The study of groups cleanses the soul. This post will define the concept of a group and show a few simple results, after this there will be several different directions to go in for future posts. Familiarity with sets and functions is assumed.

**Definition of Group: **A group is really a package of two things. It is a set, which we will denote by , and a function mapping from to . For now we shall denote this function by and call it the *multiplication function*. The set and the function are together required to satisfy the so called *Group axioms*:

**Associativity:**For all , we have that .**Identity:**There exists an element of called the*identity*, which we will usually but not always denote by , with the property that for all .**Inverse:**For each element , there exists another element called the*inverse*of , denoted as , which satisfies .

Sometimes one will encounter *abelian* groups. An abelian group satisfies the additional property that for all .

The first question to ask is, do any groups actually exist? Our first example of a group will be the infamous *trivial group*. Let our set contain only one element. The group axioms force us to choose this sole element to be the identity, i.e. . Since there is only once choice for , namely the function that maps to . With these definitions the trivial group satisfies the group axioms.

A more complicated but still basic example is the unique group with two elements. Let be the set and let be given by and . In this case plays the role of the identity element.

In general groups of all cardinalities exist, and our first basic result about groups is that in any group, there can exist only one element satisfying the properties of the identity. To show this, let be a group with identity and suppose there exists an element also fulfilling the role of the identity element. By the properties of we have that . Since also satisfies these same properties, it must be that and thus .

In practice, rather than explicitly referring to the function it is more common to simply write application of as multiplication. For example, rather than we simply write and use parentheses to indicate the order of application. Using this notation we can rewrite the axiom of associativity as requiring that . This is a lot neater, though being explicitly aware of the function is helpful for appreciating the non-triviality of associativity. It will also be useful to refer to the function explicitly when dealing with more than one group, each having their own multiplication functions.

From the definition of a group we can go in several directions. There will be posts delving further into group theory itself, but this post will also serve as a foundation for studying more complex algebraic objects such as rings and fields. Stay tuned.