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SemidirectProducts: x -> ax + b as a FirstExample
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Afterprecalculus, mathematics students oftenleavebehindthefamiliar familyof transx F- ax + b. We will show thatthis family,when examinedin the right formations, andimportant ideasin grouptheory. light,leadsus to some interesting By buildingon this accessibleexample,it is possible to introducethe semidirect abstract level) in an undergraduate product(a topic usuallyfirstseen at the graduate to the semidirect product,studentsare able to algebracourse.Afterbeing introduced betterunderstand the structures of some of the groupsof smallorderthataretypically discussedin a firstcoursein abstract algebra. new we learnhow to construct Constructions Earlyin anystudyof abstract algebra, groupsby takingthe (external)directproductof two groups.For this construction, we need not put any restrictions on the operations of the groupswe are combining the is defined because groupoperation for the directproduct usingthe componentwise of the factors. operations Hereis anexamplethatwe will lateruse for comparison. LetR+ denotethe additive of RX the numbers real and let denote the R, groupof the nonzero group multiplicative on x Rx. The groupoperation elementsof IR.Consider directproduct 1R+ the external the subgroup looks like addition {(b, 1)}
(d, 1)(b, 1) = (d + b, 1),

on the subgroup andthe groupoperation {(0, a)} looks like multiplication
(0, c)(O, a) = (0, ca),

butthese operations for IR+x IRX mergeinto one operation
(d, c)(b, a) = (d + b, ca).

Notice thatR+ x IR is abelianbecausebothIR+ andIR areabelianandthe operation is definedcomponentwise. It is easy to show that the externaldirectproductG = If H = {(h, 1G2)} and K = {(lG1, k)}, then G1 x G2 has the following properties: m H G K and we denote G1 G2 (where isomorphism by m). Furthermore,HK = G; H n K = {(lG1, 1G2)}, the identityin G; and H and K arenormalin G. is discovering directproducts Moreinteresting thanconstructing external arbitrary whichgroupsareinternal of two (or more)of theirsubgroups. directproducts Usually we encounterthis early-at orderfour-when we notice that the Klein four-group
V4 q Z2 x Z2. Later we learn in the fundamentaltheorem of finite abelian groups that

of cyclic groups. everyfiniteabeliangroupis the directproduct

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Finally. which is in G.bE G. Since a A 0. We will show that this is a group. notice that every affine transformation Ta. essentially constructed that earlier as tR+ x RIX).1.and N<G. N n A = {1} : a I 0}. and we notice that a condition is required. 4. without which this mapping is not a transformation. NO. Taking a = 1 and b = 0 gives the identity transformation. notice that if b A O. Next. DEFINITION. Notice that an affine transformationTa. First. although some of the groups we encounter most often in a typical undergraduateabstract algebra course are semidirect products-D2.x} = {T1.If Ta. check that we have closure under composition: if we take two maps. which we denote by G = N x>A. then this is not a linear transformationof IR1(because 0 is not fixed).b/a. then there exists a nonabelian group of order pq. where the operation is composition of transformations. Goodman [8] has a section discussing the semidirect product.b : x --> cax + (cb + d). These three properties expressing how N and A sit inside G characterizethe structurecalled an internal semidirect product. and S4 is a semidirect product of two of its subgroups.A group G is the internal semidirect product of N by A. we get Tc. D4.d o Ta. Clearly. when G contains subgroups N and A such that NA = G. the identity transformation.d : x -+ cx + d and compose them.b : x -> ax + b and : a : 0}. the symmetric group of degree n (which consists of the permutations of {1. we need to check for inverses. which are the translations. we notice that N n A = {x . more subtle way to construct groups is by the semidirect product.Finally. There is one notable + b does two distinct things to x.o from A = {x H ax : a A 0}. We can take the first step toward it by carefully exploring x v-+ ax + b. . Associativity is automatic because composition of arbitrary maps is associative.x + ad E N). It is certainly not necessary to wait until graduateschool to encounter the semidirect product. The group of affine linear transformationsof IR1is a product of the two subgroups N = {x F-* x + b} and A = {x F.d E N and Ta. denoted N < G (because if Tl. . it is not the direct product (we it is a semidirect product. This interesting structureis not usually examined in undergraduateabstract algebra texts. Ta. OCTOBER 2002 285 Another.d o Ta : x .ax + b with a : 0 the affine general linear group of R1. and Sn. say.b : x . We call the mappings x -> ax + b affine transformations and the group G of mappings x I. b = 0} = {x ~.b : x H ax + + b : a A 0 is made up by composing an element Tl. Also. Hungerford [11] and Saracino [14] relegate the semidirect product to exercises: Hungerforddefines the internal semidirect product and has an exercise to show that each of S3. and it translates by b. which are the scalings.b from N = {x -* x + b} with an element Ta. To explore this product.0. First. let us examine how the two subgroups N and A sit inside Tl. It scales x by a . and IRXis isomorphic to the subgroup A = {x F->ax + b : a : 0. notice that N is normal in G. Internal semidirect products Consider the vector space IR1and the transformations x -> ax + b. We will require a :A 0. and Saracino defines the external semidirect product and uses it in an exercise to show that if p and q are primes and p divides q .ax + b}. IR+is isomorphic to the subgroup N = {x -+ ax + b : a = 1} = {x H x + b}. since ca A O. Let G be the set of transformations {x .. then Ta-' x H->x/a ... having a in the denominator causes no problems.0}.b : x F. 2. then Ta. the dihedral group of order 2n (which consists of the symmetries of a regular n-gon).VOL. But. n}).

