A group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set of elements together with an operation that satisfies four conditions: closure, associativity, identity and invertibility. Group theory studies groups.

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Nice examples of groups which are not obviously groups

I am searching for some groups, where it is not so obvious that they are groups. In the lectures script there are only examples like $\mathbb{Z}$ under addition and other things like that. I don't ...
184
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1answer
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Is there a 0-1 law for the theory of groups?

For each first order sentence $\phi$ in the language of groups, define : $$p_N(\phi)=\frac{\text{number of nonisomorphic groups $G$ of order} \le N\text{ such that } \phi \text{ is valid in } G}{\...
154
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2answers
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Can we ascertain that there exists an epimorphism $G\rightarrow H$?

Let $G,H$ be finite groups. Suppose we have an epimorphism $$G\times G\rightarrow H\times H$$ Can we find an epimorphism $G\rightarrow H$?
96
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2answers
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Does a four-variable analog of the Hall-Witt identity exist?

Lately I have been thinking about commutator formulas, sparked by rereading the following paragraph in Isaacs (p.125): An amazing commutator formula is the Hall-Witt identity: $$[x,y^{-1},z]^y[y,z^...
90
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1answer
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Is there a characterization of groups with the property $\forall N\unlhd G,\:\exists H\leq G\text{ s.t. }H\cong G/N$?

A common mistake for beginning group theory students is the belief that a quotient of a group $G$ is necessarily isomorphic to a subgroup of $G$. Is there a characterization of the groups in which ...
84
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2answers
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More than 99% of groups of order less than 2000 are of order 1024?

In Algebra: Chapter 0, the author made a remark (footnote on page 82), saying that more than 99% of groups of order less than 2000 are of order 1024. Is this for real? How can one deduce this result? ...
67
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8answers
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Are there real world applications of finite group theory?

I would like to know whether there are examples where finite group theory can be directly applied to solve real world problems outside of mathematics. (Sufficiently applied mathematics such as ...
65
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2answers
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Reference request for tricky problem in elementary group theory

The following could have shown up as an exercise in a basic Abstract Algebra text, and if anyone can give me a reference, I will be most grateful. Consider a set $X$ with an associative law of ...
64
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6answers
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Why are groups more important than semigroups?

This is an open-ended question, as is probably obvious from the title. I understand that it may not be appreciated and I will try not to ask too many such questions. But this one has been bothering me ...
64
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4answers
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How is a group made up of simple groups?

I've read more than once the analogy between simple groups and prime numbers, stating that any group is built up from simple groups, like any number is built from prime numbers. I've recently started ...
63
votes
4answers
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The direct sum $\oplus$ versus the cartesian product $\times$

In the case of abelian groups, I have been treating these two set operations as more or less indistinguishable. In early mathematics courses, one normally defines $A^n := A\times A\times\ldots\times A$...
60
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6answers
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What kind of “symmetry” is the symmetric group about?

There are two concepts which are very similar literally in abstract algebra: symmetric group and symmetry group. By definition, the symmetric group on a set is the group consisting of all bijections ...
60
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1answer
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How was the Monster's existence originally suspected?

I've read in many places that the Monster group was suspected to exist before it was actually proven to exist, and further that many of its properties were deduced contingent upon existence. For ...
58
votes
12answers
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Do groups, rings and fields have practical applications in CS? If so, what are some?

This is ONE thing about my undergraduate studies in computer science that I haven't been able to 'link' in my real life (academic and professional). Almost everything I studied I've observed be ...
58
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1answer
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Is Lagrange's theorem the most basic result in finite group theory?

Motivated by this question, can one prove that the order of an element in a finite group divides the order of the group without using Lagrange's theorem? (Or, equivalently, that the order of the group ...
54
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10answers
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Does $G\cong G/H$ imply that $H$ is trivial?

