Automata and finite order elements in the Nottingham group

Jakub Byszewski, Gunther Cornelissen*, Djurre Tijsma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Nottingham group at 2 is the group of (formal) power series t+a2t2+a3t3+⋯ in the variable t with coefficients ai from the field with two elements, where the group operation is given by composition of power series. The depth of such a series is the largest d⩾1 for which a2=…=ad=0. Only a handful of power series of finite order (forcedly a power of 2) are explicitly known through a formula for their coefficients. We argue in this paper that it is advantageous to describe such series in closed computational form through automata, based on effective versions of proofs of Christol's theorem identifying algebraic and automatic series. Up to conjugation, there are only finitely many series σ of order 2n with fixed break sequence (i.e. the sequence of depths of σ∘2i). Starting from Witt vector or Carlitz module constructions, we give an explicit automaton-theoretic description of: (a) representatives up to conjugation for all series of order 4 with break sequence (1,m) for m<10; (b) representatives up to conjugation for all series of order 8 with minimal break sequence (1,3,11); and (c) an embedding of the Klein four-group into the Nottingham group at 2. We study the complexity of the new examples from the algebro-geometric properties of the equations they satisfy. For this, we generalise the theory of sparseness of power series to a four-step hierarchy of complexity, for which we give both Galois-theoretic and combinatorial descriptions. We identify where our different series fit into this hierarchy. We construct sparse representatives for the conjugacy class of elements of order two and depth 2μ±1 (μ⩾1). Series with small state complexity can end up high in the hierarchy. This is true, for example, for a new automaton we found, representing a series of order 4 with 5 states (the minimal possible number for such a series).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-554
Number of pages71
JournalJournal of Algebra
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2022


  • Automata theory
  • Nottingham group
  • Power series over finite fields


Dive into the research topics of 'Automata and finite order elements in the Nottingham group'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this