Notice that for IR1. but ratherthan thinking of a and d as elements of IRand ad as a product in IR. Consider conjugation of N by elements of A. The external semidirect product is anothermatter. Let A be the group of all nonsingular (that is. but D6 . the symmetries of a regularn-gon. which verifies the closure of the operation in G = NA. p.286 MATHEMATICS MAGAZINE Notice that the internal semidirect product is a generalization of the internal direct product. there are two groups of order six-D6 and Z6. Now.) Each has a (normal) subgroup of order three.Notice that the affine general linear group of Rn is the internal semidirect product of N by A where N denotes the normal subgroup of transformations {x -+ x + b} of IRn. is the semidirect product of its rotation subgroup by one of the subgroups generated by a reflection.d T. The symmetry of N and A in the definition of the direct product N x A is reflected in the use of the symmetric symbol x. which consists of the even permutations corresponds to the subgroup of rotations of D6.We need a clue to suggest to us when we can merge the operations of two unrelatedgroups into one operation in the semidirect product. it is normal) while D6 has three subgroups of order two (none of which is normal). Consider transformationsx F. o . Recall that S3 D6. (Z6 denotes the cylic group of order 6. we can generalize the definition of the affine general linear group of IR1to IRn(or any finite dimensional vector space Vwe do this near the end of this paper). Notice the ad. Recall that when we examined the affine general linear group of R1. Let xa H x + ad E N. Again. this group is called the general linear group of invertible) linear transformationsof IRn. is a noncommutative group. namely the isometries of the sphere. we carefully examine x H-> ax + b for a clue.d E N and let Ta. Z6 . 183] gives a construction of D12 as an internal direct product. The normality of N enables the manipulation (nlal)(n2a2) = (nla)(nl(a'a1)a2) = (nl(aln2a-))(aia2) E NA. b E IWn}. External semidirect products It is easy to construct external direct products because the operations of the factors do not really merge. T Tl. The smallest order nonabelian group that we meet has order six-D6 the symmetries of an equilateral triangle. (Gallian [7. Let us consider some familiar groups that are semidirect products. D2n.A is isomorphic to {x ax : a : 0}. we saw that N W R+ and A IRXdo not play equal roles in the internal semidirect product G = N >xA. The alternatinggroup A3.a(x) + b where a E A and b is an n-dimensional vector of IRn. Then Ta. The symbol for the semidirect product x is asymmetric to remind us that the two subgroups do not sit symmetrically in the semidirect product. Finally. N x A where N is the subgroup of order three (the rotations) and A is one of the subgroups of order two (one of the subgroups generated by a reflection). N is a normal subgroup. but Z6 has only one subgroup of order two (hence. Each of these transformationgroups is the semidirect product of the subgroup of translations by the subgroup of isometries that fix the origin. the symbol points to the left to remind us of which subgroup is normal.) Another semidirect product that students may have seen is the group of Euclidean isometries of the plane or of space. An interesting feature of the spatial case is that the second factor. using the internal semidirect product. It is easy to see in general that Sn is the internal semidirect product of An by a subgroup of order two generated by one of the transpositions or two-cycles. Z2 x Z3.o E A. RInand is denoted by GL(Rn).think of . We define the affine general linear group of Rn by AGL(IRn)= {x a(x) + b: a E GL(Rn). where we require that both subgroups be normal in G. In general.

