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In the previous lectures, we have focused mostly on the equidistribution or linear patterns on a subset of the integers ${{\bf Z}}$, and in particular on intervals ${[N]}$. The integers are of course a very important domain to study in additive combinatorics; but there are also other fundamental model examples of domains to study. One of these is that of a vector space ${V}$ over a finite field ${{\bf F} = {\bf F}_p}$ of prime order. Such domains are of interest in computer science (particularly when ${p=2}$) and also in number theory; but they also serve as an important simplified “dyadic model” for the integers. See this survey article of Green for further discussion of this point.

The additive combinatorics of the integers ${{\bf Z}}$, and of vector spaces ${V}$ over finite fields, are analogous, but not quite identical. For instance, the analogue of an arithmetic progression in ${{\bf Z}}$ is a subspace of ${V}$. In many cases, the finite field theory is a little bit simpler than the integer theory; for instance, subspaces are closed under addition, whereas arithmetic progressions are only “almost” closed under addition in various senses. (For instance, ${[N]}$ is closed under addition approximately half of the time.) However, there are some ways in which the integers are better behaved. For instance, because the integers can be generated by a single generator, a homomorphism from ${{\bf Z}}$ to some other group ${G}$ can be described by a single group element ${g}$: ${n \mapsto g^n}$. However, to specify a homomorphism from a vector space ${V}$ to ${G}$ one would need to specify one group element for each dimension of ${V}$. Thus we see that there is a tradeoff when passing from ${{\bf Z}}$ (or ${[N]}$) to a vector space model; one gains a bounded torsion property, at the expense of conceding the bounded generation property. (Of course, if one wants to deal with arbitrarily large domains, one has to concede one or the other; the only additive groups that have both bounded torsion and boundedly many generators, are bounded.)

The starting point for this course (Notes 1) was the study of equidistribution of polynomials ${P: {\bf Z} \rightarrow {\bf R}/{\bf Z}}$ from the integers to the unit circle. We now turn to the parallel theory of equidistribution of polynomials ${P: V \rightarrow {\bf R}/{\bf Z}}$ from vector spaces over finite fields to the unit circle. Actually, for simplicity we will mostly focus on the classical case, when the polynomials in fact take values in the ${p^{th}}$ roots of unity (where ${p}$ is the characteristic of the field ${{\bf F} = {\bf F}_p}$). As it turns out, the non-classical case is also of importance (particularly in low characteristic), but the theory is more difficult; see these notes for some further discussion.