## Introduction

*This is just a short note to provide an alternative way of proving and using De Moivre’s Theorem. It is inspired by the fact that the geometric multiplication of complex numbers appeared on the Leaving Cert Project Maths paper (even though it isn’t on the syllabus — lol). It assumes familiarity with the basic properties of the complex numbers.*

## Complex Numbers

Arguably, the complex numbers arose as a way to find the roots of *all* polynomial functions. A polynomial function is a function that is a sum of powers of . For example, is a polynomial. The highest non-zero power of a polynomial is called it’s *degree*. Ordinarily at LC level we consider polynomials where the multiples of — the coefficients — are real numbers, but a lot of the theory holds when the coefficients are complex numbers (note that the Conjugate Root Theorem only holds when the coefficients are real). Here we won’t say anything about the coefficients and just call them numbers.

### Definition

Let be numbers such that . Then

,

is a *polynomial of degree .*

In many instances, the first thing we want to know about a polynomial is what are its *roots. *The roots of a polynomial are the inputs such that the output .

### Definition

A number is a *root *of a polynomial if and only if .

The roots of are where the graph cuts the -axis at and .

It didn’t take long for 16th century mathematicians to realise that some polynomials with real coefficients had roots that could be expressed with such fantastical quantities as . They showed that these polynomials had solutions if the ‘ficticious quantity’ was allowed. These polynomials were fairly simple but not as simple as . Consider the roots of :

.

If we want to be able to solve *all *polynomials we need complex numbers — and the *Fundamental Theorem of Algebra *says that the complex numbers are enough — we don’t need stranger and stranger types of numbers to find the roots of polynomials.

### Definition

A *complex number *is a number of the form where . We denote the set of complex numbers by .

The addition and multiplication of complex numbers can just be defined in the natural way:

.

There is essentially nothing wrong with this but the *Argand Diagram *hints at a more geometric realisation of complex numbers. The Argand Diagram is a plane where the complex number is represented by the coordinate :

The complex number represented on the Argand Diagram

Now there is another way to look as complex numbers — as vectors with a magnitude (distance from the origin) and direction (angle made with the positive real-axis).

A quick application of Pythagoras Theorem shows that the magnitude, , of a complex number , is given by (also denoted by ). The angle, or argument, of is harder to write a single definition for but in this case is given by .

This implies that instead of writing or even , we could write . These are called *polar coordinates — *while the ‘normal’ coordinates are called *cartesian coordinates *(i.e. ). Suppose we know that a complex number is given in polar coordinates by — what is this in cartesian coordinates? That is, suppose — what are ?

Take the sine and cosine of .

We have that

, and

.

Thus is given by:

.

Just to be safe, we should make sure that if , then and . That is a straightforward exercise, and that is clear from the definition of sine and cosine.

## Multiplication of Complex Numbers

As mentioned above, we can define the multiplication of complex of numbers in a very natural way. Consider the complex numbers . By definition, ; therefore ; and .

Multiplying by is the same by rotating through the right angle . Does this work for other numbers? Suppose has argument ; is found by rotating through ?

The answer to this is YES. Algebraic multiplication of complex numbers corresponds to rotation in the geometric picture. To be precise, if is a complex number with argument , and is a complex number with argument , then the argument of is — plus a rotation through an angle — i.e. the argument of is .

What about the magnitude of ? Luckily, the situation is the same as for real numbers — if , then we have

.

To show that is a standard exercise in cartesian coordinates; here we give our main result where this fact is showed even more straightforwardly.

### Proposition

*Suppose that has magnitude and argument ; and has magnitude and argument . Then the product of and has magnitude and argument .*

*Proof *: We simply compute:

,

,

,

.

Now note the identities:

,

.

Therefore

.

That is has magnitude and argument

In other words, we can simplify the multiplication of complex numbers to

.

A lot more elegant in my opinion than the standard approach!

### Remarks

Note that if we multiply together complex numbers and such that , we can just take out multiples of as and for . Compare this with . We can see from the Argand Diagram that has argument so multiplying by four more times will add a rotation of each time yielding . But of course this is just equivalent to — and once we note that we have that must equal .

Given a complex number in cartesian coordinates ; its *conjugate *is defined as . Again we can think of conjugates geometrically; taking conjugates corresponds to changing the sign of the imaginary part of — convince yourself that this is the same as symmetry in the -axis:

The conjugate of is given by .

Now if you multiply by , you rotate through an angle bringing it onto the real axis. This explains why a complex number multiplied by its conjugate is a real number. It is clear that

.

We can also derive a nice expression of the division of by the non-zero (note that if and only if ). Now

.

Now is just that number that when multiplied by yields . Geometrically it is clear that . Alternatively we solve the equation

,

which has the unique (mod in argument) solution

.

Hence we have

.

## De Moivre’s Theorem

This work makes De Moivre’s Theorem very straightforward indeed.

### De Moivre’s Theorem for Natural Number Powers

*Suppose that and . Then *

*Proof *: Well, this isn’t really necessary — it really is obvious with the work done above.

