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 [Top of Book]  [Contents]   [Previous Chapter]   [Next Chapter] 

43 Permutation Groups
 43.1 IsPermGroup (Filter)
 43.2 The Natural Action
 43.3 Computing a Permutation Representation
 43.4 Symmetric and Alternating Groups
 43.5 Primitive Groups
 43.6 Stabilizer Chains
 43.7 Randomized Methods for Permutation Groups
 43.8 Construction of Stabilizer Chains
 43.9 Stabilizer Chain Records
 43.10 Operations for Stabilizer Chains
 43.11 Low Level Routines to Modify and Create Stabilizer Chains
 43.12 Backtrack
 43.13 Working with large degree permutation groups

43 Permutation Groups

43.1 IsPermGroup (Filter)

43.1-1 IsPermGroup
‣ IsPermGroup( obj )( category )

A permutation group is a group of permutations on a finite set \(\Omega\) of positive integers. GAP does not require the user to specify the operation domain \(\Omega\) when a permutation group is defined.

gap> g:=Group((1,2,3,4),(1,2));
Group([ (1,2,3,4), (1,2) ])

Permutation groups are groups and therefore all operations for groups (see Chapter 39) can be applied to them. In many cases special methods are installed for permutation groups that make computations more effective.

43.2 The Natural Action

The functions MovedPoints (42.3-3), NrMovedPoints (42.3-4), LargestMovedPoint (42.3-2), and SmallestMovedPoint (42.3-1) are defined for arbitrary collections of permutations (see 42.3), in particular they can be applied to permutation groups.

gap> g:= Group( (2,3,5,6), (2,3) );;
gap> MovedPoints( g );  NrMovedPoints( g );
[ 2, 3, 5, 6 ]
gap> LargestMovedPoint( g );  SmallestMovedPoint( g );

The action of a permutation group on the positive integers is a group action (via the acting function OnPoints (41.2-1)). Therefore all action functions can be applied (see the Chapter 41), for example Orbit (41.4-1), Stabilizer (41.5-2), Blocks (41.11-1), IsTransitive (41.10-1), IsPrimitive (41.10-7).

If one has a list of group generators and is interested in the moved points (see above) or orbits, it may be useful to avoid the explicit construction of the group for efficiency reasons. For the special case of the action of permutations on positive integers via ^, the functions OrbitPerms (43.2-1) and OrbitsPerms (43.2-2) are provided for this purpose.

Similarly, several functions concerning the natural action of permutation groups address stabilizer chains (see 43.6) rather than permutation groups themselves, for example BaseStabChain (43.10-1).

43.2-1 OrbitPerms
‣ OrbitPerms( perms, pnt )( function )

returns the orbit of the positive integer pnt under the group generated by the permutations in the list perms.

43.2-2 OrbitsPerms
‣ OrbitsPerms( perms, D )( function )

returns the list of orbits of the positive integers in the list D under the group generated by the permutations in the list perms.

gap> OrbitPerms( [ (1,2,3)(4,5), (3,6) ], 1 );
[ 1, 2, 3, 6 ]
gap> OrbitsPerms( [ (1,2,3)(4,5), (3,6) ], [ 1 .. 6 ] );
[ [ 1, 2, 3, 6 ], [ 4, 5 ] ]

43.3 Computing a Permutation Representation

43.3-1 IsomorphismPermGroup
‣ IsomorphismPermGroup( G )( attribute )

returns an isomorphism from the group G onto a permutation group which is isomorphic to G. The method will select a suitable permutation representation.

gap> g:=SmallGroup(24,12);
<pc group of size 24 with 4 generators>
gap> iso:=IsomorphismPermGroup(g);
<action isomorphism>
gap> Image(iso,g.3*g.4);

In many cases the permutation representation constructed by IsomorphismPermGroup is regular.

43.3-2 SmallerDegreePermutationRepresentation
‣ SmallerDegreePermutationRepresentation( G )( function )

Let G be a permutation group that acts transitively on its moved points. SmallerDegreePermutationRepresentation tries to find a faithful permutation representation of smaller degree. The result is a group homomorphism onto a permutation group, in the worst case this is the identity mapping on G.

If the cheap option is given, the function only tries to reduce to orbits or actions on blocks, otherwise also actions on cosets of random subgroups are tried.

Note that the result is not guaranteed to be a faithful permutation representation of smallest degree, or of smallest degree among the transitive permutation representations of G. Using GAP interactively, one might be able to choose subgroups of small index for which the cores intersect trivially; in this case, the actions on the cosets of these subgroups give rise to an intransitive permutation representation the degree of which may be smaller than the original degree.

The methods used might involve the use of random elements and the permutation representation (or even the degree of the representation) is not guaranteed to be the same for different calls of SmallerDegreePermutationRepresentation.

