The Unapologetic Mathematician

Mathematics for the interested outsider

Properties of Irreducible Root Systems II

We continue with our series of lemmas on irreducible root systems.

If \Phi is irreducible, then the Weyl group \mathcal{W} acts irreducibly on V. That is, we cannot decompose the representation of \mathcal{W} on V as the direct sum of two other representations. Even more explicitly, we cannot write V=W\oplus W' for two nontrivial subspaces W and W' with each one of these subspaces invariant under \mathcal{W}. If W is an invariant subspace, then the orthogonal complement W' will also be invariant. This is a basic fact about the representation theory of finite groups, which I will simply quote for now, since I haven’t covered that in detail. Thus my assertion is that if W is an invariant subspace under \mathcal{W}, then it is either trivial or the whole of V.

For any root \alpha\in\Phi, either \alpha\in W or W\subseteq P_\alpha. Indeed, since \sigma_\alpha\in\mathcal{W}, we must have \sigma_\alpha(W)=W. As a reflection, \sigma_\alpha breaks V into a one-dimensional eigenspace with eigenvalue -1 and another complementary eigenspace with eigenvalue {1}. If W contains the -1-eigenspace, then \alpha\in W. If not, then \alpha is perpendicular to W or W couldn’t be invariant under \sigma_\alpha, and in this case W\subseteq P_\alpha.

So then if \alpha isn’t in W then it must be in the orthogonal complement W'. Thus every root is either in W or in W', and this gives us an orthogonal decomposition of the root system. But since \Phi is irreducible, one or the other of these collections must be empty, and thus W must be either trivial or the whole of V.

Even better, the span of the \mathcal{W}-orbit of any root \alpha\in\Phi spans V. Indeed, the subspace spanned by roots of the form \sigma(\alpha) is invariant under the action of \mathcal{W}, and so since V is irreducible it must be either trivial (clearly impossible) or the whole of V.

February 11, 2010 - Posted by | Geometry, Root Systems


  1. Are we ready for Dynkin diagrams?

    Comment by Jonathan Vos Post | February 11, 2010 | Reply

  2. Not yet.

    Comment by John Armstrong | February 11, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] and be two roots. We just saw that the -orbit of spans , and so not all the can be perpendicular to . From what we discovered […]

    Pingback by Properties of Irreducible Root Systems III « The Unapologetic Mathematician | February 12, 2010 | Reply

  4. […] also see that the Weyl orbit of a root spans the plane in the irreducible cases. But, again, in the Weyl orbits of and only span their […]

    Pingback by Some Root Systems and Weyl Orbits « The Unapologetic Mathematician | February 15, 2010 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: