Nov 30, 2012

Non-Euclidean Geometries_Transcribed by Marsigit

Non-Euclidean Geometries
Transcribed by Marsigit , Yogyakarta State University, Indonesia

The historical developments of non-Euclidean geometry were attempts to deal with the fifth axiom.

Mathematicians first tried to directly prove that the first 4 axioms could prove the fifth. However, mathematicians were becoming frustrated and tried some indirect methods.

Girolamo Saccheri (1667-1733) tried to prove a contradiction by denying the fifth axiom. He started with quadrilateral ABCD (later called the Saccheri Quadrilateral) with right angles at A and B and where AD = BC. Since he is not using the fifth axiom, he concludes there are three possible outcomes. Angles at C and D are right angles, C and D are both obtuse, or C and D are both acute. Saccheri knew that the only possible solution was right angles.

Saccheri said this was enough to claim a contradiction and he stopped. His reasoning to stop was based on faulty logic. He was going on the presumption that lines and parallel lines worked like those in flat geometry. So his contradiction was only applicable in Euclidean geometry, which was not a contradiction to what he was actually trying to prove. Of course Saccheri did not realize this at the time and he died thinking he had proved Euclid’s fifth axiom from the first four.

A contemporary of Saccheri, Johann Lambert (1728-1777), picked up where Saccheri left off and took the problem just a few steps further. Lambert considered the three possibilities that Saccheri had concluded as consequences of the first four axioms. Instead of finding a contradiction, he found two alternatives to Euclidean geometry. The first option represented Euclidean geometry and while the other two appeared silly, they could not be proven wrong.
Through time (and quite a lot of criticism), these two other possibilities were now being considered as “alternative geometries” to Euclid’s geometry. Eventually these alternate geometries were scholarly acknowledged as geometries, which could stand alone to Euclidean geometry.

The two non-Euclidean geometries were known as hyperbolic and elliptic. Hyperbolic geometry was explained by taking the acute angles for C and D on the Saccheri Quadrilateral while elliptic assumed them to be obtuse.

Let’s compare hyperbolic, elliptic and Euclidean geometries with respect to Playfair’s parallel axiom and see what role parallel lines have in these geometries:
1.)             Euclidean: Given a line L and a point P not on L, there is exactly one line passing through P, parallel to L.
2.)             Hyperbolic: Given a line L and a point P not on L, there are at least two lines passing through P, parallel to L.
3.)             Elliptic: Given a line L and a point P not on L, there are no lines passing through P, parallel to L.

Elliptic Geometry

Elliptic geometry also says that the shortest distance between two points is an arc on a great circle (the “greatest” size circle that can be made on a sphere’s surface).

As part of the revised parallel postulate for elliptic geometries, we learn that there are no parallel lines in elliptical geometry.

This means that all straight lines on the sphere’s surface intersect (specifically, they all interesect in two places).

A famous non-Euclidean geometer, Bernhard Riemann, who dealt mostly with and is credited with the development of elliptical geometries, theorized that the space (we are talking about outer space now) could be boundless without necessarily implying that space extends forever in all directions.

This theory suggests that if we were to travel one direction in space for a really long time, we would eventually come back to where we started! This theory involves the existence of four-dimensional space similar to how the surface of a sphere (which is three dimensional) represents an elliptic 2 dimensional geometry.

Hyperbolic Geometry

Recalling the corresponding Playfair’s axiom for hyperbolic geometry, we see that in hyperbolic geometry, there is more than one parallel line to L, passing through point P, not on L.

Hyperbolic geometries comes with some more restrictions about parallel lines. In Euclidean geometry, we can show that parallel lines are always equidistant, but in hyperbolic geometries, of course, this is not the case.

In hyperbolic geometries, we merely can assume that parallel lines carry only the restriction that they don’t interesect. Furthermore, the parallel lines don’t seem straight in the conventional sense. They can even approach each other in an asymptotically fashion. The surfaces on which these rules on lines and parallels hold true are on negatively curved surfaces.

In hyperbolic geometry, the triangle’s angle sum is less than 180 degrees whereas elliptic geometry has more than 180 degrees. The larger the sides of the triangle, the greater the distortion of the angle sums on both elliptic and hyperbolic geometries. Much like elliptic geometries, the area of a triangle is proportional to its angle sum and of course this implies that there are no similar triangles as well.

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