Let $G$ be any group such that $$G\cong G/H$$ where $H$ is a normal subgroup of $G$. If $G$ is finite, then $H$ is the trivial subgroup $\{e\}$. Does the result still hold when $G$ is infinite ? In ...
53
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4answers
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Algebra: Best mental images

I'm curious how people think of Algebras (in the universal sense, i.e., monoids, groups, rings, etc.). Cayley diagrams of groups with few generators are useful for thinking about group actions on ...
47
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14answers
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“Natural” example of cosets

Do you know natural/concrete/appealing examples of right/left cosets in group theory ? This notion is a powerful tool but also a very abstract one for beginners so this is why I'm looking for ...
46
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9answers
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Examples of group-theoretic results more easily obtained through topology or geometry

Earlier, I was looking at a question here about the abelianization of a certain group $X$. Since $X$ was the fundamental group of a closed surface $\Sigma$, it was easy to compute $X^{ab}$ as $\pi_1(\...
46
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1answer
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What is the algebraic structure of functions with fixed points?

So I just noticed that the set of functions with a fixed point $$f(x_0)=x_0,$$ are closed under composition $$(f\circ g)(x):=g(f(x)),$$ and with $e(x)=x$, the inverible functions even seem to form ...
43
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2answers
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What kind of work do modern day algebraists do?

Often times in my studies I get the impression that algebra is just a tool to help with other branches of mathematics, like algebraic geometry, algebraic number theory, algebraic topology, etc. How ...
43
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2answers
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Is there a group with exactly 92 elements of order 3?

The number of elements of order 2 in a group is fairly restricted: 0, odd, or infinity. All such possibilities occur already in the trivial group and in dihedral groups. The number of elements of ...
42
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10answers
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Examples of finite nonabelian groups.

Can anybody provide some examples of finite nonabelian groups which are not symmetric groups or dihedral groups?
40
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5answers
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What structure does the alternating group preserve?

A common way to define a group is as the group of structure-preserving transformations on some structured set. For example, the symmetric group on a set $X$ preserves no structure: or, in other words,...
40
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1answer
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Ignoring elements of small order in the simple group of order $60$

The simple group of order $60$ can be generated by the permutations $(1,2)(3,4)$ and $(1,3,5)$, but all you need to do is square the first one and it becomes the identity. Can't we find a version of ...
39
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3answers
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If I know the order of every element in a group, do I know the group?

Suppose $G$ is a finite group and I know for every $k \leq |G|$ that exactly $n_k$ elements in $G$ have order $k$. Do I know what the group is? Is there a counterexample where two groups $G$ and $H$ ...
38
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4answers
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Center-commutator duality

I'm reading this article by Keith Conrad, on subgroup series. I'm having trouble with a statement he does at page 6: Any subgroup of $G$ which contains $[G,G]$ is normal in $G$. He says this as ...
38
votes
3answers
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Alternative proofs that $A_5$ is simple

What different ways are there to prove that the group $A_5$ is simple? I've collected these so far: By directly working with the cycles: page 483 of http://www.math.uiowa.edu/~goodman/algebrabook....
38
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2answers
784 views

Is there a geometric idea behind Sylow's theorems?

I have a confession to make: none of the proofs of Sylow's theorems I saw clicked with me. My first abstract algebra courses were more on the algebraic side (without mention of group actions and ...
37
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3answers
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Why do we define quotient groups for normal subgroups only?

Let $G \in \mathbf{Grp}$, $H \leq G$, $G/H := \lbrace gH: g \in G \rbrace$. We can then introduce group operation on $G/H$ as $(xH)*(yH) := (xy)H$, so that $G/H$ becomes a quotient group when $H$ is a ...
37
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6answers
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Can $S^2$ be turned into a topological group?

I know that $S^1$ and $S^3$ can be turned into topological groups by considering complex multiplication and quaternion multiplication respectively, but I don't know how to prove or disprove that $S^2$ ...
37
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6answers
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Intuition behind conjugation in group theory

I am learning group theory, and while learning automorphisms, I came across conjugation as an example in many textbooks. Though the definition itself, (and when considering the case of abelian groups),...
36
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5answers
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Can every group be represented by a group of matrices?

