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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: January 2013

Preface

Summary

The ideas and concepts of physics are best expressed in the language of mathematics. But this language is far from unique. Many different algebraic systems exist and are in use today, all with their own advantages and disadvantages. In this book we describe what we believe to be the most powerful available mathematical system developed to date. This is geometric algebra, which is presented as a new mathematical tool to add to your existing set as either a theoretician or experimentalist. Our aim is to introduce the new techniques via their applications, rather than as purely formal mathematics. These applications are diverse, and throughout we emphasise the unity of the mathematics underpinning each of these topics.

The history of geometric algebra is one of the more unusual tales in the development of mathematical physics. William Kingdon Clifford introduced his geometric algebra in the 1870s, building on the earlier work of Hamilton and Grassmann. It is clear from his writing that Clifford intended his algebra to describe the geometric properties of vectors, planes and higher-dimensional objects. But most physicists first encounter the algebra in the guise of the Pauli and Dirac matrix algebras of quantum theory. Few then contemplate using these unwieldy matrices for practical geometric computing. Indeed, some physicists come away from a study of Dirac theory with the view that Clifford's algebra is inherently quantum-mechanical.