Group representation

# Group representation

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In the mathematical
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

field of representation theory
Representation theory
Representation theory is a branch of mathematics that studies abstract algebraic structures by representing their elements as linear transformations of vector spaces, and studiesmodules over these abstract algebraic structures...

, group representations describe abstract groups
Group (mathematics)
In mathematics, a group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with an operation that combines any two of its elements to form a third element. To qualify as a group, the set and the operation must satisfy a few conditions called group axioms, namely closure, associativity, identity...

in terms of linear transformation
Linear transformation
In mathematics, a linear map, linear mapping, linear transformation, or linear operator is a function between two vector spaces that preserves the operations of vector addition and scalar multiplication. As a result, it always maps straight lines to straight lines or 0...

s of vector space
Vector space
A vector space is a mathematical structure formed by a collection of vectors: objects that may be added together and multiplied by numbers, called scalars in this context. Scalars are often taken to be real numbers, but one may also consider vector spaces with scalar multiplication by complex...

s; in particular, they can be used to represent group elements as matrices
Matrix (mathematics)
In mathematics, a matrix is a rectangular array of numbers, symbols, or expressions. The individual items in a matrix are called its elements or entries. An example of a matrix with six elements isMatrices of the same size can be added or subtracted element by element...

so that the group operation can be represented by matrix multiplication
Matrix multiplication
In mathematics, matrix multiplication is a binary operation that takes a pair of matrices, and produces another matrix. If A is an n-by-m matrix and B is an m-by-p matrix, the result AB of their multiplication is an n-by-p matrix defined only if the number of columns m of the left matrix A is the...

. Representations of groups are important because they allow many group-theoretic
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...

problems to be reduced
Reduction (mathematics)
In mathematics, reduction refers to the rewriting of an expression into a simpler form. For example, the process of rewriting a fraction into one with the smallest whole-number denominator possible is called "reducing a fraction"...

to problems in linear algebra
Linear algebra
Linear algebra is a branch of mathematics that studies vector spaces, also called linear spaces, along with linear functions that input one vector and output another. Such functions are called linear maps and can be represented by matrices if a basis is given. Thus matrix theory is often...

, which is well-understood. They are also important in physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

because, for example, they describe how the symmetry group
Symmetry group
The symmetry group of an object is the group of all isometries under which it is invariant with composition as the operation...

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
Homomorphism
In abstract algebra, a homomorphism is a structure-preserving map between two algebraic structures . The word homomorphism comes from the Greek language: ὁμός meaning "same" and μορφή meaning "shape".- Definition :The definition of homomorphism depends on the type of algebraic structure under...

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.

## Branches of group representation theory

The representation theory of groups divides into subtheories depending on the kind of group being represented. The various theories are quite different in detail, though some basic definitions and concepts are similar. The most important divisions are:
• Finite group
Finite group
In mathematics and abstract algebra, a finite group is a group whose underlying set G has finitely many elements. During the twentieth century, mathematicians investigated certain aspects of the theory of finite groups in great depth, especially the local theory of finite groups, and the theory of...

s
— Group representations are a very important tool in the study of finite groups. They also arise in the applications of finite group theory to crystallography
Crystallography
Crystallography is the experimental science of the arrangement of atoms in solids. The word "crystallography" derives from the Greek words crystallon = cold drop / frozen drop, with its meaning extending to all solids with some degree of transparency, and grapho = write.Before the development of...

and to geometry. If the field
Field (mathematics)
In abstract algebra, a field is a commutative ring whose nonzero elements form a group under multiplication. As such it is an algebraic structure with notions of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, satisfying certain axioms...

of scalars of the vector space has characteristic
Characteristic (algebra)
In mathematics, the characteristic of a ring R, often denoted char, is defined to be the smallest number of times one must use the ring's multiplicative identity element in a sum to get the additive identity element ; the ring is said to have characteristic zero if this repeated sum never reaches...

p, and if p divides the order of the group, then this is called modular representation theory
Modular representation theory
Modular representation theory is a branch of mathematics, and that part of representation theory that studies linear representations of finite group G over a field K of positive characteristic...

; this special case has very different properties. See Representation theory of finite groups
Representation theory of finite groups
In mathematics, representation theory is a technique for analyzing abstract groups in terms of groups of linear transformations. See the article on group representations for an introduction...

.

