311 – HW 8

April 23, 2015

HW 8 is due Tuesday, April 28, at the beginning of lecture.

Work in hyperbolic geometry. Given a triangle \triangle ABC, recall that its Saccheri quadrilateral \Box ABB'A' based at \overleftrightarrow{AB} is defined as follows: Let M be the midpoint of \overline{AC} and N be the midpoint of \overline{CB}. Let A',B' be the feet of the perpendiculars from A and B to MN, respectively.

Continuing with the same notation, suppose now that G is an arbitrary point on \overleftrightarrow{MN}, and let H be a point on the ray \overrightarrow{AG} with GH=AG. Show that \Box ABB'A' is also the Saccheri quadrilateral of \triangle ABH based at \overleftrightarrow{AB}.

311 – HWs 6 and 7

April 15, 2015

HW 6 is due Thursday, April 16 and HW 7 is due Tuesday, April 21, both at the beginning of lecture.


Work in hyperbolic geometry.

1. Let \ell and m be two parallel lines admitting a common perpendicular: There are points P\in\ell and Q\in m with \overleftrightarrow{PQ} perpendicular to both \ell and m. Suppose that A,B are other points in \ell with P*A*B, that is, A is between P and B. Let C be the foot of the perpendicular from A to m, and let D be the foot of the perpendicular from B to m.

Show that PQ<AC<BD. That is, \ell and m drift apart away from their common perpendicular.

(Note that \Box PACQ and \Box PBDQ are Lambert quadrilaterals, and therefore PQ<AC and PQ<BD. The problem is to show that AC<BD.)

As an extra credit problem, show that for any number r>0 we can find B (on either side of P) such that BD>r, that is, \ell and m not just drift apart but they do so unboundedly.

2. Now suppose instead that \ell and m are critical (or limiting) parallel lines, that is, they are parallel, and if Q\in m and P\in\ell is the foot of the perpendicular from Q to \ell, then on one of the two sides determined by the line \overleftrightarrow{PQ}, any line through Q that forms with \overleftrightarrow{PQ} a smaller angle than m does, cuts \ell at some point.

On the same side as just described, suppose that C,D are points on m with Q*C*D, that is, C is between Q and D. Let A be the foot of the perpendicular from C to \ell, and let B be the foot of the perpendicular from D to \ell.

Show that PQ>AC>BD. That is, \ell and m approach each other in the appropriate direction.

As an extra credit problem, show that for any r>0 we can choose D so that BD<r. That is, \ell and m are asymptotically close to one another. Do they drift away unboundedly in the other direction?

HW 7

Show that the critical function \kappa is continuous. Recall that \kappa:(0,\infty)\to(0,\pi/2) measures the critical angle, that is, \kappa(x)=\theta iff there are critical parallel lines \ell and m and a point Q\in m such that if P is the foot of the perpendicular from Q to \ell, and PQ=x, then m and \overleftrightarrow{PQ} make an angle of measure \theta in the appropriate direction.

(In lecture we verified that \kappa is strictly decreasing. This means that the only possible discontinuities of \kappa are jump discontinuities. We also verified that \kappa(x) approaches 0 as x\to\infty, and approaches \pi/2 as x\to0. It follows that to show that \kappa has no jump discontinuities, it suffices to verify that it takes all values between 0 and \pi/2, that is, one needs to prove that for any \theta\in(0,\pi/2) there is an x>0 such that \kappa(x)=\theta.)

311 – HW5

March 31, 2015

(I am counting as HW3 the homework exercises supervised by Sam Coskey during the two weeks following Isabel’s birth, and as HW4 the two written exercises assigned by Sam that I collected on March 17.)

This exercise is due April 7 at the beginning of lecture.

Provide a proof verifying that the function d:\mathbb R^2\times\mathbb R^2\to\mathbb R given by


is a distance function.

311, 403/503 – Update

March 1, 2015

Our daughter decided to rush things up a bit, and is being born right now. You probably will have someone else covering class for a couple of weeks, sorry for the inherent inconvenience. I’ll be updating as I know more.

[Edit (11:00am): Isabel. Office hours are cancelled March 3 and 10.]

311 – Another extra credit exercise

February 11, 2015

This optional set is due Tuesday, February 24, at the beginning of lecture. Some of these problems are harder than others, you do not need to address all of them. Contact me if you would like additional time to keep working on some of the more difficult ones.

Recall the theories T_n introduced in homework 2:

  • For any two distinct points passes a unique line.
  • Any line has at least n points.
  • There are three non-collinear points.

Recall also the axioms of projective geometry:

  1. For any two distinct points passes a unique line.
  2. Any two distinct lines meet at a point.
  3. There are at least four points, no three of them collinear.

Theorem (T_{n+1}). There are at least n^2+n+1 points.

Proof. There is a line \ell with at least n+1 points a_1,\dots,a_{n+1}, and there is at least one point a not in \ell. The lines \overleftrightarrow{aa_1},\dots,\overleftrightarrow{aa_{n+1}} are all different, and each of them has at least n-1 points other that a and the a_i. It is not hard to see that all these points are different, giving us at least: n+1 points in \ell, n-1 points in each of the lines \overleftrightarrow{aa_i}, and a, that is, (n+1)+(n-1)(n+1)+1=n^2+n+1 points. \Box

Recall that if P is a finite model of the projective axioms, then there is a natural number n (the order of P) such that P has exactly n^2+n+1 points and n^2+n+1 lines, each point belongs to exactly n+1 lines, and each line goes through exactly n+1 points. (See here for a reference with proofs of these facts, from Perspectives on projective geometry, by Jürgen Richter-Gebert.)

