Abstract “Nonsenses” in Abstract Math make “Sense”

After 40 years of learning Abstract Algebra (aka Modern Math yet it is a 200-year-old Math since 19CE Galois invented Group Theory), through the axioms and theorems in math textbooks and lectures, then there is an Eureka “AHA!” revelation when one studies later the “Category Theory” (aka “Abstract Nonsense”) invented only in 1950s by 2 Harvard professors.

A good Abstract Math teacher is best to be a “non-mathematician” , who would be able to use ordinary common-sense concrete examples to explain the abstract concepts: …

Let me explain my points with the 4 Pillars of Abstract Algebra :

\boxed {\text {(1) Field (2) Ring (3) Group (4) Vector Space}}

Note: the above “1-2-3 & 4″ sequence is a natural intuitive learning sequence, but the didactical / pedagogical sequence is “3-2-1 & 4″, that explains why most students could not grasp the philosophical essence of Abstract Algebra, other than the “technical” axioms & theorems.

If a number system (Calculator arithmetic) has 4 operations (+ – * ÷ ), then it is a “Field” (域) – Eg. Real, Complex, Z/pZ (Integer mod Prime)…

If a number system with +, – and * (but no ÷), then it is a “Ring” (环).
eg1. Clock arithmetic {1,2, 3,…,12} = Z/12 (note: 12 is non-prime). [Note: the clock shape is like a ring, hence the German called this Clock number a “Ring”.]
eg2: Matrix (can’t ÷ matrices)
eg3. Polynomial is a ring (can’t ÷ 0 which is also a polynomial).

If a system (G) with 1 operation (○) and a set of elements {x y z w …} that is “closed” (kaki-lang 自己人, any 2 elements x ○ y = z still stay inside G ) , associative (ie bracket orderless) :(xy)z = x(yz), a neutral element (e) s.t. x+e = x = e+x, and inversible (x^{-1}, y^{-1} … still inside G), then G is a Group.
eg. {Integer, +}: 2’s inverse (-2), neutral 0, (2+3)+4=2+(3+4)
eg2. Triangle rotation 120 degree & flip about 3 inner axes.

If a non-empty system V ={v u w z …} that is “closed”if any of its 2 elements (called vectors v, u) v + u = w still in V,
AND if any vector multiply it by a scalar “λ” s.t. “λv” still in V, then V is a Vector Space (向量空间)。
eg1. Matrix (Vector) Space
eg2. Function (Vector) Space
eg3. Polynomial (Vector) Space

Summarise the above 4 or more systems into 1 Big System called “Category” (C) 范畴, then study relation (arrow or morphism) between f: C1 -> C2, this is “Category Theory“.

In any number system (aka algebraic structure), you can find the “Yin / Yang” (阴阳) duality : eg. “Algebra” [#] / “Co-Algebra”, Homology (同调) / Co-Homology (上同调)… if we find it difficult to solve a problem in the “Yang”-aspect. eg. In “Algebraic Topology”: “Homology” (ie “Holes”) with only “+” operation, then we could study its “Yin”-aspect Co-Homology in Ring structure, ie with the more powerful “*” multiplicative operation.

Note [#]: “Algebra” (an American invented structure) is a “Vector Space” plus multiplication between vectors. (Analogy in Physics : Cross Product of vectors).



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