The Unapologetic Mathematician

Mathematics for the interested outsider

The Classification of (Possible) Root Systems

At long last, we can state the classification of irreducible root systems up to isomorphism. We’ve shown that for each such root system we can construct a connected Dynkin diagram, which determines a Cartan matrix, which determines the root system itself, up to isomorphism. So what he have to find now is a list of Dynkin diagrams which can possibly arise from a root system. And so today we state the

CLASSIFICATION THEOREM

If \Phi is an irreducible root system, then its Dynkin diagram is in one of four infinite families, or one of five “exceptional” diagrams. The four infinite families are

The A series. These consist of a single long string of roots with single edges connecting them. The diagrams are indexed by the number of roots, starting at n=1:

  • A_1:
  • A_2:
  • A_3:
  • A_4:
  • A_5:
  • A_6:
  • A_n:

The B series. These look like the A series, except the last two roots are connected by a double edge, with the last root shorter. The diagrams are indexed by the number of roots, starting at n=2:

  • B_2:
  • B_3:
  • B_4:
  • B_5:
  • B_6:
  • B_n:

The C series. These look like the B series, except the last root is longer. The diagrams are indexed by the number of roots, starting at n=3:

  • C_3:
  • C_4:
  • C_5:
  • C_6:
  • C_n:

The D series. These look like the A series, except the end is split into two roots. The diagrams are indexed by the number of roots, starting at n=4:

  • D_4:
  • D_5:
  • D_6:
  • D_7:
  • D_n:

The exceptional diagrams are

The E series. These have a string of roots connected by single edges. On the third root from the end of the string, a single edge branches off to another root on the side. The diagrams are indexed by the number of roots, for n=6, n=7, and n=8:

  • E_6:
  • E_7:
  • E_8:

The F_4 diagram. This consists of four roots in a row. The first two and last two are connected by a single edge, while the middle two are connected by a double edge:

  • F_4:

The G_2 diagram. This consists of two roots, connected by a triple edge:

  • G_2:

Our proof will take a number of steps, winnowing down the possible diagrams to this collection. We will spread it over the next week. But over the weekend, you can amuse yourself by working out the Cartan matrices for each of these Dynkin diagrams.

February 19, 2010 Posted by | Geometry, Root Systems | 12 Comments

   

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