Catastrophe, Gestalt and Thom’s Natural Philosophy of 3-D Space as Underlying All Abstract Forms – Thought of the Day 157.0

The main result of mathematical catastrophe theory consists in the classification of unfoldings (= evolutions around the center (the germ) of a dynamic system after its destabilization). The classification depends on two sorts of variables:

(a) The set of internal variables (= variables already contained in the germ of the dynamic system). The cardinal of this set is called corank,

(b) the set of external variables (= variables governing the evolution of the system). Its cardinal is called codimension.

The table below shows the elementary catastrophes for Thom:

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The A-unfoldings are called cuspoids, the D-unfoldings umbilics. Applications of the E-unfoldings have only been considered in A geometric model of anorexia and its treatment. By loosening the condition for topological equivalence of unfoldings, we can enlarge the list, taking in the family of double cusps (X9) which has codimension 8. The unfoldings A3(the cusp) and A5 (the butterfly) have a positive and a negative variant A+3, A-3, A+5, A-5.

We obtain Thorn’s original list of seven “catastrophes” if we consider only unfoldings up to codimension 4 and without the negative variants of A3 and A5.

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Thom argues that “gestalts” are locally con­stituted by maximally four disjoint constituents which have a common point of equilibrium, a common origin. This restriction is ultimately founded in Gibb’s law of phases, which states that in three-dimensional space maximally four independent systems can be in equilibrium. In Thom’s natural philosophy, three-dimensional space is underlying all abstract forms. He, therefore, presumes that the restriction to four constituents in a “gestalt” is a kind of cognitive universal. In spite of the plausibility of Thom’s arguments there is a weaker assumption that the number of constituents in a gestalt should be finite and small. All unfoldings with codimension (i.e. number of external variables) smaller than or equal to 5 have simple germs. The unfoldings with corank (i.e. number of internal variables) greater than two have moduli. As a matter of fact the most prominent semantic archetypes will come from those unfoldings considered by René Thom in his sketch of catastrophe theoretic semantics.

Philosophical Equivariance – Sewing Holonomies Towards Equal Trace Endomorphisms.

In d-dimensional topological field theory one begins with a category S whose objects are oriented (d − 1)-manifolds and whose morphisms are oriented cobordisms. Physicists say that a theory admits a group G as a global symmetry group if G acts on the vector space associated to each (d−1)-manifold, and the linear operator associated to each cobordism is a G-equivariant map. When we have such a “global” symmetry group G we can ask whether the symmetry can be “gauged”, i.e., whether elements of G can be applied “independently” – in some sense – at each point of space-time. Mathematically the process of “gauging” has a very elegant description: it amounts to extending the field theory functor from the category S to the category SG whose objects are (d − 1)-manifolds equipped with a principal G-bundle, and whose morphisms are cobordisms with a G-bundle. We regard S as a subcategory of SG by equipping each (d − 1)-manifold S with the trivial G-bundle S × G. In SG the group of automorphisms of the trivial bundle S × G contains G, and so in a gauged theory G acts on the state space H(S): this should be the original “global” action of G. But the gauged theory has a state space H(S,P) for each G-bundle P on S: if P is non-trivial one calls H(S,P) a “twisted sector” of the theory. In the case d = 2, when S = S1 we have the bundle Pg → S1 obtained by attaching the ends of [0,2π] × G via multiplication by g. Any bundle is isomorphic to one of these, and Pg is isomorphic to Pg iff g′ is conjugate to g. But note that the state space depends on the bundle and not just its isomorphism class, so we have a twisted sector state space Cg = H(S,Pg) labelled by a group element g rather than by a conjugacy class.

We shall call a theory defined on the category SG a G-equivariant Topological Field Theory (TFT). It is important to distinguish the equivariant theory from the corresponding “gauged theory”. In physics, the equivariant theory is obtained by coupling to nondynamical background gauge fields, while the gauged theory is obtained by “summing” over those gauge fields in the path integral.

An alternative and equivalent viewpoint which is especially useful in the two-dimensional case is that SG is the category whose objects are oriented (d − 1)-manifolds S equipped with a map p : S → BG, where BG is the classifying space of G. In this viewpoint we have a bundle over the space Map(S,BG) whose fibre at p is Hp. To say that Hp depends only on the G-bundle pEG on S pulled back from the universal G-bundle EG on BG by p is the same as to say that the bundle on Map(S,BG) is equipped with a flat connection allowing us to identify the fibres at points in the same connected component by parallel transport; for the set of bundle isomorphisms p0EG → p1EG is the same as the set of homotopy classes of paths from p0 to p1. When S = S1 the connected components of the space of maps correspond to the conjugacy classes in G: each bundle Pg corresponds to a specific point pg in the mapping space, and a group element h defines a specific path from pg to phgh−1 .

G-equivariant topological field theories are examples of “homotopy topological field theories”. Using Vladimir Turaev‘s two main results: first, an attractive generalization of the theorem that a two-dimensional TFT “is” a commutative Frobenius algebra, and, secondly, a classification of the ways of gauging a given global G-symmetry of a semisimple TFT.


Definition of the product in the G-equivariant closed theory. The heavy dot is the basepoint on S1. To specify the morphism unambiguously we must indicate consistent holonomies along a set of curves whose complement consists of simply connected pieces. These holonomies are always along paths between points where by definition the fibre is G. This means that the product is not commutative. We need to fix a convention for holonomies of a composition of curves, i.e., whether we are using left or right path-ordering. We will take h(γ1 ◦ γ2) = h(γ1) · h(γ2).

