Adelic approach plus the view about evolution as emergence of increasingly complex extensions of rationals leads to a possible answer to th question of the title. The algebraic extensions of rationals are characterized by preferred rational primes, namely those which are ramified when expressed in terms of the primes of the extensions. These primes would be natural candidates for preferred p-adic primes.
1. Earlier attempts
How the preferred primes emerges in this framework? I have made several attempts to answer this question.
- Classical non-determinism at space-time level for real space-time sheets could in some length scale range involving rational discretization for space-time surface itself or for parameters characterizing it as a preferred extremal correspond to the non-determinism of p-adic differential equations due to the presence of pseudo constants which have vanishing p-adic derivative. Pseudo- constants are functions depend on finite number of pinary digits of its arguments.
- The quantum criticality of TGD is suggested to be realized in in terms of infinite hierarchies of super-symplectic symmetry breakings in the sense that only a sub-algebra with conformal weights which are n-multiples of those for the entire algebra act as conformal gauge symmetries. This might be true for all conformal algebras involved. One has fractal hierarchy since the sub-algebras in question are isomorphic: only the scale of conformal gauge symmetry increases in the phase transition increasing n. The hierarchies correspond to sequences of integers n(i) such tht n(i) divides n(i+1). These hierarchies would very naturally correspond to hierarchies of inclusions of hyper-finite factors and m(i)= n(i+1)/n(i) could correspond to the integer n characterizing the index of inclusion, which has value n≥ 3. Possible problem is that m(i)=2 would not correspond to Jones inclusion. Why the scaling by power of two would be different? The natural question is whether the primes dividing n(i) or m(i) could define the preferred primes.
- Negentropic entanglement corresponds to entanglement for which density matrix is projector. For n-dimensional projector any prime p dividing n gives rise to negentropic entanglement in the sense that the number theoretic entanglement entropy defined by Shannon formula by replacing pi in log(pi)= log(1/n) by its p-adic norm Np(1/n) is negative if p divides n and maximal for the prime for which the dividing power of prime is largest power-of-prime factor of n. The identification of p-adic primes as factors of n is highly attractive idea. The obvious question is whether n corresponds to the integer characterizing a level in the hierarchy of conformal symmetry breakings.
- The adelic picture about TGD led to the question whether the notion of unitary could be generalized. S-matrix would be unitary in adelic sense in the sense that Pm=(SS†)mm=1 would generalize to adelic context so that one would have product of real norm and p-adic norms of Pm. In the intersection of the realities and p-adicities Pm for reals would be rational and if real and p-adic Pm correspond to the same rational, the condition would be satisfied. The condition that Pm≤ 1 seems however natural and forces separate unitary in each sector so that this options seems too tricky.
2. Could preferred primes characterize algebraic extensions of rationals?
The intuitive feeling is that the notion of preferred prime is something extremely deep and the deepest thing I know is number theory. Does one end up with preferred primes in number theory? This question brought to my mind the notion of ramification of primes (see this) (more precisely, of prime ideals of number field in its extension), which happens only for special primes in a given extension of number field, say rationals. Could this be the mechanism assigning preferred prime(s) to a given elementary system, such as elementary particle? I have not considered their role earlier also their hierarchy is highly relevant in the number theoretical vision about TGD.
- Stating it very roughly (I hope that mathematicians tolerate this language): As one goes from number field K, say rationals Q, to its algebraic extension L, the original prime ideals in the so called integral closure (see this) over integers of K decompose to products of prime ideals of L (prime is a more rigorous manner to express primeness).
Integral closure for integers of number field K is defined as the set of elements of K, which are roots of some monic polynomial with coefficients, which are integers of K and having the form xn+an-1xn-1+...+a0 . The integral closures of both K and L are considered. For instance, integral closure of algebraic extension of K over K is the extension itself. The integral closure of complex numbers over ordinary integers is the set of algebraic numbers.
- There are two further basic notions related to ramification and characterizing it. Relative discriminant is the ideal divided by all ramified ideals in K and relative different is the ideal of L divided by all ramified Pi:s. Note that te general ideal is analog of integer and these ideas represent the analogous of product of preferred primes P of K and primes Pi of L dividing them.
