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Michael Yu

June 25, 2012

This article is going to assume knowledge of abstract mathematics. Properties of and terminologies relating to of sets, abstract vector spaces, and the real

numbers will be used freely. The most important mathematical notation which

may be unfamiliar include , which is a symbol for for all, and , which is a

symbol for there exists.

proven postulates of special relativity, we shall develop a mathematical formalisation of the concepts of physical quantities which can then allow us to talk

about physical things whose mathematical properties are explicitly stated.

1.1

Let us first characterize the physical universe as a four dimensional space of some

kind, with the three ordinal directions represented in three of the dimensions

and time in the remeaining dimension. Experimentally, we find that the laws

of physics is uninfluenced by location or time (within human reach), so let us

define the spacetime continuum as an affine space over a spacetime vector space.

An affine space is just a vector space where only the difference between elements

act as vectors. To quote from Wikipedia, an affine space is what is left of a

vector space after youve forgotten which point is the origin. We proceed to

define an affine space.

Definition 1.1.1. An affine space is a set A with an addition operator defined

as the following map

V A A : (v, a) 7 v + a

which satisfies three properties:

Left identity

a A, 0 + a = a

Associativity

v, w V and a A, (v + w) + a = v + (w + a)

Uniqueness

a A, V A : v 7 v + a is a bijection

(Copied from Wikipedia to here for ease of use)

1.2

As effective as an affine space as a model for spacetime, it is far more useful and

efficient to work with the underlying vector space. We almost always use either

measure or calculate time interval and distances to directly use in physics, as

opposed to time or and position. Therefore we shall focus our attention on the

spacetime vector space, which I will call the vector spacetime from here on.

For convenience, we will just let the field of the vector field be the real numbers.

We frequently add together physical quantities with the same units and

multiply these quantities with real numbers. Such physical quantities that can

be added and stretched like that form a one dimensional vector space. We

define a physical vector quantity (or just vector quantity for short) to be any

physically motivated vector space like this and we shall call any element from any

vector quantity to be a vector value. Time interval is such a vector quantity

and is also a subspace of vector spacetime. We shall denote this time vector space

as T . The spatial vectors subspace, which we shall denote as X , that make up

the rest of vector spacetime have three dimensions, and such can be expressed as

the direct sum of three spatial vector quantities. We see an important distinction

between the physics used in applications and the mathematical physical model

we are using in the case of space. Even though distances have the same units

of measurements (e.g. metres), they do not have the property that would make

them into one physical quantity. In particular, one metre in the x direction adde

to one metre in the y direction does not give you two metres in some direction.

We also identify all the 0 of every vector quantity as one unique element. This

is to capture the idea that 0 distance, 0 time interval, 0 force, or 0 anything else

might as well be the same thing since they all represent a nil physical quantity.

Extending on this idea is that vector values with different units can actually be

added, just like how a metre in the x direction can be added to a metre in the y

direction. The added vector values will just happen to be linearly independent.

Of course, most of the time the resulting vector value is quite meaningless,

but if and when we need to do such a thing the mathematics for it is ready.

Nonetheless, note that any linear combination of vector values is a vector value

in some vector quantity. Let us denote the sum (in the adding of vector spaces

sense) of all vector quantities, which happens to be the set of all vector values,

as V.

Just as often in physics we need to take the product of two vector values to

get another vector value. Let us agree to call this product to be developed in

the article the physical product to avoid confusion with all the other products

in physics and furthermore assume that all products on two elements in V that

appear later denote this physical product, unless otherwise stated. Now that

we have the two most basic operators that make up physical relationships and

laws, we shall make a wish list of properties that we would like them to have so

that they can best model the existing mathematics in physics.

Addition axioms

v, w V, v + w V

Associativity of addition

u, v, w V, u + (v + w) = (u + v) + w

Commutativity of addition

v, w V, v + w = w + v

Identity element under addition

0 V such that v V, v + 0 = v

Inverse elements under addition

v V, w V such that v + w = 0

All of these addition axioms are implied by the definition of V as a vector space,

the addition operator as the usual addition operator on an abstract vector space,

and the 0 as the 0 vector. We will drop the use of 0 and just use 0. It is then

only really the physical product that we need a wish list for.