A G-equivariant TFT gives us for each element g ∈ G a vector space Cg, associated to the circle equipped with the bundle pg whose holonomy is g. The usual pair-of-pants cobordism, equipped with the evident G-bundle which restricts to pg1 and pg2 on the two incoming circles, and to pg1g2 on the outgoing circle, induces a product

Cg1 ⊗ Cg2 → Cg1g2 —– (1)


making C := ⊕g∈GCg into a G-graded algebra. Also there is a trace θ: C1  → C defined by the disk diagram with one ingoing circle. The holonomy around the boundary of the disk must be 1. Making the standard assumption that the cylinder corresponds to the unit operator we obtain a non-degenerate pairing

Cg ⊗ Cg−1 → C

A new element in the equivariant theory is that G acts as an automorphism group on C. That is, there is a homomorphism α : G → Aut(C) such that

αh : Cg → Chgh−1 —– (2)

Diagramatically, αh is defined by the surface in the immediately above figure. Now let us note some properties of α. First, if φ ∈ Ch then αh(φ) = φ. The reason for this is diagrammatically in the below figure.


If the holonomy along path P2 is h then the holonomy along path P1 is 1. However, a Dehn twist around the inner circle maps P1 into P2. Therefore, αh(φ) = α1(φ) = φ, if φ ∈ Ch.

Next, while C is not commutative, it is “twisted-commutative” in the following sense. If φ1 ∈ Cg1 and φ2 ∈ Cg2 then

αg212 = φ2φ1 —– (3)

The necessity of this condition is illustrated in the figure below.


The trace of the identity map of Cg is the partition function of the theory on a torus with the bundle with holonomy (g,1). Cutting the torus the other way, we see that this is the trace of αg on C1. Similarly, by considering the torus with a bundle with holonomy (g,h), where g and h are two commuting elements of G, we see that the trace of αg on Ch is the trace of αh on Cg−1. But we need a strengthening of this property. Even when g and h do not commute we can form a bundle with holonomy (g,h) on a torus with one hole, around which the holonomy will be c = hgh−1g−1. We can cut this torus along either of its generating circles to get a cobordism operator from Cc ⊗ Ch to Ch or from Cg−1 ⊗ Cc to Cg−1. If ψ ∈ Chgh−1g−1. Let us introduce two linear transformations Lψ, Rψ associated to left- and right-multiplication by ψ. On the one hand, Lψαg : φ􏰀 ↦ ψαg(φ) is a map Ch → Ch. On the other hand Rψαh : φ ↦ αh(φ)ψ is a map Cg−1 → Cg−1. The last sewing condition states that these two endomorphisms must have equal traces:

TrCh 􏰌Lψαg􏰍 = TrCg−1 􏰌Rψαh􏰍 —– (4)



(4) was taken by Turaev as one of his axioms. It can, however, be reexpressed in a way that we shall find more convenient. Let ∆g ∈ Cg ⊗ Cg−1 be the “duality” element corresponding to the identity cobordism of (S1,Pg) with both ends regarded as outgoing. We have ∆g = ∑ξi ⊗ ξi, where ξi and ξi ru􏰟n through dual bases of Cg and Cg−1. Let us also write

h = ∑ηi ⊗ ηi ∈ Ch ⊗ Ch−1. Then (4) is easily seen to be equivalent to

∑αhii = 􏰟 ∑ηiαgi) —– (5)

in which both sides are elements of Chgh−1g−1.

Homotopically Truncated Spaces.

The Eckmann–Hilton dual of the Postnikov decomposition of a space is the homology decomposition (or Moore space decomposition) of a space.

A Postnikov decomposition for a simply connected CW-complex X is a commutative diagram


such that pn∗ : πr(X) → πr(Pn(X)) is an isomorphism for r ≤ n and πr(Pn(X)) = 0 for r > n. Let Fn be the homotopy fiber of qn. Then the exact sequence

πr+1(PnX) →qn∗ πr+1(Pn−1X) → πr(Fn) → πr(PnX) →qn∗ πr(Pn−1X)

shows that Fn is an Eilenberg–MacLane space K(πnX, n). Constructing Pn+1(X) inductively from Pn(X) requires knowing the nth k-invariant, which is a map of the form kn : Pn(X) → Yn. The space Pn+1(X) is then the homotopy fiber of kn. Thus there is a homotopy fibration sequence

K(πn+1X, n+1) → Pn+1(X) → Pn(X) → Yn

This means that K(πn+1X, n+1) is homotopy equivalent to the loop space ΩYn. Consequently,

πr(Yn) ≅ πr−1(ΩYn) ≅ πr−1(K(πn+1X, n+1) = πn+1X, r = n+2,

= 0, otherwise.

and we see that Yn is a K(πn+1X, n+2). Thus the nth k-invariant is a map kn : Pn(X) → K(πn+1X, n+2)

Note that it induces the zero map on all homotopy groups, but is not necessarily homotopic to the constant map. The original space X is weakly homotopy equivalent to the inverse limit of the Pn(X).