- A physical analogy is provided by decomposition of hadrons to valence quarks. Elementary particles becomes composite of more elementary particles in the extension. The decomposition to these more elementary primes is of form P= ∏ Pie(i), where ei is the ramification index - the physical analog would be the number of elementary particles of type i in the state (see this). Could the ramified rational primes could define the physically preferred primes for a given elementary system?
- In p-adic context a proper definition of counterparts of angle variables as phases allowing definition of the analogs of trigonometric functions requires the introduction of algebraic extension giving rise to some roots of unity. Their number depends on the angular resolution. These roots allow to define the counterparts of ordinary trigonometric functions - the naive generalization based on Taylors series is not periodic - and also allows to defined the counterpart of definite integral in these degrees of freedom as discrete Fourier analysis. For the simplest algebraic extensions defined by xn-1 for which Galois group is abelian are are unramified so that something else is needed. One has decomposition P= ∏ Pie(i), e(i)=1, analogous to n-fermion state so that simplest cyclic extension does not give rise to a ramification and there are no preferred primes.
- What kind of polynomials could define preferred algebraic extensions of rationals? Irreducible polynomials are certainly an attractive candidate since any polynomial reduces to a product of them. One can say that they define the elementary particles of number theory. Irreducible polynomials have integer coefficients having the property that they do not decompose to products of polynomials with rational coefficients. It would be wrong to say that only these algebraic extensions can appear but there is a temptation to say that one can reduce the study of extensions to their study. One can even consider the possibility that string world sheets associated with products of irreducible polynomials are unstable against decay to those characterize irreducible polynomials.
- What can one say about irreducible polynomials? Eisenstein criterion states following. If Q(x)= ∑k=0,..,n akxk is n:th order polynomial with integer coefficients and with the property that there exists at least one prime dividing all coefficients ai except an and that p2 does not divide a0, then Q is irreducible. Thus one can assign one or more preferred primes to the algebraic extension defined by an irreducible polynomial Q - in fact any polynomial
allowing ramification. There are also other kinds of irreducible polynomials since Eisenstein's condition is only sufficient but not necessary.
- Furthermore, in the algebraic extension defined by Q, the primes P having the above mentioned characteristic property decompose to an n :th power of single prime Pi: P= Pin. The primes are maximally/completely ramified. The physical analog P=P0n is Bose-Einstein condensate of n bosons. There is a strong temptation to identify the preferred primes of irreducible polynomials as preferred p-adic primes.
A good illustration is provided by equations x2+1=0 allowing roots x+/-=+/- i and equation x2+2px+p=0 allowing roots x+/-= -p+/-p1/2p-11/2. In the first case the ideals associated with +/- i are different. In the second case these ideals are one and the same since x+= =- x- +p: hence one indeed has ramification. Note that the first example represents also an example of irreducible polynomial, which does not satisfy Eisenstein criterion. In more general case the n conditions on defined by symmetric functions of roots imply that the ideals are one and same when Eisenstein conditions are satisfied.
- What does this mean in p-adic context? The identity of the ideals can be stated by saying P= P0n for the ideals defined by the primes satisfying the Eisenstein condition. Very loosely one can say that the algebraic extension defined by the root involves n:th root of p-adic prime p. This does not work! Extension would have a number whose n:th power is zero modulo p. On the other hand, the p-adic numbers of the extension modulo p should be finite field but this would not be field anymore since there would exist a number whose n:th power vanishes. The algebraic extension simply does not exist for preferred primes. The physical meaning of this will be considered later.
- What is so nice that one could readily construct polynomials giving rise to given preferred primes. The complex roots of these polymials could correspond to the points of partonic 2-surfaces carrying fermions and defining the ends of boundaries of string world sheet. It must be however emphasized that the form of the polynomial depends on the choices of the complex coordinate. For instance, the shift x→ x+1 transforms (xn-1)/(x-1) to a polynomial satisfying the Eisenstein criterion. One should be able to fix allowed coordinate changes in such a manner that the extension remains irreducible for all allowed coordinate changes.
Already the integral shift of the complex coordinate affects the situation. It would seem that only the action of the allowed coordinate changes must reduce to the action of Galois group permuting the roots of polynomials. A natural assumption is that the complex coordinate corresponds to a complex coordinate transforming linearly under subgroup of isometries of the imbedding space.
