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An arithmetic regularity lemma, associated counting lemma, and applications

Ben Green, Terence Tao
Arxiv ID: 1002.2028Last updated: 11/26/2020
Szemeredi's regularity lemma can be viewed as a rough structure theorem for arbitrary dense graphs, decomposing such graphs into a structured piece (a partition into cells with edge densities), a small error (corresponding to irregular cells), and a uniform piece (the pseudorandom deviations from the edge densities). We establish an arithmetic regularity lemma that similarly decomposes bounded functions f : [N] -> C, into a (well-equidistributed, virtual) -step nilsequence, an error which is small in L^2 and a further error which is miniscule in the Gowers U^{s+1}-norm, where s is a positive integer. We then establish a complementary arithmetic counting lemma that counts arithmetic patterns in the nilsequence component of f. We provide a number of applications of these lemmas: a proof of Szemeredi's theorem on arithmetic progressions, a proof of a conjecture of Bergelson, Host and Kra, and a generalisation of certain results of Gowers and Wolf. Our result is dependent on the inverse conjecture for the Gowers U^{s+1} norm, recently established for general s by the authors and T. Ziegler. REVISED November 2020: This paper has been revised so that only systems of linear forms satisfying a condition called the flag property are covered by the counting lemma. Translation-invariant systems, as well as systems of Cauchy-Schwarz complexity 1 and some other naturally-occurring systems have this property. We thank Daniel Altman for drawing our attention to what appeared to be a minor technical issue in one of our proofs but which ultimately led us to realise that the the counting lemma fails quite badly (with rather simple examples, which we shall describe) without some assumption of this type. Additionally, we supply a short appendix showing that the Gowers-Wolf complexity of a system is bounded by its Cauchy-Schwarz complexity.

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