Axiomatizability and profinite groups

5 November 2019
Dan Segal

A mathematical structure is `axiomatizable' if it is completely determined by some family of sentences in a suitable first-order language. This idea has been explored for various kinds of structure, but I will concentrate on groups. There are some general results (not many) about which groups are or are not axiomatizable; recently there has been some interest in the sharper concept of 'finitely axiomatizable' or FA - that is, when only a finite set of sentences (equivalently, a single sentence) is allowed.

While an infinite group cannot be FA, every finite group is so, obviously. A profinite group is kind of in between: it is infinite (indeed, uncountable), but compact as a topological group; and these groups share many properties of finite groups, though sometimes for rather subtle reasons. I will discuss some recent work with Andre Nies and Katrin Tent where we prove that certain kinds of profinite group are FA among profinite groups. The methods involve a little model theory, and quite a lot of group theory.