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Geometry of Nilpotent and Solvable Groups

Cornelia Drut u
Lecture 2: Polycyclic groups. Distortion in nilpotent groups. Goal: take the shortest path to Gromovs theorem and J. Titss Alternative Theorem. Nilpotent groups Let G be a group. Recall that the lower central series of the group G is the decreasing sequence C 1 G = G C 2 G C n G C n+1 G . . . , where C i+1 G = [G, C i G]. G is ( k -step) nilpotent if there exists k such that C k+1 G = {1} . Let S be a nite generating set for G . An n -fold left-commutator in S is a commutator [[...[x1 , x2 ]..., xn1 ], xn ] , where x1 , ..., xn are in S . We assume that the 1-fold left-commutators are simply the elements x S . Proposition 1. If G is nitely generated nilpotent and S is a nite generating set, then for every n the subgroup C i G is generated by the k -fold left commutators with k i , in S and their inverses. Proof. We prove by induction on i that each C i G is generated by the set of all i -fold left commutators in S and their inverses, together with C i+1 G . Assume true for C i G . C i+1 G is generated by [c, s], c C i G, s S . This and some combinatorics of the commutators implies the required statement.

Proposition 2. Every subgroup of a nitely generated nilpotent group is nitely generated. Remark 3. This is not satised by F2 , the free group of rank 2, for instance. Proof. By induction on the nilpotency class. k = 1 means G abelian, and the statement is true. Assume true for k and consider G of nilpotency class k + 1. Given a subgroup H , H C 2 G is nitely generated by induction. H/(H C 2 G) is a subgroup of G/C 2 G abelian f.g., hence it is f.g. Thus H is f.g-by-f.g., hence it is f.g. We have the following classes of groups Nilpotent Polycyclic Solvable . The intermediate class of polycyclic group, which we will now dene, is relevant for problems of linearity. Polycyclic groups Denition 4. A group is polycyclic if it has a subnormal descending series G = N0 N1 Nn Nn+1 = {1} such that Ni /Ni+1 cyclic i 0 . Subnormal means that each Ni+1 is normal in Ni . The quotients Ni /Ni+1 are called partial quotients. A series as in (1) is called a cyclic series, and its length is the number of non-trivial elements, e.g. n + 1 in (1). If moreover Ni /Ni+1 is innite cyclic i 0 then the group G is called poly- C , and the series is called a C -series. If G is poly- C then 1 Ni+1 Ni Z 1, hence Ni Ni+1 Z for every i 0. Thus G is obtained from Nn Z by successive semi-direct products with Z . Proposition 5. Every polycyclic group contains a normal subgroup of nite index which is poly- C , i.e. it is (poly- C )-by-nite. (1)

Properties (1) If a group G is polycyclic with a cyclic series of length n then there exists elements kn kn+1 1 t1 , ..., tn+1 in G such that every g G can be written as g = tk 1 tn+1 , with k1 , ..., kn+1 in Z . A group for which such a nite set of elements t1 , ..., tn+1 exists is called boundedly generated. Note that in nitely generated groups we only require that g be
1 1 written as a word in the alphabet t 1 , ..., tn+1 .

Proof. Take t1 such that t1 N1 generates N0 /N1 ,...take tn such that tn Nn generates Nn1 /Nn , take tn+1 generating Nn . Then every g G is contained in some k1 k1 k2 1 tk 1 N1 , hence g = t1 n1 is in t1 t2 N2 , etc. (2) Every polycyclic torsion group is nite. torsion group = g ord(g ) < , i.e. g n = 1 for some n = n(g ) . The statement follows from (1). (3) Every subgroup H of a polycyclic group G is polycyclic, hence nitely generated. Proof. H Ni compose a subnormal series with cyclic quotient. (4) If N is a normal subgroup in a nitely generated polycyclic group G then G/N is polycyclic. Proof. Induction on the length n : N1 /N1 N is polycyclic, and N1 /N1 N = N1 N/N is a subgroup of G/N such that the quotient G/N1 N is cyclic (as quotient of G/N1 ). (5) polycyclic-by-polycyclic implies polycyclic. Indeed, assume that N G is such that N and G/N are polycyclic. G/N polycyclic subnormal series G = N0 N1 Nn Nn+1 = N such that Ni /Ni+1 cyclic i 0 . Add the series of N . Proposition 6. Every nitely generated nilpotent group is polycyclic.

