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recently I had to solve some diophantine equations in the form $x^2 + n y^2 = b $ in the variables $x$ and $y$, for various fixed values of $n$, and $b$.

Other than "bruteforcing" it, are there some ways to know if, given $n$ and $b$, this equation has at least a solution?

Edit: $n$ and $b$ are both positive integers

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  • $\begingroup$ Brute forcing is quick enough conditional if you use continuous fractions. $\endgroup$ – Stan Tendijck Sep 8 '19 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ Are $n$ and $b$ necessarily integers as well? $\endgroup$ – XYZT Sep 8 '19 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ @StanTendijck Thank you for your comment! Can you give me some more details/reference? $\endgroup$ – dade Sep 8 '19 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ @XYZT Yes, they must be positive integers... I will edit my question $\endgroup$ – dade Sep 8 '19 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ I would write it out for you but I'm actually on holiday :p Michel Waldschmidt "Diophantine approximations and continued fractions" $\endgroup$ – Stan Tendijck Sep 8 '19 at 14:41
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Because of the Brahmagupta–Fibonacci identity, it is enough to answer the question for $b$ prime. But then the answer depends on the arithmetic of quadratic fields. The answer is not simple but it is fascinating. See the book Primes of the Form $x^2+ny^2$, by David Cox.

A good introduction is the case $n=1$, which is solved by Fermat's theorem on sums of two squares .

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    $\begingroup$ Of course, the role of the Brahmagupta-Fibonacci identity should not be misunderstood as saying that $b$ is represented by $x^2+ny^2$ iff its prime divisors are. $\endgroup$ – Bart Michels Sep 9 '19 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, thank you for the Brahmagupta identity, it will be surely useful in the future... Unfortunately it does not solve my question as @punctureddusk pointed out. $\endgroup$ – dade Sep 9 '19 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ @punctureddusk, good point! $\endgroup$ – lhf Sep 9 '19 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ @lhf I think this answer would benefit from correcting (or just qualifying) the claim in the first line that the problem reduces to the case of prime $b$. $\endgroup$ – Erick Wong Sep 20 '19 at 4:45

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