Mathematics, Department of


Date of this Version



Published as Judy L. Walker, Codes and curves, 2002 (Student mathematical library, v. 7. IAS/Park City mathematical subseries). ISBN 0-8218-2628-X


Copyright 2000 American Mathematical Society. Used by permission.


When information is transmitted, errors are likely to occur. Coding theory examines effi cient ways of packaging data so that these errors can be detected, or even corrected. The traditional tools of coding theory have come from combinatorics and group theory. Lately, however, coding theorists have added techniques from algebraic geometry to their toolboxes. In particular, by re-interpreting the Reed- Solomon codes, one can see how to defi ne new codes based on divisors on algebraic curves. For instance, using modular curves over fi nite fi elds, Tsfasman, Vladut, and Zink showed that one can defi ne a sequence of codes with asymptotically better parameters than any previously known codes. This monograph is based on a series of lectures the author gave as part of the IAS/PCMI program on arithmetic algebraic geometry. Here, the reader is introduced to the exciting fi eld of algebraic geometric coding theory. Presenting the material in the same conversational tone of the lectures, the author covers linear codes, including cyclic codes, and both bounds and asymptotic bounds on the parameters of codes. Algebraic geometry is introduced, with particular attention given to projective curves, rational functions and divisors. The construction of algebraic geometric codes is given, and the Tsfasman-Vladut-Zink result mentioned above is discussed.