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n. (context algebra English) An element of the fundamental representation of a Clifford algebra


In geometry and physics, spinors are elements of a ( complex) vector space that can be associated with Euclidean space. Like geometric vectors and more general tensors, spinors transform linearly when the Euclidean space is subjected to a slight ( infinitesimal) rotation. When a sequence of such small rotations is composed ( integrated) to form an overall final rotation, however, the resulting spinor transformation depends on which sequence of small rotations was used: unlike vectors and tensors, a spinor transforms to its negative when the space is rotated through a complete turn from 0° to 360° (see picture). This property characterizes spinors. It is also possible to associate a substantially similar notion of spinor to Minkowski space in which case the Lorentz transformations of special relativity play the role of rotations. Spinors were introduced in geometry by Élie Cartan in 1913. In the 1920s physicists discovered that spinors are essential to describe the intrinsic angular momentum, or "spin", of the electron and other subatomic particles.

Spinors are characterized by the specific way in which they behave under rotations. They change in different ways depending not just on the overall final rotation, but the details of how that rotation was achieved (by a continuous path in the rotation group). There are two topologically distinguishable classes ( homotopy classes) of paths through rotations that result in the same overall rotation, as famously illustrated by the belt trick puzzle (below). These two inequivalent classes yield spinor transformations of opposite sign. The spin group is the group of all rotations keeping track of the class. It doubly covers the rotation group, since each rotation can be obtained in two inequivalent ways as the endpoint of a path. The space of spinors by definition is equipped with a (complex) linear representation of the spin group, meaning that elements of the spin group act as linear transformations on the space of spinors, in a way that genuinely depends on the homotopy class.

Although spinors can be defined purely as elements of a representation space of the spin group (or its Lie algebra of infinitesimal rotations), they are typically defined as elements of a vector space that carries a linear representation of the Clifford algebra. The Clifford algebra is an associative algebra that can be constructed from Euclidean space and its inner product in a basis independent way. Both the spin group and its Lie algebra are embedded inside the Clifford algebra in a natural way, and in applications the Clifford algebra is often the easiest to work with. After choosing an orthonormal basis of Euclidean space, a representation of the Clifford algebra is generated by gamma matrices, matrices that satisfy a set of canonical anti-commutation relations. The spinors are the column vectors on which these matrices act. In three Euclidean dimensions, for instance, the Pauli spin matrices are a set of gamma matrices, and the two-component complex column vectors on which these matrices act are spinors. However, the particular matrix representation of the Clifford algebra, and hence what precisely constitutes a "column vector" (or spinor), involves the choice of basis and gamma matrices in an essential way. As a representation of the spin group, this realization of spinors as (complex) column vectors will either be irreducible if the dimension is odd, or it will decompose into a pair of so-called "half-spin" or Weyl representations if the dimension is even.

Usage examples of "spinor".

Morey, for instance, would never have developed the autointegral calculus, to say nothing of tensor and spinor calculus, which were developed two hundred years ago, without the knowledge of the problems of space to develop the need.

He marvelled at the way Schwarzschild geodesies flowed into cheek-planes, the spinors transfigured themselves as eyebrows, and the tensor fields spread out and grew into the forehead of this blazing, inner face.

Good-bye, calculuses aeons advanced beyond the spinor calculus of Dirac.

If I don't question your spinors and twistors and calibration of optical scalars, you shouldn't second guess me on Anna Griss.