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Math Colloquium: Groups with Norms: From Word Games to a Polymath Project

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

3:00 PM-4:00 PM

Apoorva Khare, Indian Institute of Science

Abstract: Consider the following three properties of a general group G:

  1. Algebra: G is abelian and torsion-free.
  2. Analysis: G is a metric space that admits a "norm", namely, a translation-invariant metric d(.,.) satisfying: d(1,g^n) = |n| d(1,g) for all g in G and integers n.
  3. Geometry: G admits a length function with "saturated" subadditivity for equal arguments: l(g^2) = 2 l(g) for all g in G.

While these properties may a priori seem different, in fact they turn out to be equivalent. The nontrivial implication amounts to saying that there does not exist a non-abelian group with a "norm".

We will discuss motivations from analysis, probability, and geometry; then the proof of the above equivalences; and finally, the logistics of how the problem was solved, via a PolyMath project that began on a blogpost of Terence Tao.

(Joint - as D.H.J. PolyMath - with Tobias Fritz, Siddhartha Gadgil, Pace Nielsen, Lior Silberman, and Terence Tao.)

Contact Information

Georgi Medvedev

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Korman Center, Room 243, 15 S. 33rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19014


  • Everyone