Geometric Algebra and its Application to Mathematical Physics

Clifford algebras have been studied for many years and their algebraic properties are well known. In particular, all Clifford algebras have been classified as matrix algebras over one of the three division algebras. But Clifford Algebras are far more interesting than this classification suggests; they provide the algebraic basis for a unified language for physics and mathematics which offers many advantages over current techniques. This language is called geometric algebra – the name originally chosen by Clifford for his algebra – and this thesis is an investigation into the properties and applications of Clifford’s geometric algebra. The work falls into three broad categories:

  • The formal development of geometric algebra has been patchy and a number of important subjects have not yet been treated within its framework. A principle feature of this thesis is the development of a number of new algebraic techniques which serve to broaden the field of applicability of geometric algebra. Of particular interest are an extension of the geometric algebra of spacetime (the spacetime algebra) to incorporate multiparticle quantum states, and the development of a multivector calculus for handling differentiation with respect to a linear function.
  • A central contention of this thesis is that geometric algebra provides the natural language in which to formulate a wide range of subjects from modern mathematical physics. To support this contention, reformulations of Grassmann calculus, Lie algebra theory, spinor algebra and Lagrangian field theory are developed. In each case it is argued that the geometric algebra formulation is computationally more efficient than standard approaches, and that it provides many novel insights.
  • The ultimate goal of a reformulation is to point the way to new mathematics and physics, and three promising directions are developed. The first is a new approach to relativistic multiparticle quantum mechanics. The second deals with classical models for quantum spin-1/2. The third details an approach to gravity based on gauge fields acting in a flat spacetime. The Dirac equation forms the basis of this gauge theory, and the resultant theory is shown to differ from general relativity in a number of its features and predictions.

C J. L. Doran, Geometric Algebra and its Application to Mathematical Physics, Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge (1994)