Applying the paradigm of Eckmann–Hilton duality, we arrive at the homology decomposition principle from the Postnikov decomposition principle by changing:

    • the direction of all arrows
    • π to H
    • loops Ω to suspensions S
    • fibrations to cofibrations and fibers to cofibers
    • Eilenberg–MacLane spaces K(G, n) to Moore spaces M(G, n)
    • inverse limits to direct limits

A homology decomposition (or Moore space decomposition) for a simply connected CW-complex X is a commutative diagram


such that jn∗ : Hr(X≤n) → Hr(X) is an isomorphism for r ≤ n and Hr(X≤n) = 0 for

r > n. Let Cn be the homotopy cofiber of in. Then the exact sequence

Hr(X≤n−1) →in∗ Hr(X≤n) → Hr(Cn) →in∗ Hr−1(X≤n−1) → Hr−1(X≤n)

shows that Cn is a Moore space M(HnX, n). Constructing X≤n+1 inductively from X≤n requires knowing the nth k-invariant, which is a map of the form kn : Yn → X≤n.

The space X≤n+1 is then the homotopy cofiber of kn. Thus there is a homotopy cofibration sequence

Ynkn X≤nin+1 X≤n+1 → M(Hn+1X, n+1)

This means that M(Hn+1X, n+1) is homotopy equivalent to the suspension SYn. Consequently,

H˜r(Yn) ≅ Hr+1(SYn) ≅ Hr+1(M(Hn+1X, n+1)) = Hn+1X, r = n,

= 0, otherwise

and we see that Yn is an M(Hn+1X, n). Thus the nth k-invariant is a map kn : M(Hn+1X, n) → X≤n

It induces the zero map on all reduced homology groups, which is a nontrivial statement to make in degree n:

kn∗ : Hn(M(Hn+1X, n)) ∼= Hn+1(X) → Hn(X) ∼= Hn(X≤n)

The original space X is homotopy equivalent to the direct limit of the X≤n. The Eckmann–Hilton duality paradigm, while being a very valuable organizational principle, does have its natural limitations. Postnikov approximations possess rather good functorial properties: Let pn(X) : X → Pn(X) be a stage-n Postnikov approximation for X, that is, pn(X) : πr(X) → πr(Pn(X)) is an isomorphism for r ≤ n and πr(Pn(X)) = 0 for r > n. If Z is a space with πr(Z) = 0 for r > n, then any map g : X → Z factors up to homotopy uniquely through Pn(X). In particular, if f : X → Y is any map and pn(Y) : Y → Pn(Y) is a stage-n Postnikov approximation for Y, then, taking Z = Pn(Y) and g = pn(Y) ◦ f, there exists, uniquely up to homotopy, a map pn(f) : Pn(X) → Pn(Y) such that


homotopy commutes. Let X = S22 e3 be a Moore space M(Z/2,2) and let Y = X ∨ S3. If X≤2 and Y≤2 denote stage-2 Moore approximations for X and Y, respectively, then X≤2 = X and Y≤2 = X. We claim that whatever maps i : X≤2 → X and j : Y≤2 → Y such that i : Hr(X≤2) → Hr(X) and j : Hr(Y≤2) → Hr(Y) are isomorphisms for r ≤ 2 one takes, there is always a map f : X → Y that cannot be compressed into the stage-2 Moore approximations, i.e. there is no map f≤2 : X≤2 → Y≤2 such that


commutes up to homotopy. We shall employ the universal coefficient exact sequence for homotopy groups with coefficients. If G is an abelian group and M(G, n) a Moore space, then there is a short exact sequence

0 → Ext(G, πn+1Y) →ι [M(G, n), Y] →η Hom(G, πnY) → 0,

where Y is any space and [−,−] denotes pointed homotopy classes of maps. The map η is given by taking the induced homomorphism on πn and using the Hurewicz isomorphism. This universal coefficient sequence is natural in both variables. Hence, the following diagram commutes:


Here we will briefly write E2(−) = Ext(Z/2,−) so that E2(G) = G/2G, and EY (−) = Ext(−, π3Y). By the Hurewicz theorem, π2(X) ∼= H2(X) ∼= Z/2, π2(Y) ∼= H2(Y) ∼= Z/2, and π2(i) : π2(X≤2) → π2(X), as well as π2(j) : π2(Y≤2) → π2(Y), are isomorphisms, hence the identity. If a homomorphism φ : A → B of abelian groups is onto, then E2(φ) : E2(A) = A/2A → B/2B = E2(B) remains onto. By the Hurewicz theorem, Hur : π3(Y) → H3(Y) = Z is onto. Consequently, the induced map E2(Hur) : E23Y) → E2(H3Y) = E2(Z) = Z/2 is onto. Let ξ ∈ E2(H3Y) be the generator. Choose a preimage x ∈ E23Y), E2(Hur)(x) = ξ and set [f] = ι(x) ∈ [X,Y]. Suppose there existed a homotopy class [f≤2] ∈ [X≤2, Y≤2] such that

j[f≤2] = i[f].


η≤2[f≤2] = π2(j)η≤2[f≤2] = ηj[f≤2] = ηi[f] = π2(i)η[f] = π2(i)ηι(x) = 0.

Thus there is an element ε ∈ E23Y≤2) such that ι≤2(ε) = [f≤2]. From ιE2π3(j)(ε) = jι≤2(ε) = j[f≤2] = i[f] = iι(x) = ιEY π2(i)(x)

we conclude that E2π3(j)(ε) = x since ι is injective. By naturality of the Hurewicz map, the square


commutes and induces a commutative diagram upon application of E2(−):


It follows that

ξ = E2(Hur)(x) = E2(Hur)E2π3(j)(ε) = E2H3(j)E2(Hur)(ε) = 0,

a contradiction. Therefore, no compression [f≤2] of [f] exists.

