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Emanuel Stiuler

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SylvesterGallai Theorem
In 1893, Sylvester posed a question in the Educational Times that was to remain unsolved for 40
years until it was raised again by Erdos and solved by Gallai, with an affine approach. Several other
proofs emerged: Steinbergs proof in the projective plane, Kellys Euclidean proof and Langs dual
theorem proof.
The question was stated as follows:
Let n given points have the property that the line joining any two of them passes through a
third point of the set. Must the n points all lie on one line?
Lets first define the following, and then restate Sylvesters question:
P is a finite set of 3 or more noncollinear points in the plane.
F is a finite collection of simple closed curves (lines at infinity) in the real projective plane which
do not separate the plane, every two of which have exactly one point in common, where they cross.
F is known as a pseudoline arrangement.
A connecting line is a line containing two or more points of P.
An ordinary line is a connecting line which has exactly two points of P on it.
A vertex is an intersection of two or more lines of a straight line arrangement or pseudolines of
a pseudoline arrangement.
An ordinary point is a vertex which is the intersection of exactly two lines or two pseudolines.
Using the definitions above, a restatement of the Sylvesters Theorem is as follows:
Every set P of points always determines an ordinary line.
(Either all the points are collinear; or there is a line which contains exactly two of the points.)
By the principle of duality, proofs for point configurations carry over trivially into proofs for line
arrangements and vice versa. The canonical correspondence maps the point (a, b) to the line y =
ax + b. Therefore, the dual of the theorem is as follows:
Any straight line arrangement in which not all lines are concurrent has an ordinary point.
The DiracMotzkin conjecture. Having determined the existence of an ordinary line (or point,
in the dual problem), attention was turned to the problem of establishing the number of ordinary
lines (or points).
For P an allowable set of pointsone not all of whose elements are collinearlet m(P) denote
the number of ordinary lines determined by P.
Define m(n) = min m(P), where P ranges over all allowable sets of points of cardinality |P| = n.
De Bruijn and Erdos proved that m(n) 3, and this was proved again by Dirac, who conjectured
that there were at least [n/2] ordinary lines. In a different context, Melchior proved again the m(n)
3 bound. Motzkin improved this to m(n) > 2. Kelly and Moser improved the lower bound
to 3n/7. Kelly and Rottenberg proved the same result for pseudoline arrangements. Hansen proved
that there exist at least 6n/13 ordinary lines.
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