The Accidental Mathematician

Finite configurations in sparse sets


One more paper finished: “Finite configurations in sparse sets,” joint with Vincent Chan and Malabika Pramanik. The paper is available here, and here is the arXiv link.

Very briefly, the question we consider is the following. Let be a closed set of Hausdorff dimension . Given a system of matrices for some $m \geq n$, must contain a “non-trivial” k-point configuration

for some and ?

In general, the answer is no, even when . For instance, Keleti has constructed 1-dimensional subsets of that do not contain a similar copy of any given triple of points (in fact, his construction can avoid all similar copies of all such triples from a given sequence), as well as 1-dimensional subsets of that do not contain any non-trivial “parallelograms” . In , given any three distinct points , Maga has constructed examples of sets of dimension 2 that do not contain any similar copy of the triangle ; he also constructed sets of full dimension in , for any , that do not contain non-trivial parallelograms.

Additive combinatorics suggests, however, that sets that are “random” in an appropriate sense should he better behaved in that regard. Along these lines, Malabika Pramanik and I proved in an earlier paper that if has dimension close enough to 1, and if it also supports a measure obeying appropriate dimensionality and Fourier decay estimates, then must contain a non-trivial 3-term arithmetic progression. The same proof applies to any other configuration , with the dimension bound depending on the choice of configuration.

This paper gives a multidimensional analogue of that result. We define, via conditions on the matrices , a class of configurations that can be controlled by Fourier-analytic estimates. (Roughly, they must have enough degrees of freedom, and they must be “non-degenerate” in an appropriate sense.) For such , if has dimension close enough to , and if it supports a measure with dimensionality and Fourier decay conditions similar to those in my paper with Pramanik, then must indeed contain a non-trivial configuration as in (1).

The main new difficulty is dealing with the complicated geometry of the problem. There’s a lot of linear algebra, multiple coordinate systems, multilinear forms, and a lot of estimates on integrals where the integrand decays at different rates in different directions. At one point, we were actually using a partition of unity similar to those I remembered from my work in multiparticle scattering theory a very long time ago. That didn’t make it into the final version, though – we found a better way.

I won’t try to state the conditions on here – they’re somewhat complicated and you’ll have to download the paper for that – but I’ll mention a few special cases of our theorem.