These points where the string crosses itself in an approximate "X" shape are precisely the singularities we're discussing in Singularity Theory. They represent places where the smooth, idealized one-dimensional manifold (the straight string) becomes irregular and non-smooth when crumpled and flattened.

Study of Singularities: In mathematics, Singularity Theory delves into precisely these kinds of situations—where smooth objects develop irregularities or singular points. It explores the properties of these singularities, how they arise, and their significance in various mathematical and scientific contexts.

So, by visualizing the process of crumpling and flattening a one-dimensional string, you can gain an intuitive understanding of how singularities can emerge in mathematical spaces and why they are of interest in Singularity Theory.

Prerequisite 3: Differential Forms and Integration

The Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem involves polynomial one-forms and their integrals over curves. This connects to differential geometry, a branch of mathematics that deals with smooth surfaces and curves. Get acquainted with the basics by exploring the Wikipedia article on Differential Geometry.

Prerequisite 4: Topology and Algebra

Topological concepts are intertwined with the problem, particularly the idea of connected components and topological structures. Dive deeper into this realm by reading about Topology and Algebraic Topology on Wikipedia.

Prerequisite 5: Computational Mathematics

Efficient numerical algorithms are essential when tackling the Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem. Familiarize yourself with the field of computational mathematics, which involves solving mathematical problems using computers. You can start by exploring the Wikipedia article on Computational Mathematics.

Prerequisite 6: Complexity Theory

To understand the computational challenges posed by this problem, it's helpful to have some knowledge of computational complexity theory. Learn about the concepts of complexity classes and problem difficulty in the Wikipedia article on Computational Complexity Theory.

The Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem: A Deeper Dive Now that we've laid the groundwork with these prerequisites, let's plunge into the depths of the Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem itself. This intriguing puzzle revolves around finding upper bounds for the number of real zeros of certain integrals over polynomial curves. Despite being posed more than 30 years ago, it remains unsolved in its full generality, making it a captivating challenge for mathematicians.

Applications and Implications In addition to its intrinsic mathematical beauty, the Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem has far-reaching applications in various fields, including engineering, physics, and computer science. Its study contributes not only to advancing mathematical knowledge but also to solving real-world problems.

As we continue our exploration of the mathematical universe, we'll dive deeper into the problem's history, theorems, and recent advancements. Stay tuned for more insights into this captivating enigma!


The Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem is a mathematical puzzle rooted in real algebraic geometry and singularity theory. It revolves around finding upper bounds for the number of real zeros of specific integrals over polynomial curves. The conjecture discussed suggests that under certain conditions, there exists a path of polynomials such that the number of real zeros remains bounded. If true, this conjecture would provide a solution to the problem.

Problem Statement: The Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem seeks to determine an upper bound for the number of real zeros of a particular integral (denoted as IH0) over real ovals of a polynomial H0. This problem is of significant interest in the study of real algebraic geometry and singularities.

Key Conjecture: A crucial conjecture posits that for any degree n polynomial, there exists a specific path of polynomials starting from H0 and ending at H1, such that:

Implications: If the conjecture holds, it would provide a solution to the Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem. This solution would have profound implications, as it would limit the number of real zeros for integral IH0 to be no more than a certain value N( n). This result has applications in various fields, including:

In essence, solving the Infinitesimal Hilbert 16th Problem sheds light on the behavior of real solutions to polynomial equations and opens doors to advancements in mathematics and its applications in science and engineering.

To clarify, the problem is about analyzing the properties of polynomial curves in 2D space (with two variables) and understanding how many real solutions an integral over these curves can have. It does not involve transformations between different dimensions like 1D to 2D or 2D to 3D.

The second part of Hilbert's 16th problem, which deals with the existence of limit cycles in polynomial vector fields, remained an open question for many years. It was only in 1987 that significant progress was made when mathematicians Ecalle and Ilyashenko independently provided proofs that a polynomial vector field indeed has a finite number of limit cycles.

report07w5021.pdf Here's a summary of the key ideas behind their breakthroughs:

  1. Compactifying Phase Space: One of the fundamental steps in their approach was to compactify the phase space. This means transforming the problem from working with unbounded spaces to more manageable, compact regions. In this case, they used the Poincaré disk as a compact representation of the phase space.

  2. Limit Cycles and Accumulation: The concept of limit cycles in dynamical systems refers to isolated periodic solutions. The problem they tackled was whether there could be an infinite number of such limit cycles. To analyze this, they considered the possibility of limit cycles accumulating on a graphic, also known as a polycycle.

  1. Blowing Up Singularities: To handle the situation where limit cycles accumulate on a graphic, they employed a technique called "blowing up the singularities." This mathematical transformation allows for a detailed study of graphics with hyperbolic or semi-hyperbolic singularities (those with at least one nonzero eigenvalue).

  2. Studying the Return Map: In the neighborhood of these graphics, they focused on studying the return map, which describes how trajectories evolve over time. They aimed to determine whether this map exhibited oscillatory behavior or not.

  3. Non-Oscillatory Behavior: The key insight from their work was to demonstrate that in the presence of hyperbolic or semi-hyperbolic singularities, the return map did not exhibit oscillations. This finding was crucial because it implied that limit cycles could not accumulate indefinitely.

In summary, Ecalle and Ilyashenko's groundbreaking work addressed Hilbert's 16th problem by proving that polynomial vector fields have a finite number of limit cycles. Their proofs involved sophisticated techniques like compactification, blowing up singularities, and the study of return maps. This achievement significantly advanced the understanding of dynamical systems and has applications in fields ranging from physics to engineering.


Let's simplify the complex mathematical idea into an ELI5 (Explain Like I'm 5) explanation:

Imagine you have a special machine that draws lines on a piece of paper. These lines can be straight or curved, and the machine can keep drawing them forever. But we want to know something important: Can the machine draw some lines in a special way that they keep going in circles forever, without ever stopping?

Well, a long time ago, some really smart people asked this question about these line-drawing machines. They wanted to know if there could be many, many circles or just a few.

To figure this out, they had to do some very tricky math. First, they made the paper into a special shape, like a round plate. Then, they looked at how the lines behave when they get close to each other.

What they found was amazing! They showed that no matter how the lines are drawn, they can't keep making circles forever. There can only be a few circles, not an endless number of them.

Think of it like this: Imagine drawing lines on a round plate, and you want to make loops. No matter how you draw the lines, you can't keep making loops without stopping. There will only be a few loops, not too many.

So, these smart people used their special math to prove that the line-drawing machine can't keep making circles forever. They found the answer to a very tough question, and it helps us understand how things move in a special way.

... wikie's_sixteenth_problem It was shown in 1991/1992 by Yulii Ilyashenko and Jean Écalle that every polynomial vector field in the plane has only finitely many limit cycles (a 1923 article by Henri Dulac claiming a proof of this statement had been shown to contain a gap in 1981). This statement is not obvious, since it is easy to construct smooth (C∞) vector fields in the plane with infinitely many concentric limit cycles.[3] S0273-0979-02-00946-1.pdf