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In the previous set of notes we introduced the notion of expansion in arbitrary -regular graphs. For the rest of the course, we will now focus attention primarily to a special type of -regular graph, namely a Cayley graph.
Definition 1 (Cayley graph) Let be a group, and let be a finite subset of . We assume that is symmetric (thus whenever ) and does not contain the identity (this is to avoid loops). Then the (right-invariant) Cayley graph is defined to be the graph with vertex set and edge set , thus each vertex is connected to the elements for , and so is a -regular graph.
Example 1 The graph in Exercise 3 of Notes 1 is the Cayley graph on with generators .
Remark 1 We call the above Cayley graphs right-invariant because every right translation on is a graph automorphism of . This group of automorphisms acts transitively on the vertex set of the Cayley graph. One can thus view a Cayley graph as a homogeneous space of , as it “looks the same” from every vertex. One could of course also consider left-invariant Cayley graphs, in which is connected to rather than . However, the two such graphs are isomorphic using the inverse map , so we may without loss of generality restrict our attention throughout to left Cayley graphs.
Remark 2 For minor technical reasons, it will be convenient later on to allow to contain the identity and to come with multiplicity (i.e. it will be a multiset rather than a set). If one does so, of course, the resulting Cayley graph will now contain some loops and multiple edges.
For the purposes of building expander families, we would of course want the underlying group to be finite. However, it will be convenient at various times to “lift” a finite Cayley graph up to an infinite one, and so we permit to be infinite in our definition of a Cayley graph.
We will also sometimes consider a generalisation of a Cayley graph, known as a Schreier graph:
Definition 2 (Schreier graph) Let be a finite group that acts (on the left) on a space , thus there is a map from to such that and for all and . Let be a symmetric subset of which acts freely on in the sense that for all and , and for all distinct and . Then the Schreier graph is defined to be the graph with vertex set and edge set .
Example 2 Every Cayley graph is also a Schreier graph , using the obvious left-action of on itself. The -regular graphs formed from permutations that were studied in the previous set of notes is also a Schreier graph provided that for all distinct , with the underlying group being the permutation group (which acts on the vertex set in the obvious manner), and .
Exercise 1 If is an even integer, show that every -regular graph is a Schreier graph involving a set of generators of cardinality . (Hint: first show that every -regular graph can be decomposed into unions of cycles, each of which partition the vertex set, then use the previous example.
We return now to Cayley graphs. It is easy to characterise qualitative expansion properties of Cayley graphs:
Exercise 2 (Qualitative expansion) Let be a finite Cayley graph.
- (i) Show that is a one-sided -expander for for some if and only if generates .
- (ii) Show that is a two-sided -expander for for some if and only if generates , and furthermore intersects each index subgroup of .
We will however be interested in more quantitative expansion properties, in which the expansion constant is independent of the size of the Cayley graph, so that one can construct non-trivial expander families of Cayley graphs.
One can analyse the expansion of Cayley graphs in a number of ways. For instance, by taking the edge expansion viewpoint, one can study Cayley graphs combinatorially, using the product set operation
of subsets of .
Exercise 3 (Combinatorial description of expansion) Let be a family of finite -regular Cayley graphs. Show that is a one-sided expander family if and only if there is a constant independent of such that for all sufficiently large and all subsets of with .
One can also give a combinatorial description of two-sided expansion, but it is more complicated and we will not use it here.
Exercise 4 (Abelian groups do not expand) Let be a family of finite -regular Cayley graphs, with the all abelian, and the generating . Show that are a one-sided expander family if and only if the Cayley graphs have bounded cardinality (i.e. ). (Hint: assume for contradiction that is a one-sided expander family with , and show by two different arguments that grows at least exponentially in and also at most polynomially in , giving the desired contradiction.)
The left-invariant nature of Cayley graphs also suggests that such graphs can be profitably analysed using some sort of Fourier analysis; as the underlying symmetry group is not necessarily abelian, one should use the Fourier analysis of non-abelian groups, which is better known as (unitary) representation theory. The Fourier-analytic nature of Cayley graphs can be highlighted by recalling the operation of convolution of two functions , defined by the formula
This convolution operation is bilinear and associative (at least when one imposes a suitable decay condition on the functions, such as compact support), but is not commutative unless is abelian. (If one is more algebraically minded, one can also identify (when is finite, at least) with the group algebra , in which case convolution is simply the multiplication operation in this algebra.) The adjacency operator on a Cayley graph can then be viewed as a convolution
where is the probability density
where is the Kronecker delta function on . Using the spectral definition of expansion, we thus see that is a one-sided expander if and only if
whenever is orthogonal to the constant function , and is a two-sided expander if
whenever is orthogonal to the constant function .
We remark that the above spectral definition of expansion can be easily extended to symmetric sets which contain the identity or have multiplicity (i.e. are multisets). (We retain symmetry, though, in order to keep the operation of convolution by self-adjoint.) In particular, one can say (with some slight abuse of notation) that a set of elements of (possibly with repetition, and possibly with some elements equalling the identity) generates a one-sided or two-sided -expander if the associated symmetric probability density
We saw in the last set of notes that expansion can be characterised in terms of random walks. One can of course specialise this characterisation to the Cayley graph case:
Exercise 5 (Random walk description of expansion) Let be a family of finite -regular Cayley graphs, and let be the associated probability density functions. Let be a constant.
- Show that the are a two-sided expander family if and only if there exists a such that for all sufficiently large , one has for some , where denotes the convolution of copies of .
- Show that the are a one-sided expander family if and only if there exists a such that for all sufficiently large , one has for some .
In this set of notes, we will connect expansion of Cayley graphs to an important property of certain infinite groups, known as Kazhdan’s property (T) (or property (T) for short). In 1973, Margulis exploited this property to create the first known explicit and deterministic examples of expanding Cayley graphs. As it turns out, property (T) is somewhat overpowered for this purpose; in particular, we now know that there are many families of Cayley graphs for which the associated infinite group does not obey property (T) (or weaker variants of this property, such as property ). In later notes we will therefore turn to other methods of creating Cayley graphs that do not rely on property (T). Nevertheless, property (T) is of substantial intrinsic interest, and also has many connections to other parts of mathematics than the theory of expander graphs, so it is worth spending some time to discuss it here.