Given a cellular map, it is not always possible to adjust the extra structure on the source and on the target of the map so that the map preserves the structures. Thus the category theoretic setup automatically, and in a natural way, singles out those continuous maps that can be compressed into homologically truncated spaces.

Individuation. Thought of the Day 91.0


The first distinction is between two senses of the word “individuation” – one semantic, the other metaphysical. In the semantic sense of the word, to individuate an object is to single it out for reference in language or in thought. By contrast, in the metaphysical sense of the word, the individuation of objects has to do with “what grounds their identity and distinctness.” Sets are often used to illustrate the intended notion of “grounding.” The identity or distinctness of sets is said to be “grounded” in accordance with the principle of extensionality, which says that two sets are identical iff they have precisely the same elements:

SET(x) ∧ SET(y) → [x = y ↔ ∀u(u ∈ x ↔ u ∈ y)]

The metaphysical and semantic senses of individuation are quite different notions, neither of which appears to be reducible to or fully explicable in terms of the other. Since sufficient sense cannot be made of the notion of “grounding of identity” on which the metaphysical notion of individuation is based, focusing on the semantic notion of individuation is an easy way out. This choice of focus means that our investigation is a broadly empirical one drawn on empirical linguistics and psychology.

What is the relation between the semantic notion of individuation and the notion of a criterion of identity? It is by means of criteria of identity that semantic individuation is effected. Singling out an object for reference involves being able to distinguish this object from other possible referents with which one is directly presented. The final distinction is between two types of criteria of identity. A one-level criterion of identity says that two objects of some sort F are identical iff they stand in some relation RF:

Fx ∧ Fy → [x = y ↔ RF(x,y)]

Criteria of this form operate at just one level in the sense that the condition for two objects to be identical is given by a relation on these objects themselves. An example is the set-theoretic principle of extensionality.

A two-level criterion of identity relates the identity of objects of one sort to some condition on entities of another sort. The former sort of objects are typically given as functions of items of the latter sort, in which case the criterion takes the following form:

f(α) = f(β) ↔ α ≈ β

where the variables α and β range over the latter sort of item and ≈ is an equivalence relation on such items. An example is Frege’s famous criterion of identity for directions:

d(l1) = d(l2) ↔ l1 || l2

where the variables l1 and l2 range over lines or other directed items. An analogous two-level criterion relates the identity of geometrical shapes to the congruence of things or figures having the shapes in question. The decision to focus on the semantic notion of individuation makes it natural to focus on two-level criteria. For two-level criteria of identity are much more useful than one-level criteria when we are studying how objects are singled out for reference. A one-level criterion provides little assistance in the task of singling out objects for reference. In order to apply a one-level criterion, one must already be capable of referring to objects of the sort in question. By contrast, a two-level criterion promises a way of singling out an object of one sort in terms of an item of another and less problematic sort. For instance, when Frege investigated how directions and other abstract objects “are given to us”, although “we cannot have any ideas or intuitions of them”, he proposed that we relate the identity of two directions to the parallelism of the two lines in terms of which these directions are presented. This would be explanatory progress since reference to lines is less puzzling than reference to directions.

Contact Geometry and Manifolds


Let M be a manifold of dimension 2n + 1. A contact structure on M is a distribution ξ ⊂ TM of dimension 2n, such that the defining 1-form α satisfies

α ∧ (dα)n ≠ 0 —– (1)

A 1-form α satisfying (1) is said to be a contact form on M. Let α be a contact form on M; then there exists a unique vector field Rα on M such that

α(Rα) = 1, ιRα dα = 0,

where ιRα dα denotes the contraction of dα along Rα. By definition Rα is called the Reeb vector field of the contact form α. A contact manifold is a pair (M, ξ) where M is a 2n + 1-dimensional manifold and ξ is a contact structure. Let (M, ξ) be a contact manifold and fix a defining (contact) form α. Then the 2-form κ = 1/2 dα defines a symplectic form on the contact structure ξ; therefore the pair (ξ, κ) is a symplectic vector bundle over M. A complex structure on ξ is the datum of J ∈ End(ξ) such that J2 = −Iξ.

Let α be a contact form on M, with ξ = ker α and let κ = 1/2 dα. A complex structure J on ξ is said to be κ-calibrated if gJ [x](·, ·) := κ[x](·, Jx ·) is a JxHermitian inner product on ξx for any x ∈ M.

The set of κ-calibrated complex structures on ξ will be denoted by Cα(M). If J is a complex structure on ξ = ker α, then we extend it to an endomorphism of TM by setting

J(Rα) = 0.