If the option cheap is given less work is spent on trying to get a small degree representation, if the value of this option is set to the string "skip" the identity mapping is returned. (This is useful if a function called internally might try a degree reduction.)

gap> image:= Image( iso );;  NrMovedPoints( image );
gap> small:= SmallerDegreePermutationRepresentation( image );;
gap> Image( small );
Group([ (2,3), (2,3,4), (1,2)(3,4), (1,3)(2,4) ])
gap> p:=Group((1,2,3,4,5,6),(1,2));;p:=Action(p,AsList(p),OnRight);;
gap> Length(MovedPoints(p));
gap> q:=SmallerDegreePermutationRepresentation(p);;
gap> NrMovedPoints(Image(q));

43.4 Symmetric and Alternating Groups

The commands SymmetricGroup (50.1-10) and AlternatingGroup (50.1-9) (see Section 50.1) construct symmetric and alternating permutation groups. GAP can also detect whether a given permutation group is a symmetric or alternating group on the set of its moved points; if so then the group is called a natural symmetric or alternating group, respectively.

The functions IsSymmetricGroup (43.4-2) and IsAlternatingGroup (43.4-3) can be used to check whether a given group (not necessarily a permutation group) is isomorphic to a symmetric or alternating group.

43.4-1 IsNaturalSymmetricGroup
‣ IsNaturalSymmetricGroup( group )( property )
‣ IsNaturalAlternatingGroup( group )( property )

A group is a natural symmetric or alternating group if it is a permutation group acting as symmetric or alternating group, respectively, on its moved points.

For groups that are known to be natural symmetric or natural alternating groups, very efficient methods for computing membership, conjugacy classes, Sylow subgroups etc. are used.

gap> g:=Group((1,5,7,8,99),(1,99,13,72));;
gap> IsNaturalSymmetricGroup(g);
gap> g;
Sym( [ 1, 5, 7, 8, 13, 72, 99 ] )
gap> IsNaturalSymmetricGroup( Group( (1,2)(4,5), (1,2,3)(4,5,6) ) );

43.4-2 IsSymmetricGroup
‣ IsSymmetricGroup( group )( property )

is true if the group group is isomorphic to a symmetric group.

43.4-3 IsAlternatingGroup
‣ IsAlternatingGroup( group )( property )

is true if the group group is isomorphic to a alternating group.

43.4-4 SymmetricParentGroup
‣ SymmetricParentGroup( grp )( attribute )

For a permutation group grp this function returns the symmetric group that moves the same points as grp does.

gap> SymmetricParentGroup( Group( (1,2), (4,5), (7,8,9) ) );
Sym( [ 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 ] )

43.5 Primitive Groups

43.5-1 ONanScottType
‣ ONanScottType( G )( attribute )

returns the type of a primitive permutation group G, according to the O'Nan-Scott classification. The labelling of the different types is not consistent in the literature, we use the following identifications. The two-letter code given is the name of the type as used by Praeger.


Affine. (HA)


Almost simple. (AS)


Diagonal, Socle consists of two normal subgroups. (HS)


Diagonal, Socle is minimal normal. (SD)


Product action with the first factor primitive of type 3a. (HC)


Product action with the first factor primitive of type 3b. (CD)


Product action with the first factor primitive of type 2. (PA)


Twisted wreath product (TW)

See [EH01] for correspondence to other labellings used in the literature. As it can contain letters, the type is returned as a string.

If G is not a permutation group or does not act primitively on the points moved by it, the result is undefined.

43.5-2 SocleTypePrimitiveGroup
‣ SocleTypePrimitiveGroup( G )( attribute )

returns the socle type of the primitive permutation group G. The socle of a primitive group is the direct product of isomorphic simple groups, therefore the type is indicated by a record with components series, parameter (both as described under IsomorphismTypeInfoFiniteSimpleGroup (39.15-12)), and width for the number of direct factors.

If G does not have a faithful primitive action, the result is undefined.

gap> g:=AlternatingGroup(5);;
gap> h:=DirectProduct(g,g);;
gap> p:=List([1,2],i->Projection(h,i));;
gap> ac:=Action(h,AsList(g),
> function(g,h) return Image(p[1],h)^-1*g*Image(p[2],h);end);;
gap> Size(ac);NrMovedPoints(ac);IsPrimitive(ac,[1..60]);
gap> ONanScottType(ac);
gap> SocleTypePrimitiveGroup(ac);
  name := "A(5) ~ A(1,4) = L(2,4) ~ B(1,4) = O(3,4) ~ C(1,4) = S(2,4) \
~ 2A(1,4) = U(2,4) ~ A(1,5) = L(2,5) ~ B(1,5) = O(3,5) ~ C(1,5) = S(2,\
5) ~ 2A(1,5) = U(2,5)", parameter := 5, series := "A", width := 2 )

43.6 Stabilizer Chains

Many of the algorithms for permutation groups use a stabilizer chain of the group. The concepts of stabilizer chains, bases, and strong generating sets were introduced by Charles Sims in [Sim70]. An extensive account of basic algorithms together with asymptotic runtime analysis can be found in reference [Ser03, Chapter 4]. A further discussion of base change is given in section 87.1.