• Compact group
Compact group
In mathematics, a compact group is a topological group whose topology is compact. Compact groups are a natural generalisation of finite groups with the discrete topology and have properties that carry over in significant fashion...

s or locally compact group
Locally compact group
In mathematics, a locally compact group is a topological group G which is locally compact as a topological space. Locally compact groups are important because they have a natural measure called the Haar measure. This allows one to define integrals of functions on G.Many of the results of finite...

s
— Many of the results of finite group representation theory are proved by averaging over the group. These proofs can be carried over to infinite groups by replacement of the average with an integral, provided that an acceptable notion of integral can be defined. This can be done for locally compact groups, using Haar measure
Haar measure
In mathematical analysis, the Haar measure is a way to assign an "invariant volume" to subsets of locally compact topological groups and subsequently define an integral for functions on those groups....

. The resulting theory is a central part of harmonic analysis
Harmonic analysis
Harmonic analysis is the branch of mathematics that studies the representation of functions or signals as the superposition of basic waves. It investigates and generalizes the notions of Fourier series and Fourier transforms...

. The Pontryagin duality
Pontryagin duality
In mathematics, specifically in harmonic analysis and the theory of topological groups, Pontryagin duality explains the general properties of the Fourier transform on locally compact groups, such as R, the circle or finite cyclic groups.-Introduction:...

describes the theory for commutative groups, as a generalised Fourier transform
Fourier transform
In mathematics, Fourier analysis is a subject area which grew from the study of Fourier series. The subject began with the study of the way general functions may be represented by sums of simpler trigonometric functions...

. See also: Peter–Weyl theorem
Peter–Weyl theorem
In mathematics, the Peter–Weyl theorem is a basic result in the theory of harmonic analysis, applying to topological groups that are compact, but are not necessarily abelian. It was initially proved by Hermann Weyl, with his student Fritz Peter, in the setting of a compact topological group G...

.

• Lie groups — Many important Lie groups are compact, so the results of compact representation theory apply to them. Other techniques specific to Lie groups are used as well. Most of the groups important in physics and chemistry are Lie groups, and their representation theory is crucial to the application of group theory in those fields. See Representations of Lie groups and Representations of Lie algebras.

• Linear algebraic group
Linear algebraic group
In mathematics, a linear algebraic group is a subgroup of the group of invertible n×n matrices that is defined by polynomial equations...

s
(or more generally affine group scheme
Group scheme
In mathematics, a group scheme is a type of algebro-geometric object equipped with a composition law. Group schemes arise naturally as symmetries of schemes, and they generalize algebraic groups, in the sense that all algebraic groups have group scheme structure, but group schemes are not...

s
) — These are the analogues of Lie groups, but over more general fields than just R or C. Although linear algebraic groups have a classification that is very similar to that of Lie groups, and give rise to the same families of Lie algebras, their representations are rather different (and much less well understood). The analytic techniques used for studying Lie groups must be replaced by techniques from algebraic geometry
Algebraic geometry
Algebraic geometry is a branch of mathematics which combines techniques of abstract algebra, especially commutative algebra, with the language and the problems of geometry. It occupies a central place in modern mathematics and has multiple conceptual connections with such diverse fields as complex...

, where the relatively weak Zariski topology
Zariski topology
In algebraic geometry, the Zariski topology is a particular topology chosen for algebraic varieties that reflects the algebraic nature of their definition. It is due to Oscar Zariski and took a place of particular importance in the field around 1950...

causes many technical complications.

• Non-compact topological groups — The class of non-compact groups is too broad to construct any general representation theory, but specific special cases have been studied, sometimes using ad hoc techniques. The semisimple Lie groups have a deep theory, building on the compact case. The complementary solvable Lie groups cannot in the same way be classified. The general theory for Lie groups deals with semidirect product
Semidirect product
In mathematics, specifically in the area of abstract algebra known as group theory, a semidirect product is a particular way in which a group can be put together from two subgroups, one of which is a normal subgroup. A semidirect product is a generalization of a direct product...

s of the two types, by means of general results called Mackey theory, which is a generalization of Wigner's classification
Wigner's classification
In mathematics and theoretical physics, Wigner's classificationis a classification of the nonnegative energy irreducible unitary representations of the Poincaré group, which have sharp mass eigenvalues...

methods.

Representation theory also depends heavily on the type of vector space
Vector space
A vector space is a mathematical structure formed by a collection of vectors: objects that may be added together and multiplied by numbers, called scalars in this context. Scalars are often taken to be real numbers, but one may also consider vector spaces with scalar multiplication by complex...

on which the group acts. One distinguishes between finite-dimensional representations and infinite-dimensional ones. In the infinite-dimensional case, additional structures are important (e.g. whether or not the space is a Hilbert space
Hilbert space
The mathematical concept of a Hilbert space, named after David Hilbert, generalizes the notion of Euclidean space. It extends the methods of vector algebra and calculus from the two-dimensional Euclidean plane and three-dimensional space to spaces with any finite or infinite number of dimensions...