The material here is based in part on this recent text on property (T) by Bekka, de la Harpe, and Valette (available online here).
In the Winter quarter (starting on January 9), I will be teaching a graduate course on expansion in groups of Lie type. This course will focus on constructions of expanding Cayley graphs on finite groups of Lie type (such as the special linear groups , or their simple quotients , but also including more exotic “twisted” groups of Lie type, such as the Steinberg or Suzuki-Ree groups), including the “classical” constructions of Margulis and of Selberg, but also the more recent constructions of Bourgain-Gamburd and later authors (including some very recent work of Ben Green, Emmanuel Breuillard, Rob Guralnick, and myself which is nearing completion and which I plan to post about shortly). As usual, I plan to start posting lecture notes on this blog before the course begins.
In the last set of notes, we obtained the following structural theorem concerning approximate groups:
Theorem 1 Let be a finite -approximate group. Then there exists a coset nilprogression of rank and step contained in , such that is covered by left-translates of (and hence also by right-translates of ).
Remark 1 Under some mild additional hypotheses (e.g. if the dimensions of are sufficiently large, or if is placed in a certain “normal form”, details of which may be found in this paper), a coset nilprogression of rank and step will be an -approximate group, thus giving a partial converse to Theorem 1. (It is not quite a full converse though, even if one works qualitatively and forgets how the constants depend on : if is covered by a bounded number of left- and right-translates of , one needs the group elements to “approximately normalise” in some sense if one wants to then conclude that is an approximate group.) The mild hypotheses alluded to above can be enforced in the statement of the theorem, but we will not discuss this technicality here, and refer the reader to the above-mentioned paper for details.
By placing the coset nilprogression in a virtually nilpotent group, we have the following corollary in the global case:
Corollary 2 Let be a finite -approximate group in an ambient group . Then is covered by left cosets of a virtually nilpotent subgroup of .
In this final set of notes, we give some applications of the above results. The first application is to replace “-approximate group” by “sets of bounded doubling”:
Proposition 3 Let be a finite non-empty subset of a (global) group such that . Then there exists a coset nilprogression of rank and step and cardinality such that can be covered by left-translates of , and also by right-translates of .
We will also establish (a strengthening of) a well-known theorem of Gromov on groups of polynomial growth, as promised back in Notes 0, as well as a variant result (of a type known as a “generalised Margulis lemma”) controlling the almost stabilisers of discrete actions of isometries.
The material here is largely drawn from my recent paper with Emmanuel Breuillard and Ben Green.
A common theme in mathematical analysis (particularly in analysis of a “geometric” or “statistical” flavour) is the interplay between “macroscopic” and “microscopic” scales. These terms are somewhat vague and imprecise, and their interpretation depends on the context and also on one’s choice of normalisations, but if one uses a “macroscopic” normalisation, “macroscopic” scales correspond to scales that are comparable to unit size (i.e. bounded above and below by absolute constants), while “microscopic” scales are much smaller, being the minimal scale at which nontrivial behaviour occurs. (Other normalisations are possible, e.g. making the microscopic scale a unit scale, and letting the macroscopic scale go off to infinity; for instance, such a normalisation is often used, at least initially, in the study of groups of polynomial growth. However, for the theory of approximate groups, a macroscopic scale normalisation is more convenient.)
One can also consider “mesoscopic” scales which are intermediate between microscopic and macroscopic scales, or large-scale behaviour at scales that go off to infinity (and in particular are larger than the macroscopic range of scales), although the behaviour of these scales will not be the main focus of this post. Finally, one can divide the macroscopic scales into “local” macroscopic scales (less than for some small but fixed ) and “global” macroscopic scales (scales that are allowed to be larger than a given large absolute constant ). For instance, given a finite approximate group :
- Sets such as for some fixed (e.g. ) can be considered to be sets at a global macroscopic scale. Sending to infinity, one enters the large-scale regime.
- Sets such as the sets that appear in the Sanders lemma from the previous set of notes (thus for some fixed , e.g. ) can be considered to be sets at a local macroscopic scale. Sending to infinity, one enters the mesoscopic regime.
- The non-identity element of that is “closest” to the identity in some suitable metric (cf. the proof of Jordan’s theorem from Notes 0) would be an element associated to the microscopic scale. The orbit starts out at microscopic scales, and (assuming some suitable “escape” axioms) will pass through mesoscopic scales and finally entering the macroscopic regime. (Beyond this point, the orbit may exhibit a variety of behaviours, such as periodically returning back to the smaller scales, diverging off to ever larger scales, or filling out a dense subset of some macroscopic set; the escape axioms we will use do not exclude any of these possibilities.)
For comparison, in the theory of locally compact groups, properties about small neighbourhoods of the identity (e.g. local compactness, or the NSS property) would be properties at the local macroscopic scale, whereas the space of one-parameter subgroups can be interpreted as an object at the microscopic scale. The exponential map then provides a bridge connecting the microscopic and macroscopic scales.
We return now to approximate groups. The macroscopic structure of these objects is well described by the Hrushovski Lie model theorem from the previous set of notes, which informally asserts that the macroscopic structure of an (ultra) approximate group can be modeled by a Lie group. This is already an important piece of information about general approximate groups, but it does not directly reveal the full structure of such approximate groups, because these Lie models are unable to see the microscopic behaviour of these approximate groups.