Let \(B = [ b_1, \ldots, b_n ]\) be a list of points, \(G^{(1)} = G\) and \(G^{{(i+1)}} = Stab_{{G^{(i)}}}(b_i)\), such that \(G^{(n+1)} = \{ () \}\). Then the list \([ b_1, \ldots, b_n ]\) is called a base of \(G\), the points \(b_i\) are called base points. A set \(S\) of generators for \(G\) satisfying the condition \(\langle S \cap G^{(i)} \rangle = G^{(i)}\) for each \(1 \leq i \leq n\), is called a strong generating set (SGS) of \(G\). (More precisely we ought to say that it is a SGS of \(G\) relative to \(B\)). The chain of subgroups \(G^{(i)}\) of \(G\) itself is called the stabilizer chain of \(G\) relative to \(B\).

Since \([ b_1, \ldots, b_n ]\), where \(n\) is the degree of \(G\) and \(b_i\) are the moved points of \(G\), certainly is a base for \(G\) there exists a base for each permutation group. The number of points in a base is called the length of the base. A base \(B\) is called reduced if there exists no \(i\) such that \(G^{(i)} = G^{(i+1)}\). (This however does not imply that no subset of \(B\) could also serve as a base.) Note that different reduced bases for one permutation group \(G\) may have different lengths. For example, the irreducible degree \(416\) permutation representation of the Chevalley Group \(G_2(4)\) possesses reduced bases of lengths \(5\) and \(7\).

Let \(R^{(i)}\) be a right transversal of \(G^{(i+1)}\) in \(G^{(i)}\), i.e. a set of right coset representatives of the cosets of \(G^{(i+1)}\) in \(G^{(i)}\). Then each element \(g\) of \(G\) has a unique representation as a product of the form \(g = r_n \ldots r_1\) with \(r_i \in R^{(i)}\). The cosets of \(G^{(i+1)}\) in \(G^{(i)}\) are in bijective correspondence with the points in \(O^{(i)} := b_i^{{G^{(i)}}}\). So we could represent a transversal as a list \(T\) such that \(T[p]\) is a representative of the coset corresponding to the point \(p \in O^{(i)}\), i.e., an element of \(G^{(i)}\) that takes \(b_i\) to \(p\). (Note that such a list has holes in all positions corresponding to points not contained in \(O^{(i)}\).)

This approach however will store many different permutations as coset representatives which can be a problem if the degree \(n\) gets bigger. Our goal therefore is to store as few different permutations as possible such that we can still reconstruct each representative in \(R^{(i)}\), and from them the elements in \(G\). A factorized inverse transversal \(T\) is a list where \(T[p]\) is a generator of \(G^{(i)}\) such that \(p^{{T[p]}}\) is a point that lies earlier in \(O^{(i)}\) than \(p\) (note that we consider \(O^{(i)}\) as a list, not as a set). If we assume inductively that we know an element \(r \in G^{(i)}\) that takes \(b_i\) to \(p^{{T[p]}}\), then \(r T[p]^{{-1}}\) is an element in \(G^{(i)}\) that takes \(b_i\) to \(p\). GAP uses such factorized inverse transversals.

Another name for a factorized inverse transversal is a Schreier tree. The vertices of the tree are the points in \(O^{(i)}\), and the root of the tree is \(b_i\). The edges are defined as the ordered pairs \((p, p^{{T[p]}})\), for \(p \in O^{(i)} \setminus \{ b_i \}\). The edge \((p, p^{{T[p]}})\) is labelled with the generator \(T[p]\), and the product of edge labels along the unique path from \(p\) to \(b_i\) is the inverse of the transversal element carrying \(b_i\) to \(p\).

Before we describe the construction of stabilizer chains in 43.8, we explain in 43.7 the idea of using non-deterministic algorithms; this is necessary for understanding the options available for the construction of stabilizer chains. After that, in 43.9 it is explained how a stabilizer chain is stored in GAP, 43.10 lists operations for stabilizer chains, and 43.11 lists low level routines for manipulating stabilizer chains.

43.7 Randomized Methods for Permutation Groups

For most computations with permutation groups, it is crucial to construct stabilizer chains efficiently. Sims's original construction in [Sim70] is deterministic, and is called the Schreier-Sims algorithm, because it is based on Schreier's Lemma ([HJ59, p. 96]): given \(K = \langle S \rangle\) and a transversal \(T\) for \(K\) mod \(L\), one can obtain \(|S||T|\) generators for \(L\). This lemma is applied recursively, with consecutive point stabilizers \(G^{(i)}\) and \(G^{(i+1)}\) playing the role of \(K\) and \(L\).

In permutation groups of large degree, the number of Schreier generators to be processed becomes too large, and the deterministic Schreier-Sims algorithm becomes impractical. Therefore, GAP uses randomized algorithms. The method selection process, which is quite different from Version 3, works the following way.

If a group acts on not more than a hundred points, Sims's original deterministic algorithm is applied. In groups of degree greater than hundred, a heuristic algorithm based on ideas in [BCFS91] constructs a stabilizer chain. This construction is complemented by a verify-routine that either proves the correctness of the stabilizer chain or causes the extension of the chain to a correct one. The user can influence the verification process by setting the value of the record component random (cf. 43.8).

