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The probability that x and y commute in a compact group


We show that a compact group G has finite conjugacy classes, i.e., is an FC-group if and only if its center Z(G) is open if and only if its commutator subgroup G′ is finite. Let d(G) denote the Haar measure of the set of all pairs (x,y) in G×G for which [x,y]=1; this, formally, is the probability that two randomly picked elements commute. We prove that d(G) is always rational and that it is positive if and only if G is an extension of an FC-group by a finite group. This entails that G is abelian by finite. The proofs involve measure theory, transformation groups, Lie theory of arbitrary compact groups, and representation theory of compact groups. Examples and references to the history of the discussion are given at the end of the paper.

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Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
  • ISSN: 0305-0041
  • EISSN: 1469-8064
  • URL: /core/journals/mathematical-proceedings-of-the-cambridge-philosophical-society
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