Alternating group
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Algebraic structure → Group theory Group theory 



Infinite dimensional Lie group

In mathematics, an alternating group is the group of even permutations of a finite set. The alternating group on a set of n elements is called the alternating group of degree n, or the alternating group on n letters and denoted by A_{n} or Alt(n).
Contents
Basic properties
For n > 1, the group A_{n} is the commutator subgroup of the symmetric group S_{n} with index 2 and has therefore n! / 2 elements. It is the kernel of the signature group homomorphism sgn : S_{n} → {1, −1} explained under symmetric group.
The group A_{n} is abelian if and only if n ≤ 3 and simple if and only if n = 3 or n ≥ 5. A_{5} is the smallest nonabelian simple group, having order 60, and the smallest nonsolvable group.
The group A_{4} has a Klein fourgroup V as a proper normal subgroup, namely the identity and the double transpositions { (), (12)(34), (13)(24), (14)(23) }, and maps to A_{3} = C_{3}, from the sequence V → A_{4} → A_{3} = C_{3}. In Galois theory, this map, or rather the corresponding map S_{4} → S_{3}, corresponds to associating the Lagrange resolvent cubic to a quartic, which allows the quartic polynomial to be solved by radicals, as established by Lodovico Ferrari.
Conjugacy classes
As in the symmetric group, the conjugacy classes in A_{n} consist of elements with the same cycle shape. However, if the cycle shape consists only of cycles of odd length with no two cycles the same length, where cycles of length one are included in the cycle type, then there are exactly two conjugacy classes for this cycle shape (Scott 1987, §11.1, p299).
Examples:
 The two permutations (123) and (132) are not conjugates in A_{3}, although they have the same cycle shape, and are therefore conjugate in S_{3}.
 The permutation (123)(45678) is not conjugate to its inverse (132)(48765) in A_{8}, although the two permutations have the same cycle shape, so they are conjugate in S_{8}.
Relation with symmetric group
 See Symmetric group.
Generators and relations
A_{n} is generated by 3cycles, since 3cycles can be obtained by combining pairs of transpositions. This generating set is often used to prove that A_{n} is simple for n ≥ 5.
Automorphism group
For n > 3, except for n = 6, the automorphism group of A_{n} is the symmetric group S_{n}, with inner automorphism group A_{n} and outer automorphism group Z_{2}; the outer automorphism comes from conjugation by an odd permutation.
For n = 1 and 2, the automorphism group is trivial. For n = 3 the automorphism group is Z_{2}, with trivial inner automorphism group and outer automorphism group Z_{2}.
The outer automorphism group of A_{6} is the Klein fourgroup V = Z_{2} × Z_{2}, and is related to the outer automorphism of S_{6}. The extra outer automorphism in A_{6} swaps the 3cycles (like (123)) with elements of shape 3^{2} (like (123)(456)).
Exceptional isomorphisms
There are some exceptional isomorphisms between some of the small alternating groups and small groups of Lie type, particularly projective special linear groups. These are:
 A_{4} is isomorphic to PSL_{2}(3)^{[1]} and the symmetry group of chiral tetrahedral symmetry.
 A_{5} is isomorphic to PSL_{2}(4), PSL_{2}(5), and the symmetry group of chiral icosahedral symmetry. (See^{[1]} for an indirect isomorphism of PSL_{2}(F_{5}) → A_{5} using a classification of simple groups of order 60, and here for a direct proof).
 A_{6} is isomorphic to PSL_{2}(9) and PSp_{4}(2)'.
 A_{8} is isomorphic to PSL_{4}(2).
More obviously, A_{3} is isomorphic to the cyclic group Z_{3}, and A_{0}, A_{1}, and A_{2} are isomorphic to the trivial group (which is also SL_{1}(q) = PSL_{1}(q) for any q).
Examples S_{4} and A_{4}
A_{3} = Z_{3} (order 3) 
A_{4} (order 12) 
A_{4} × Z_{2} (order 24) 
S_{3} = Dih_{3} (order 6) 
S_{4} (order 24) 
A_{4} in S_{4} on the left 
Subgroups
A_{4} is the smallest group demonstrating that the converse of Lagrange's theorem is not true in general: given a finite group G and a divisor d of G, there does not necessarily exist a subgroup of G with order d: the group G = A_{4}, of order 12, has no subgroup of order 6. A subgroup of three elements (generated by a cyclic rotation of three objects) with any additional element generates the whole group.
For all n > 4, A_{n} has no nontrivial (i.e., proper) normal subgroups. Thus, A_{n} is a simple group for all n > 4. A_{5} is the smallest nonsolvable group.
Group homology
The group homology of the alternating groups exhibits stabilization, as in stable homotopy theory: for sufficiently large n, it is constant. However, there are some lowdimensional exceptional homology. Note that the homology of the symmetric group exhibits similar stabilization, but without the lowdimensional exceptions (additional homology elements).
H_{1}: Abelianization
The first homology group coincides with abelianization, and (since is perfect, except for the cited exceptions) is thus:
 for ;
 ;
 ;
 for .
This is easily seen directly, as follows. is generated by 3cycles – so the only nontrivial abelianization maps are since order 3 elements must map to order 3 elements – and for all 3cycles are conjugate, so they must map to the same element in the abelianization, since conjugation is trivial in abelian groups. Thus a 3cycle like (123) must map to the same element as its inverse (321), but thus must map to the identity, as it must then have order dividing 2 and 3, so the abelianization is trivial.
For , is trivial, and thus has trivial abelianization. For and one can compute the abelianization directly, noting that the 3cycles form two conjugacy classes (rather than all being conjugate) and there are nontrivial maps (in fact an isomorphism) and
H_{2}: Schur multipliers
The Schur multipliers of the alternating groups A_{n} (in the case where n is at least 5) are the cyclic groups of order 2, except in the case where n is either 6 or 7, in which case there is also a triple cover. In these cases, then, the Schur multiplier is (the cyclic group) of order 6.^{[2]} These were first computed in (Schur 1911).
 for ;
 for ;
 for ;
 for .
Notes
 ^ ^{a} ^{b} Robinson (1996), p. 78
 ^ Wilson, Robert (October 31, 2006), "Chapter 2: Alternating groups", The finite simple groups, 2006 versions, archived from the original on May 22, 2011, 2.7: Covering groups
References
 Robinson, Derek John Scott (1996), A course in the theory of groups, Graduate texts in mathematics, 80 (2 ed.), Springer, ISBN 9780387944616
 Schur, Issai (1911), "Über die Darstellung der symmetrischen und der alternierenden Gruppe durch gebrochene lineare Substitutionen", Journal für die reine und angewandte Mathematik, 139: 155–250, doi:10.1515/crll.1911.139.155
 Scott, W.R. (1987), Group Theory, New York: Dover Publications, ISBN 9780486653778
External links
 Weisstein, Eric W. "Alternating group". MathWorld.
 Weisstein, Eric W. "Alternating group graph". MathWorld.