,

### De Moivre’s Theorem for Integer Powers

*Suppose that and . Then *

*Proof *: The case of is covered by the last theorem. If we need

.

But , and so we just have to show

,

which is true (draw a diagram).

Now suppose , say for .

.

We have seen already seen how to do division:

as required

### Example 2007 Paper I, Q.3 (b)(i)

*Let , where . Use De Moivre’s Theorem to evaluate and .*

#### Solution

Write in polar form. A quick sketch and calculation shows that

,

.

## Roots of Unity

Recall the set of complex numbers — which can be written in polar form . What happens when we take any of these to the power of four?

,

,

,

.

So these are all numbers such that when we raise them to the power of four, we get one — that is they are fourth roots of . A good question at this point is to ask are there any more complex numbers such that ? The natural setting for this question is back in the algebra picture — it is a deep theorem that every complex polynomial has *a *root. Now we can use the factor theorem:

### Factor Theorem

*Suppose that is a polynomial. Then is a root of if and only if is a factor of .*

*Proof *: Here

The fact that a polynomial has a root implies that we can then (after polynomial long division) write it in the form

,

where is another polynomial, whose degree is one less than that of . Inductively, we then have:

### Fundamental Theorem of Algebra

*Suppose that is a polynomial of degree . Then can be written in the form*

.

*Moreover, the are the roots of . *

How is this relevant to the fourth powers of 1? Well finding solutions to is equivalent to finding roots of the polynomial . The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra guarantees that there are only four such roots — hence if we find four we know that there are no more! We will use this fact in the sequel: roots can be repeated, but if we find distinct solutions of a degree polynomial, we know that there are no more solutions.

Now we can get back to roots of unity. We now know that the th roots of unity are solutions of the equation

.

Let :

Now so the only solution to is . Now which angles are such that

?

Well this is the same as saying

for ,

for .

So let’s us try

We know there are no more solutions as the solutions are the roots of the degree polynomial

.

In fact all of this can be neatly appreciated in a picture:

Consider all of these complex numbers brought to the power of eight ():

.

Hence to find all the -th roots of unity it suffices to draw the unit circle, divide equally into sectors and these are the -roots!

Note from our multiplication that the -th roots of unity are the powers of the what we might call the *principal -th root of unity *:

* *for .

## Complex Roots: De Moivre’s Theorem for Fractional Powers

It can also be shown that DeMoivre’s Theorem holds for *fractional powers. *This is to solve equations such as

.

In a certain sense, this is the same as solving ; and we can use De Moivre’s Theorem to find . Suppose that and we want the -th root of . Using De Moivre’s Theorem we get *the principal root of :*

However there are three roots of the polynomial so there should be three solutions. Where are they? Instead I propose a much slicker way of solving these equations. I write:

,

where is the principal cube root of unity and is *the principal root* of *.* A quick sketch of and calculation shows that . A root is a solution of the equation:

,

,

.

Now the trick is that

for

are three distinct solutions to the equation — hence three distinct roots of the degree three polynomial — and therefore they are all of them.

Hence the solutions of are:

.

### Example: 2007 Paper I, Q 3(c)(i)

*Find the two complex numbers for which .*

#### Solution

We need to find the two square roots of . The two square roots of are . Now we need to write in polar form to find it’s principal square root. Now a quick sketch and calculation shows that

.

Hence the principal root of is . Now multiply by the two square roots of unity to get the two square roots of are

.

## 3 comments

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November 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Project Maths: A More Geometric Approach to De Moivre's Theorem …[…] link: Project Maths: A More Geometric Approach to De Moivre's Theorem … CLICK HERE for “Learning Multiplication & Division – Reference […]

November 21, 2015 at 1:18 pm

PupilHad to solve the equation and answer in rectangular form. Book doesn’t have answers.

November 21, 2015 at 1:35 pm

J.P. McCarthyThe first issue is that is a quadratic (like and so has TWO solutions.

You have only one. Knowing that a quadratic has TWO solutions (which can be equal!) helps when solving equations such as

.

If you take the square root of both sides:

you only get one solution. There are two solutions — where is the other? You can solve it cheaply by knowing that a quadratic has two solutions… ah, is the other (by the way the problem in taking the square root of both sides is that — if is positive and if is negative (e.g. ))!

So there are two solutions and that is the number one problem.

Here we give two solutions — the first is more general.

Solution 1: O.K., we have

.

Now the thing is that and are periodic with period . This means that

and so we actually have

where and so are ‘multiples of /full revolutions’.

Now if we apply De Moivre we get:

,

for .

Each gives a solution.

:

.

:

.

: …. well will give the same solution as … moreover the quadratic has only two solutions and we have two so we are done. The solution set is

.

Solution 2 — only works for really.

Do what you did to get

.

Note that also and so is also a solution. There are only two solutions because it is a quadratic and because we have found two we are done.

To understand this in more depth read the above piece.

Regards,

J.P.