## Permutations## Philip J. Erdelsky## November 13, 2006 |

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A __permutation__ of a set is a way of rearranging the elements of the set. For example,
*{1,2}* and *{2,1}* are the two permutations of the set *{1,2}*.

The set *{1,2,3}* has six permutations: *{1,2,3}, {1,3,2}, {2,1,3}, {2,3,1},
{3,1,2}* and *{3,2,1}*.

A permutation may also be defined more formally as a one-to-one
correspondence of a set with
itself, a function which carries each element of the set into the one that
occupies the same position after the permutation is applied. For example,
the permutation *{1,3,2}* is the function *f:{1,2,3} ⟶ {1,2,3}*
with *f(1)=1, f(2)=3 and f(3)=2*, or the set *{(1,1), (2,3), (3,2)}*. This
way of thinking of permutations is especially useful if the elements of a set
have no natural order.

Sometimes a permutation is illustrated by showing the set before and
after the permutation, with an arrow from each element to its new
position. For example, the permutations *{1,3,2}* and *{2,1,3}* can be
illustrated as follows:

The __identity__ permutation of a set is the permutation that leaves the
set unchanged, or the function which maps each element to itself. In our
example, the identity permutation is *{1,2,3}*.

The __composition__ of two permutations of the same set is just the
composition of the associated functions. For example, the permutations
*{1,3,2}* and *{2,1,3}* can be composed by tracing the destination of each
element.

Start with this element |
It is mapped by {1,3,2}to this element |
which is mapped by {2,1,3}to this element |
---|---|---|

1 | 1 | 2 |

2 | 3 | 3 |

3 | 2 | 1 |

Hence *{1,3,2} ◌ {2,1,3} = {2,3,1}*.

Similarly, it can be shown that
*{2,1,3} ◌ {1,3,2} = {3,1,2}*

Start with this element |
It is mapped by {2,1,3}to this element |
which is mapped by {1,3,2}to this element |
---|---|---|

1 | 2 | 3 |

2 | 1 | 1 |

3 | 3 | 2 |

This simple example shows that composition is not necessarily commutative (but it is associative).

The operations can be shown more clearly in graphic form:

If *I* is an identity permutation, and *P* is any permutation of the same set,
then it is clear that *I ◌ P =
P ◌ I = P*. There is also an inverse permutation
*P ^{-1}* for which

For example, the inverse of *{2,3,1}* is the inverse of *{(1,2), (2,3), (3,1)}*,
which is *{(2,1), (3,2), (1,3)}*, or *{(1,3), (2,1), (3,2)}*, or *{3,1,2}*.

Although composition of permutations is not commutative in general, it is commutative when one of the permutations or the result is the identity.

Let *p* be a permutation of the set *S = {1,2,3,...,n}* (or any other totally ordered
finite set). Consider a pair *(i,j)* of elements in S for which *i<j*.
If *p(i) > p(j)* then the permutation is said to invert the order of *(i,j)*.

The number of such pairs inverted by a permutation is not a very useful
property of a permutation, but whether the number is even or odd turns
out to be a useful property called the __parity__ of the permutation.
If the permutation inverts an even number of such
pairs, it is said to be an __even permutation__; if it inverts an odd
number of such pairs, it is said to be an __odd permutation__.

The identity permutation is obviously even; *{2,1}* is an example
of an odd permutation.

Although it might appear that the definition of even and odd permutations depends on the ordering of the set, we shall prove that this is not the case.

An __exchange__ is a permutation which interchanges
two elements and leaves all other elements unmoved.

**Lemma 3.1.** *Transposing two elements of a permutation of a finite set,
which is equivalent to composing it with an exchange, changes an even
permutation to an odd permutation, and vice-versa.*

*Proof.* We first establish the lemma for two adjacent elements.

Let *{p(1), p(2), ..., p(n)}* be a permutation of *{1,2,...,n}*, and
let *k* be an integer between *1* and *n-1*, inclusive. Then the permutation
*{p(1), p(2), ..., p(k+1), p(k), ..., p(n)}* is the permutation with two
adjacent elements *p(k)* and *p(k+1)* exchanged.

As we count inverted pairs in the new permutation, we see that all pairs
that were inverted in the old permutation are also inverted in the new
permutation, and vice-versa, except the pair *(k, k+1)*, which
changes from inverted to non-inverted, or vice-versa. Hence the number
of inverted pairs in the new permutation is *1* more or less than the
number in the old permutation. This establishes the lemma for adjacent
pairs.