Product axioms

Closure under product

v, w V, vw V

Associativity of product

u, v, w V, u(vw) = (uv)w

Commutativity product

v, w V, vw = wv

We have physical quantities like a second and a hertz, which multiply to the

number 1, which in turn acts as a multiplicative identity. Since the closure

property of the physical product is important, a vector quantity that has a

product identity element must exist. With that we finish the product axioms

wish list.

Identity element under product

1 V such that v V, v1 = v

v V, w V such that vw = 1

Homogeneity under scalar multiplication

v, w V and a R, a(vw) = (av)w = v(aw)

As it will turn out the physical product is actually not commutative for all

vector values. With this in mind, we note that (v V, 1 v = v) and (v

V, w V such that vw = 1 = wv) are implied by the product axioms even

without commutativity. A proof of this will not be included since we can just

define them to be true. Now we see that not assuming commutativity, it is easy

to prove that for all a R and for all v V, av = (a1 )v. As such, taking the

physical product with elements from span(1 ) is the exact same thing as scalar

multiplication. Let us thus identify a1 with the real number a, so that for v V

we use av to represent both av and (a1 )v, we use a + v to represent (a1 ) + v,

and we use a to represent a1 anywhere that a needs to be a physical vector

value. Now we have the real numbers represented in a physical vector space.

We have one last axiom to put on our wish list.

Distributive law

Distribution of product over addition

u, v, w V, (u + v)w = uw + v + w and u(v + w) = uv + uw

1.3

Let us now confirm that the axioms of the physical product are physicall sound.

We begin by using some familiar physical quantities to derive the structure of the

physical product on the vector quantities we are currently concerned about, time

and three dimensional space. One example of a telltale physical relation is from

1 |s|2

1

2Ek m1 t2 = |s|2 .

established physics Ek = m|v|2 Ek = m

2

2 t2

The left side of the final equation should form a vector value because we can

add all the values that take on that form together to form scalar multiples of

each other. This implies that even though the spatial vector value on the right

side can be any vector from three dimensional space, its norm squared is always

an element of one particular vector quantity. However, to talk about |s| as

a physical quantity would require the construction of a directionless distance

vector quantity, which is moreover not a good model of reality since in physics

we never see equations like |s1 |+|s2 |. Therefore, motivated by the fact that for a

general vector v representing a physical quantity, |v|2 = v v where the product

on the right side is the dot product, we define the physical product to have the

property that x, y X \ 0, a R+ such that ax2 = y 2 . The scalar coefficient

is restricted to be positive because when mass and time interval are positive,

5

a vector value of energy has the same sign no matter the displacement, so x2

where x X should also always have the same sign.

Anyway it would appear I have run out of time. Therefore I shall skip the

journey to the insight and cut to the gold. As it turn out, the best way to keep

as many properties of the physical product that we want is to have xy = q(x2 ),

where x, y X and q H, i.e. the set of quaternions. This comes from the

motivation that if x and y are orthogonal spatial vectors and x2 = y 2 , we want

2

1 x + 1 y

= x2 due to spatial displacements property of satifying the

2

2

Pythagorean equality. But with the distributive property and other more basic

2

axioms, we have 12 x + 12 y = 12 x2 + 21 xy + 12 yx + 21 y 2 = x2 + 21 (xy + yx).

This forces xy + yx = 0, which, when requiring the very physicall accurate

condition that xy 6= 0, implies xy = yx. This is perfectly modeled by x = vy,

where v is a unit purely imaginary quaternion. Furthermore, explorations of the

inverses of spatial vectors show that if x and y are orthogonal spatial vectors,

(xy 1 )2 = 1, and this essentially constructs the quaternions as a subspace of V.

All spatial vectors can be represented by a purely imaginary quaternion

multiple of a vector quantity. Let this vector quantity be time interval. Thus

time interval in our mathematical model has a unit that when squared, gives

the same unit as distance squared. Due to the importance of the speed of light,

given t2 = x2 , let t represent the time necessary for light to travel a spatial

displacement of x. Let S denote span(x2 ).

In this section, let us agree that t will denote a time interval value, x will

denote a spatial displacement value, v will denote a purely imaginary quaternion

representing xt1 for some x and t, and s will denote an element in S.