To illustrate this, let us review one of the examples of a Lie model of an ultra approximate group, namely Exercise 28 from Notes 7. In this example one studied a “nilbox” from a Heisenberg group, which we rewrite here in slightly different notation. Specifically, let be the Heisenberg group
thus is the nonstandard box
where . As the above exercise establishes, is an ultra approximate group with a Lie model given by the formula
for and . Note how the nonabelian nature of (arising from the term in the group law (1)) has been lost in the model , because the effect of that nonabelian term on is only which is infinitesimal and thus does not contribute to the standard part. In particular, if we replace with the abelian group with the additive group law
and let and be defined exactly as with and , but placed inside the group structure of rather than , then and are essentially “indistinguishable” as far as their models by are concerned, even though the latter approximate group is abelian and the former is not. The problem is that the nonabelian-ness in the former example is so microscopic that it falls entirely inside the kernel of and is thus not detected at all by the model.
The problem of not being able to “see” the microscopic structure of a group (or approximate group) also was a key difficulty in the theory surrounding Hilbert’s fifth problem that was discussed in previous notes. A key tool in being able to resolve such structure was to build left-invariant metrics (or equivalently, norms ) on one’s group, which obeyed useful “Gleason axioms” such as the commutator axiom
for sufficiently small , or the escape axiom
when was sufficiently small. Such axioms have important and non-trivial content even in the microscopic regime where or are extremely close to the identity. For instance, in the proof of Jordan’s theorem from Notes 0, which showed that any finite unitary group was boundedly virtually abelian, a key step was to apply the commutator axiom (2) (for the distance to the identity in operator norm) to the most “microscopic” element of , or more precisely a non-identity element of of minimal norm. The key point was that this microscopic element was virtually central in , and as such it restricted much of to a lower-dimensional subgroup of the unitary group, at which point one could argue using an induction-on-dimension argument. As we shall see, a similar argument can be used to place “virtually nilpotent” structure on finite approximate groups. For instance, in the Heisenberg-type approximate groups and discussed earlier, the element will be “closest to the origin” in a suitable sense to be defined later, and is centralised by both approximate groups; quotienting out (the orbit of) that central element and iterating the process two more times, we shall see that one can express both and as a tower of central cyclic extensions, which in particular establishes the nilpotency of both groups.
The escape axiom (3) is a particularly important axiom in connecting the microscopic structure of a group to its macroscopic structure; for instance, as shown in Notes 2, this axiom (in conjunction with the closely related commutator axiom) tends to imply dilation estimates such as that allow one to understand the microscopic geometry of points close to the identity in terms of the (local) macroscopic geometry of points that are significantly further away from the identity.
It is thus of interest to build some notion of a norm (or left-invariant metrics) on an approximate group that obeys the escape and commutator axioms (while being non-degenerate enough to adequately capture the geometry of in some sense), in a fashion analogous to the Gleason metrics that played such a key role in the theory of Hilbert’s fifth problem. It is tempting to use the Lie model theorem to do this, since Lie groups certainly come with Gleason metrics. However, if one does this, one ends up, roughly speaking, with a norm on that only obeys the escape and commutator estimates macroscopically; roughly speaking, this means that one has a macroscopic commutator inequality
and a macroscopic escape property
but such axioms are too weak for analysis at the microscopic scale, and in particular in establishing centrality of the element closest to the identity.
Another way to proceed is to build a norm that is specifically designed to obey the crucial escape property. Given an approximate group in a group , and an element of , we can define the escape norm of by the formula
Thus, equals if lies outside of , equals if lies in but lies outside of , and so forth. Such norms had already appeared in Notes 4, in the context of analysing NSS groups.
As it turns out, this expression will obey an escape axiom, as long as we place some additional hypotheses on which we will present shortly. However, it need not actually be a norm; in particular, the triangle inequality
is not necessarily true. Fortunately, it turns out that by a (slightly more complicated) version of the Gleason machinery from Notes 4 we can establish a usable substitute for this inequality, namely the quasi-triangle inequality
where is a constant independent of . As we shall see, these estimates can then be used to obtain a commutator estimate (2).
However, to do all this, it is not enough for to be an approximate group; it must obey two additional “trapping” axioms that improve the properties of the escape norm. We formalise these axioms (somewhat arbitrarily) as follows:
Definition 1 (Strong approximate group) Let . A strong -approximate group is a finite -approximate group in a group with a symmetric subset obeying the following axioms:
An ultra strong -approximate group is an ultraproduct of strong -approximate groups.
The first trapping condition can be rewritten as
and the second trapping condition can similarly be rewritten as
This makes the escape norms of , and comparable to each other, which will be needed for a number of reasons (and in particular to close a certain bootstrap argument properly). Compare this with equation (12) from Notes 4, which used the NSS hypothesis to obtain similar conclusions. Thus, one can view the strong approximate group axioms as being a sort of proxy for the NSS property.
Example 1 Let be a large natural number. Then the interval in the integers is a -approximate group, which is also a strong -approximate group (setting , for instance). On the other hand, if one places in rather than in the integers, then the first trapping condition is lost and one is no longer a strong -approximate group. Also, if one remains in the integers, but deletes a few elements from , e.g. deleting from ), then one is still a -approximate group, but is no longer a strong -approximate group, again because the first trapping condition is lost.
A key consequence of the Hrushovski Lie model theorem is that it allows one to replace approximate groups by strong approximate groups:
Exercise 1 (Finding strong approximate groups)
- (i) Let be an ultra approximate group with a good Lie model , and let be a symmetric convex body (i.e. a convex open bounded subset) in the Lie algebra . Show that if is a sufficiently small standard number, then there exists a strong ultra approximate group with
and with can be covered by finitely many left translates of . Furthermore, is also a good model for .
- (ii) If is a finite -approximate group, show that there is a strong -approximate group inside with the property that can be covered by left translates of . (Hint: use (i), Hrushovski’s Lie model theorem, and a compactness and contradiction argument.)
The need to compare the strong approximate group to an exponentiated small ball will be convenient later, as it allows one to easily use the geometry of to track various aspects of the strong approximate group.
As mentioned previously, strong approximate groups exhibit some of the features of NSS locally compact groups. In Notes 4, we saw that the escape norm for NSS locally compact groups was comparable to a Gleason metric. The following theorem is an analogue of that result:
Theorem 2 (Gleason lemma) Let be a strong -approximate group in a group .