3. A connection with Langlands program?
In Langlands program (see this) the great vision is that the n-dimensional representations of Galois groups G characterizing algebraic extensions of rationals or more general number fields define n-dimensional adelic representations of adelic Lie groups, in particular the adelic linear group Gl(n,A). This would mean that it is possible to reduce these representations to a number theory for adeles. This would be highly relevant in the vision about TGD as a generalized number theory. I have speculated with this possibility earlier (see this) but the mathematics is so horribly abstract that it takes decade before one can have even hope of building a rough vision.
One can wonder whether the irreducible polynomials could define the preferred extensions K of rationals such that the maximal abelian extensions of the fields K would in turn define the adeles utilized in Langlands program. At least one might hope that everything reduces to the maximally ramified extensions.
At the level of TGD string world sheets with parameters in an extension defined by an irreducible polynomial would define an adele containing various p-adic number fields defined by the primes of the extension. This would define a hierarchy in which the prime ideals of previous level would decompose to those of the higher level. Each irreducible extension of rationals would correspond to some physically preferred p-adic primes.
It should be possible to tell what the preferred character means in terms of the adelic representations. What happens for these representations of Galois group in this case? This is known.
- For Galois extensions ramification indices are constant: e(i)=e and Galois group acts transitively on ideals Pi dividing P. One obtains an n-dimensional representation of Galois group. Same applies to the subgroup of Galois group G/I where I is subgroup of G leaving Pi invariant. This group is called inertia group. For the maximally ramified case G maps the ideal P0 in P=P0n to itself so that G=I and the action of Galois group is trivial taking P0 to itself, and one obtains singlet representations.
- The trivial action of Galois group looks like a technical problem for Langlands program and also for TGD unless the singletness of Pi under G has some physical interpretation. One possibility is that Galois group acts as like a gauge group and here the hierarchy of sub-algebras of super-symplectic algebra labelled by integers n is highly suggestive. This raises obvious questions. Could the integer n characterizing the sub-algebra of super-symplectic algebra acting as conformal gauge transformations, define the integer defined by the product of ramified primes? P0n brings in mind the n conformal equivalence classes which remain invariant under the conformal transformations acting as gauge transformiations. . Recalling that relative discriminant is an of K ideal divisible by ramified prime ideals of K, this means that n would correspond to the relative discriminant for K=Q.
Are the preferred primes those which are "physical" in the sense that one can assign to the states satisfying conformal gauge conditions?
4. A connection with infinite primes?
Infinite primes are one of the mathematical outcomes of TGD. There are two kinds of infinite primes. There are the analogs of free many particle states consisting of fermions and bosons labelled by primes of the previous level in the hierarchy. They correspond to states of a supersymmetric arithmetic quantum field theory or actually a hierarchy of them obtained by a repeated second quantization of this theory. A connection between infinite primes representing bound states and and irreducible polynomials is highly suggestive.
- The infinite prime representing free many-particle state decomposes to a sum of infinite part and finite part having no common finite prime divisors so that prime is obtained. The infinite part is obtained from "fermionic vacuum" X= ∏kpk by dividing away some fermionic primes pi and adding their product so that one has X→ X/m+ m, where m is square free integer. Also m=1 is allowed and is analogous to fermionic vacuum interpreted as Dirac sea without holes. X is infinite prime and pure many-fermion state physically. One can add bosons by multiplying X with any integers having no common denominators with m and its prime decomposition defines the bosonic contents of the state. One can also multiply m by any integers whose prime factors are prime factors of m.
- There are also infinite primes, which are analogs of bound states and at the lowest level of the hierarchy they correspond to irreducible polynomials P(x) with integer coefficients. At the second levels the bound states would naturally correspond to irreducible polynomials Pn(x) with coefficients Qk(y), which are infinite integers at the previous level of the hierarchy.
- What is remarkable that bound state infinite primes at given level of hierarchy would define maximally ramified algebraic extensions at previous level. One indeed has infinite hierarchy of infinite primes since the infinite primes at given level are infinite primes in the sense that they are not divisible by the primes of the previous level. The formal construction works as such. Infinite primes correspond to polynomials of single variable at the first level, polynomials of two variables at second level, and so on. Could the Langlands program could be generalized from the extensions of rationals to polynomials of complex argument and that one would obtain infinite hierarchy?