Note that such a J satisfies

J2 =−I + α ⊗ Rα

If J is κ-calibrated, then it induces a Riemannian metric g on M given by

g := gJ + α ⊗ α —– (2)

Furthermore the Nijenhuis tensor of J is defined by

NJ (X, Y) = [JX, JY] − J[X, JY] − J[Y, JX] + J2[X, Y] for any X, Y ∈ TM

A Sasakian structure on a 2n + 1-dimensional manifold M is a pair (α, J), where

• α is a contact form;

• J ∈ Cα(M) satisfies NJ = −dα ⊗ Rα

The triple (M, α, J) is said to be a Sasakian manifold. Let (M, ξ) be a contact manifold. A differential r-form γ on M is said to be basic if

ιRα γ = 0, LRα γ = 0,

where L denotes the Lie derivative and Rα is the Reeb vector field of an arbitrary contact form defining ξ. We will denote by ΛrB(M) the set of basic r-forms on (M, ξ). Note that

rB(M) ⊂ Λr+1B(M)

The cohomology HB(M) of this complex is called the basic cohomology of (M, ξ). If (M, α, J) is a Sasakian manifold, then

J(ΛrB(M)) = ΛrB(M), where, as usual, the action of J on r-forms is defined by

Jφ(X1,…, Xr) = φ(JX1,…, JXr)

Consequently ΛrB(M) ⊗ C splits as

ΛrB(M) ⊗ C = ⊕p+q=r Λp,qJ(ξ)

and, according with this gradation, it is possible to define the cohomology groups Hp,qB(M). The r-forms belonging to Λp,qJ(ξ) are said to be of type (p, q) with respect to J. Note that κ = 1/2 dα ∈ Λ1,1J(ξ) and it determines a non-vanishing cohomology class in H1,1B(M). The Sasakian structure (α, J) also induces a natural connection ∇ξ on ξ given by

ξX Y = (∇X Y)ξ if X ∈ ξ

= [Rα, Y] if X = Rα

where the subscript ξ denotes the projection onto ξ. One easily gets

ξX J = 0, ∇ξXgJ = 0, ∇ξX dα = 0, ∇ξX Y − ∇ξY X = [X,Y]ξ,

for any X, Y ∈ TM. Consequently we have Hol(∇ξ) ⊆ U(n).

The basic cohomology class

cB1(M) = 1/2π [ρT] ∈ H1,1B(M)

is called the first basic Chern class of (M, α, J) and, if it vanishes, then (M, α, J) is said to be null-Sasakian.

Furthermore a Sasakian manifold is called α-Einstein if there exist λ, ν ∈ C(M, R) such that

Ric = λg + να ⊗ α, where Ric is the Ricci Tensor.

A submanifold p: L ֒→ M of a 2n + 1-dimensional contact manifold (M, ξ) is said to be Legendrian if :

1) dimRL = n,

2) p(TL) ⊂ ξ

Observe that, if α is a defining form of the contact structure ξ, then condition 2) is equivalent to say that p(α) = 0. Hence Legendrian submanifolds are the analogue of Lagrangian submanifolds in contact geometry.

Weyl and Automorphism of Nature. Drunken Risibility.


In classical geometry and physics, physical automorphisms could be based on the material operations used for defining the elementary equivalence concept of congruence (“equality and similitude”). But Weyl started even more generally, with Leibniz’ explanation of the similarity of two objects, two things are similar if they are indiscernible when each is considered by itself. Here, like at other places, Weyl endorsed this Leibnzian argument from the point of view of “modern physics”, while adding that for Leibniz this spoke in favour of the unsubstantiality and phenomenality of space and time. On the other hand, for “real substances” the Leibnizian monads, indiscernability implied identity. In this way Weyl indicated, prior to any more technical consideration, that similarity in the Leibnizian sense was the same as objective equality. He did not enter deeper into the metaphysical discussion but insisted that the issue “is of philosophical significance far beyond its purely geometric aspect”.

Weyl did not claim that this idea solves the epistemological problem of objectivity once and for all, but at least it offers an adequate mathematical instrument for the formulation of it. He illustrated the idea in a first step by explaining the automorphisms of Euclidean geometry as the structure preserving bijective mappings of the point set underlying a structure satisfying the axioms of “Hilbert’s classical book on the Foundations of Geometry”. He concluded that for Euclidean geometry these are the similarities, not the congruences as one might expect at a first glance. In the mathematical sense, we then “come to interpret objectivity as the invariance under the group of automorphisms”. But Weyl warned to identify mathematical objectivity with that of natural science, because once we deal with real space “neither the axioms nor the basic relations are given”. As the latter are extremely difficult to discern, Weyl proposed to turn the tables and to take the group Γ of automorphisms, rather than the ‘basic relations’ and the corresponding relata, as the epistemic starting point.

Hence we come much nearer to the actual state of affairs if we start with the group Γ of automorphisms and refrain from making the artificial logical distinction between basic and derived relations. Once the group is known, we know what it means to say of a relation that it is objective, namely invariant with respect to Γ.

By such a well chosen constitutive stipulation it becomes clear what objective statements are, although this can be achieved only at the price that “…we start, as Dante starts in his Divina Comedia, in mezzo del camin”. A phrase characteristic for Weyl’s later view follows:

It is the common fate of man and his science that we do not begin at the beginning; we find ourselves somewhere on a road the origin and end of which are shrouded in fog.

Weyl’s juxtaposition of the mathematical and the physical concept of objectivity is worthwhile to reflect upon. The mathematical objectivity considered by him is relatively easy to obtain by combining the axiomatic characterization of a mathematical theory with the epistemic postulate of invariance under a group of automorphisms. Both are constituted in a series of acts characterized by Weyl as symbolic construction, which is free in several regards. For example, the group of automorphisms of Euclidean geometry may be expanded by “the mathematician” in rather wide ways (affine, projective, or even “any group of transformations”). In each case a specific realm of mathematical objectivity is constituted. With the example of the automorphism group Γ of (plane) Euclidean geometry in mind Weyl explained how, through the use of Cartesian coordinates, the automorphisms of Euclidean geometry can be represented by linear transformations “in terms of reproducible numerical symbols”.

