Monday, July 26, 2010

Groups (1) - Gross Introduction

Groups (1)

Group Theory

In mathematics and abstract algebra, group theory studies the algebraic structures known as groups. The concept of a group is central to abstract algebra: other well-known algebraic structures, such as rings, fields, and vector spaces can all be seen as groups endowed with additional operations and axioms. Groups recur throughout mathematics, and the methods of group theory have strongly influenced many parts of algebra. Linear algebraic groups and Lie groups are two branches of group theory that have experienced tremendous advances and have become subject areas in their own right.

Various physical systems, such as crystals and the hydrogen atom, can be modelled by symmetry groups. Thus group theory and the closely related representation theory have many applications in physics and chemistry.

One of the most important mathematical achievements of the 20th century was the collaborative effort, taking up more than 10,000 journal pages and mostly published between 1960 and 1980, that culminated in a complete classification of finite simple groups.

Symmetry group

The symmetry group of an object (image, signal, etc.) is the group of all isometries under which it is invariant with composition as the operation. It is a subgroup of the isometry group of the space concerned.

If not stated otherwise, this article considers symmetry groups in Euclidean geometry, but the concept may also be studied in wider contexts.

Representation Theory

Representation theory is a branch of mathematics that studies abstract algebraic structures by representing their elements as linear transformations of vector spaces.[1] In essence, a representation makes an abstract algebraic object more concrete by describing its elements by matrices and the algebraic operations in terms of matrix addition and matrix multiplication. The algebraic objects amenable to such a description include groups, associative algebras and Lie algebras. The most prominent of these (and historically the first) is the representation theory of groups, in which elements of a group are represented by invertible matrices in such a way that the group operation is matrix multiplication.[2]

Representation theory is a powerful tool because it reduces problems in abstract algebra to problems in linear algebra, which is well understood.[3] Furthermore, the vector space on which a group (for example) is represented can be infinite dimensional, and by allowing it to be, for instance, a Hilbert space, methods of analysis can be applied to the theory of groups.[4] Representation theory is also important in physics because, for example, it describes how the symmetry group of a physical system affects the solutions of equations describing that system.[5]

A striking feature of representation theory is its pervasiveness in mathematics. There are two sides to this. First, the applications of representation theory are diverse:[6] in addition to its impact on algebra, representation theory illuminates and vastly generalizes Fourier analysis via harmonic analysis,[7] is deeply connected to geometry via invariant theory and the Erlangen program,[8] and has a profound impact in number theory via automorphic forms and the Langlands program.[9] The second aspect is the diversity of approaches to representation theory. The same objects can be studied using methods from algebraic geometry, module theory, analytic number theory, differential geometry, operator theory and topology.[10]

The success of representation theory has led to numerous generalizations. One of the most general is a categorical one.[11] The algebraic objects to which representation theory applies can be viewed as particular kinds of categories, and the representations as functors from the object category to the category of vector spaces. This description points to two obvious generalizations: first, the algebraic objects can be replaced by more general categories; second the target category of vector spaces can be replaced by other well-understood categories.

Group Representation

n the mathematical field of representation theory, group representations describe abstract groups in terms of linear transformations of vector spaces; in particular, they can be used to represent group elements as matrices so that the group operation can be represented by matrix multiplication. Representations of groups are important because they allow many group-theoretic problems to be reduced to problems in linear algebra, which is well-understood. They are also important in physics because, for example, they describe how the symmetry group of a physical system affects the solutions of equations describing that system.

The term representation of a group is also used in a more general sense to mean any "description" of a group as a group of transformations of some mathematical object. More formally, a "representation" means a homomorphism from the group to the automorphism group of an object. If the object is a vector space we have a linear representation. Some people use realization for the general notion and reserve the term representation for the special case of linear representations. The bulk of this article describes linear representation theory; see the last section for generalizations.

(To be continued ... feel free to offer suggestions as to direction)

From various Wikipedia entries

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