If the random value equals \(1000\) then a slight extension of an unpublished method of Sims is used. The outcome of this verification process is always correct. The user also can prescribe any integer \(x\), \(1 \leq x \leq 999\) as the value of random. In this case, a randomized verification process from [BCFS91] is applied, and the result of the stabilizer chain construction is guaranteed to be correct with probability at least \(x/1000\). The practical performance of the algorithm is much better than the theoretical guarantee.

If the stabilizer chain is not correct then the elements in the product of transversals \(R^{(m)} R^{(m-1)} \cdots R^{(1)}\) constitute a proper subset of the group \(G\) in question. This means that a membership test with this stabilizer chain returns false for all elements that are not in \(G\), but it may also return false for some elements of \(G\); in other words, the result true of a membership test is always correct, whereas the result false may be incorrect.

The construction and verification phases are separated because there are situations where the verification step can be omitted; if one happens to know the order of the group in advance then the randomized construction of the stabilizer chain stops as soon as the product of the lengths of the basic orbits of the chain equals the group order, and the chain will be correct (see the size option of the StabChain (43.8-1) command).

Although the worst case running time is roughly quadratic for Sims's verification and roughly linear for the randomized one, in most examples the running time of the stabilizer chain construction with random value \(1000\) (i.e., guaranteed correct output) is about the same as the running time of randomized verification with guarantee of at least \(90\) percent correctness. Therefore, we suggest to use the default value random \(= 1000\). Possible uses of random values less than \(1000\) are when one has to run through a large collection of subgroups, and a low value of random is used to choose quickly a candidate for more thorough examination; another use is when the user suspects that the quadratic bottleneck of the guaranteed correct verification is hit.

We will give two examples to illustrate these ideas.

gap> h:= SL(4,7);;
gap> o:= Orbit( h, [1,0,0,0]*Z(7)^0, OnLines );;
gap> op:= Action( h, o, OnLines );;
gap> NrMovedPoints( op );

We created a permutation group on \(400\) points. First we compute a guaranteed correct stabilizer chain (see StabChain (43.8-1)).

gap> h:= Group( GeneratorsOfGroup( op ) );;
gap> StabChain( h );;  time;
gap> Size( h );

Now randomized verification will be used. We require that the result is guaranteed correct with probability \(90\) percent. This means that if we would do this calculation many times over, GAP would guarantee that in least \(90\) percent of all calculations the result is correct. In fact the results are much better than the guarantee, but we cannot promise that this will really happen. (For the meaning of the random component in the second argument of StabChain (43.8-1).)

First the group is created anew.

gap> h:= Group( GeneratorsOfGroup( op ) );;
gap> StabChain( h, rec( random:= 900 ) );;  time;
gap> Size( h );

The result is still correct, and the running time is actually somewhat slower. If you give the algorithm additional information so that it can check its results, things become faster and the result is guaranteed to be correct.

gap> h:=Group( GeneratorsOfGroup( op ) );;
gap> SetSize( h, 2317591180800 );
gap> StabChain( h );;  time;

The second example gives a typical group when the verification with random value \(1000\) is slow. The problem is that the group has a stabilizer subgroup \(G^{(i)}\) such that the fundamental orbit \(O^{(i)}\) is split into a lot of orbits when we stabilize \(b_i\) and one additional point of \(O^{(i)}\).

gap> p1:=PermList(Concatenation([401],[1..400]));;
gap> p2:=PermList(List([1..400],i->(i*20 mod 401)));;
gap> d:=DirectProduct(Group(p1,p2),SymmetricGroup(5));;
gap> h:=Group(GeneratorsOfGroup(d));;
gap> StabChain(h);;time;Size(h);
gap> h:=Group(GeneratorsOfGroup(d));;
gap> StabChain(h,rec(random:=900));;time;Size(h);

When stabilizer chains of a group \(G\) are created with random value less than \(1000\), this is noted in the group \(G\), by setting of the record component random in the value of the attribute StabChainOptions (43.8-2) for \(G\). As errors induced by the random methods might propagate, any group or homomorphism created from \(G\) inherits a random component in its StabChainOptions (43.8-2) value from the corresponding component for \(G\).

A lot of algorithms dealing with permutation groups use randomized methods; however, if the initial stabilizer chain construction for a group is correct, these further methods will provide guaranteed correct output.

43.8 Construction of Stabilizer Chains

43.8-1 StabChain
‣ StabChain( G[, options] )( function )
‣ StabChain( G, base )( function )
‣ StabChainOp( G, options )( operation )
‣ StabChainMutable( G )( attribute )
‣ StabChainMutable( permhomom )( attribute )
‣ StabChainImmutable( G )( attribute )

These commands compute a stabilizer chain for the permutation group G; additionally, StabChainMutable is also an attribute for the group homomorphism permhomom whose source is a permutation group.

(The mathematical background of stabilizer chains is sketched in 43.6, more information about the objects representing stabilizer chains in GAP can be found in 43.9.)

