In mathematics, the general linear group of degree n is the set of invertible matrices, together with the operation of ordinary matrix multiplication. This forms a group, because the product of two invertible matrices is again invertible, and the inverse of an invertible matrix is invertible, with identity matrix as the identity element of the group. The group is so named because the columns of an invertible matrix are linearly independent, hence the vectors/points they define are in general linear position, and matrices in the general linear group take points in general linear position to points in general linear position.
To be more precise, it is necessary to specify what kind of objects may appear in the entries of the matrix. For example, the general linear group over R (the set of real numbers) is the group of invertible matrices of real numbers, and is denoted by GLn(R) or .
More generally, the general linear group of degree n over any field F (such as the complex numbers), or a ring R (such as the ring of integers), is the set of invertible matrices with entries from F (or R), again with matrix multiplication as the group operation. Typical notation is GLn(F) or , or simply GL(n) if the field is understood.
The group and its subgroups are often called linear groups or matrix groups (the abstract group GL(V) is a linear group but not a matrix group). These groups are important in the theory of group representations, and also arise in the study of spatial symmetries and symmetries of vector spaces in general, as well as the study of polynomials. The modular group may be realised as a quotient of the special linear group .
If , then the group is not abelian.
If V is a vector space over the field F, the general linear group of V, written GL(V) or Aut(V), is the group of all automorphisms of V, i.e. the set of all bijective linear transformations , together with functional composition as group operation. If V has finite dimension n, then GL(V) and are isomorphic. The isomorphism is not canonical; it depends on a choice of basis in V. Given a basis of V and an automorphism T in GL(V), we have then for every basis vector ei that
for some constants aij in F; the matrix corresponding to T is then just the matrix with entries given by the aij.
In a similar way, for a commutative ring R the group may be interpreted as the group of automorphisms of a free R-module M of rank n. One can also define GL(M) for any R-module, but in general this is not isomorphic to (for any n).
Over a commutative ring R, more care is needed: a matrix over R is invertible if and only if its determinant is a unit in R, that is, if its determinant is invertible in R. Therefore, may be defined as the group of matrices whose determinants are units.
The general linear group over the field of real numbers is a real Lie group of dimension n2. To see this, note that the set of all real matrices, Mn(R), forms a real vector space of dimension n2. The subset consists of those matrices whose determinant is non-zero. The determinant is a polynomial map, and hence is an open affine subvariety of Mn(R) (a non-empty open subset of Mn(R) in the Zariski topology), and therefore a smooth manifold of the same dimension.
As a manifold, is not connected but rather has two connected components: the matrices with positive determinant and the ones with negative determinant. The identity component, denoted by , consists of the real matrices with positive determinant. This is also a Lie group of dimension n2; it has the same Lie algebra as .
The group is also noncompact. "The" maximal compact subgroup of is the orthogonal group O(n), while "the" maximal compact subgroup of is the special orthogonal group SO(n). As for SO(n), the group is not simply connected (except when , but rather has a fundamental group isomorphic to Z for or Z2 for .
The general linear group over the field of complex numbers, , is a complex Lie group of complex dimension n2. As a real Lie group (through realification) it has dimension 2n2. The set of all real matrices forms a real Lie subgroup. These correspond to the inclusions
which have real dimensions n2, 2n2, and . Complex n-dimensional matrices can be characterized as real 2n-dimensional matrices that preserve a linear complex structure — concretely, that commute with a matrix J such that , where J corresponds to multiplying by the imaginary unit i.
Unlike the real case, is connected. This follows, in part, since the multiplicative group of complex numbers C* is connected. The group manifold is not compact; rather its maximal compact subgroup is the unitary group U(n). As for U(n), the group manifold is not simply connected but has a fundamental group isomorphic to Z.
If F is a finite field with q elements, then we sometimes write instead of . When p is prime, is the outer automorphism group of the group Zpn, and also the automorphism group, because Zpn is abelian, so the inner automorphism group is trivial.
The order of is:
This can be shown by counting the possible columns of the matrix: the first column can be anything but the zero vector; the second column can be anything but the multiples of the first column; and in general, the kth column can be any vector not in the linear span of the first columns. In q-analog notation, this is .
For example, has order . It is the automorphism group of the Fano plane and of the group Z23, and is also known as .
More generally, one can count points of Grassmannian over F: in other words the number of subspaces of a given dimension k. This requires only finding the order of the stabilizer subgroup of one such subspace and dividing into the formula just given, by the orbit-stabilizer theorem.
These formulas are connected to the Schubert decomposition of the Grassmannian, and are q-analogs of the Betti numbers of complex Grassmannians. This was one of the clues leading to the Weil conjectures.
Note that in the limit the order of goes to 0! – but under the correct procedure (dividing by ) we see that it is the order of the symmetric group (See Lorscheid's article) – in the philosophy of the field with one element, one thus interprets the symmetric group as the general linear group over the field with one element: .
The general linear group over a prime field, , was constructed and its order computed by Évariste Galois in 1832, in his last letter (to Chevalier) and second (of three) attached manuscripts, which he used in the context of studying the Galois group of the general equation of order p?.
The special linear group, , is the group of all matrices with determinant 1. They are special in that they lie on a subvariety – they satisfy a polynomial equation (as the determinant is a polynomial in the entries). Matrices of this type form a group as the determinant of the product of two matrices is the product of the determinants of each matrix. is a normal subgroup of .
The group is simply connected, while is not. has the same fundamental group as , that is, Z for and Z2 for .
The set of all invertible diagonal matrices forms a subgroup of isomorphic to (F×)n. In fields like R and C, these correspond to rescaling the space; the so-called dilations and contractions.
A scalar matrix is a diagonal matrix which is a constant times the identity matrix. The set of all nonzero scalar matrices forms a subgroup of isomorphic to F× . This group is the center of . In particular, it is a normal, abelian subgroup.
The center of is simply the set of all scalar matrices with unit determinant, and is isomorphic to the group of nth roots of unity in the field F.
These groups provide important examples of Lie groups.
The projective linear group and the projective special linear group are the quotients of and by their centers (which consist of the multiples of the identity matrix therein); they are the induced action on the associated projective space.
One has analogous constructions for other subgroups of the general linear group: for instance, the special affine group is the subgroup defined by the semidirect product, , and the Poincaré group is the affine group associated to the Lorentz group, .
The general semilinear group is the group of all invertible semilinear transformations, and contains GL. A semilinear transformation is a transformation which is linear "up to a twist", meaning "up to a field automorphism under scalar multiplication". It can be written as a semidirect product:
The main interest of is that the associated projective semilinear group (which contains is the collineation group of projective space, for , and thus semilinear maps are of interest in projective geometry.
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If one removes the restriction of the determinant being non-zero, the resulting algebraic structure is a monoid, usually called the full linear monoid, but occasionally also full linear semigroup,general linear monoid etc. It is actually a regular semigroup.
The infinite general linear group or stable general linear group is the direct limit of the inclusions as the upper left block matrix. It is denoted by either GL(F) or , and can also be interpreted as invertible infinite matrices which differ from the identity matrix in only finitely many places.