4 minute read

Today Arun asked me the following question:

“Under what conditions will a set $\{p_1,\ldots,p_n\}$ of polynomials be quadratically independent, in the sense that $\{p_1^2, p_1p_2, p_2^2, p_1p_3,\ldots,p_{n-1}p_n, p_n^2\}$ is a linearly independent set?”

I wasn’t able to make much progress on this general question, but in the specific setting where the $p_i$ are all polynomials in one variable, and we further restrict to just monomials, (i.e. $p_i(x) = x^{d_i}$ for some $d_i$), the condition is just that there are no distinct unordered pairs $(i_1,j_1),(i_2,j_2)$ such that $d_{i_1} + d_{j_1} = d_{i_2} + d_{j_2}$. Arun was interested in the largest such a set could be for a given maximum degree $D$, so we are left with the following interesting combinatorics problem:

“What is the largest subset $S$ of $\{1,\ldots,D\}$ such that no two distinct pairs of elements of $S$ have the same sum?”

For convenience of notation let $n$ denote the size of $S$. A simple upper bound is $\binom{N+1}{2} \leq 2D-1$, since there are $\binom{N+1}{2}$ pairs to take a sum of, and all pairwise sums lie between $2$ and $2D$. We therefore have $n = O(\sqrt{D})$.

** Read more**