- (Symmetry) For any , one has .
- (Conjugacy bound) For any , one has .
- (Triangle inequality) For any , one has .
- (Escape property) One has whenever .
- (Commutator inequality) For any , one has .
The proof of this theorem will occupy a large part of the current set of notes. We then aim to use this theorem to classify strong approximate groups. The basic strategy (temporarily ignoring a key technical issue) follows the Bieberbach-Frobenius proof of Jordan’s theorem, as given in Notes 0, is as follows.
- Start with an (ultra) strong approximate group .
- From the Gleason lemma, the elements with zero escape norm form a normal subgroup of . Quotient these elements out. Show that all non-identity elements will have positive escape norm.
- Find the non-identity element in (the quotient of) of minimal escape norm. Use the commutator estimate (assuming it is inherited by the quotient) to show that will centralise (most of) this quotient. In particular, the orbit is (essentially) a central subgroup of .
- Quotient this orbit out; then find the next non-identity element in this new quotient of . Again, show that is essentially a central subgroup of this quotient.
- Repeat this process until becomes entirely trivial. Undoing all the quotients, this should demonstrate that is virtually nilpotent, and that is essentially a coset nilprogression.
There are two main technical issues to resolve to make this strategy work. The first is to show that the iterative step in the argument terminates in finite time. This we do by returning to the Lie model theorem. It turns out that each time one quotients out by an orbit of an element that escapes, the dimension of the Lie model drops by at least one. This will ensure termination of the argument in finite time.
The other technical issue is that while the quotienting out all the elements of zero escape norm eliminates all “torsion” from (in the sense that the quotient of has no non-trivial elements of zero escape norm), further quotienting operations can inadvertently re-introduce such torsion. This torsion can be re-eradicated by further quotienting, but the price one pays for this is that the final structural description of is no longer as strong as “virtually nilpotent”, but is instead a more complicated tower alternating between (ultra) finite extensions and central extensions.
Example 2 Consider the strong -approximate group
in the integers, where is a large natural number not divisible by . As is torsion-free, all non-zero elements of have positive escape norm, and the nonzero element of minimal escape norm here is (or ). But if one quotients by , projects down to , which now has torsion (and all elements in this quotient have zero escape norm). Thus torsion has been re-introduced by the quotienting operation. (A related observation is that the intersection of with is not a simple progression, but is a more complicated object, namely a generalised arithmetic progression of rank two.)
To deal with this issue, we will not quotient out by the entire cyclic group generated by the element of minimal escape norm, but rather by an arithmetic progression , where is a natural number comparable to the reciprocal of the escape norm, as this will be enough to cut the dimension of the Lie model down by one without introducing any further torsion. Of course, this cannot be done in the category of global groups, since the arithmetic progression will not, in general, be a group. However, it is still a local group, and it turns out that there is an analogue of the quotient space construction in local groups. This fixes the problem, but at a cost: in order to make the inductive portion of the argument work smoothly, it is now more natural to place the entire argument inside the category of local groups rather than global groups, even though the primary interest in approximate groups is in the global case when lies inside a global group. This necessitates some technical modification to some of the preceding discussion (for instance, the Gleason-Yamabe theorem must be replaced by the local version of this theorem, due to Goldbring); details can be found in this recent paper of Emmanuel Breuillard, Ben Green, and myself, but will only be sketched here.
In the previous set of notes, we introduced the notion of an ultra approximate group – an ultraproduct of finite -approximate groups for some independent of , where each -approximate group may lie in a distinct ambient group . Although these objects arise initially from the “finitary” objects , it turns out that ultra approximate groups can be profitably analysed by means of infinitary groups (and in particular, locally compact groups or Lie groups ), by means of certain models of (or of the group generated by ). We will define precisely what we mean by a model later, but as a first approximation one can view a model as a representation of the ultra approximate group (or of ) that is “macroscopically faithful” in that it accurately describes the “large scale” behaviour of (or equivalently, that the kernel of the representation is “microscopic” in some sense). In the next section we will see how one can use “Gleason lemma” technology to convert this macroscopic control of an ultra approximate group into microscopic control, which will be the key to classifying approximate groups.
Models of ultra approximate groups can be viewed as the multiplicative combinatorics analogue of the more well known concept of an ultralimit of metric spaces, which we briefly review below the fold as motivation.
The crucial observation is that ultra approximate groups enjoy a local compactness property which allows them to be usefully modeled by locally compact groups (and hence, through the Gleason-Yamabe theorem from previous notes, by Lie groups also). As per the Heine-Borel theorem, the local compactness will come from a combination of a completeness property and a local total boundedness property. The completeness property turns out to be a direct consequence of the countable saturation property of ultraproducts, thus illustrating one of the key advantages of the ultraproduct setting. The local total boundedness property is more interesting. Roughly speaking, it asserts that “large bounded sets” (such as or ) can be covered by finitely many translates of “small bounded sets” , where “small” is a topological group sense, implying in particular that large powers of lie inside a set such as or . The easiest way to obtain such a property comes from the following lemma of Sanders:
Lemma 1 (Sanders lemma) Let be a finite -approximate group in a (global) group , and let . Then there exists a symmetric subset of with containing the identity such that .
This lemma has an elementary combinatorial proof, and is the key to endowing an ultra approximate group with locally compact structure. There is also a closely related lemma of Croot and Sisask which can achieve similar results, and which will also be discussed below. (The locally compact structure can also be established more abstractly using the much more general methods of definability theory, as was first done by Hrushovski, but we will not discuss this approach here.)