For natural science the situation is quite different; here the freedom of the constitutive act is severely restricted. Weyl described the constraint for the choice of Γ at the outset in very general terms: The physicist will question Nature to reveal him her true group of automorphisms. Different to what a philosopher might expect, Weyl did not mention, the subtle influences induced by theoretical evaluations of empirical insights on the constitutive choice of the group of automorphisms for a physical theory. He even did not restrict the consideration to the range of a physical theory but aimed at Nature as a whole. Still basing on his his own views and radical changes in the fundamental views of theoretical physics, Weyl hoped for an insight into the true group of automorphisms of Nature without any further specifications.

Category of a Quantum Groupoid


For a quantum groupoid H let Rep(H) be the category of representations of H, whose objects are finite-dimensional left H -modules and whose morphisms are H -linear homomorphisms. We shall show that Rep(H) has a natural structure of a monoidal category with duality.

For objects V, W of Rep(H) set

V ⊗ W = x ∈ V ⊗k W|x = ∆(1) · x ⊂ V ⊗k W —– (1)

with the obvious action of H via the comultiplication ∆ (here ⊗k denotes the usual tensor product of vector spaces). Note that ∆(1) is an idempotent and therefore V ⊗ W = ∆(1) × (V ⊗k W). The tensor product of morphisms is the restriction of usual tensor product of homomorphisms. The standard associativity isomorphisms (U ⊗ V ) ⊗ W → U ⊗ (V ⊗ W ) are functorial and satisfy the pentagon condition, since ∆ is coassociative. We will suppress these isomorphisms and write simply U ⊗ V ⊗ W.

The target counital subalgebra Ht ⊂ H has an H-module structure given by h · z = εt(hz),where h ∈ H, z ∈ Ht.

Ht is the unit object of Rep(H).

Define a k-linear homomorphism lV : Ht ⊗ V → V by lV(1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · v) = z · v, z ∈ Ht, v ∈ V.

This map is H-linear, since

lV h · (1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · v) = lV(h(1) · z ⊗ h(2) · v) = εt(h(1)z)h(2) · v = hz · v = h · lV (1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · v),

∀ h ∈ H. The inverse map l−1V: → Ht ⊗ V is given by V

l−1V(v) = S(1(1)) ⊗ (1(2) · v) = (1(1) · 1) ⊗ (1(2) · v)

The collection {lV}V gives a natural equivalence between the functor Ht ⊗ (·) and the identity functor. Indeed, for any H -linear homomorphism f : V → U we have:

lU ◦ (id ⊗ f)(1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · v) = lU 1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · f(v) = z · f(v) = f(z·v) = f ◦ lV(1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · v)

Similarly, the k-linear homomorphism rV : V ⊗ Ht → V defined by rV(1(1) · v ⊗ 1(2) · z) = S(z) · v, z ∈ Ht, v ∈ V, has the inverse r−1V(v) = 1(1) · v ⊗ 1(2) and satisfies the necessary properties.

Finally, we can check the triangle axiom idV ⊗ lW = rV ⊗ idW : V ⊗ Ht ⊗ W → V ⊗ W ∀ objects V, W of Rep(H). For v ∈ V, w ∈ W we have

(idV ⊗ lW)(1(1) · v ⊗ 1′(1)1(2) · z ⊗ 1′(2) · w)

= 1(1) · v ⊗ 1′(2)z · w) = 1(1)S(z) · v ⊗ 1(2) · w

=(rV ⊗ idW) (1′(1) · v ⊗ 1′(2) 1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · w),

therefore, idV ⊗ lW = rV ⊗ idW

Using the antipode S of H, we can provide Rep(H) with a duality. For any object V of Rep(H), define the action of H on V = Homk(V, k) by

(h · φ)(v) = φ S(h) · v —– (2)

where h ∈ H , v ∈ V , φ ∈ V. For any morphism f : V → W , let f: W → V be the morphism dual to f. For any V in Rep(H), we define the duality morphisms dV : V ⊗ V → Ht, bV : Ht → V ⊗ V∗ as follows. For ∑j φj ⊗ vj ∈ V* ⊗ V, set

dV(∑j φj ⊗ vj)  = ∑j φj (1(1) · vj) 1(2) —– (3)

Let {fi}i and {ξi}i be bases of V and V, respectively, dual to each other. The element ∑i fi ⊗ ξi does not depend on choice of these bases; moreover, ∀ v ∈ V, φ ∈ V one has φ = ∑i φ(fi) ξi and v = ∑i fi ξi (v). Set

bV(z) = z · (∑i fi ⊗ ξi) —– (4)

The category Rep(H) is a monoidal category with duality. We know already that Rep(H) is monoidal, it remains to prove that dV and bV are H-linear and satisfy the identities

(idV ⊗ dV)(bV ⊗ idV) = idV, (dV ⊗ idV)(idV ⊗ bV) = idV.