StabChainOp is an operation with two arguments G and options, the latter being a record which controls some aspects of the computation of a stabilizer chain (see below); StabChainOp returns a mutable stabilizer chain. StabChainMutable is a mutable attribute for groups or homomorphisms, its default method for groups is to call StabChainOp with empty options record. StabChainImmutable is an attribute with immutable values; its default method dispatches to StabChainMutable.

StabChain is a function with first argument a permutation group G, and optionally a record options as second argument. If the value of StabChainImmutable for G is already known and if this stabilizer chain matches the requirements of options, StabChain simply returns this stored stabilizer chain. Otherwise StabChain calls StabChainOp and returns an immutable copy of the result; additionally, this chain is stored as StabChainImmutable value for G. If no options argument is given, its components default to the global variable DefaultStabChainOptions (43.8-3). If base is a list of positive integers, the version StabChain( G, base ) defaults to StabChain( G, rec( base:= base ) ).

If given, options is a record whose components specify properties of the desired stabilizer chain or which may help the algorithm. Default values for all of them can be given in the global variable DefaultStabChainOptions (43.8-3). The following options are supported.

base (default an empty list)

A list of points, through which the resulting stabilizer chain shall run. For the base \(B\) of the resulting stabilizer chain S this means the following. If the reduced component of options is true then those points of base with nontrivial basic orbits form the initial segment of \(B\), if the reduced component is false then base itself is the initial segment of \(B\). Repeated occurrences of points in base are ignored. If a stabilizer chain for G is already known then the stabilizer chain is computed via a base change.

knownBase (no default value)

A list of points which is known to be a base for the group. Such a known base makes it easier to test whether a permutation given as a word in terms of a set of generators is the identity, since it suffices to map the known base with each factor consecutively, rather than multiplying the whole permutations (which would mean to map every point). This speeds up the Schreier-Sims algorithm which is used when a new stabilizer chain is constructed; it will not affect a base change, however. The component knownBase bears no relation to the base component, you may specify a known base knownBase and a desired base base independently.

reduced (default true)

If this is true the resulting stabilizer chain S is reduced, i.e., the case \(G^{(i)} = G^{(i+1)}\) does not occur. Setting reduced to false makes sense only if the component base (see above) is also set; in this case all points of base will occur in the base \(B\) of S, even if they have trivial basic orbits. Note that if base is just an initial segment of \(B\), the basic orbits of the points in \(B \setminus \)base are always nontrivial.

tryPcgs (default true)

If this is true and either the degree is at most \(100\) or the group is known to be solvable, GAP will first try to construct a pcgs (see Chapter 45) for G which will succeed and implicitly construct a stabilizer chain if G is solvable. If G turns out non-solvable, one of the other methods will be used. This solvability check is comparatively fast, even if it fails, and it can save a lot of time if G is solvable.

random (default 1000)

If the value is less than \(1000\), the resulting chain is correct with probability at least random\( / 1000\). The random option is explained in more detail in 43.7.

size (default Size(G) if this is known, i.e., if HasSize(G) is true)

If this component is present, its value is assumed to be the order of the group G. This information can be used to prove that a non-deterministically constructed stabilizer chain is correct. In this case, GAP does a non-deterministic construction until the size is correct.

limit (default Size(Parent(G)) or StabChainOptions(Parent(G)).limit if it is present)

If this component is present, it must be greater than or equal to the order of G. The stabilizer chain construction stops if size limit is reached.

43.8-2 StabChainOptions
‣ StabChainOptions( G )( attribute )

is a record that stores the options with which the stabilizer chain stored in StabChainImmutable (43.8-1) has been computed (see StabChain (43.8-1) for the options that are supported).

43.8-3 DefaultStabChainOptions
‣ DefaultStabChainOptions( global variable )

are the options for StabChain (43.8-1) which are set as default.

43.8-4 StabChainBaseStrongGenerators
‣ StabChainBaseStrongGenerators( base, sgs, one )( function )

Let base be a base for a permutation group \(G\), and let sgs be a strong generating set for \(G\) with respect to base; one must be the appropriate identity element of \(G\) (see One (31.10-2), in most cases this will be ()). This function constructs a stabilizer chain without the need to find Schreier generators; so this is much faster than the other algorithms.

43.8-5 MinimalStabChain
‣ MinimalStabChain( G )( attribute )

returns the reduced stabilizer chain corresponding to the base \([ 1, 2, 3, 4, \ldots ]\).

43.9 Stabilizer Chain Records

If a permutation group has a stabilizer chain, this is stored as a recursive structure. This structure is itself a record S and it has


components that provide information about one level \(G^{(i)}\) of the stabilizer chain (which we call the "current stabilizer") and


a component stabilizer that holds another such record, namely the stabilizer chain of the next stabilizer \(G^{(i+1)}\).

