Further I reproduce, with small modifications, a comment to the post

Locally compact groups with faithful finite-dimensional representations

by Terence Tao.

My motivation lies in the project described first time in public here. In fact, one of the reasons to start this blog is to have a place where I can leisurely explain stuff.

** Background: **The answer to the Hilbert fifth’s problem is: a connected locally compact group without small subgroups is a Lie group.

The key idea of the proof is to study the space of one parameter subgroups of the topological group. This space turns out to be a good model of the tangent space at the neutral element of the group (eventually) and the effort goes towards turning upside-down this fact, namely to prove that this space is a locally compact topological vector space and the “exponential map” gives a chart of (a neighbourhood of the neutral element of ) the group into this space.

Because I am a fan of differential structures (well, I think they are only the commutative, boring side of dilation structures or here or emergent algebras) I know a situation when one can prove the fact that a topological group is a Lie group without using the one parameter subgroups!

Here starts the original comment, slightly modified:

Contractive automorphisms may be as relevant as one-parameter subgroups for building a Lie group structure (or even more), as shown by the following result from E. Siebert, Contractive Automorphisms on Locally Compact Groups, Math. Z. 191, 73-90 (1986)

* 5.4. Proposition*. For a locally compact group G the following assertions are equivalent:

(i) G admits a contractive automorphism group;

(ii) G is a simply connected Lie group whose Lie algebra g admits a positive graduation.

The corresponding result for local groups is proved in L. van den Dries, I. Goldbring, Locally Compact Contractive Local Groups, arXiv:0909.4565v2.

I used Siebert result for proving the Lie algebraic structure of the metric tangent space to a sub-riemannian manifold in M. Buliga, Infinitesimal affine geometry of metric spaces endowed with a dilatation structure, Houston Journal of Mathematics, 36, 1 (2010), 91-136. arXiv:0804.0135v2

(added here: see in Corollary 6.3 from “Infinitesimal affine …” paper, as well as Proposition 5.9 and Remark 5.10 from the paper A characterization of sub-riemannian spaces as length dilation structures constructed via coherent projections, Commun. Math. Anal. 11 (2011), No. 2, pp. 70-111 , arXiv:0810.5042v4 )

When saying that contractive automorphisms, or approximately contractive automorphisms [i.e. dilation structures], may be more relevant than one-parameter subgroups, I am thinking about sub-riemannian geometry again, where a one-parameter subgroup of a group, endowed with a left-invariant distribution and a corresponding Carnot-Caratheodory distance, is “smooth” (with respect to Pansu-type derivative) if and only if the generator is in the distribution. Metrically speaking, if the generator is not in the distribution then any trajectory of the one-parameter group has Hausdorff dimension greater than one. That means lots of problems with the definition of the exponential and any reasoning based on differentiating flows.