We give an algebraic characterization of the class of spectral radii of aperiodic non-negative integral matrices, and describe a method of constructing all such matrices with given spectral radius. The logarithms of the numbers in are the entropies of mixing topological Markov shifts. There is an arithmetic structure to , including factorization into irreducibles in only finitely many ways. This arithmetic structure has dynamical consequences, such as the impossibility of factoring the p-shift into a direct product of nontrivial homeomorphisms for prime p.
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