By combining the locally compact structure of ultra approximate groups with the Gleason-Yamabe theorem, one ends up being able to model a large “ultra approximate subgroup” of by a Lie group . Such Lie models serve a number of important purposes in the structure theory of approximate groups. Firstly, as all Lie groups have a dimension which is a natural number, they allow one to assign a natural number “dimension” to ultra approximate groups, which opens up the ability to perform “induction on dimension” arguments. Secondly, Lie groups have an escape property (which is in fact equivalent to no small subgroups property): if a group element lies outside of a very small ball , then some power of it will escape a somewhat larger ball . Or equivalently: if a long orbit lies inside the larger ball , one can deduce that the original element lies inside the small ball . Because all Lie groups have this property, we will be able to show that all ultra approximate groups “essentially” have a similar property, in that they are “controlled” by a nearby ultra approximate group which obeys a number of escape-type properties analogous to those enjoyed by small balls in a Lie group, and which we will call a strong ultra approximate group. This will be discussed in the next set of notes, where we will also see how these escape-type properties can be exploited to create a metric structure on strong approximate groups analogous to the Gleason metrics studied in previous notes, which can in turn be exploited (together with an induction on dimension argument) to fully classify such approximate groups (in the finite case, at least).
There are some cases where the analysis is particularly simple. For instance, in the bounded torsion case, one can show that the associated Lie model is necessarily zero-dimensional, which allows for a easy classification of approximate groups of bounded torsion.
Some of the material here is drawn from my recent paper with Ben Green and Emmanuel Breuillard, which is in turn inspired by a previous paper of Hrushovski.
Roughly speaking, mathematical analysis can be divided into two major styles, namely hard analysis and soft analysis. The precise distinction between the two types of analysis is imprecise (and in some cases one may use a blend the two styles), but some key differences can be listed as follows.
- Hard analysis tends to be concerned with quantitative or effective properties such as estimates, upper and lower bounds, convergence rates, and growth rates or decay rates. In contrast, soft analysis tends to be concerned with qualitative or ineffective properties such as existence and uniqueness, finiteness, measurability, continuity, differentiability, connectedness, or compactness.
- Hard analysis tends to be focused on finitary, finite-dimensional or discrete objects, such as finite sets, finitely generated groups, finite Boolean combination of boxes or balls, or “finite-complexity” functions, such as polynomials or functions on a finite set. In contrast, soft analysis tends to be focused on infinitary, infinite-dimensional, or continuous objects, such as arbitrary measurable sets or measurable functions, or abstract locally compact groups.
- Hard analysis tends to involve explicit use of many parameters such as , , , etc. In contrast, soft analysis tends to rely instead on properties such as continuity, differentiability, compactness, etc., which implicitly are defined using a similar set of parameters, but whose parameters often do not make an explicit appearance in arguments.
- In hard analysis, it is often the case that a key lemma in the literature is not quite optimised for the application at hand, and one has to reprove a slight variant of that lemma (using a variant of the proof of the original lemma) in order for it to be suitable for applications. In contrast, in soft analysis, key results can often be used as “black boxes”, without need of further modification or inspection of the proof.
- The properties in soft analysis tend to enjoy precise closure properties; for instance, the composition or linear combination of continuous functions is again continuous, and similarly for measurability, differentiability, etc. In contrast, the closure properties in hard analysis tend to be fuzzier, in that the parameters in the conclusion are often different from the parameters in the hypotheses. For instance, the composition of two Lipschitz functions with Lipschitz constant is still Lipschitz, but now with Lipschitz constant instead of . These changes in parameters mean that hard analysis arguments often require more “bookkeeping” than their soft analysis counterparts, and are less able to utilise algebraic constructions (e.g. quotient space constructions) that rely heavily on precise closure properties.
In the lectures so far, focusing on the theory surrounding Hilbert’s fifth problem, the results and techniques have fallen well inside the category of soft analysis. However, we will now turn to the theory of approximate groups, which is a topic which is traditionally studied using the methods of hard analysis. (Later we will also study groups of polynomial growth, which lies on an intermediate position in the spectrum between hard and soft analysis, and which can be profitably analysed using both styles of analysis.)
Despite the superficial differences between hard and soft analysis, though, there are a number of important correspondences between results in hard analysis and results in soft analysis. For instance, if one has some sort of uniform quantitative bound on some expression relating to finitary objects, one can often use limiting arguments to then conclude a qualitative bound on analogous expressions on infinitary objects, by viewing the latter objects as some sort of “limit” of the former objects. Conversely, if one has a qualitative bound on infinitary objects, one can often use compactness and contradiction arguments to recover uniform quantitative bounds on finitary objects as a corollary.
Remark 1 Another type of correspondence between hard analysis and soft analysis, which is “syntactical” rather than “semantical” in nature, arises by taking the proofs of a soft analysis result, and translating such a qualitative proof somehow (e.g. by carefully manipulating quantifiers) into a quantitative proof of an analogous hard analysis result. This type of technique is sometimes referred to as proof mining in the proof theory literature, and is discussed in this previous blog post (and its comments). We will however not employ systematic proof mining techniques here, although in later posts we will informally borrow arguments from infinitary settings (such as the methods used to construct Gleason metrics) and adapt them to finitary ones.
Let us illustrate the correspondence between hard and soft analysis results with a simple example.
Proposition 1 Let be a sequentially compact topological space, let be a dense subset of , and let be a continuous function (giving the extended half-line the usual order topology). Then the following statements are equivalent:
- (i) (Qualitative bound on infinitary objects) For all , one has .
- (ii) (Quantitative bound on finitary objects) There exists such that for all .
In applications, is typically a (non-compact) set of “finitary” (or “finite complexity”) objects of a certain class, and is some sort of “completion” or “compactification” of which admits additional “infinitary” objects that may be viewed as limits of finitary objects.
Proof: To see that (ii) implies (i), observe from density that every point in is adherent to , and so given any neighbourhood of , there exists . Since , we conclude from the continuity of that also, and the claim follows.
Conversely, to show that (i) implies (ii), we use the “compactness and contradiction” argument. Suppose for sake of contradiction that (ii) failed. Then for any natural number , there exists such that . (Here we have used the axiom of choice, which we will assume throughout this course.) Using sequential compactness, and passing to a subsequence if necessary, we may assume that the converge to a limit . By continuity of , this implies that , contradicting (i).