, Banach space
Banach space
In mathematics, Banach spaces is the name for complete normed vector spaces, one of the central objects of study in functional analysis. A complete normed vector space is a vector space V with a norm ||·|| such that every Cauchy sequence in V has a limit in V In mathematics, Banach spaces is the...

, etc.).

One must also consider the type of field
Field (mathematics)
In abstract algebra, a field is a commutative ring whose nonzero elements form a group under multiplication. As such it is an algebraic structure with notions of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, satisfying certain axioms...

over which the vector space is defined. The most important case is the field of complex number
Complex number
A complex number is a number consisting of a real part and an imaginary part. Complex numbers extend the idea of the one-dimensional number line to the two-dimensional complex plane by using the number line for the real part and adding a vertical axis to plot the imaginary part...

s. The other important cases are the field of real numbers, finite field
Finite field
In abstract algebra, a finite field or Galois field is a field that contains a finite number of elements. Finite fields are important in number theory, algebraic geometry, Galois theory, cryptography, and coding theory...

s, and fields of p-adic number
P-adic number
In mathematics, and chiefly number theory, the p-adic number system for any prime number p extends the ordinary arithmetic of the rational numbers in a way different from the extension of the rational number system to the real and complex number systems...

s. In general, algebraically closed fields are easier to handle than non-algebraically closed ones. The characteristic
Characteristic (algebra)
In mathematics, the characteristic of a ring R, often denoted char, is defined to be the smallest number of times one must use the ring's multiplicative identity element in a sum to get the additive identity element ; the ring is said to have characteristic zero if this repeated sum never reaches...

of the field is also significant; many theorems for finite groups depend on the characteristic of the field not dividing the order of the group
Order (group theory)
In group theory, a branch of mathematics, the term order is used in two closely related senses:* The order of a group is its cardinality, i.e., the number of its elements....

.

## Definitions

A representation of a group
Group (mathematics)
In mathematics, a group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with an operation that combines any two of its elements to form a third element. To qualify as a group, the set and the operation must satisfy a few conditions called group axioms, namely closure, associativity, identity...

G on a vector space
Vector space
A vector space is a mathematical structure formed by a collection of vectors: objects that may be added together and multiplied by numbers, called scalars in this context. Scalars are often taken to be real numbers, but one may also consider vector spaces with scalar multiplication by complex...

V over a field
Field (mathematics)
In abstract algebra, a field is a commutative ring whose nonzero elements form a group under multiplication. As such it is an algebraic structure with notions of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, satisfying certain axioms...

K is a group homomorphism
Group homomorphism
In mathematics, given two groups and , a group homomorphism from to is a function h : G → H such that for all u and v in G it holds that h = h \cdot h...

from G to GL(V), the general linear group on V.
That is, a representation is a map
such that

Here V is called the representation space and the dimension of V is called the dimension of the representation. It is common practice to refer to V itself as the representation when the homomorphism is clear from the context.

In the case where V is of finite dimension n it is common to choose a basis
Basis (linear algebra)
In linear algebra, a basis is a set of linearly independent vectors that, in a linear combination, can represent every vector in a given vector space or free module, or, more simply put, which define a "coordinate system"...

for V and identify GL(V) with GL (n, K) the group of n-by-n invertible matrices on the field K.

If G is a topological group and V is a topological vector space
Topological vector space
In mathematics, a topological vector space is one of the basic structures investigated in functional analysis...

, a continuous representation of G on V is a representation such that the application defined by is continuous.

The kernel of a representation of a group G is defined as the normal subgroup of G whose image under is the identity transformation:

A faithful representation
Faithful representation
In mathematics, especially in the area of abstract algebra known as representation theory, a faithful representation ρ of a group G on a vector space V is a linear representation in which different elements g of G are represented by distinct linear mappings ρ.In more abstract language, this means...

is one in which the homomorphism G → GL(V) is injective; in other words, one whose kernel is the trivial subgroup {e} consisting of just the group's identity element.

