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# 2 Group Actions Denition. Let G be a group, and a set. A (left) action of G on is a map : G , such that 1.

hat 1. (e, x) = x for all x , and 2. (g, (h, x)) = (gh, x) for all g, h G and x . We shall generally write gx for (g, x), except where this leads to ambiguities, or where other notation is more convenient. By the second axiom, we may unambiguously write ghx without bracketing. [A right action of G on is dened similarly, but with the group elements written on the right instead of the left; this is not purely a notational difference, as the second axiom in this case becomes ( (x, g), h) = (x, gh). It can easily be checked that if x gx is a left action, then x xg1 denes a right action, and vice versa.] Examples. 1. 2. 3. The dihedral group D2n acts on a regular n-gon. (Take to be the set of vertices, for instance.) The symmetric group Sn acts on the set {1, . . . , n}. The general linear group GLn (R) acts on Rn , considered as column vectors. (It also has a right action

on row vectors.) Denition. Let G be a group acting on a set . Let x . 1. 2. The orbit of x, written OrbG (x), is the set {gx | g G}. The stabilizer of x, written StabG (x), is the set {g G | gx = x}. Note that OrbG (x) is a subset of , while StabG (x) is a subset of G. Proposition 9. Let G be a group acting on a set , and let x . Then StabG (x) G. Proof. Suppose that g, h StabG (x). Then ghx = g(hx) = gx = x, and so gh StabG (x). Also g1 x = g1 (gx) = ex = x, and so g1 StabG (x). So StabG (x) is a subgroup of G. Theorem 10. Orbit-Stabilizer Theorem

Let G be a nite group acting on a set , and let x . Then |G| = | OrbG (x)|| StabG (x)|. Proof. Let S = StabG (x). Let g, h G. We observe that gx = hx h1 gx = x h1 g S gS = hS. It follows that the number of distinct elements in OrbG (x) is equal to the number of cosets gS for g G. But this is |G|/|S|, and the theorem follows. 9

Proposition 11. Let G be a group acting on a set . Then the relation R on dened by R(x, y) if and only if y OrbG (x) is an equivalence relation, whose equivalence classes are the orbits of G on . (Briey: the orbits of G partition .) Proof. We need to show that R is reexive, symmetric, and transitive. Reexive. We have ex = x for all x , and so R(x, x). Symmetric. Suppose R(x, y). Then y = gx for some g G. Now g1y = g1 gx = x, and so R(y, x). Transitive. Suppose R(x, y) and R(y, z). Then there are g, h G such that y = gx and z = hy. But now (hg)x = h(gx) = h = z, and so R(x, z). Recall that for a set , the group Sym() consists of all permutations on (i.e. invertible functions ) under composition. Proposition 12. Let G be a group acting on a set . Then for all g G the map g : x gx is a permutation of . Moreover, the map : g g is a homomorphism G Sym(). Certainly g is a function , and it is a permutation since it has the inverse g1 . We note that gh (x) = (gh)x = g(hx) = g h (x), and so is a homomorphism as required. Denition. Let G be a group acting on a set . 1. 2. 3. We say that the action of G is transitive if OrbG (x) = for any x . The kernel of the action is the kernel of the homomorphism from Proposition 12; that is to say, the We say that the action is faithful if its kernel is {e}.

## set {g G | gx = x for all x }.

A. Four important group actions In this section, let G be any group. We introduce four important actions of G. Every one of these actions plays an important part in the general theory of groups. Action 1: action of G on itself by (left) translation. This is an action of G on itself, i.e. we have = G; it is sometimes called the left regular action. It is given by (g, x) gx, where gx here denotes multiplication in G. So for this action, our usual notation for a group action is in happy agreement with our standard notation for group multiplication. It is easy to show that this is indeed an action, since ex = x for all x G, and since (gh)x = g(hx) by the associativity axiom for groups. There is a similar right action given by (x, g) = xg; this is the right regular action. Let x, y G. If g = yx1 , then y = gx. Hence OrbG (x) = G, and so this action is transitive. The action is faithful, since clearly its kernel is {e}; in fact StabG (x) = {e} for every x G. This gives an easy proof of the following theorem.

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Theorem 13.

