The Cycle Polynomial of a Permutation Group

  • Peter J. Cameron
  • Jason Semeraro
Keywords: Reciprocity theorems, Permutation groups, Chromatic polynomial


The cycle polynomial of a finite permutation group $G$ is the generating function for the number of elements of $G$ with a given number of cycles:\[F_G(x) = \sum_{g\in G}x^{c(g)},\] where $c(g)$ is the number of cycles of $g$ on $\Omega$. In the first part of the paper, we develop basic properties of this polynomial, and give a number of examples. In the 1970s, Richard Stanley introduced the notion of reciprocity for pairs of combinatorial polynomials. We show that, in a considerable number of cases, there is a polynomial in the reciprocal relation to the cycle polynomial of $G$; this is the orbital chromatic polynomial of $\Gamma$ and $G$, where $\Gamma$ is a $G$-invariant graph, introduced by the first author, Jackson and Rudd. We pose the general problem of finding all such reciprocal pairs, and give a number of examples and characterisations: the latter include the cases where $\Gamma$ is a complete or null graph or a tree. The paper concludes with some comments on other polynomials associated with a permutation group.
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