Equivalent Definitions of Characteristic Subgroups. Center is Characteristic.

Group Theory Problems and Solutions in Mathematics

Problem 246

Let $H$ be a subgroup of a group $G$. We call $H$ characteristic in $G$ if for any automorphism $\sigma\in \Aut(G)$ of $G$, we have $\sigma(H)=H$.

(a) Prove that if $\sigma(H) \subset H$ for all $\sigma \in \Aut(G)$, then $H$ is characteristic in $G$.

(b) Prove that the center $Z(G)$ of $G$ is characteristic in $G$.

 
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Definition

Recall that an automorphism $\sigma$ of a group $G$ is a group isomorphism from $G$ to itself.
The set of all automorphism of $G$ is denoted by $\Aut(G)$.

Proof.

(a) If $\sigma(H) \subset H$ for all $\sigma \in \Aut(G)$, then $H$ is characteristic in $G$

Since $\sigma$ is an automorphism, the inverse $\sigma^{-1}$ is also an automorphism of $G$.
Hence, we have
\[\sigma^{-1}(H)\subset H\] by the assumption.

Applying $\sigma$, we have
\[\sigma\sigma^{-1}(H) \subset \sigma(H).\] Then we obtain
\begin{align*}
H&=\sigma \sigma^{-1}(H)\subset \sigma(H)\subset H.
\end{align*}

Since the both ends are $H$, the inclusion is in fact the equality.
Thus, we obtain
\[\sigma(H)=H,\] and the subgroup $H$ is characteristic in the group $G$.

(b) The center $Z(G)$ of $G$ is characteristic in $G$

By part (a), it suffices to prove that $\sigma(Z(G)) \subset Z(G)$ for every automorphism $\sigma \in \Aut(G)$ of $G$.

Let $x\in \sigma(Z(G))$. Then there exists $y \in Z(G)$ such that $x=\sigma(y)$.
To show that $x \in Z(G)$, consider an arbitrary $g \in G$.
Then since $\sigma$ is an automorphism, we have $G=\sigma(G)$.
Thus there exists $g’$ such that $g=\sigma(g’)$.

We have
\begin{align*}
xg &=\sigma(y)\sigma(g’)\\
&=\sigma(yg’) && \text{ (since $\sigma$ is a homomorphism)}\\
&=\sigma(g’y) && \text{ (since $y \in Z(G)$)}\\
&=\sigma(g’)\sigma(y) && \text{ (since $\sigma$ is a homomorphism)}\\
&=gx.
\end{align*}
Since this is true for all $g \in G$, it follows that $x \in Z(G)$, and thus
\[\sigma(Z(G)) \subset Z(G).\] This completes the proof.

Comment.

In some textbook, a subgroup $H$ of $G$ is said to be characteristic in $G$ if $\sigma(H) \subset H$ for all $\sigma \in \Aut(G)$.
Problem (a) implies that our definition of characteristic and this alternative definition are in fact equivalent.

Related Question.

Read the post Basic properties of characteristic groups for more problems about characteristic subgroups.


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  1. 01/06/2017

    […] out the post Equivalent definitions of characteristic subgroups. Center is characteristic. for more problems about characteristic […]

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