Cayleys Theorem

Let G be a nite group. Then G is isomorphic to a subgroup of Sn for some n. Proof. By Proposition 12 there is a homomorphism : G Sym(G) whose kernel is {e}, the kernel of the action dened above. Now G = G/{e} = Im by the First Isomorphism Theorem. But Im is a subgroup of Sym(G), and Sym(G) = Sn , where n = |G|. Example. Cayleys Theorem predicts that the action of S3 on itself by translation should give an injective homomorphism of S3 into S6 (since |S3 | = 6). To avoid a notational clash, we let S3 act on {a, b, c} instead of the usual {1, 2, 3}. We shall assign each element of S3 a number, 1, . . . , 6, as follows: e = 1; (a b) = 2; (a c) = 3; (b c) = 4; (a b c) = 5; (a c b) = 6.

The map x ex clearly leaves each x xed, and so the permutation effected on {1, . . . , 6} is the identity. Next consider the map x (a b)x; we calculate (a b)1 = 2; (a b)2 = 1; (a b)3 = 6; (a b)4 = 5; (a b)5 = 4; (a b)6 = 3.

So translation by (a b) effects the permutation (1 2)(3 6)(4 5) on the (numbered) elements of S3 . The remaining elements of S3 can be treated similarly; we obtain the homomorphism eS3 eS6 , (a b) (1 2)(3 6)(4 5), (a b c) (1 5 6)(2 3 4), (a c) (1 3)(2 5)(4 6), (a c b) (1 6 5)(2 4 3).

## (b c) (1 4)(2 5)(3 6),

(It should be pointed out that this is far being from the only injective homomorphism of S3 into S6 .) Action 2: action of G on the (left) cosets of a subgroup. Let H be a subgroup of G. For this action we take = {xH | x G}; the action is given by (g, xH ) gxH . It is easy to show that this is indeed an action. (There is a similar right action of G on the right cosets, given by (Hx, g) = Hxg.) Let xH , yH . Then putting g = yx1 , we have gxH = yH . Hence yH OrbG (xH ) for all x, y, and so the action is transitive. For any xH , we have gxH = xH gx xH g xHx1 . So we have StabG (xH ) = xHx1 . Action 3: action of G on itself by conjugation. This is another action for which = G, but it is very different from the left regular action. It is given by (g, x) gxg1 . This is an action for which we cannot use our standard notation gx for the action of g on 11

x, since this would conict with group multiplication. Instead we write g x for gxg1 , which we call the conjugate of x by g. This denes an action, since e x = exe1 = x, and
gh

## x = (gh)x(gh)1 = ghxh1 g1 = g (hxh1 = g (h x).

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There is a similar right action given by (x, g) g1 xg. We may write xg for g1 xg; note that xg = g x. The orbits of the conjugacy action are known as conjugacy classes. We write G x, or else ConG (x), for the conjugacy class of x. The stabilizer of x is the subgroup {g G | gx = xg}. This is known as the centralizer of x in G, and written CentG (x). By the Orbit-Stabilizer Theorem, if G is nite, then |G| = | ConG (x)|| CentG (x)|. This action is never transitive if |G| > 1, since the identity e lies in a conjugacy class on its own. The kernel of the action is the subgroup {g G | gx = xg for all x G}. This is known as the centre of G, and written Z (G). Action 4: action of G on its subgroups by conjugation. Let be the set of all subgroups of G. Then G acts on by (g, H ) gHg1 . We have seen that gHg1 is the stabilizer of gH under Action 2; so it is a subgroup of G, called. We write gH for gHg1 , and call it the conjugate of H by g. It is easy to check that the map is an action of G. A subgroup H of G is normal if and only if OrbG (H ) = {H }. The stabilizer of a subgroup H is known as the normalizer of H in G, and written NG (H ). It is the largest subgroup of G of which H is a normal subgroup.

3 Sylows Theorems Let G be a group with nite order n. Lagranges Theorem tells us that the order of any subgroup of G is a divisor of n. It is not in general the case that G has a subgroup of order d for every divisor d of n. For instance, the group A4 , which has order 12, has no subgroup of order 6. In this section, however, we show that in the special case that d is a power of a prime number, G does have a subgroup of order d . Denition. Let p be a prime number. 1. 2. 3. A nite group whose order is a power of p is said to be a p-group. If G is a group, and H a subgroup of G which is a p-group, then H is a p-subgroup of G. An element of G whose order is a power of p is a p-element of G. We deal rst with subgroups of prime order.

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Theorem 14.