2.1

The notion of relativity is best explored with looking at the points of views of

observers moving at relative speeds to each other. We proceed to define inertial

reference frames.

Definition 2.1.1. An inertial reference frame is a way of defining the universe as an affine spacetime such that objects moving at constant velocity will

keep moving at that velocity unless a force acts on it. The postulates of special

relativity give more properties of inertial reference frames.

Principle of relativity The laws of physics, including physical constants, hold

and are the same as in any other inertial reference. What laws of physics

included here will be introduced as they are needed. Furthermore, all the

laws of physics are the same no matter where and when in the universe

the law is tested. Also no laws of physics should change depending on the

intrinsic labelling of directions.

Constancy of the speed of light There is a speed such that for all reference

frames, anything travelling at that speed also travel at that speed in any

other reference frame. Experimentally, this speed is the speed of light.

We want to turn the postulates of relativity into mathematical properties

that spacetime must satisfy. First, we shall work with inertial frame shifts, which

is a transformation mapping all the affine spacetime points in one inertial frame

to another. Since two affine spaces over vector spaces with the same dimension

(in our case four) are isomorphic, inertial frame shifts are merely functions from

the affine spacetime to itself. Let us be mindful of which subspace is the time

dimension in the affine spacetime before and after, since time is distinct from

the spatial dimensions. Like with our analysis of physical vector quantities, we

shall see that it is more convenient to work with the vector spacetime. Firstly

we define p q, p and q being elements of an affine space, to be the unique

vector r such that r + q = p

Theorem 2.1.2. Any function f mapping an affine space A to another affine

space Z can be completely described by a function g defined as g(a) = f (a) for

some constant a A and g(b) = h(b a) + g(a), where h is a function from the

vector space underlying A to the vector space underlying Z.

Proof. Choose any a A and fix g(a) = f (a). Now define h(v) = f (v +a)f (a)

where v is a vector underlying A. Then for all b A, g(b) = f ((b a) + a)

f (a) + g(a) = f (b) f (a) + f (a) = f (b).

Since anyone concerned with two different reference frames can just agree on

some common point of space and time, we only need to investigate inertial frame

shifts as a mapping from vector spacetime to itself. Let us agree to use frame

shift to mean the mapping from vector spacetime to itself that can be used to

completely describe any inertial frame shifts. Let us use F to denote any frame

shift and let us use t0 + x0 to denote F (t + x). First we note that frame shifts are

invertible, and therefore bijective, since we are defined to be allowed to frame

shift back from the new inertial reference to the old one. By the postulates of

special relativity, the spacetime location does not affect physical laws, which

include laws governing frame shifts, so, using the same notation from the proof

of 2.1.2 we must have that no matter what a we choose, h is the same mapping.

Then with v, w T X ,

h(v) + h(w) = (f (v + a) f (a)) + (f (w + a) f (a))

= (f (v + (w + a)) f (w + a)) + (f (w + a) f (a))

= f ((v + w) + a) f (a)

= h(v + w)

This shows that frame shifts are additive. Now consider t and F (t). By the

additivity of frame shifts, F (nt) = nF (t) for n N. Suppose u = mt, m N.

7

Then

F (u) = mF (t)

1

u

m

1

F (u) = F

m

So therefore F (rt) = rF (t) for rational r. Honestly this has taken me so, so, so,

so, so, much more time than I had anticipated, and its 5:26 AM, so Im just

going to get straight to the point and summarize everything. Just assume that

frame shifts are homogenous with degree one one the real numbers when the

vector value is time only, and use Newtons first law to derive that frame shifts

are homogenous for any argument. Thus frame shifts are just linear operators

on T X .

To formalize the constancy of the speed of light, we set t2 + x2 = 0 t02 +

2

x0 = 0 (recall that t2 and x2 are defined to always have opposite signs). From

the linearity of frame shifts, I proved the stronger statement t2 + x2 = t02 + x02 .

The spacetime interval t2 + x2 is therefore invariant under frame shifts. From

this, and the fact that direction does not affect physical laws, I derived the time

dilation formula. If F (t) = t0 + vt0, then

t

t0 = p

1 |v 2 |

Next steps are to derive the complete Lorentz tranformations and then use

F = ma to derive relativistic mass.

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