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A semigroup is an algebraic structure consisting of a set S together with an associative binary operation. In other words, a semigroup is an associative magma. The terminology is derived from the anterior notion of a group. A semigroup differs from a group in that for each of its elements there might not exist an inverse; further, there might not exist an identity element.

The binary operation of a semigroup is most often denoted multiplicatively: x \cdot y, or simply xy, denotes the result of applying the semigroup operation to the ordered pair (x,y).

The formal study of semigroups began in the early 20th century. Semigroups are important in many areas of mathematics because they are the abstract algebraic underpinning of "memoryless" systems: time-dependent systems that start from scratch at each iteration. In applied mathematics, semigroups are fundamental models for linear time-invariant systems. In partial differential equations, a semigroup is associated to any equation whose spatial evolution is independent of time. The theory of finite semigroups has been of particular importance in theoretical computer science since the 1950s because of the natural link between finite semigroups and finite automata. In probability theory, semigroups are associated with Markov processes (Feller 1971).



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