Cauchys Theorem

Let p be a prime, and G a nite group whose order is divisible by p. Then G has an element of order p. Note that if g has order p, then g is a subgroup of order p. So an equivalent statement of this theorem is that a group whose order is divisible by p has a subgroup of order p. Proof. Let be the set of p-tuples of elements of G whose product is the identity; i.e. = {(g1 , . . . , g p ) G p | g1 . . . g p = e}. Notice that the tuple (g1 , . . . , g p ) belongs to if and only if g p = (g1 . . . g p1 )1 . This observation has two important consequences. Firstly, it allows us to calculate the size of as |G| p1 , since for any choice of g1 , . . . , g p1 there is a unique g p such that (g1 , . . . , g p ) . Secondly, it shows that (g1 , . . . , g p ) (g p , g1 , . . . , g p1 ) , since inverses in groups are two-sided. Let be a generator of the cyclic group Cp . Then there is an action of Cp on given by (g1 , . . . , g p ) = (g p , g1 , . . . , g p1 ). By the Orbit-Stabilizer Theorem, every orbit of this action has size divisible by p. If there are M orbits of size 1, and N orbits of size p, then we clearly have || = M + pN . But || = |G| p1 is divisible by p (since |G| is), and it follows that p divides M . Clearly the orbit of (e, . . . , e) has size 1, and so M > 0. Therefore there exists at least one other orbit of size 1. But the unique element of this orbit is xed by , and so it has the form (g, . . . , g) for some g G such that g p = e. Now g is an element of order p in G, as required. The principal theorems of this chapter, named collectively after the Norwegian mathematician Ludwig Sylow, deal with the case of subgroups whose order is the largest power of a prime p which divides |G|. These are some of the most important theorems in group theory. As with the Isomorphism Theorems in Section 1, there is no standard way of numbering these results; some authors choose to collect them together into a single theorem. Theorem 15. First Sylow Theorem

Let G be a nite group of order n, let p be prime, and let pa be the largest power of p dividing n. Then G has a subgroup of order pa . Denition. Let G be a nite group. If p is prime, and pa the largest power of p dividing |G|, then a subgroup of G whose order is pa is known as a Sylow p-subgroup of G. We write Syl p (G) for the set of Sylow psubgroups of G. Theorem 16. Second Sylow Theorem

## Let G be a nite group, and p a prime. Then | Syl p (G)| 1 mod p. 13

Remark. It is clear that Theorem 16 implies Theorem 15, since if | Syl p (G)| is congruent to 1 mod p then it cannot be 0. However the logical structure of our argument will be to establish Theorem 15 rst, and to derive Theorem 16 and the other Sylow Theorems as consequences. Theorem 17. Third Sylow Theorem

Let G be a nite group, and p a prime. Every p-subgroup of G is contained in at least one Sylow p-subgroup. Theorem 18. Fourth Sylow Theorem

Let G be a nite group, and p a prime. The Sylow p-subgroups of G form a single conjugacy class of subgroups, i.e. if P, Q Syl p (G) then there exists g G such that Q = g P. Before embarking on the proof of the First Sylow Theorem, we recall that Z (G), the centre of G, is dened to be {g G | gh = hg for all h g}. It is clear that an element g of G lies in a conjugacy class of size 1 if and only if g Z (G), since for any h G we have h g = g gh = hg. For this reason, the conjugacy classes of size 1 are known as the central conjugacy classes. If G is a nite group, then it has nitely many conjugacy classes, and so nitely many non-central classes. Suppose that C1 , . . . Ck are the non-central conjugacy classes of G; so |Ci | > 1 for all i. Then since G is partitioned by its conjugacy classes, and since the central conjugacy classes are those which lie in Z (G), we have the Class Equation for G:
k

## |G| = |Z (G)| + We are now in a position to begin the proof.

|Ci |.
i=1

Proof of First Sylow Theorem. We proceed by induction on n, the order of G. Our inductive hypothesis is that every group whose order is less than n possesses a Sylow p-subgroup. We show that a group of order n has a Sylow p-subgroup. If p does not divide n, then {e} is a Sylow p-subgroup (of order p0 ) for G. So we may suppose that the highest power of p dividing n is pa where a > 0. We consider two cases: Case i. p divides |Z (G)|. Then by Cauchys Theorem, Z (G) has a subgroup K of order p. Now observe that if k K then gk = kg for all g G (since k is central), and so gK = Kg for all g. So K G. The quotient G/K has order n/ p, which is less than n, and so by the inductive hypothesis, G/K has a Sylow p-subgroup Q of order pa1 . By Propositions 2 and 3 we see that there is a subgroup of P of G which contains K such that P/K = Q. Now |P| = |K ||Q| = pa , and so P is a Sylow p-subgroup of G. Case ii. p does not divide |Z (G)|. Then consider the class equation: by assumption p divides |G|, but it does not divide |Z (G)|. Therefore p does not divide i |Ci |, and so there is at least one non-central conjugacy class Ci whose size is not divisible by p. Let x Ci . We have |Ci || CentG (x)| = |G| by the Orbit-Stabilizer Theorem, and it follows that pa divides | CentG (x)|. But since |Ci | > 1, we see that | CentG (x)| < n, and so by

