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Null vector

## Summary

In mathematics, given a vector space X with an associated quadratic form q, written (X, q), a null vector or isotropic vector is a non-zero element x of X for which q(x) = 0.

In the theory of real bilinear forms, definite quadratic forms and isotropic quadratic forms are distinct. They are distinguished in that only for the latter does there exist a nonzero null vector.

A quadratic space (X, q) which has a null vector is called a pseudo-Euclidean space. The term isotropic vector v when q(v) = 0 has been used in quadratic spaces,[1] and anisotropic space for a quadratic space without null vectors.

A pseudo-Euclidean vector space may be decomposed (non-uniquely) into orthogonal subspaces A and B, X = A + B, where q is positive-definite on A and negative-definite on B. The null cone, or isotropic cone, of X consists of the union of balanced spheres:

${\displaystyle \bigcup _{r\geq 0}\{x=a+b:q(a)=-q(b)=r,\ \ a\in A,\ \ b\in B\}.}$
The null cone is also the union of the isotropic lines through the origin.

## Split algebras

A composition algebra with a null vector is a split algebra.[2]

In a composition algebra (A, +, ×, *), the quadratic form is q(x) = x x*. When x is a null vector then there is no multiplicative inverse for x, and since x ≠ 0, A is not a division algebra.

In the Cayley–Dickson construction, the split algebras arise in the series bicomplex numbers, biquaternions, and bioctonions, which uses the complex number field ${\displaystyle \mathbb {C} }$  as the foundation of this doubling construction due to L. E. Dickson (1919). In particular, these algebras have two imaginary units, which commute so their product, when squared, yields +1:

${\displaystyle (hi)^{2}=h^{2}i^{2}=(-1)(-1)=+1.}$  Then
${\displaystyle (1+hi)(1+hi)^{*}=(1+hi)(1-hi)=1-(hi)^{2}=0}$  so 1 + hi is a null vector.

The real subalgebras, split complex numbers, split quaternions, and split-octonions, with their null cones representing the light tracking into and out of 0 ∈ A, suggest spacetime topology.

## Examples

The light-like vectors of Minkowski space are null vectors.

The four linearly independent biquaternions l = 1 + hi, n = 1 + hj, m = 1 + hk, and m = 1 – hk are null vectors and { l, n, m, m } can serve as a basis for the subspace used to represent spacetime. Null vectors are also used in the Newman–Penrose formalism approach to spacetime manifolds.[3]

In the Verma module of a Lie algebra there are null vectors.

## References

1. ^ Emil Artin (1957) Geometric Algebra, isotropic
2. ^ Arthur A. Sagle & Ralph E. Walde (1973) Introduction to Lie Groups and Lie Algebras, page 197, Academic Press
3. ^ Patrick Dolan (1968) A Singularity-free solution of the Maxwell-Einstein Equations, Communications in Mathematical Physics 9(2):161–8, especially 166, link from Project Euclid
• Dubrovin, B. A.; Fomenko, A. T.; Novikov, S. P. (1984). Modern Geometry: Methods and Applications. Translated by Burns, Robert G. Springer. p. 50. ISBN 0-387-90872-2.
• Shaw, Ronald (1982). Linear Algebra and Group Representations. Vol. 1. Academic Press. p. 151. ISBN 0-12-639201-3.
• Neville, E. H. (Eric Harold) (1922). Prolegomena to Analytical Geometry in Anisotropic Euclidean Space of Three Dimensions. Cambridge University Press. p. 204.