Remark 2 Note that the above deduction of (ii) from (i) is ineffective in that it gives no explicit bound on the uniform bound in (ii). Without any further information on how the qualitative bound (i) is proven, this is the best one can do in general (and this is one of the most significant weaknesses of infinitary methods when used to solve finitary problems); but if one has access to the proof of (i), one can often finitise or proof mine that argument to extract an effective bound for , although often the bound one obtains in the process is quite poor (particularly if the proof of (i) relied extensively on infinitary tools, such as limits). See this blog post for some related discussion.
The above simple example illustrates that in order to get from an “infinitary” statement such as (i) to a “finitary” statement such as (ii), a key step is to be able to take a sequence (or in some cases, a more general net ) of finitary objects and extract a suitable infinitary limit object . In the literature, there are three main ways in which one can extract such a limit:
- (Topological limit) If the are all elements of some topological space (e.g. an incomplete function space) which has a suitable “compactification” or “completion” (e.g. a Banach space), then (after passing to a subsequence if necessary) one can often ensure the converge in a topological sense (or in a metrical sense) to a limit . The use of this type of limit to pass between quantitative/finitary and qualitative/infinitary results is particularly common in the more analytical areas of mathematics (such as ergodic theory, asymptotic combinatorics, or PDE), due to the abundance of useful compactness results in analysis such as the (sequential) Banach-Alaoglu theorem, Prokhorov’s theorem, the Helly selection theorem, the Arzelá-Ascoli theorem, or even the humble Bolzano-Weierstrass theorem. However, one often has to take care with the nature of convergence, as many compactness theorems only guarantee convergence in a weak sense rather than in a strong one.
- (Categorical limit) If the are all objects in some category (e.g. metric spaces, groups, fields, etc.) with a number of morphisms between the (e.g. morphisms from to , or vice versa), then one can often form a direct limit or inverse limit of these objects to form a limiting object . The use of these types of limits to connect quantitative and qualitative results is common in subjects such as algebraic geometry that are particularly amenable to categorical ways of thinking. (We have seen inverse limits appear in the discussion of Hilbert’s fifth problem, although in that context they were not really used to connect quantitative and qualitative results together.)
- (Logical limit) If the are all distinct spaces (or elements or subsets of distinct spaces), with few morphisms connecting them together, then topological and categorical limits are often unavailable or unhelpful. In such cases, however, one can still tie together such objects using an ultraproduct construction (or similar device) to create a limiting object or limiting space that is a logical limit of the , in the sense that various properties of the (particularly those that can be phrased using the language of first-order logic) are preserved in the limit. As such, logical limits are often very well suited for the task of connecting finitary and infinitary mathematics together. Ultralimit type constructions are of course used extensively in logic (particularly in model theory), but are also popular in metric geometry. They can also be used in many of the previously mentioned areas of mathematics, such as algebraic geometry (as discussed in this previous post).
The three types of limits are analogous in many ways, with a number of connections between them. For instance, in the study of groups of polynomial growth, both topological limits (using the metric notion of Gromov-Hausdorff convergence) and logical limits (using the ultralimit construction) are commonly used, and to some extent the two constructions are at least partially interchangeable in this setting. (See also these previous posts for the use of ultralimits as a substitute for topological limits.) In the theory of approximate groups, though, it was observed by Hrushovski that logical limits (and in particular, ultraproducts) are the most useful type of limit to connect finitary approximate groups to their infinitary counterparts. One reason for this is that one is often interested in obtaining results on approximate groups that are uniform in the choice of ambient group . As such, one often seeks to take a limit of approximate groups that lie in completely unrelated ambient groups , with no obvious morphisms or metrics tying the to each other. As such, the topological and categorical limits are not easily usable, whereas the logical limits can still be employed without much difficulty.
Logical limits are closely tied with non-standard analysis. Indeed, by applying an ultraproduct construction to standard number systems such as the natural numbers or the reals , one can obtain nonstandard number systems such as the nonstandard natural numbers or the nonstandard real numbers (or hyperreals) . These nonstandard number systems behave very similarly to their standard counterparts, but also enjoy the advantage of containing the standard number systems as proper subsystems (e.g. is a subring of ), which allows for some convenient algebraic manipulations (such as the quotient space construction to create spaces such as ) which are not easily accessible in the purely standard universe. Nonstandard spaces also enjoy a useful completeness property, known as countable saturation, which is analogous to metric completeness (as discussed in this previous blog post) and which will be particularly useful for us in tying together the theory of approximate groups with the theory of Hilbert’s fifth problem. See this previous post for more discussion on ultrafilters and nonstandard analysis.
In these notes, we lay out the basic theory of ultraproducts and ultralimits (in particular, proving Los’s theorem, which roughly speaking asserts that ultralimits are limits in a logical sense, as well as the countable saturation property alluded to earlier). We also lay out some of the basic foundations of nonstandard analysis, although we will not rely too heavily on nonstandard tools in this course. Finally, we apply this general theory to approximate groups, to connect finite approximate groups to an infinitary type of approximate group which we will call an ultra approximate group. We will then study these ultra approximate groups (and models of such groups) in more detail in the next set of notes.
Remark 3 Throughout these notes (and in the rest of the course), we will assume the axiom of choice, in order to easily use ultrafilter-based tools. If one really wanted to expend the effort, though, one could eliminate the axiom of choice from the proofs of the final “finitary” results that one is ultimately interested in proving, at the cost of making the proofs significantly lengthier. Indeed, there is a general result of Gödel that any result which can be stated in the language of Peano arithmetic (which, roughly speaking, means that the result is “finitary” in nature), and can be proven in set theory using the axiom of choice (or more precisely, in the ZFC axiom system), can also be proven in set theory without the axiom of choice (i.e. in the ZF system). As this course is not focused on foundations, we shall simply assume the axiom of choice henceforth to avoid further distraction by such issues.
In the previous notes, we established the Gleason-Yamabe theorem:
Theorem 1 (Gleason-Yamabe theorem) Let be a locally compact group. Then, for any open neighbourhood of the identity, there exists an open subgroup of and a compact normal subgroup of in such that is isomorphic to a Lie group.
