Questions tagged [abstract-algebra]

For questions about monoids, groups, rings, modules, fields, vector spaces, algebras over fields, various types of lattices, and other such algebraic objects. Associate with related tags like [group-theory], [ring-theory], [modules], etc as necessary. To clarify which topic of abstract algebra is most related to your question and help other users when searching.

Abstract algebra is the study of algebraic objects, i.e. sets endowed with one or more operations on the elements of those sets. In particular, the study of abstract algebra considers the algebraic structures and properties of which such operations induce. It can be considered as the generalization of the study of the algebraic structure of the integers and real numbers (arithmetic), or the study of matrices and vector spaces (linear algebra).

Some algebraic objects are monoids, groups, rings, fields, vector spaces, modules, algebras, and categories, among many other less prominent objects.


  1. The set of non-negative integers $\mathbb{N} = \{0,1,2,3,\dotsc\}$ is a monoid under the operation $+$.

  2. The integers $\mathbb{Z} = \{\dotsc,-1,0,1,\dotsc\}$ under the binary operation of $+$ form a group.

  3. Furthermore, $\mathbb{Z}$ has the structure of a ring when you consider it as being equipped with both addition and multiplication.

  4. The real numbers $\mathbb{R}$ with their usual addition and multiplication form a field.

  5. The set of $n\times n$ matrices with entries in $\mathbb{R}$ with matrix addition and multiplication form a ring.

  6. The set of $1\times n$ vectors over the real numbers, with vector addition, and multiplication by elements of the $n\times n$ real matrices on the right are an example of a module for the ring of matrices.

In addition to studying the objects themselves, abstract algebra considers homomorphisms between the objects and various constructions and tools, which are useful for studying the objects.

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"The Egg:" Bizarre behavior of the roots of a family of polynomials.

In this MO post, I ran into the following family of polynomials: $$f_n(x)=\sum_{m=0}^{n}\prod_{k=0}^{m-1}\frac{x^n-x^k}{x^m-x^k}.$$ In the context of the post, $x$ was a prime number, and $f_n(x)$ counted the number of subspaces of an…
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Nice examples of groups which are not obviously groups

I am searching for some groups, where it is not so obvious that they are groups. In the lecture's script there are only examples like $\mathbb{Z}$ under addition and other things like that. I don't think that these examples are helpful to…
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Why are rings called rings?

I've done some search in Internet and other sources about this question. Why the name ring to this particular object? Just curiosity. Thanks.
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How do I sell out with abstract algebra?

My plan as an undergraduate was unequivocally to be a pure mathematician, working as an algebraist as a bigshot professor at a bigshot university. I'm graduating this month, and I didn't get into where I expected to get into. My letters were great…
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Can we ascertain that there exists an epimorphism $G\rightarrow H$?

Let $G,H$ be finite groups. Suppose we have an epimorphism $$G\times G\rightarrow H\times H$$ Can we find an epimorphism $G\rightarrow H$?
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An Introduction to Tensors

As a physics student, I've come across mathematical objects called tensors in several different contexts. Perhaps confusingly, I've also been given both the mathematician's and physicist's definition, which I believe are slightly different. I…
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The square roots of different primes are linearly independent over the field of rationals

I need to find a way of proving that the square roots of a finite set of different primes are linearly independent over the field of rationals. I've tried to solve the problem using elementary algebra and also using the theory of field…
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Example of infinite field of characteristic $p\neq 0$

Can you give me an example of infinite field of characteristic $p\neq0$? Thanks.
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What are the differences between rings, groups, and fields?

Rings, groups, and fields all feel similar. What are the differences between them, both in definition and in how they are used?
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Does $R[x] \cong S[x]$ imply $R \cong S$?

This is a very simple question but I believe it's nontrivial. I would like to know if the following is true: If $R$ and $S$ are rings and $R[x]$ and $S[x]$ are isomorphic as rings, then $R$ and $S$ are isomorphic. Thanks! If there isn't a proof…
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Classification of prime ideals of $\mathbb{Z}[X]$

Let $\mathbb{Z}[X]$ be the ring of polynomials in one variable over $\Bbb Z$. My question: Is every prime ideal of $\mathbb{Z}[X]$ one of following types? If yes, how would you prove this? $(0)$. $(f(X))$, where $f(X)$ is an irreducible…
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Why is negative times negative = positive?

Someone recently asked me why a negative $\times$ a negative is positive, and why a negative $\times$ a positive is negative, etc. I went ahead and gave them a proof by contradiction like so: Assume $(-x) \cdot (-y) = -xy$ Then divide both sides by…
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Why are the solutions of polynomial equations so unconstrained over the quaternions?

An $n$th-degree polynomial has at most $n$ distinct zeroes in the complex numbers. But it may have an uncountable set of zeroes in the quaternions. For example, $x^2+1$ has two zeroes in $\mathbb C$, but in $\mathbb H$, ${\bf i}\cos x + {\bf…
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Why “characteristic zero” and not “infinite characteristic”?

The characteristic of a ring (with unity, say) is the smallest positive number $n$ such that $$\underbrace{1 + 1 + \cdots + 1}_{n \text{ times}} = 0,$$ provided such an $n$ exists. Otherwise, we define it to be $0$. But why characteristic zero? Why…
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When to learn category theory?

I'm a undergraduate who wishes to learn category theory but I only have basic knowledge of linear algebra and set theory, I've also had a short course on number theory which used some basic concepts about groups and modular arithmetic. Is it too…
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