Suppose I have a finitely presented group (or a family of finitely presented groups with some integer parameters), and I'd like to know if the group is finite. What methods exist to find this out? I know that there isn't a general algorithm to determine this, but I'm interested in what plans of attack do exist.
One method that I've used with limited success is trying to identify quotients of the group I start with, hoping to find one that is known to be infinite. Sometimes, though, your finitely presented group doesn't have many normal subgroups; in that case, when you add a relation to get a quotient, you may collapse the group down to something finite.
In fact, there are two big questions here:
- How do we recognize large finite simple groups? (By "large" I mean that the Todd-Coxeter algorithm takes unreasonably long on this group.) What about large groups that are the extension of finite simple groups by a small number of factors?
- How do we recognize infinite groups? In particular, how do we recognize infinite simple groups?
(For those who are interested, the groups I am interested in are the symmetry groups of abstract polytopes; these groups are certain nice quotients of string Coxeter groups or their rotation subgroups.)