the effect is simply to reproduce the group . Cayley [4] stated his theorem that every group of order n is isomorphic to a subgroup of Sn: "A set of symbols. OCTOBER 287 a E R" and d E R+ and a acting on R+. a) : b E R". NO. Let A be a subgroup of Aut(X). Recall that the symmetric group on X is the group of all bijections of X. we can construct KR >aGL(Rn). is the definition of the external semidirect product. a homomorphism 0 : A . 4. (We should not be scared of the term "acts on."And the term automorphism is just a shorthand for an isomorphism from the group to itself.b with a varying in A and b varying in X. ca). that is. we denote its image under this automorphism by 0(c)(b). and let A = {(1. 1). that is. is said to be a group. denoted Sym(X). The elements of our group are the elements of the Cartesianproduct Rn x GL(IR) = {(b. a) = (cb + d. b E X.b is simply the mapping of X into Sym(X) given by left multiplication by b.. Notice that cI. for c E A. A) to be the subgroup of Sym(X) consisting of all Pa.b be the bijection of X under which the value of any x E X is obtained by multiplying a(x) from the left by b. finally. The elements of our group are the elements of the Cartesian product R+ x IRX. Because GL(IR) acts on Rn. Because each c E RX acts on R+ as a group automorphismc(b) = cb. Notice that Aut(X) is a subgroup of the symmetric group on X. But before looking for this representation. 1) : b E X}. and the group operation is (d.2002 VOL. ca). if the image of 0 = 1. Notice that although R+ and Rx are abelian. Then. all of them different. either as furtheror nearerfactor. that is. 1) = (1. We now construct external semidirect products that are isomorphic to the two affine general linear groups we mentioned above. we can construct R+ >xRx. a) = (c(b) + d. we will write X x A.. This reminds us of Cayley's theorem. that is. belongs to the set. The external semidirect product X >xoA of the group X and the group A relative to 0 is. A) of (X.. c)(b. . the set of permutationsof X. a)(b.b(x) = ba(x). For any a E A and b E X. If 0 is trivial. then X > 0 A is simply the external direct product X x A." it is simply the modem substitute for "permutes. a. that is. This is the image in Sym(X) of the mapping b . Holomorphs and Cayley's theorem The transformationx ~-? ax + b is also a key to understandingCayley's theorem. This group is isomorphic to AGL(In).b. Here. Consider an arbitrarygroup X. Let X = {(b. We make this into a group by defining (d. 1)(1. 0(c) : X -? X.cIi. a) = (dO(c)(b). note that if X is an additive abelian group then this reduces to the now very familiar Ia." .75.) The action 0 becomes conjugation in the semidirect product.) Our example suggests that we can merge operations for an external semidirect product if there is an action of one of the groups on the other.. Recall that any a E Rx acts on R+ as a group automorphisma(d) = ad. 1. a)-1. and if b E X. c)(b. and the group operation is (d.Let X and A be groups. a) : a E A}. c)(b.. ca).>xRx is not abelian (unlike R+ x RX). and such that the product of any two of them into itself. which as usual is written multiplicatively. (0(a)(b). as a set. (When 0 is clear. a E GL(Rn)}. simply X x A.we will use the semidirect product to introduce another idea from group theory-the idea of a holomorph. We define the (relative) holomorph H(X. 8. )a. It follows that if the entire group is multiplied by any one of the symbols. This group is isomorphic to the affine general linear group of R1. In 1854.Aut(X) (where Aut(X) denotes the group of automorphisms of X). R+. Consider the relative holomorph H(X. DEFINITION. Then X >x A is easily seen to be the internal semidirect product of X by A. let I)a. and let 0 be a given action of A on X.b(X) = a(x) + b.