Take ∑j φj ⊗ vj ∈ V ⊗ V, z ∈ Ht, h ∈ H. Using the axioms of a quantum groupoid, we have

h · dV(∑j φj ⊗ vj) = ((∑j φj (1(1) · vj) εt(h1(2))

= (∑j φj ⊗ εs(1(1)h) · vj 1(2)j φj S(h(1))1(1)h(2) · vj 1(2)

= (∑j h(1) · φj )(1(1) · (h(2) · vj))1(2)

= (∑j dV(h(1) · φj  ⊗ h(2) · vj) = dV(h · ∑j φj ⊗ vj)

therefore, dV is H-linear. To check the H-linearity of bV we have to show that h · bV(z) =

bV (h · z), i.e., that

i h(1)z · fi ⊗ h(2) · ξi = ∑i 1(1) εt(hz) · fi ⊗ 1(2) · ξi

Since both sides of the above equality are elements of V ⊗k V, evaluating the second factor on v ∈ V, we get the equivalent condition

h(1)zS(h(2)) · v = 1(1)εt (hz)S(1(2)) · v, which is easy to check. Thus, bV is H-linear.

Using the isomorphisms lV and rV identifying Ht ⊗ V, V ⊗ Ht, and V, ∀ v ∈ V and φ ∈ V we have:

(idV ⊗ dV)(bV ⊗ idV)(v)

=(idV ⊗ dV)bV(1(1) · 1) ⊗ 1(2) · v

= (idV ⊗ dV)bV(1(2)) ⊗ S−1(1(1)) · v

= ∑i (idV ⊗ dV) 1(2) · fi ⊗ 1(3) · ξi ⊗ S−1 (1(1)) · v

= ∑1(2) · fi ⊗ 1(3) · ξi (1′(1)S-1 (1(1)) · v) 1′(2)

= 1(2) S(1(3)) 1′(1) S-1 (1(1)) · v ⊗ 1′(2) = v

(dV ⊗ idV)(idV ⊗ bV)(φ)

= (dV ⊗ idV) 1(1) · φ ⊗ bV(1(2))

= ∑i (dV ⊗ idV)(1(1) · φ ⊗ 1(2) · 1(2) · 1(3) · ξi )

= ∑i (1(1) · φ (1′(1)1(2) · fi)1′(2) ⊗ 1(3) · ξi

= 1′(2) ⊗ 1(3)1(1) S(1′(1)1(2)) · φ = φ,



Proca’s Abelian Sector: Approximate Equivalence. Thought of the Day 62.0


The underdetermination between the quantized Maxwell theory and the lower-mass quantized Proca theories is permanent (at least unless a photon mass is detected, in which case Proca wins). It does not immediately follow that our best science leaves the photon mass unspecified apart from empirical bounds, however. Electromagnetism can be unified with an SU(2) Yang-Mills field describing the weak nuclear force into the electroweak theory. The resulting electroweak unification of course is not simply a logical conjunction of the electromagnetic and weak theories; the theories undergoing unification are modified in the process. Maxwell’s theory can participate in this unification; can Proca theories participate while preserving renormalizability and unitarity? Probably they can. Thus evidently the underdetermination between Maxwell and Proca persists even in electroweak theory, though this unresolved rivalry is not widely noticed. There is some non-uniqueness in the photon mass term, partly due to the rotation by the weak mixing angle between the original fields in the SU(2) × U(1) group and the mass eigenstates after spontaneous symmetry breaking. Thus the physical photon is not simply the field corresponding to the original U(1) group, contrary to naive expectations. There are also various empirically negligible but perhaps conceptually important effects that can arise in such theories. Among these are charge dequantization – the charges of charged particles are no longer integral multiples of a smallest charge – and perhaps charge non-conservation. Crucial to the possibility of including a Proca-type mass term (as opposed to merely getting mass by spontaneous symmetry breaking) is the non-semi-simple nature of the gauge group SU(2) × U(1): this group has a subgroup U(1) that is Abelian and that commutes with the whole of the larger group. Were the electroweak theory to be embedded in some larger semi-simple group such as SU(5), then no Proca mass term could be included.

Nomological Possibility and Necessity


An event E is nomologically possible in history h at time t if the initial segment of that history up to t admits at least one continuation in Ω that lies in E; and E is nomologically necessary in h at t if every continuation of the history’s initial segment up to t lies in E.

More formally, we say that one history, h’, is accessible from another, h, at time t if the initial segments of h and h’ up to time t coincide, i.e., ht = ht‘. We then write h’Rth. The binary relation Rt on possible histories is in fact an equivalence relation (reflexive, symmetric, and transitive). Now, an event E ⊆ Ω is nomologically possible in history h at time t if some history h’ in Ω that is accessible from h at t is contained in E. Similarly, an event E ⊆ Ω is nomologically necessary in history h at time t if every history h’ in Ω that is accessible from h at t is contained in E.

In this way, we can define two modal operators, ♦t and ¤t, to express possibility and necessity at time t. We define each of them as a mapping from events to events. For any event E ⊆ Ω,

t E = {h ∈ Ω : for some h’ ∈ Ω with h’Rth, we have h’ ∈ E},

¤t E = {h ∈ Ω : for all h’ ∈ Ω with h’Rth, we have h’ ∈ E}.

So, ♦t E is the set of all histories in which E is possible at time t, and ¤t E is the set of all histories in which E is necessary at time t. Accordingly, we say that “ ♦t E” holds in history h if h is an element of ♦t E, and “ ¤t E” holds in h if h is an element of ¤t E. As one would expect, the two modal operators are duals of each other: for any event E ⊆ Ω, we have ¤t E = ~ ♦t ~E and ♦E = ~ ¤t ~E.