Can every group be represented by a group of matrices? Or are there any counterexamples? Is it possible to prove this from the group axioms?
35
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11answers
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Amazing isomorphisms [closed]

Just as a recreational topic, what group/ring/other algebraic structure isomorphisms you know that seem unusual, or downright unintuitive? Are there such structures which we don't yet know whether ...
35
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1answer
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Automorphisms inducing automorphisms of quotient groups

Let $G$ be a group, with $N$ characteristic in $G$. As $N$ is characteristic, every automorphism of $G$ induces an automorphism of $G/N$. Thus, $\operatorname{Aut}(G)\rightarrow \operatorname{Aut}(G/N)...
34
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4answers
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Does every set have a group structure?

I know that there is no vector space having precisely $6$ elements. Does every set have a group structure?
34
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8answers
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Why do we care about two subgroups being conjugate?

In classifications of the subgroups of a given group, results are often stated up to conjugacy. I would like to know why this is. More generally, I don't understand why "conjugacy" is an equivalence ...
34
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4answers
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Prove that if $(ab)^i = a^ib^i \forall a,b\in G$ for three consecutive integers $i$ then G is abelian

I've been working on this problem listed in Herstein's Topics in Algebra (Chapter 2.3, problem 4): If $G$ is a group such that $(ab)^i = a^ib^i$ for three consecutive integers $i$ for all $a, b\in ...
34
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2answers
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Can I recover a group by its homomorphisms?

There is finitely generated group $G$ which I don't know. For every finite group $H$ I can think of, I know the number of homomorphisms $G \to H$ up to conjugation. (By this I mean that two ...
34
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1answer
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Isomorphic quotients by isomorphic normal subgroups

In this recent question, Iota asked if, given a finite group $G$ and two isomorphic normal subgroups $H$ and $K$, it would follow that $G/H$ and $G/K$ are isomorphic. This is not true (a simple ...
33
votes
8answers
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Is symmetric group on natural numbers countable?

I guess it is too difficult a question to ask about the cardinality of $S_{\mathbb{N}}$ so I would like to ask whether it is countable or not. I tried to prove it is uncountable somewhat mimicking ...
33
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8answers
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Why should we care about groups at all?

Someone asked me today, "Why we should care about groups at all?" I realized that I have absolutely no idea how to respond. One way to treat this might be to reduce "why should we care about groups" ...
33
votes
6answers
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What is Abstract Algebra essentially?

In the most basic sense, what is abstract algebra about? Wolfram Mathworld has the following definition: "Abstract algebra is the set of advanced topics of algebra that deal with abstract algebraic ...
33
votes
5answers
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Simplicity of $A_n$

I have seen two proofs of the simplicity of $A_n,~ n \geq 5$ (Dummit & Foote, Hungerford). But, neither of them are such that they 'stick' to the head (at least my head). In a sense, I still do ...
33
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3answers
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Where does the word “torsion” in algebra come from?

Torsion is used to refer to elements of finite order under some binary operation. It doesn't seem to bear any relation to the ordinary everyday use of the word or with its use in differential geometry ...
33
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3answers
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Why are there only a finite number of sporadic simple groups?

Is there any overarching reason why, after excluding the infinite classes of finite simple groups (cyclic, alternating, Lie-type), what remains---the sporadic, exceptional finite simple groups, is in ...
33
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2answers
738 views

What is the least $n$ such that it is possible to embed $\operatorname{GL}_2(\mathbb{F}_5)$ into $S_n$?

Let $\operatorname{GL}_2(\mathbb{F}_5)$ be the group of invertible $2\times 2$ matrices over $\mathbb{F}_5$, and $S_n$ be the group of permutations of $n$ objects. What is the least $n\in\mathbb{N}...
33
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1answer
718 views

Sudokus as composition tables of finite groups

If $G$ is a finite group then the composition table of $G$ is a latin square (ie, each row and column contains each group element exactly once). Assume now that $|G| = n^2$ for some natural number $n$...
32
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4answers
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Finite Groups with exactly $n$ conjugacy classes $(n=2,3,…)$

I am looking to classify (up to isomorphism) those finite groups $G$ with exactly 2 conjugacy classes. If $G$ is abelian, then each element forms its own conjugacy class, so only the cyclic group of ...
32
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2answers
571 views

Are there/Why aren't there any simple groups with orders like this?

The orders of the simple groups (ignoring the matrix groups for which the problem is solved) all seem to be a lot like this: ...