Now let *i* and *j* be two nonconsecutive integers between *1*
and *n*, inclusive,
where *i < j*,
and consider the permutation in which *p(i)* and *p(j)* have been exchanged.
We can accomplish this by a series of exchanges of consecutive elements.
We move *p(i)* up to the *j*-th position by *j-i*
exchanges of consecutive elements.
First we exchange *p(i)* with *p(i+1)*, then we exchange *p(i)* (which is now in the
*(i+1)*-th position) with *p(i+2)*, and so on until *p(i)* reaches the position
formerly occupied by *p(j)*. The following example, in which
*i=5* and *j=9*,
should make this process clear:

p(5), p(6), p(7), p(8), p(9)---------- exchangep(6), p(5), p(7), p(8), p(9)---------- exchangep(6), p(7), p(5), p(8), p(9)---------- exchangep(6), p(7), p(8), p(5), p(9)---------- exchangep(6), p(7), p(8), p(9), p(5)

Then we perform a similar sequence of *j-i-1* exchanges in the opposite
direction to move *p(j)* down to the position formerly occupied by *p(i)*.
In our example:

p(6), p(7), p(8), p(9), p(5)---------- exchangep(6), p(7), p(9), p(8), p(5)---------- exchangep(6), p(9), p(7), p(8), p(5)---------- exchangep(9), p(6), p(7), p(8), p(5)

The result is the original permutation with *p(i)* and *p(j)* exchanged and other
elements in their original positions. The number of exchanges of consecutive
elements is *(j-i) + (j-i-1)*, which is odd. Therefore the permutation has
been changed from even to odd, or vice-versa.
█

Notice that this lemma applies only if the exchange is applied *after*
the permutation. However, it is clear that an exchange of *i* with *j*
*before*
a permutation *p* is equivalent to an exchange of
*p(i)* and *p(j)*
after the permutation. Hence the lemma applies in either case.

**Theorem 3.2.** *Every permutation is a composition of exchanges, and is
an even permutation if, and only if, the number of exchanges is even.*

*Proof.* Let *{p(1), p(2). ..., p(n)}* be a permutation. Start with
*{1,2,...,n}*. If *p(1)* is not *1*, then a single exchange will bring it to the
first position. If *p(2)* is not *2*, then a single exchange will bring it to
the second position. Proceding in this way, we can produce
*{p(1), p(2). ..., p(n)}* as a composition of exchanges. The other part
is a consequence of Lemma 3.1.
█

Notice that this characterization of odd and even permutations does not depend on the order of the elements.

**Corollary 3.3.** *The composition of two permutations of finite sets
is even if, and only if, the two permutations are both even or both odd.*

**Corollary 3.4.** *A permutation of a finite set and its inverse are
both even or both odd.*

**Theorem 3.5.** *A finite set with two or more
elements has equal numbers of even and odd permutations.*

*Proof.*
For each even permutation, we can obtain a unique odd permutation
by transposing the first two elements. This defines a one-to-one correspondence
between even and odd permutations, hence there are equal numbers of
each.
█

A permutation may leave some elements of the set fixed. For example,
*{1,3,2,5,4}* is an even permutation that leaves the element *1* fixed.
If we consider only the effects on *{2,3,4,5}*, we have a permutation
of a four-element set that is also even. The following theorem gives
a more general result.

**Theorem 3.6.** *If a permutation leaves one or more elements fixed,
then the permutation restricted to other elements has the same parity
as the original permutation.*

*Proof.* The restricted permutation can be decomposed into restricted
exchanges. These exchanges, when extended to the whole set, give the
original permutation. Hence both permutations are even or odd.
█

A popular puzzle involves a set of fifteen sliding tiles in a
*4 ⨯ 4* square:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

The sixteenth position is blank. The tiles can be rearranged by moving adjacent tiles into the blank. Through repeated moves of this kind, we can rearrange the tiles, as in this example:

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 5 6 7 8 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 9 10 11 12 9 10 12 13 15 14 13 15 14 13 15 11 14 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 9 10 12 14 13 15 11 14 13 15 11Suppose we want to obtain the following result:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 14

It is easy to show that this is impossible. Each arrangement is a permutation of sixteen items, where the blank space is considered as the sixteenth item. Each move involves the exchange of a tile with the blank space. The number of moves must be even, because the space must move up and down equal numbers of spaces, and right and left equal numbers of spaces, if it is to be returned to its original position in the lower right corner.

The desired result is an odd permutation, since it results from a single exchange. Hence it cannot be reached in the specified manner.

- German translation by Daniel Gruber of akkuschraubercheck.de.
- Russian translation by Fedor Mironov of FlyClipart.com.