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TIFR 2013 Problem 6 Solution - Finite order in Infinite Groups

TIFR 2013 Problem 6 Solution is a part of TIFR entrance preparation series. The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research is India's premier institution for advanced research in Mathematics. The Institute runs a graduate programme leading to the award of Ph.D., Integrated M.Sc.-Ph.D. as well as M.Sc. degree in certain subjects.
The image is a front cover of a book named Contemporary Abstract Algebra by Joseph A. Gallian. This book is very useful for the preparation of TIFR Entrance.

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Every infinite abelian group has at least one element of infinite order.


Characteristic of a ring.


What if we have an element of finite order, and attach it to infinitely many "inert" elements?

Consider \(\mathbb{Z_2}\). ( Note that,   \(\mathbb{Z_n}\) is an integral domain iff n is prime.  And a finite integral domain is a field. Therefore, \(\mathbb{Z_2}\) is a (finite) field. )

\(\mathbb{Z_2}[x]\) is the ring of polynomials with coefficients from \(\mathbb{Z_2}\). A ring is a group with some extra conditions. \(\mathbb{Z_2}[x]\) is a group with respect to addition. What is the order of each element in this group?

Let \(p(x)=a_0+a_1x+a_2x^2+...a_nx^n\in\mathbb{Z_2}[x]\)

Since \(a_0,a_1,...,a_n\in\mathbb{Z_2}\) we have \(2a_0,2a_1,...,2a_n=0\). Note that 0 here means the identity element of the group \(\mathbb{Z_2})\), not the 0 we use in Real number system.

Hence, \(p(x)+p(x)=2p(x)=0\). Here 0 is the identity of \(\mathbb{Z_2}[x]\).

Therefore, each element of the group  \((\mathbb{Z_2}[x],+)\) has order 1 or 2.

The elements \((1,x,x^2,x^3,...)\) are all distinct members of this group, hence \((\mathbb{Z_2}[x],+)\) is an infinite group, where every element has finite order.

Isomorphic examples: The set of all sequence with elements from \(\mathbb{Z_2}\) & the infinite Cartesian product \(\mathbb{Z_2}\times \mathbb{Z_2}\times\mathbb{Z_2}\times...\) are two examples which follows.

Non-isomorphic  simple generalizations: Of course, there is nothing special about the number 2. We can take any prime (natural) number. Can we take any natural number? Although in courses of algebra we usually deal with \(\mathbb{Z_p}\), p-prime, here there is no need to restrict ourselves to prime p-s only. Indeed we can take any \(\mathbb{Z_n}[x]\), with \(n\in\mathbb{N}\). It may not be 'good enough' as a ring (\(\mathbb{Z_n}\) not being integral domain for n not prime and all that...) but it is sufficient for our example.


  • What is this topic: Abstract Algebra
  • What are some of the associated concept: Finite Order,Characteristic of Ring
  • Book Suggestions: Contemporary Abstract Algebra by Joseph A. Gallian

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