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Let $\gcd(a,n)=\gcd(b,n)=1$. How to show that $\gcd(ab,n)=1$? This is a problem that is an exercise in my course.


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I am going to attempt to circumvent some of the other potential answerers - This is one of several number theory exercises that you have asked without showing your work. Since the ideas used here are exactly the same in your last question, I give you the HINT that you should use those answers, i.e. read them, comprehend them, and then apply them here. When you have progress to show or get stuck at a step, let us know. – mixedmath Sep 5 '11 at 22:21

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

HINT $\rm\ \ (n,ab)\ =\ (n,nb,ab)\ =\ (n,(n,a)\:b)\ =\ (n,b)\ =\ 1\ $ using prior said GCD laws.

Such exercises are easy on applying the basic GCD laws that I mentioned in your prior questions, viz. the associative, commutative, distributive and modular law $\rm\:(a,b+c\:a) = (a,b)\:.$ In fact, to make such proofs more intuitive one can write $\rm\:gcd(a,b)\:$ as $\rm\:a\dot+ b\:$ and then use familar arithmetic laws, e.g. see this proof of the GCD Freshman's Dream $\rm\:(a\:\dot+\: b)^n =\: a^n\: \dot+\: b^n\:.$

NOTE $\ $ Also worth emphasis is that not only are proofs using GCD laws more general, they are also more efficient notationally, hence more easily comprehensible. As an example, below is a proof using the GCD laws, followed by a proof using the Bezout identity (from Gerry's answer).

$\begin{eqnarray} \qquad 1&=& &\rm(a\:,\ \ n)\ &\rm (b\:,\ \ n)&=&\rm\:(ab,\ &\rm n\:(a\:,\ &\rm b\:,\ &\rm n))\ \ =\ \ (ab,n) \\ 1&=&\rm &\rm (ar\!\!+\!\!ns)\:&\rm(bt\!\!+\!\!nu)&=&\rm\ \ ab\:(rt)\!\!+\!\!&\rm n\:(aru\!\!+\!\!&\rm bst\!\!+\!\!&\rm nsu)\ \ so\ \ (ab,n)=1 \end{eqnarray}$

Notice how the first proof using GCD laws avoids all the extraneous Bezout variables $\rm\:r,s,t,u\:,\:$ which play no conceptual role but, rather, only serve to obfuscate the true essence of the matter. Further, without such noise obscuring our view, we can immediately see a natural generalization of the GCD-law based proof, namely

$$\rm\ (a,\ b,\ n)\ =\ 1\ \ \Rightarrow\ \ (ab,\:n)\ =\ (a,\ n)\:(b,\ n) $$

This quickly leads to various refinement-based views of unique factorizations, e.g. the Euclid-Euler Four Number Theorem (Vierzahlensatz) or, more generally, Schreier refinement and Riesz interpolation. See also Paul Cohn's excellent 1973 Monthly survey Unique Factorization Domains.


$\gcd(a,n)=1$ implies $ar+ns=1$ for some integers $r,s$. $\gcd(b,n)=1$ implies $bt+nu=1$ for some integers $t,u$. So $$1=(ar+ns)(bt+nu)=(ab)(rt)+(aru+sbt+snu)n$$ so $\gcd(ab,n)=1$.

My answer shows how eliminating the unnecessary Bezout identities both simplifies and generalizes the proof. – Bill Dubuque Sep 10 '11 at 23:37
@Bill, sure, but your answer also requires knowing what you call "the basic GCD laws", which themselves require proof. – Gerry Myerson Sep 11 '11 at 0:02

Let $P(x)$ be the set of primes that divide $x$. Then $\gcd(a,n)=1$ iff $P(a)$ and $P(n)$ are disjoint. Since $P(ab)=P(a)\cup P(b)$ (*), $\gcd(a,n)=\gcd(b,n)=1$ implies that $P(ab)$ and $P(n)$ are disjoint, which means that $\gcd(ab,n)=1$.

(*) Here we use that if a prime divides $ab$ then it divides $a$ or $b$.


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