  • Show that the only model of T_3 with 7 points is the Fano plane.
  • Show that all finite projective planes of order three are isomorphic (an example is described here).
  • Is any model of T_4 with 13 points the finite projective plane of order three?
  • Is any model of T_5 with 21 points the finite projective plane of order four? More generally, if n>1, is any model of T_{n+1} with n^2+n+1 points a finite projective plane of order n?

311 – Extra credit exercise

February 10, 2015

This optional exercise is due Thursday, February 12, at the beginning of lecture.

Show that the projective plane \mathbb Z_2P^3 obtained through the vector space construction applied to the field \mathbb Z_2 of two elements is (isomorphic to) the Fano plane.

I review the construction: To form KP^2 we start with a field K and consider K^3.

A point in the projective plane is just a line in K^3 through the origin. Note that any such line is obtained by fixing a non-zero element (x,y,z) of K^3 and considering all its scalar multiples, all the vectors (\alpha x,\alpha y,\alpha z) with \alpha\in K.

(When K=\mathbb Z_2, the only values of \alpha are 0 and 1, so a line consists of only two points, one of which is the origin.)

A line in the projective plane is actually the collection of lines contained in a plane in K^3 through the origin. In other words, a set L of points (that is, of lines through the origin) is a line iff there is a plane in K^3 that contains the lines that are the elements of L and no others. Note that any such plane can be described by fixing coefficients \alpha,\beta,\gamma in K, not all equal to zero, and considering the set of vectors (x,y,z)\in K^3 such that \alpha x+\beta y+\gamma z=0.

To show that when K=\mathbb Z_2 this construction produces the Fano plane it is not enough to indicate that the resulting space consists of 7 points and 7 lines, you also need to verify that these can be identified with the points and lines of the Fano plane in such a way that all incidence relations in the Fano plane are verified in this space and no, others.

311 – HW2

January 29, 2015

Following Venema’s book, we examine a “toy” collection of incidence axioms: Our primitive (undefined) terms are point, line, and the relation “to lie on” (between a point and a line)

  1. For every pair of distinct points P and Q there exists exactly one line \ell such that both P and Q lie on \ell.
  2. For every line \ell there exist at least two distinct points P and Q such that both P and Q lie on \ell.
  3. There exist three points that do not all lie on any one line.

Axiom 3 gives us in particular that there are at least three points. However, as shown in lecture (or see example 2.2.2 in Venema’s book), we cannot prove from these axioms that there are more than three, because there is a model of these axioms with precisely three points, and three lines, each line containing exactly two of the points.

For a fixed positive integer n\ge 2, replace axiom 2 with axiom 2^n:

For every line \ell there exist at least n distinct points, all of which lie on \ell.

(In particular, axiom 2^n is the same as axiom 2.)

Now consider the theory T_n consisting of axioms 1, 2^n, and 3. The comment above indicates that the smallest possible number of points that a model of T_2 can have is three.

  1. Try to find the smallest possible number of points that a model of T_3 can have. That is, describe a model of T_3 with as few points as you can manage. (To show that the number, say k, you find is optimal, that is, it cannot be reduced, one would need to prove from the axioms of T_3 the theorem that says that there exist at least k points. That would be great, but I am not requiring that. The number k you identify does not need to be optimal, but try to make it as small as possible. Of course, for all we know at this point, it could well be that any model of T_3 is infinite.)
  2. Do the same for T_4 and T_5.
  3. If possible, can you say something in general about the number of points of the smallest model of T_n (as a function of n)?

The implicit suggestion here is to play with these theories, trying to understand what can and cannot be deduced from them. Ryan suggested to look at a variant 3^n of axiom 3, namely: Given any n points, there is another point such that the n+1 resulting points do not all lie on the same line. Is this a theorem of T_n? Are there other interesting variants we can consider?

Feel free to include in your homework any results you find about these theories or their models, even if not directly related to the three questions above.

(In principle, this set is due February 2 at the beginning of lecture, but if needed, I am fine with extending the deadline so you have time to further explore the axioms. Let me know.)

311 – HW1

January 15, 2015

Go through the first 28 propositions of Book 1 of Euclid’s Elements. Make a list of the unjustified inferences you observe in the proofs.

(Due January 20 at the beginning of lecture.)

311 Foundations of Geometry – Syllabus

January 12, 2015

Math 311: Foundations of geometry.

Andrés E. Caicedo.
Contact Information: See here.
Time: TTh 12 – 1:15 pm.
Place: Mathematics Building, Room 124.
Office Hours: T, 1:30 – 3:00 pm.

Textbook: Our main reference will be:

There are many other excellent texts that cover similar material, and you may benefit from consulting some of them on occasion. I am partial to:

You may also find useful to consult Euclid‘s Elements or Hilbert‘s Foundations of Geometry. I will suggest additional references if needed.

Contents: The department’s course description reads:

Euclidean, non-Euclidean, and projective geometries from an axiomatic point of view.

We will discuss the axiomatic systems for geometry that the textbook discusses, but also discuss axiomatics in general, and their role in modern mathematics. This is a theoretical course, and you are expected to produce proofs on your own as required.

Grading: Based on homework. Some routine problems will be assigned frequently, to be turned in from one lecture to the next, and some more challenging problems will be posted periodically, and more time will be provided for those. No extensions will be granted, and no late work will be accepted. I expect there will be no exams, but if we see the need, you will be informed reasonably in advance. Even if you collaborate with others and work in groups, the work you turn in should be written on your own. Give credit as appropriate: Make sure to list all books, websites, and people you collaborated with or consulted while working on the homework. If relevant, indicate what software packages you used, and include any programs you may have written, or additional data. Failure to provide credit or to indicate these sources will affect your grade.

I may ask you to meet with me to discuss details of homework sets, and I suggest that before you turn in your work, you make a copy, so you can consult it if needed.

Occasionally, I post links to supplementary material on Google+ and Twitter.