Torsion group

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In group theory, a branch of mathematics, a torsion group or a periodic group is a group in which each element has finite order. All finite groups are periodic. The concept of a periodic group should not be confused with that of a cyclic group.

The exponent of a periodic group G is the least common multiple, if it exists, of the orders of the elements of G. Any finite group has an exponent: it is a divisor of |G|.

Burnside's problem is a classical question, which deals with the relationship between periodic groups and finite groups, if we assume only that G is a finitely-generated group. The question is whether specifying an exponent forces finiteness (to which the answer is 'no', in general).

Examples of infinite periodic groups include the additive group of the ring of polynomials over a finite field, and the quotient group of the rationals by the integers, as well as their direct summands, the Prüfer groups. Another example is the union of all dihedral groups. None of these examples has a finite generating set, and any periodic linear group with a finite generating set is finite. Explicit examples of finitely generated infinite periodic groups were constructed by Golod, based on joint work with Shafarevich, see Golod–Shafarevich theorem, and by Aleshin and Grigorchuk using automata.

Mathematical logic[edit]

One of the interesting properties of periodic groups is that they cannot be formalized in terms of first-order logic. This is because doing so would require an axiom of the form

which contains an infinite disjunction and is therefore inadmissible. It is not possible to get around this infinite disjunction by using an infinite set of axioms: the compactness theorem implies that no set of first-order formulae can characterize the periodic groups.[1]

Related notions[edit]

The torsion subgroup of an abelian group A is the subgroup of A consisting of all elements that have finite order. A torsion abelian group is an abelian group in which every element has finite order. A torsion-free abelian group is an abelian group in which the identity element is the only element with finite order.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ebbinghaus, H.-D.; Flum, J.; Thomas, W. (1994). Mathematical logic (2. ed., 4. pr. ed.). New York [u.a.]: Springer. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-387-94258-2. Retrieved 18 July 2012. However, in first-order logic we may not form infinitely long disjunctions. Indeed, we shall later show that there is no set of first-order formulas whose models are precisely the periodic groups. 
  • E. S. Golod, On nil-algebras and finitely approximable p-groups, Izv. Akad. Nauk SSSR Ser. Mat. 28 (1964) 273–276.
  • S. V. Aleshin, Finite automata and the Burnside problem for periodic groups, (Russian) Mat. Zametki 11 (1972), 319--328.
  • R. I. Grigorchuk, On Burnside's problem on periodic groups, Functional Anal. Appl. 14 (1980), no. 1, 41–43.
  • R. I. Grigorchuk, Degrees of growth of finitely generated groups and the theory of invariant means., Izv. Akad. Nauk SSSR Ser. Mat. 48:5 (1984), 939–985 (Russian).

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