Given two K vector spaces V and W, two representations
and
are said to be equivalent or isomorphic if there exists a vector space isomorphism
Isomorphism
In abstract algebra, an isomorphism is a mapping between objects that shows a relationship between two properties or operations.  If there exists an isomorphism between two structures, the two structures are said to be isomorphic.  In a certain sense, isomorphic structures are...

so that for all g in G

## Examples

Consider the complex number u = e2πi / 3 which has the property u3 = 1. The cyclic group
Cyclic group
In group theory, a cyclic group is a group that can be generated by a single element, in the sense that the group has an element g such that, when written multiplicatively, every element of the group is a power of g .-Definition:A group G is called cyclic if there exists an element g...

C3 = {1, u, u2} has a representation ρ on C2 given by:

This representation is faithful because ρ is a one-to-one map.

An isomorphic representation for C3 is

The group C3 may also be faithfully represented on R2 by

where and .

## Reducibility

A subspace W of V that is invariant under the group action
Group action
In algebra and geometry, a group action is a way of describing symmetries of objects using groups. The essential elements of the object are described by a set, and the symmetries of the object are described by the symmetry group of this set, which consists of bijective transformations of the set...

is called a subrepresentation. If V has exactly two subrepresentations, namely the zero-dimensional subspace and V itself, then the representation is said to be irreducible; if it has a proper subrepresentation of nonzero dimension, the representation is said to be reducible. The representation of dimension zero is considered to be neither reducible nor irreducible, just like the number 1 is considered to be neither composite nor prime
Prime number
A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

.

Under the assumption that the characteristic
Characteristic (algebra)
In mathematics, the characteristic of a ring R, often denoted char, is defined to be the smallest number of times one must use the ring's multiplicative identity element in a sum to get the additive identity element ; the ring is said to have characteristic zero if this repeated sum never reaches...

of the field K does not divide the size of the group, representations of finite group
Finite group
In mathematics and abstract algebra, a finite group is a group whose underlying set G has finitely many elements. During the twentieth century, mathematicians investigated certain aspects of the theory of finite groups in great depth, especially the local theory of finite groups, and the theory of...

s can be decomposed into a direct sum of irreducible subrepresentations (see Maschke's theorem
Maschke's theorem
In mathematics, Maschke's theorem, named after Heinrich Maschke, is a theorem in group representation theory that concerns the decomposition of representations of a finite group into irreducible pieces...

). This holds in particular for any representation of a finite group over the complex numbers, since the characteristic of the complex numbers is zero, which never divides the size of a group.

In the example above, the first two representations given are both decomposable into two 1-dimensional subrepresentations (given by span{(1,0)} and span{(0,1)}), while the third representation is irreducible.

### Set-theoretical representations

A set-theoretic representation (also known as a group action
Group action
In algebra and geometry, a group action is a way of describing symmetries of objects using groups. The essential elements of the object are described by a set, and the symmetries of the object are described by the symmetry group of this set, which consists of bijective transformations of the set...

or permutation representation) of a group
Group (mathematics)
In mathematics, a group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with an operation that combines any two of its elements to form a third element. To qualify as a group, the set and the operation must satisfy a few conditions called group axioms, namely closure, associativity, identity...

G on a set X is given by a function
Function (mathematics)
In mathematics, a function associates one quantity, the argument of the function, also known as the input, with another quantity, the value of the function, also known as the output. A function assigns exactly one output to each input. The argument and the value may be real numbers, but they can...

ρ from G to XX, the set of function
Function (mathematics)
In mathematics, a function associates one quantity, the argument of the function, also known as the input, with another quantity, the value of the function, also known as the output. A function assigns exactly one output to each input. The argument and the value may be real numbers, but they can...

s from X to X, such that for all g1, g2 in G and all x in X:

This condition and the axioms for a group imply that ρ(g) is a bijection
Bijection
A bijection is a function giving an exact pairing of the elements of two sets. A bijection from the set X to the set Y has an inverse function from Y to X. If X and Y are finite sets, then the existence of a bijection means they have the same number of elements...

(or permutation
Permutation
In mathematics, the notion of permutation is used with several slightly different meanings, all related to the act of permuting objects or values. Informally, a permutation of a set of objects is an arrangement of those objects into a particular order...

) for all g in G. Thus we may equivalently define a permutation representation to be a group homomorphism
Group homomorphism
In mathematics, given two groups and , a group homomorphism from to is a function h : G → H such that for all u and v in G it holds that h = h \cdot h...

from G to the symmetric group
Symmetric group
In mathematics, the symmetric group Sn on a finite set of n symbols is the group whose elements are all the permutations of the n symbols, and whose group operation is the composition of such permutations, which are treated as bijective functions from the set of symbols to itself...

SX of X.

