Maximal Abelian Sets of Roots

Lawther, Ross (2017-11)


In this work we let Φ be an irreducible root system, with Coxeter group W. We consider subsets of Φ which are abelian, meaning that no two roots in the set have sum in Φ∪{0}. We classify all maximal abelian sets (i.e., abelian sets properly contained in no other) up to the action of W: for each W-orbit of maximal abelian sets we provide an explicit representative X, identify the (setwise) stabilizer W_X of X in W, and decompose X into W_X-orbits. Abelian sets of roots are closely related to abelian unipotent subgroups of simple algebraic groups, and thus to abelian p-subgroups of finite groups of Lie type over fields of characteristic p. Parts of the work presented here have been used to confirm the p-rank of E_8(p^n), and (somewhat unexpectedly) to obtain for the first time the 2-ranks of the Monster and Baby Monster sporadic groups, together with the double cover of the latter. Root systems of classical type are dealt with quickly here; the vast majority of the present work concerns those of exceptional type. In these root systems we introduce the notion of a radical set; such a set corresponds to a subgroup of a simple algebraic group lying in the unipotent radical of a certain maximal parabolic subgroup. The classification of radical maximal abelian sets for the larger root systems of exceptional type presents an interesting challenge; it is accomplished by converting the problem to that of classifying certain graphs modulo a particular equivalence relation.