- Infinite integers in turn could correspond to products of irreducible polynomials defining more general extensions. This raises the conjecture that infinite primes for an extension K of rationals could code for the algebraic extensions of K quite generally. If infinite primes correspond to real quantum states they would thus correspond the extensions of rationals to which the parameters appearing in the functions defining partonic 2-surfaces and string world sheets.
This would support the view that partonic 2-surfaces associated with algebraic extensions defined by infinite integers and thus not irreducible are unstable against decay to partonic 2-surfaces which corresponds to extensions assignable to infinite primes. Infinite composite integer defining intermediate unstable state would decay to its composites. Basic particle physics phenomenology would have number theoretic analog and even more.
- According to Wikipedia, Eisenstein's criterion (see this) allows generalization and what comes in mind is that it applies in exactly the same form also at the higher levels of the hierarchy. Primes would be only replaced with prime polynomials and the there would be at least one prime polynomial Q(y) dividing the coefficients of Pn(x) except the highest one such that its square would not divide P0. Infinite primes would give rise to an infinite hierarchy of functions of many complex variables. At first level zeros of function would give discrete points at partonic 2-surface. At second level one would obtain 2-D surface: partonic 2-surfaces or string world sheet. At the next level one would obtain 4-D surfaces. What about higher levels? Does one obtain higher dimensional objects or something else. The union of n 2-surfaces can be interpreted also as 2n-dimensional surface and one could think that the hierarchy describes a hierarchy of unions of correlated partonic 2-surfaces. The correlation would be due to the preferred extremal property of Kähler action.
One can ask whether this hierarchy could allow to generalize number theoretical Langlands to the case of function fields using the notion of prime function assignable to infinite prime. What this hierarchy of polynomials of arbitrary many complex arguments means physically is unclear. Do these polynomials describe many-particle states consisting of partonic 2-surface such that there is a correlation between them as sub-manifolds of the same space-time sheet representing a preferred extremals of Kähler action?
- This looks sensible and maybe even practical! Infinite primes can be mapped to prime polynomials so that the generalized p-adic numbers would be power series in prime polynomial - Taylor expansion in the coordinate variable defined by the infinite prime. Note that infinite primes (irreducible polynomials) would give rise to a hierarchy of preferred coordinate variables. In terms of infinite primes this expansion would require that coefficients are smaller than the infinite prime P used. Are the coefficients lower level primes? Or also infinite integers at the same level smaller than the infinite prime in question? This criterion makes sense since one can calculate the ratios of infinite primes as real numbers.
- I would guess that the definition of infinite-P p-adicity is not a problem since mathematicians have generalized the number theoretical notions to such a level of abstraction much above of a layman like me. The basic question is how to define p-adic norm for the infinite primes (infinite only in real sense, p-adically they have unit norm for all lower level primes) so that it is finite.
- There exists an extremely general definition of generalized p-adic number fields (see this). One considers Dedekind domain D, which is a generalization of integers for ordinary number field having the property that ideals factorize uniquely to prime ideals. Now D would contain infinite integers. One introduces the field E of fractions consisting of infinite rationals.
Consider element e of E and a general fractional ideal eD as counterpart of ordinary rational and decompose it to a ratio of products of powers of ideals defined by prime ideals, now those defined by infinite primes. The general expression for the p-adic norm of x is x-ord(P), where n defines the total number of ideals P appearing in the factorization of a fractional ideal in E: this number can be also negative for rationals. When the residue field is finite (finite field G(p,1) for p-adic numbers), one can take c to the number of its elements (c=p for p-adic numbers.
Now it seems that this number is not finite since the number of ordinary primes smaller than P is infinite! But this is not a problem since the topology for completion does not depend on the value of c. The simple infinite primes at the first level (free many-particle states) can be mapped to ordinary rationals and q-adic norm suggests itself: could it be that infinite-P p-adicity corresponds to q-adicity discussed by Khrennikov about p-adic analysics. Note however that q-adic numbers are not a field.
For details see the article The Origin of Preferred p-Adic Primes?.
For a summary of earlier postings see Links to the latest progress in TGD.