Recently I gave a lecture to master's students about some nice properties of the group with two elements $\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z}$. Typically, I wanted to present simple, natural situations where the only group satisfying the given constraints is $\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z}$ (also $\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z}$ as a ring or as a field could qualify, but I'd prefer to stick to the group if possible). Here are some examples of theorems that I proved to the students :

- Let $G$ be a nontrivial group with trivial automorphism group. Then $G$ is isomorphic to $\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z}$.
- Let $G$ be a nontrivial quotient of the symmetric group on $n>4$ letters (nontrivial meaning here different from 1 and the symmetric group itself). Then $G$ is isomorphic to $\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z}$.
- Let $k$ be an algebraically closed field and let $k_0$ be a subfield such that $k/k_0$ is finite. Then $k/k_0$ is Galois and $G=\text{Gal}(k/k_0)$ is isomorphic to $\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z}$. (Moreover $k$ has characteristic $0$ and $k=k_0(i)$ where $i^2=-1$.) This is a theorem of Emil Artin and I actually did not prove it because my students did not have enough background in field theory.
- Let $k$ be a field with the following property: there exists a $k$-vector space $E$ of finite dimension $n>1$ and an isomorphism $E\simeq E^*$ between the space and its linear dual which does not depend on the choice of a basis, i.e. is invariant under $\text{GL}(E)$. Then $k=\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z}$, $n=2$ and the isomorphism $E\simeq E^*$ corresponds to the nondegenerate bilinear form given by the determinant.

I am looking for some more fantastic apparitions of $\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z}$. Do you know some?

notimply existence of bases. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Nov 15 '13 at 18:32