This gives a recursive structure where the "outermost" record representing the "topmost" stabilizer is bound to the group record component stabChain and has the components explained below. Note: Since the structure is recursive, never print a stabilizer chain! (Unless you want to exercise the scrolling capabilities of your terminal.)


the identity element of the current stabilizer.


a list of permutations which contains labels for the Schreier tree of the current stabilizer, i.e., it contains elements for the factorized inverse transversal. The first entry in this list is always the identity. Note that GAP tries to arrange things so that the labels components are identical (i.e., the same GAP object) in every stabilizer of the chain; thus the labels of a stabilizer do not necessarily all lie in the this stabilizer (but see genlabels below).


a list of integers indexing some of the permutations in the labels component. The labels addressed in this way form a generating set for the current stabilizer. If the genlabels component is empty, the rest of the stabilizer chain represents the trivial subgroup, and can be ignored, e.g., when calculating the size.


a list of generators for the current stabilizer. Usually, it is labels{ genlabels }.


the vertices of the Schreier tree, which form the basic orbit \(b_i^{{G^{(i)}}}\), ordered in such a way that the base point \(b_i\) is in the first position in the orbit.


The factorized inverse transversal found during the orbit algorithm. The element \(g\) stored at transversal\([i]\) will map \(i\) to another point \(j\) that in the Schreier tree is closer to the base point. By iterated application (transversal\([j]\) and so on) eventually the base point is reached and an element that maps \(i\) to the base point found as product.


An index list such that transversal\([j] =\) labels\([\) translabels\([j] ]\). This list takes up comparatively little memory and is used to speed up base changes.


If the current stabilizer is not yet the trivial group, the stabilizer chain continues with the stabilizer of the current base point, which is again represented as a record with components labels, identity, genlabels, generators, orbit, translabels, transversal (and perhaps stabilizer). This record is bound to the stabilizer component of the current stabilizer. The last member of a stabilizer chain is recognized by the fact that it has no stabilizer component bound.

It is possible that different stabilizer chains share the same record as one of their iterated stabilizer components.

gap> g:=Group((1,2,3,4),(1,2));;
gap> StabChain(g);
<stabilizer chain record, Base [ 1, 2, 3 ], Orbit length 4, Size: 24>
gap> BaseOfGroup(g);
[ 1, 2, 3 ]
gap> StabChainOptions(g);
rec( random := 1000 )
gap> DefaultStabChainOptions;
rec( random := 1000, reduced := true, tryPcgs := true )

43.10 Operations for Stabilizer Chains

43.10-1 BaseStabChain
‣ BaseStabChain( S )( function )

returns the base belonging to the stabilizer chain S.

43.10-2 BaseOfGroup
‣ BaseOfGroup( G )( attribute )

returns a base of the permutation group G. There is no guarantee that a stabilizer chain stored in G corresponds to this base!

43.10-3 SizeStabChain
‣ SizeStabChain( S )( function )

returns the product of the orbit lengths in the stabilizer chain S, that is, the order of the group described by S.

43.10-4 StrongGeneratorsStabChain
‣ StrongGeneratorsStabChain( S )( function )

returns a strong generating set corresponding to the stabilizer chain S.

43.10-5 GroupStabChain
‣ GroupStabChain( [G, ]S )( function )

constructs a permutation group with stabilizer chain S, i.e., a group with generators Generators( S ) to which S is assigned as component stabChain. If the optional argument G is given, the result will have the parent G.

43.10-6 OrbitStabChain
‣ OrbitStabChain( S, pnt )( function )

returns the orbit of pnt under the group described by the stabilizer chain S.

43.10-7 IndicesStabChain
‣ IndicesStabChain( S )( function )

returns a list of the indices of the stabilizers in the stabilizer chain S.

43.10-8 ListStabChain
‣ ListStabChain( S )( function )

returns a list that contains at position \(i\) the stabilizer of the first \(i-1\) base points in the stabilizer chain S.

43.10-9 ElementsStabChain
‣ ElementsStabChain( S )( function )

returns a list of all elements of the group described by the stabilizer chain S.

43.10-10 IteratorStabChain
‣ IteratorStabChain( S )( function )

returns an iterator for the elments of the group described by the stabilizer chain S. The elements of the group G are produced by iterating through all base images in turn, and in the ordering induced by the base. For more details see 43.6

43.10-11 InverseRepresentative
‣ InverseRepresentative( S, pnt )( function )

calculates the transversal element which maps pnt back to the base point of S. It just runs back through the Schreier tree from pnt to the root and multiplies the labels along the way.

43.10-12 SiftedPermutation
‣ SiftedPermutation( S, g )( function )

sifts the permutation g through the stabilizer chain S and returns the result after the last step.

The element g is sifted as follows: g is replaced by g * InverseRepresentative( S, S.orbit[1]^g ), then S is replaced by S.stabilizer and this process is repeated until S is trivial or S.orbit[1]^g is not in the basic orbit S.orbit. The remainder g is returned, it is the identity permutation if and only if the original g is in the group \(G\) described by the original S.