we define AGL(V) as an internal semidirect product. because GL(V) is a subgroup of Aut(V). A first step to all of these results can be taken by carefully exploring the familiar transformationx . 1) by A. (Usually the left regularrepresentationis not a normal subgroup of Sym(X). 3. Of course. Abhyankar's by NSF GrantDMS 97-32592 and NSA grantMDA 904-97-1-0010. S. Michael Aschbacher. the internal semidirect product and the external semidirect product are + b and proves a theorem of Burnside that a 2-transitive permutation group has a unique minimal normal subgroup and that subgroup is either elementary abelian or nonabelian simple.288 MAGAZINE MATHEMATICS H(X.7 of Dixon and Mortimer [5]). Rotman [13] discusses the affine general linear group and holomorphs. Aut(X)). We define the (full) holomorph H(X) of X by putting H(X) = H(X. 1955. More Of course. First Edition (1897). 9. Holomorphs also were discussed by Burnside [3]. workwas partlysupported Acknowledgment. 2. The Classification of Doubly Transitive Groups was the first amazing application of the Classification Theorem of Finite Simple Groups. We define the affine general linear group AGL(V) of V by putting AGL(V) = H(V.Finite GroupTheory. suffices to settle a portion of Hilbert's Thirteenth Problem and is a cornerstone of the Classification of Doubly Transitivegroups (see section 7. Theoryof Groupsof Finite Order. Notice that the left regular representation of X. which first appearedin section 134 of the 1897 edition of Burside's book [3] and later in section 154 of the second edition (see also theorem 4. Burside.b} = {x . In this way. A). . 10. 1). This theorem. REFERENCES 1. The holomorph of X essentially combines X and its group of automorphisms Aut(X) to form a larger group. In the case of the additive group R+. but it is a normal subgroup of H(X.CambridgeUniversityPress. Cambridge. New York. the relative holomorph H(X. 13]. we can define the affine general linear group of an arbitraryfinite dimensional vector space + b. 1). S.theoremsof Cayley and Burnside. is a normal subgroup of H(X. obtained from the proof of Cayley's theorem. A) is the internal semidirect product of the left regular representation H(X. [CambridgeUniversityPress.x + b} is the regular representationof IR+. 2nd ed.2E of Dixon and Mortimer [5]). GL(V)). Recall that the group of all nonsingular linear transformations of a finite dimensional vector space V over a field k is called the general linear group of V and is denoted by GL(V). Abhyankar. is called the left regular representation of X in Sym(X).and Hilbert's thirteenthproblem. which Gorenstein called the Enormous Theorem. for any subgroup A of Aut(X). Affine general linear group By using the idea of holomorph. (1911)] Dover Books. A) which is a subgroup of Sym(X). Two step descent in modulargalois theory. H(X. to appearin the Proceedings of the August 1999 Saskatoon Conferenceon Valuation Theory. more information about the ideas that were mentioned above can be found in standard graduate texts on abstract algebra (Dummit and Foote [6] and Hungerford [11]) or in advanced texts on the theory of groups [2. W. 1B and theorem 7.) Moreover. we may think of AGL(V) as the external semidirect product V >xGL(V). 1993.UK. the set of translations {cIl. A Theorem of Burnside Abhyankar [1] begins with x F. Also. A long section containing many examples and exercises about semidirect products can be found in Weinstein [15].

Washington. maybe. And I have my answer. That piece over there looks nice too.Finite Groups. I'll think and I'll thunk. 40-47. 6.2002 VOL.NJ..AbstractAlgebra:A First Course. Dixon and BrianMortimer.The Theoryof Groups. Springer-Verlag. Contemporary AbstractAlgebra. JosephA. IL. SUISUN. 5th ed. too. 4. Now my puzzle is solved. New York. Oh no! Oh no! Teacher.. Springer-Verlag. Polygonal PublishingHouse. I wonder if these two pieces connect. Which one should I use just now? I dependingon the symbolic equation0n = 1. 2nd ed.An Introduction 14. Hungerford. 15. On the theoryof groups. 1999..PermutationGroups. 1959. Daniel Gorenstein. Hungerford. AbstractAlgebra.Upper Saddle River. with luck. MarshallHall. I do. 2001. I could try it right there. Dan Saracino. Is my answer correct? _ CAROL LE GUENNEC SOLANO COMMUNITY COLLEGE Method 2 That's an interesting puzzle.1997.75. to the Theoryof Groups. Chelsea PublishingCompany.2nd ed. JosephJ. That's nice. ProspectHeights. Dummitand RichardM.WavelandPress. ArthurCayley. I do. It might be the wrong one. Let's see where this one goes next. New York. David S. 8. Saunders College Publishing. ThomasW. 2000. New York. 7. Michael Weinstein. even just one? Oh no! Oh no! I'll try and I'll try. Algebra. 1995. FrederickM. But what if I make a mistake.Prentice-Hall. teacher. 12.Examplesof Groups. I'll find the right one! How will I find the right method? What if I find the wrong one! Oh no! I might find the right method. 1996.Abstract Algebra: An Introduction. New York. Gallian. Foote.. Could there be any more methods? I wonder that too. Philosophical Magazine VII (1854).2nd ed.New York. My solution is correct.. 1998.. 13.Boston.NJ.2nd ed. I'll put this one here and that one nearby. Here's an answer. 11. 10.Algebra:Abstractand Concrete. 9. ThereAre ThreeMethodsfor Solving Problems Method 0 Get the answer from the teacher. 1997. Wiley.4th ed.New York. Fort Worth. HoughtonMifflin Company. 1980. NO. it looks nice. John D.. OCTOBER 289 4.Springer-Verlag. 5. This spot is just right. Thomas W. Rotman.Macmillan. Perhaps it goes here. Please show me that piece. Goodman. 1992. Method 1 Oh no! A problem! Oh no! I can't do it! I can't! Oh no! Oh no! How will I solve this problem? How will I get the right answer? Oh no! There must be a method. CA 94585 . Jr. And my answer's just right! Now I have three methods.