Nota Bene: nitely generated is essential. Otherwise take an innitely generated abelian group G = nZ (Z)n . Proof. Induction on nilpotency class. k = 1 G abelian. Assume true for k , take G (k + 1)step nilpotent. C 2 G is k -step nilpotent, f.g., hence polycyclic; G/C 2 G abelian nitely generated hence polycyclic. Question 7. For G poly- C , in the process of successive semi-direct products with Z , can we detect if in the end G is nilpotent ? Yes, this is related to the study of growth. Bass Theorem on growth of nilpotent groups. The proof of the theorem will be done in two steps: (1) Distortion of subgroups in nilpotent groups. (2) Bass Theorem. We start with (1). Theorem 8. Let G be nilpotent, f.g., of class k . For every h, h in C k G (the last non-trivial element in the lower central series) dC k G (h, h ) [dG (h, h )] .

Both metrics in the theorem are arbitrary word metrics. We may take C k G = X and G = S such that X S , both nite. Then the corresponding Cayley graph of C k G is a subgraph of the Cayley graph of G , and the above theorem measures the distortion of the subgraph in the graph. Proof. Both metrics restricted to C k G are left invariant, therefore in the above we may assume that h = 1 . Notation: dS (1, h) = |h|S . For G a group, |g |G means |g |S for some xed unspecied nite generating set S of G . We prove: |h|C k G |h|k G. Proof of . C k+1 G = [G, C k G] = {1} , hence C k G is in Z (G) abelian isometric to Zm nite abelian subgroup. Zm generated by a1 , ..., am , the nite factor generated by 1 , .., r .
m 1 r 1 h C k G h = a 1 1 ..r .

|h|C k G = |1 | + ... + |m | + |1 | + ... + r | . The term |1 | + ... + r | is uniformly bounded. It clearly suces to prove that
i k |a i |G |i | . 1

We prove by induction on the nilpotency class k that for every a C k G |am |G m k . k = 1 G abelian, statement obviously true. Assume true for k . Let G be a (k + 1)-step nilpotent group. Take a C k+1 . We can assume that a is a (k + 1)fold left communtator in some xed set S of generators for G . a = [c, s], s S, c is a k fold left communtator in S. Consider am . Consider q the smallest integer such that q k+1 m . Then q k+1 m > (q 1)k+1 , 1 hence q m k . Goal: |am |G q . Two combinatorial remarks: g, g G and x, x C k G , [gg , x] = [g, x][g , x] [g, xx ] = [g, x][g, x ] [g, x]n = [g n , x] = [g, xn ] . We divide m by q k , we obtain m = Aq k + R , 0 R < q k . m q k+1 A q . am = [c, s]Aq length m k modulo C k+1 G . cm = wc , c C k+1 G . Then cq = y1 c , y1 word of length q , c C k+1 G .
k 1 k +R k k 1

= [c, s]Aq [c, s]R = [cq , sA ][cR , s] .

By the inductive hypothesis, in G/C k+1 G , c C k G/C k+1 G , hence cm = a word of

cR = y2 c , y2 word of length R k < q , c C k+1 G . c C k+1 G Z (G) [y1 c , sA ] = [y1 , sA ]. Then am = [y1 , sA ][y2 , s] |am |G q = m k+1 . Proof of : |h|C k G |h|k G. Remark 9. Let X be a nite set generating G nilpotent of class k . Then X is contained in X nite generating set such that x, y X [x, y ] X . Denition 10. Let G be a nilpotent nitely generated group. We call a nite generating set S of G an lcs-generating set (where lcs stands for lower central series) if for every i 1, Si = S C i G generates C i G . For such a generating set we denote by Si the set S \ Si+1 . Consider a word w in S . its length |w|S is dened as usual; its i -length |w|i is the number of occurrences of letters in Si in w ; lcs-length of w is the nite sequence (|w|0 , |w|1 , ..., |w|k , ...). An element g in G is said to have lcs-length at most (n1 , .., nk , ...) if it can be expressed as a word w in S such that |w|i ni for all i 1.