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Sean Eberhard, Queen's University, Belfast

Abstract: The diameter of a group G with respect to a symmetric generating set X is the smallest integer d such that every element of G is the product of at most d elements of X. A well-known conjecture of Babai predicts that every nonabelian finite simple group G has diameter (log |G|)^O(1) with respect to any generating set. This is known to be true for bounded-rank groups of Lie type (Helfgott; Pyber--Szabo; Breuillard--Green--Tao), but the conjecture is wide open for high-rank groups. There has bee a good deal of progress recently for generating sets containing either special elements or random elements. In this talk I will outline the proof that the conjecture holds for the classical groups SL_n(q), Sp_{2n}(q), SU_n(q) and any generating set containing a transvection. The proof is based essentially on (a) the positive resolution of Babai's conjecture in bounded rank and (b) a result of Kantor classifying finite irreducible linear groups generated by transvections.

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