43.10-13 MinimalElementCosetStabChain
‣ MinimalElementCosetStabChain( S, g )( function )

Let \(G\) be the group described by the stabilizer chain S. This function returns a permutation \(h\) such that \(G \textit{g} = G h\) (that is, \(\textit{g} / h \in G\)) and with the additional property that the list of images under \(h\) of the base belonging to S is minimal w.r.t. lexicographical ordering.

43.10-14 LargestElementStabChain
‣ LargestElementStabChain( S, id )( function )

Let \(G\) be the group described by the stabilizer chain S. This function returns the element \(h \in G\) with the property that the list of images under \(h\) of the base belonging to S is maximal w.r.t. lexicographical ordering. The second argument must be an identity element (used to start the recursion).

43.10-15 ApproximateSuborbitsStabilizerPermGroup
‣ ApproximateSuborbitsStabilizerPermGroup( G, pnt )( function )

returns an approximation of the orbits of Stabilizer( G, pnt ) on all points of the orbit Orbit( G, pnt ), without computing the full point stabilizer; As not all Schreier generators are used, the result may represent the orbits of only a subgroup of the point stabilizer.

43.11 Low Level Routines to Modify and Create Stabilizer Chains

These operations modify a stabilizer chain or obtain new chains with specific properties. They are rather technical and should only be used if such low-level routines are deliberately required. (For all functions in this section the parameter S is a stabilizer chain.)

43.11-1 CopyStabChain
‣ CopyStabChain( S )( function )

This function returns a copy of the stabilizer chain S that has no mutable object (list or record) in common with S. The labels components of the result are possibly shared by several levels, but superfluous labels are removed. (An entry in labels is superfluous if it does not occur among the genlabels or translabels on any of the levels which share that labels component.)

This is useful for stabiliser sub-chains that have been obtained as the (iterated) stabilizer component of a bigger chain.

43.11-2 CopyOptionsDefaults
‣ CopyOptionsDefaults( G, options )( function )

sets components in a stabilizer chain options record options according to what is known about the group G. This can be used to obtain a new stabilizer chain for G quickly.

43.11-3 ChangeStabChain
‣ ChangeStabChain( S, base[, reduced] )( function )

changes or reduces a stabilizer chain S to be adapted to the base base. The optional argument reduced is interpreted as follows.

reduced = false :

change the stabilizer chain, do not reduce it,

reduced = true :

change the stabilizer chain, reduce it.

43.11-4 ExtendStabChain
‣ ExtendStabChain( S, base )( function )

extends the stabilizer chain S so that it corresponds to base base. The original base of S must be a subset of base.

43.11-5 ReduceStabChain
‣ ReduceStabChain( S )( function )

changes the stabilizer chain S to a reduced stabilizer chain by eliminating trivial steps.

43.11-6 RemoveStabChain
‣ RemoveStabChain( S )( function )

S must be a stabilizer record in a stabilizer chain. This chain then is cut off at S by changing the entries in S. This can be used to remove trailing trivial steps.

43.11-7 EmptyStabChain
‣ EmptyStabChain( labels, id[, pnt] )( function )

constructs a stabilizer chain for the trivial group with identity value equal toid and labels = \(\{ \textit{id} \} \cup\) labels (but of course with genlabels and generators values an empty list). If the optional third argument pnt is present, the only stabilizer of the chain is initialized with the one-point basic orbit [ pnt ] and with translabels and transversal components.

43.11-8 InsertTrivialStabilizer
‣ InsertTrivialStabilizer( S, pnt )( function )

InsertTrivialStabilizer initializes the current stabilizer with pnt as EmptyStabChain (43.11-7) did, but assigns the original S to the new S.stabilizer component, such that a new level with trivial basic orbit (but identical labels and ShallowCopyed genlabels and generators) is inserted. This function should be used only if pnt really is fixed by the generators of S, because then new generators can be added and the orbit and transversal at the same time extended with AddGeneratorsExtendSchreierTree (43.11-10).

43.11-9 IsFixedStabilizer
‣ IsFixedStabilizer( S, pnt )( function )

returns true if pnt is fixed by all generators of S and false otherwise.

43.11-10 AddGeneratorsExtendSchreierTree
‣ AddGeneratorsExtendSchreierTree( S, new )( function )

adds the elements in new to the list of generators of S and at the same time extends the orbit and transversal. This is the only legal way to extend a Schreier tree (because this involves careful handling of the tree components).

43.12 Backtrack

A main use for stabilizer chains is in backtrack algorithms for permutation groups. GAP implements a partition-backtrack algorithm as described in [Leo91] and refined in [The97].

43.12-1 SubgroupProperty
‣ SubgroupProperty( G, Pr[, L] )( function )

Pr must be a one-argument function that returns true or false for elements of the group G, and the subset of elements of G that fulfill Pr must be a subgroup. (If the latter is not true the result of this operation is unpredictable!) This command computes this subgroup. The optional argument L must be a subgroup of the set of all elements in G fulfilling Pr and can be given if known in order to speed up the calculation.