For more information on this topic see the article on group action
Group action
In algebra and geometry, a group action is a way of describing symmetries of objects using groups. The essential elements of the object are described by a set, and the symmetries of the object are described by the symmetry group of this set, which consists of bijective transformations of the set...

.

### Representations in other categories

Every group G can be viewed as a category
Category (mathematics)
In mathematics, a category is an algebraic structure that comprises "objects" that are linked by "arrows". A category has two basic properties: the ability to compose the arrows associatively and the existence of an identity arrow for each object. A simple example is the category of sets, whose...

with a single object; morphism
Morphism
In mathematics, a morphism is an abstraction derived from structure-preserving mappings between two mathematical structures. The notion of morphism recurs in much of contemporary mathematics...

s in this category are just the elements of G. Given an arbitrary category C, a representation of G in C is a functor
Functor
In category theory, a branch of mathematics, a functor is a special type of mapping between categories. Functors can be thought of as homomorphisms between categories, or morphisms when in the category of small categories....

from G to C. Such a functor selects an object X in C and a group homomorphism from G to Aut(X), the automorphism group of X.

In the case where C is VectK, the category of vector spaces
Category of vector spaces
In mathematics, especially category theory, the category K-Vect has all vector spaces over a fixed field K as objects and K-linear transformations as morphisms...

over a field K, this definition is equivalent to a linear representation. Likewise, a set-theoretic representation is just a representation of G in the category of sets
Category of sets
In the mathematical field of category theory, the category of sets, denoted as Set, is the category whose objects are sets. The arrows or morphisms between sets A and B are all functions from A to B...

.

When C is Ab, the category of abelian groups
Category of abelian groups
In mathematics, the category Ab has the abelian groups as objects and group homomorphisms as morphisms. This is the prototype of an abelian category....

, the objects obtained are called G-modules
G-module
In mathematics, given a group G, a G-module is an abelian group M on which G acts compatibly with the abelian group structure on M. This widely applicable notion generalizes that of a representation of G...

.

For another example consider the category of topological spaces
Category of topological spaces
In mathematics, the category of topological spaces, often denoted Top, is the category whose objects are topological spaces and whose morphisms are continuous maps. This is a category because the composition of two continuous maps is again continuous...

, Top. Representations in Top are homomorphisms from G to the homeomorphism
Homeomorphism
In the mathematical field of topology, a homeomorphism or topological isomorphism or bicontinuous function is a continuous function between topological spaces that has a continuous inverse function. Homeomorphisms are the isomorphisms in the category of topological spaces—that is, they are...

group of a topological space X.

Two types of representations closely related to linear representations are:
• projective representation
Projective representation
In the mathematical field of representation theory, a projective representation of a group G on a vector space V over a field F is a group homomorphism from G to the projective linear groupwhere GL is the general linear group of invertible linear transformations of V over F and F* here is the...

s: in the category of projective space
Projective space
In mathematics a projective space is a set of elements similar to the set P of lines through the origin of a vector space V. The cases when V=R2 or V=R3 are the projective line and the projective plane, respectively....

s. These can be described as "linear representations up to
Up to
In mathematics, the phrase "up to x" means "disregarding a possible difference in  x".For instance, when calculating an indefinite integral, one could say that the solution is f "up to addition by a constant," meaning it differs from f, if at all, only by some constant.It indicates that...

scalar transformations".
• affine representation
Affine representation
An affine representation of a topological group G on an affine space A is a continuous group homomorphism from G to the automorphism group of A, the affine group Aff...

s: in the category of affine space
Affine space
In mathematics, an affine space is a geometric structure that generalizes the affine properties of Euclidean space. In an affine space, one can subtract points to get vectors, or add a vector to a point to get another point, but one cannot add points. In particular, there is no distinguished point...

s. For example, the Euclidean group
Euclidean group
In mathematics, the Euclidean group E, sometimes called ISO or similar, is the symmetry group of n-dimensional Euclidean space...

acts affinely upon Euclidean space
Euclidean space
In mathematics, Euclidean space is the Euclidean plane and three-dimensional space of Euclidean geometry, as well as the generalizations of these notions to higher dimensions...

.

## See also

• Character theory
Character theory
In mathematics, more specifically in group theory, the character of a group representation is a function on the group which associates to each group element the trace of the corresponding matrix....

• List of harmonic analysis topics
• List of representation theory topics
• Representation theory of finite groups
Representation theory of finite groups
In mathematics, representation theory is a technique for analyzing abstract groups in terms of groups of linear transformations. See the article on group representations for an introduction...