Log24

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Will and Representation*

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 2:56 PM

Robert A. Wilson, in an inaugural lecture in April 2008—

Representation theory

A group always arises in nature as the symmetry group of some object, and group
theory in large part consists of studying in detail the symmetry group of some
object, in order to throw light on the structure of the object itself (which in some
sense is the “real” object of study).

But if you look carefully at how groups are used in other areas such as physics
and chemistry, you will see that the real power of the method comes from turning
the whole procedure round: instead of starting from an object and abstracting
its group of symmetries, we start from a group and ask for all possible objects
that it can be the symmetry group of
.

This is essentially what we call Representation theory . We think of it as taking a
group, and representing it concretely in terms of a symmetrical object.

Now imagine what you can do if you combine the two processes: we start with a
symmetrical object, and find its group of symmetries. We now look this group up
in a work of reference, such as our big red book (The ATLAS of Finite Groups),
and find out about all (well, perhaps not all) other objects that have the same
group as their group of symmetries.

We now have lots of objects all looking completely different, but all with the same
symmetry group. By translating from the first object to the group, and then to
the second object, we can use everything we know about the first object to tell
us things about the second, and vice versa.

As Poincaré said,

Mathematicians do not study objects, but relations between objects.
Thus they are free to replace some objects by others, so long as the
relations remain unchanged.

Par exemple

Fano plane transformed to eightfold cube,
and partitions of the latter as points of the former:

* For the "Will" part, see the PyrE link at Talk Amongst Yourselves.