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the inductive hypothesis, CentG (x) has a Sylow p-subgroup P. But |P| = pa , and so P is a Sylow p-subgroup of G. For the proofs of the other Sylow Theorems, the following proposition will be needed. Proposition 19. Let G be a nite group, and let p be prime. Let P be a Sylow p-subgroup of G, and Q any p-subgroup. Then either Q P, or else there exists q Q such that qPq1 = P. An equivalent statement is: if P Syl p (G), and if Q is a p-subgroup of NG (P), then Q P. Proof. Suppose qPq1 = P for all q Q. Then qP = Pq for all q, and so QP = PQ. Hence PQ is a subgroup of G of order |P||Q|/|P Q|, by Proposition 5. Clearly |P||Q| is a power of p; but since P is a Sylow p-subgroup of G, the order of PQ cannot be greater than |P|. Hence |P Q| = |Q|, and so Q P as required. Proof of Second, Third and Fourth Sylow Theorems. Let G be a nite group, and p a prime. By the First Sylow Theorem, G has a Sylow p-subgroup P. Let be the set of subgroups of G which are conjugate to P in G. Then every element of is a Sylow p-subgroup of G. Consider the action of P on by conjugation. Clearly OrbP (P) has size 1. If P is another element of then P is not a subgroup of P , and so by Proposition 19 it does not normalize P . But since | OrbP (P )| divides |P|, it is a power of p greater than 1, and so it is divisible by p. Therefore is the union of P-orbits whose sizes are divisible by p, together with one part of size 1, and it follows that || 1 mod p. Let Q be a p-subgroup of G, and consider the action of Q on . Since the size of any Q-orbit is a power of p, and since the union of the orbits is , whose size is 1 mod p, we see that there must be an orbit of size 1. So there exists some P such that Q NG (P ). Now by Proposition 19 it follows that Q P . We have shown that every p-subgroup lies in one of the Sylow p-subgroups in the set , and this establishes the Third Sylow Theorem. Furthermore, if the subgroup Q is a Sylow p-subgroup, then clearly we must have Q = P , and so = Syl p (G). It follows that Syl p (G) is a single conjugacy class of subgroups of G, whose size is 1 mod p, and this establishes the Second and Fourth Sylow Theorems. We note that the Fourth Sylow Theorem has the following corollary. Corollary 20. Let G be a nite group and p a prime. Then | Syl p (G)| divides |G|. Proof. The Sylow p-subgroups form a single orbit under the conjugacy action of G; the size of an orbit divides |G| by the Orbit-Stabilizer Theorem. It remains to deal with p-subgroups which are not Sylow subgroups. We shall need the following fact. Proposition 21. Let p be a prime, and let G be a non-trivial p-group. Then the center Z (G) is non-trivial.

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Proof. The size of any conjugacy class of G divides |G|, and is therefore a power of p. Consider the class equation for G (given before the proof of the First Sylow Theorem). Since p divides |G|, and also |Ci | for each i, we see that p divides |Z (G)|. This implies that |Z (G)| > 1. Proposition 22. Let G be a nite group, and p a prime, and let pb be a power of p dividing |G|. Then G has a subgroup of order pb . Proof. Since any group has a Sylow p-subgroup, it will be sufcient to prove the theorem in the case that G is a p-group. So let us suppose that |G| = pa . We proceed by induction on a; our inductive property P(a) is that any group of order pa has a subgroup of order pb for all b < a. We observe that P(1) is certainly true; this is the base case for the induction. Suppose as our inductive hypothesis that P(a) holds, and let G be a group of order pa+1 . Let b < a + 1. If b = 0 then {e} is a subgroup of G of order pb , so we may assume that b > 0. By Proposition 21, the centre Z (G) is a non-trivial p-group. We now argue as in Case i. of the proof of the First Sylow Theorem. By Cauchys Theorem, Z (G) has a subgroup K of order p, and K G. The quotient G/K has order pa , and so by the inductive hypothesis, G/K has a subgroup Q of order pb1 . Now by Propositions 2 and 3, there is a subgroup of P of G containing K , such that P/K = Q, and clearly P has order pb as required.

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