Roughly speaking, this theorem asserts the “mesoscopic” structure of a locally compact group (after restricting to an open subgroup to remove the macroscopic structure, and quotienting out by to remove the microscopic structure) is always of Lie type.
In this post, we combine the Gleason-Yamabe theorem with some additional tools from point-set topology to improve the description of locally compact groups in various situations.
We first record some easy special cases of this. If the locally compact group has the no small subgroups property, then one can take to be trivial; thus is Lie, which implies that is locally Lie and thus Lie as well. Thus the assertion that all locally compact NSS groups are Lie (Theorem 10 from Notes 4) is a special case of the Gleason-Yamabe theorem.
In a similar spirit, if the locally compact group is connected, then the only open subgroup of is the full group ; in particular, by arguing as in the treatment of the compact case (Exercise 19 of Notes 3), we conclude that any connected locally compact Hausdorff group is the inverse limit of Lie groups.
Now we return to the general case, in which need not be connected or NSS. One slight defect of Theorem 1 is that the group can depend on the open neighbourhood . However, by using a basic result from the theory of totally disconnected groups known as van Dantzig’s theorem, one can make independent of :
Theorem 2 (Gleason-Yamabe theorem, stronger version) Let be a locally compact group. Then there exists an open subgoup of such that, for any open neighbourhood of the identity in , there exists a compact normal subgroup of in such that is isomorphic to a Lie group.
We prove this theorem below the fold. As in previous notes, if is Hausdorff, the group is thus an inverse limit of Lie groups (and if (and hence ) is first countable, it is the inverse limit of a sequence of Lie groups).
It remains to analyse inverse limits of Lie groups. To do this, it helps to have some control on the dimensions of the Lie groups involved. A basic tool for this purpose is the invariance of domain theorem:
Theorem 3 (Brouwer invariance of domain theorem) Let be an open subset of , and let be a continuous injective map. Then is also open.
We prove this theorem below the fold. It has an important corollary:
Corollary 4 (Topological invariance of dimension) If , and is a non-empty open subset of , then there is no continuous injective mapping from to . In particular, and are not homeomorphic.
Exercise 1 (Uniqueness of dimension) Let be a non-empty topological space. If is a manifold of dimension , and also a manifold of dimension , show that . Thus, we may define the dimension of a non-empty manifold in a well-defined manner.
If are non-empty manifolds, and there is a continuous injection from to , show that .
Remark 1 Note that the analogue of the above exercise for surjections is false: the existence of a continuous surjection from one non-empty manifold to another does not imply that , thanks to the existence of space-filling curves. Thus we see that invariance of domain, while intuitively plausible, is not an entirely trivial observation.
As we shall see, we can use Corollary 4 to bound the dimension of the Lie groups in an inverse limit by the “dimension” of the inverse limit . Among other things, this can be used to obtain a positive resolution to Hilbert’s fifth problem:
Theorem 5 (Hilbert’s fifth problem) Every locally Euclidean group is isomorphic to a Lie group.
Again, this will be shown below the fold.
Another application of this machinery is the following variant of Hilbert’s fifth problem, which was used in Gromov’s original proof of Gromov’s theorem on groups of polynomial growth, although we will not actually need it this course:
Proposition 6 Let be a locally compact -compact group that acts transitively, faithfully, and continuously on a connected manifold . Then is isomorphic to a Lie group.
Recall that a continuous action of a topological group on a topological space is a continuous map which obeys the associativity law for and , and the identity law for all . The action is transitive if, for every , there is a with , and faithful if, whenever are distinct, one has for at least one .
The -compact hypothesis is a technical one, and can likely be dropped, but we retain it for this discussion (as in most applications we can reduce to this case).
Remark 2 It is conjectured that the transitivity hypothesis in Proposition 6 can be dropped; this is known as the Hilbert-Smith conjecture. It remains open; the key difficulty is to figure out a way to eliminate the possibility that is a -adic group . See this previous blog post for further discussion.
In this set of notes we will be able to finally prove the Gleason-Yamabe theorem from Notes 0, which we restate here:
Theorem 1 (Gleason-Yamabe theorem) Let be a locally compact group. Then, for any open neighbourhood of the identity, there exists an open subgroup of and a compact normal subgroup of in such that is isomorphic to a Lie group.
In the next set of notes, we will combine the Gleason-Yamabe theorem with some topological analysis (and in particular, using the invariance of domain theorem) to establish some further control on locally compact groups, and in particular obtaining a solution to Hilbert’s fifth problem.
To prove the Gleason-Yamabe theorem, we will use three major tools developed in previous notes. The first (from Notes 2) is a criterion for Lie structure in terms of a special type of metric, which we will call a Gleason metric:
Definition 2 Let be a topological group. A Gleason metric on is a left-invariant metric which generates the topology on and obeys the following properties for some constant , writing for :
- (Escape property) If and is such that , then .
- (Commutator estimate) If are such that , then
where is the commutator of and .
Theorem 3 (Building Lie structure from Gleason metrics) Let be a locally compact group that has a Gleason metric. Then is isomorphic to a Lie group.
The second tool is the existence of a left-invariant Haar measure on any locally compact group; see Theorem 3 from Notes 3. Finally, we will also need the compact case of the Gleason-Yamabe theorem (Theorem 8 from Notes 3), which was proven via the Peter-Weyl theorem:
Theorem 4 (Gleason-Yamabe theorem for compact groups) Let be a compact Hausdorff group, and let be a neighbourhood of the identity. Then there exists a compact normal subgroup of contained in such that is isomorphic to a linear group (i.e. a closed subgroup of a general linear group ).
To finish the proof of the Gleason-Yamabe theorem, we have to somehow use the available structures on locally compact groups (such as Haar measure) to build good metrics on those groups (or on suitable subgroups or quotient groups). The basic construction is as follows:
Definition 5 (Building metrics out of test functions) Let be a topological group, and let be a bounded non-negative function. Then we define the pseudometric by the formula
and the semi-norm by the formula
Note that one can also write
where is the “derivative” of in the direction .
