Split octonions and the rolling ball
Speaker: John Baez, UC Riverside
Abstract: Understanding exceptional Lie groups as the symmetry groups of more familiar objects is a fascinating challenge. The compact form of the smallest exceptional Lie group, G2, is the symmetry group of an 8-dimensional nonassociative algebra called the octonions. However, another form of this group arises as symmetries of a simple problem in classical mechanics! The space of configurations of a ball rolling on another ball without slipping or twisting defines a manifold where the tangent space of each point is equipped with a 2-dimensional subspace describing the allowed infinitesimal motions. Under certain special conditions, the split real form of G2 acts as symmetries. We can understand this using the quaternions together with an 8-dimensional algebra called the 'split octonions'. The rolling ball picture makes the geometry associated to G2 quite vivid. This is joint work with James Dolan and John Huerta.
Room Reservation Information
Room Number: 106 McAllister
Time: 2:30pm - 3:30pm