Although we have here defined nomological possibility and necessity, we can analogously define logical possibility and necessity. To do this, we must simply replace every occurrence of the set Ω of nomologically possible histories in our definitions with the set H of logically possible histories. Second, by defining the operators ♦t and ¤t as functions from events to events, we have adopted a semantic definition of these modal notions. However, we could also define them syntactically, by introducing an explicit modal logic. For each point in time t, the logic corresponding to the operators ♦t and ¤t would then be an instance of a standard S5 modal logic.

The analysis shows how nomological possibility and necessity depend on the dynamics of the system. In particular, as time progresses, the notion of possibility becomes more demanding: fewer events remain possible at each time. And the notion of necessity becomes less demanding: more events become necessary at each time, for instance due to having been “settled” in the past. Formally, for any t and t’ in T with t < t’ and any event E ⊆ Ω,

if ♦t’ E then ♦E,

if ¤t E then ¤t’ E.

Furthermore, in a deterministic system, for every event E and any time t, we have ♦t E = ¤t E. In other words, an event is possible in any history h at time t if and only if it is necessary in h at t. In an indeterministic system, by contrast, necessity and possibility come apart.

Let us say that one history, h’, is accessible from another, h, relative to a set T’ of time points, if the restrictions of h and h’ to T’ coincide, i.e., h’T’ = hT’. We then write h’RT’h. Accessibility at time t is the special case where T’ is the set of points in time up to time t. We can define nomological possibility and necessity relative to T’ as follows. For any event E ⊆ Ω,

T’ E = {h ∈ Ω : for some h’ ∈ Ω with h’RT’h, we have h’ ∈ E},

¤T’ E = {h ∈ Ω : for all h’ ∈ Ω with h’RT’h, we have h’ ∈ E}.

Although these modal notions are much less familiar than the standard ones (possibility and necessity at time t), they are useful for some purposes. In particular, they allow us to express the fact that the states of a system during a particular period of time, T’ ⊆ T, render some events E possible or necessary.

Finally, our definitions of possibility and necessity relative to some general subset T’ of T also allow us to define completely “atemporal” notions of possibility and necessity. If we take T’ to be the empty set, then the accessibility relation RT’ becomes the universal relation, under which every history is related to every other. An event E is possible in this atemporal sense (i.e., ♦E) iff E is a non-empty subset of Ω, and it is necessary in this atemporal sense (i.e., ¤E) if E coincides with all of Ω. These notions might be viewed as possibility and necessity from the perspective of some observer who has no temporal or historical location within the system and looks at it from the outside.



Let us introduce the concept of space using the notion of reflexive action (or reflex action) between two things. Intuitively, a thing x acts on another thing y if the presence of x disturbs the history of y. Events in the real world seem to happen in such a way that it takes some time for the action of x to propagate up to y. This fact can be used to construct a relational theory of space à la Leibniz, that is, by taking space as a set of equitemporal things. It is necessary then to define the relation of simultaneity between states of things.

Let x and y be two things with histories h(xτ) and h(yτ), respectively, and let us suppose that the action of x on y starts at τx0. The history of y will be modified starting from τy0. The proper times are still not related but we can introduce the reflex action to define the notion of simultaneity. The action of y on x, started at τy0, will modify x from τx1 on. The relation “the action of x on y is reflected to x” is the reflex action. Historically, Galileo introduced the reflection of a light pulse on a mirror to measure the speed of light. With this relation we will define the concept of simultaneity of events that happen on different basic things.


Besides we have a second important fact: observation and experiment suggest that gravitation, whose source is energy, is a universal interaction, carried by the gravitational field.

Let us now state the above hypothesis axiomatically.

Axiom 1 (Universal interaction): Any pair of basic things interact. This extremely strong axiom states not only that there exist no completely isolated things but that all things are interconnected.

This universal interconnection of things should not be confused with “universal interconnection” claimed by several mystical schools. The present interconnection is possible only through physical agents, with no mystical content. It is possible to model two noninteracting things in Minkowski space assuming they are accelerated during an infinite proper time. It is easy to see that an infinite energy is necessary to keep a constant acceleration, so the model does not represent real things, with limited energy supply.

Now consider the time interval (τx1 − τx0). Special Relativity suggests that it is nonzero, since any action propagates with a finite speed. We then state

Axiom 2 (Finite speed axiom): Given two different and separated basic things x and y, such as in the above figure, there exists a minimum positive bound for the interval (τx1 − τx0) defined by the reflex action.

Now we can define Simultaneity as τy0 is simultaneous with τx1/2 =Df (1/2)(τx1 + τx0)

The local times on x and y can be synchronized by the simultaneity relation. However, as we know from General Relativity, the simultaneity relation is transitive only in special reference frames called synchronous, thus prompting us to include the following axiom:

Axiom 3 (Synchronizability): Given a set of separated basic things {xi} there is an assignment of proper times τi such that the relation of simultaneity is transitive.

With this axiom, the simultaneity relation is an equivalence relation. Now we can define a first approximation to physical space, which is the ontic space as the equivalence class of states defined by the relation of simultaneity on the set of things is the ontic space EO.

The notion of simultaneity allows the analysis of the notion of clock. A thing y ∈ Θ is a clock for the thing x if there exists an injective function ψ : SL(y) → SL(x), such that τ < τ′ ⇒ ψ(τ) < ψ(τ′). i.e.: the proper time of the clock grows in the same way as the time of things. The name Universal time applies to the proper time of a reference thing that is also a clock. From this we see that “universal time” is frame dependent in agreement with the results of Special Relativity.