43.12-2 ElementProperty
‣ ElementProperty( G, Pr[, L[, R]] )( function )

ElementProperty returns an element \(\pi\) of the permutation group G such that the one-argument function Pr returns true for \(\pi\). It returns fail if no such element exists in G. The optional arguments L and R are subgroups of G such that the property Pr has the same value for all elements in the cosets L \(g\) and \(g\) R, respectively, with \(g \in \textit{G}\).

A typical example of using the optional subgroups L and R is the conjugacy test for elements \(a\) and \(b\) for which one can set L\(:= C_{\textit{G}}(a)\) and R\(:= C_{\textit{G}}(b)\).

gap> propfun:= el -> (1,2,3)^el in [ (1,2,3), (1,3,2) ];;
gap> SubgroupProperty( g, propfun, Subgroup( g, [ (1,2,3) ] ) );
Group([ (1,2,3), (2,3) ])
gap> ElementProperty( g, el -> Order( el ) = 2 );

Chapter 42 describes special operations to construct permutations in the symmetric group without using backtrack constructions.

Backtrack routines are also called by the methods for permutation groups that compute centralizers, normalizers, intersections, conjugating elements as well as stabilizers for the operations of a permutation group via OnPoints (41.2-1), OnSets (41.2-4), OnTuples (41.2-5) and OnSetsSets (41.2-7). Some of these methods use more specific refinements than SubgroupProperty (43.12-1) or ElementProperty. For the definition of refinements, and how one can define refinements, see Section 87.2.

43.12-3 TwoClosure
‣ TwoClosure( G )( attribute )

The 2-closure of a transitive permutation group G on \(n\) points is the largest subgroup of the symmetric group \(S_n\) which has the same orbits on sets of ordered pairs of points as the group G has. It also can be interpreted as the stabilizer of the orbital graphs of G.

gap> TwoClosure(Group((1,2,3),(2,3,4)));
Sym( [ 1 .. 4 ] )

43.12-4 InfoBckt
‣ InfoBckt( info class )

is the info class for the partition backtrack routines.

43.13 Working with large degree permutation groups

Permutation groups of large degree (usually at least a few \(10000\)) can pose a challenge to the heuristics used in the algorithms for permutation groups. This section lists a few useful tricks that may speed up calculations with such large groups enormously.

The first aspect concerns solvable groups: A lot of calculations (including an initial stabilizer chain computation thanks to the algorithm from [Sim90]) are faster if a permutation group is known to be solvable. On the other hand, proving nonsolvability can be expensive for higher degrees. Therefore GAP will automatically test a permutation group for solvability, only if the degree is not exceeding \(100\). (See also the tryPcgs component of StabChainOptions (43.8-2).) It is therefore beneficial to tell a group of larger degree, which is known to be solvable, that it is, using SetIsSolvableGroup(G,true).

The second aspect concerns memory usage. A permutation on more than \(65536\) points requires \(4\) bytes per point for storing. So permutations on \(256000\) points require roughly 1MB of storage per permutation. Just storing the permutations required for a stabilizer chain might already go beyond the available memory, in particular if the base is not very short. In such a situation it can be useful, to replace the permutations by straight line program elements (see 37.9).

The following code gives an example of usage: We create a group of degree \(231000\). Using straight line program elements, one can compute a stabilizer chain in about \(200\) MB of memory.

gap> Read("largeperms"); # read generators from file
gap> gens:=StraightLineProgGens(permutationlist);;
gap> g:=Group(gens);
<permutation group with 5 generators>
gap> # use random algorithm (faster, but result is monte carlo)
gap> StabChainOptions(g).random:=1;;
gap> Size(g); # enforce computation of a stabilizer chain

Without straight line program elements, the same calculation runs into memory problems after a while even with 512MB of workspace:

gap> h:=Group(permutationlist);
<permutation group with 5 generators>
gap> StabChainOptions(h).random:=1;;
gap> Size(h);
exceeded the permitted memory (`-o' command line option) at
mlimit := 1; called from
SCRMakeStabStrong( S.stabilizer, [ g ], param, orbits, where, basesize,
 base, correct, missing, false ); called from
 SCRMakeStabStrong( S.stabilizer, [ g ], param, orbits, where, basesize,

The advantage in memory usage however is paid for in runtime: Comparisons of elements become much more expensive. One can avoid some of the related problems by registering a known base with the straight line program elements (see StraightLineProgGens (37.9-3)). In this case element comparison will only compare the images of the given base points. If we are planning to do extensive calculations with the group, it can even be worth to recreate it with straight line program elements knowing a previously computed base:

gap> # get the base we computed already
gap> bas:=BaseStabChain(StabChainMutable(g));
[ 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34, 37, 40, 43, 46, 49, 52, 55,
  2530, 2533, 2554, 2563, 2569 ]
gap> gens:=StraightLineProgGens(permutationlist,bas);;
gap> g:=Group(gens);;
gap> SetSize(g,
> 3529698298145066075557232833758234188056080273649172207877011796336000);
gap> Random(g);; # enforce computation of a stabilizer chain

As we know already base and size, this second stabilizer chain calculation is much faster than the first one and takes less memory.

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