Exercise 1 Let the notation and assumptions be as in the above definition. For any , establish the metric-like properties
- (Identity) , with equality when .
- (Symmetry) .
- (Triangle inequality) .
- (Continuity) If , then the map is continuous.
- (Boundedness) One has . If is supported in a set , then equality occurs unless .
- (Left-invariance) . In particular, .
In particular, we have the norm-like properties
- (Identity) , with equality when .
- (Symmetry) .
- (Triangle inequality) .
- (Continuity) If , then the map is continuous.
- (Boundedness) One has . If is supported in a set , then equality occurs unless .
We remark that the first three properties of in the above exercise ensure that is indeed a pseudometric.
To get good metrics (such as Gleason metrics) on groups , it thus suffices to obtain test functions that obey suitably good “regularity” properties. We will achieve this primarily by means of two tricks. The first trick is to obtain high-regularity test functions by convolving together two low-regularity test functions, taking advantage of the existence of a left-invariant Haar measure on . The second trick is to obtain low-regularity test functions by means of a metric-like object on . This latter trick may seem circular, as our whole objective is to get a metric on in the first place, but the key point is that the metric one starts with does not need to have as many “good properties” as the metric one ends up with, thanks to the regularity-improving properties of convolution. As such, one can use a “bootstrap argument” (or induction argument) to create a good metric out of almost nothing. It is this bootstrap miracle which is at the heart of the proof of the Gleason-Yamabe theorem (and hence to the solution of Hilbert’s fifth problem).
The arguments here are based on the nonstandard analysis arguments used to establish Hilbert’s fifth problem by Hirschfeld and by Goldbring (and also some unpublished lecture notes of Goldbring and van den Dries). However, we will not explicitly use any nonstandard analysis in this post.
In the last few notes, we have been steadily reducing the amount of regularity needed on a topological group in order to be able to show that it is in fact a Lie group, in the spirit of Hilbert’s fifth problem. Now, we will work on Hilbert’s fifth problem from the other end, starting with the minimal assumption of local compactness on a topological group , and seeing what kind of structures one can build using this assumption. (For simplicity we shall mostly confine our discussion to global groups rather than local groups for now.) In view of the preceding notes, we would like to see two types of structures emerge in particular:
- representations of into some more structured group, such as a matrix group ; and
- metrics on that capture the escape and commutator structure of (i.e. Gleason metrics).
To build either of these structures, a fundamentally useful tool is that of (left-) Haar measure – a left-invariant Radon measure on . (One can of course also consider right-Haar measures; in many cases (such as for compact or abelian groups), the two concepts are the same, but this is not always the case.) This concept generalises the concept of Lebesgue measure on Euclidean spaces , which is of course fundamental in analysis on those spaces.
Haar measures will help us build useful representations and useful metrics on locally compact groups . For instance, a Haar measure gives rise to the regular representation that maps each element of to the unitary translation operator on the Hilbert space of square-integrable measurable functions on with respect to this Haar measure by the formula
(The presence of the inverse is convenient in order to obtain the homomorphism property without a reversal in the group multiplication.) In general, this is an infinite-dimensional representation; but in many cases (and in particular, in the case when is compact) we can decompose this representation into a useful collection of finite-dimensional representations, leading to the Peter-Weyl theorem, which is a fundamental tool for understanding the structure of compact groups. This theorem is particularly simple in the compact abelian case, where it turns out that the representations can be decomposed into one-dimensional representations , better known as characters, leading to the theory of Fourier analysis on general compact abelian groups. With this and some additional (largely combinatorial) arguments, we will also be able to obtain satisfactory structural control on locally compact abelian groups as well.
The link between Haar measure and useful metrics on is a little more complicated. Firstly, once one has the regular representation , and given a suitable “test” function , one can then embed into (or into other function spaces on , such as or ) by mapping a group element to the translate of in that function space. (This map might not actually be an embedding if enjoys a non-trivial translation symmetry , but let us ignore this possibility for now.) One can then pull the metric structure on the function space back to a metric on , for instance defining an -based metric
if is square-integrable, or perhaps a -based metric
if is continuous and compactly supported (with denoting the supremum norm). These metrics tend to have several nice properties (for instance, they are automatically left-invariant), particularly if the test function is chosen to be sufficiently “smooth”. For instance, if we introduce the differentiation (or more precisely, finite difference) operators
(so that ) and use the metric (1), then a short computation (relying on the translation-invariance of the norm) shows that
for all . This suggests that commutator estimates, such as those appearing in the definition of a Gleason metric in Notes 2, might be available if one can control “second derivatives” of ; informally, we would like our test functions to have a “” type regularity.
If was already a Lie group (or something similar, such as a local group) then it would not be too difficult to concoct such a function by using local coordinates. But of course the whole point of Hilbert’s fifth problem is to do without such regularity hypotheses, and so we need to build test functions by other means. And here is where the Haar measure comes in: it provides the fundamental tool of convolution
between two suitable functions , which can be used to build smoother functions out of rougher ones. For instance:
Exercise 1 Let be continuous, compactly supported functions which are Lipschitz continuous. Show that the convolution using Lebesgue measure on obeys the -type commutator estimate
for all and some finite quantity depending only on .
This exercise suggests a strategy to build Gleason metrics by convolving together some “Lipschitz” test functions and then using the resulting convolution as a test function to define a metric. This strategy may seem somewhat circular because one needs a notion of metric in order to define Lipschitz continuity in the first place, but it turns out that the properties required on that metric are weaker than those that the Gleason metric will satisfy, and so one will be able to break the circularity by using a “bootstrap” or “induction” argument.
We will discuss this strategy – which is due to Gleason, and is fundamental to all currently known solutions to Hilbert’s fifth problem – in later posts. In this post, we will construct Haar measure on general locally compact groups, and then establish the Peter-Weyl theorem, which in turn can be used to obtain a reasonably satisfactory structural classification of both compact groups and locally compact abelian groups.
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