# nLab SL(2,O)

Contents

### Context

#### Algebra

higher algebra

universal algebra

# Contents

## Idea

The concept of a special linear group $SL(2,K)$ with $K = \mathbb{O}$ the octonions does not literally make sense, due to the failure of the octonions to be an associative algebra.

Nevertheless, the pattern of the special linear groups of the other three real normed division algebras suggests that for some suitably adjusted concept of “special linear group”, it should make sense to speak of $SL(2,\mathbb{O})$, after all, and that it should essentially be the spin group $Spin(9,1)$:

exceptional spinors and real normed division algebras

Lorentzian
spacetime
dimension
$\phantom{AA}$spin groupnormed division algebra$\,\,$ brane scan entry
$3 = 2+1$$Spin(2,1) \simeq SL(2,\mathbb{R})$$\phantom{A}$ $\mathbb{R}$ the real numberssuper 1-brane in 3d
$4 = 3+1$$Spin(3,1) \simeq SL(2, \mathbb{C})$$\phantom{A}$ $\mathbb{C}$ the complex numberssuper 2-brane in 4d
$6 = 5+1$$Spin(5,1) \simeq$ SL(2,H)$\phantom{A}$ $\mathbb{H}$ the quaternionslittle string
$10 = 9+1$Spin(9,1) ${\simeq}$SL(2,O)$\phantom{A}$ $\mathbb{O}$ the octonionsheterotic/type II string

## Realizations

### By Manogue–Schray

Manogue and Schray have shown how to interpret $Spin(9,1)$ as $SL(2,\mathbb{O})$ as follows. For a clear summary of results see also Dray and Manogue.

First, a warmup with the complex numbers. The space $\mathfrak{h}_2(\mathbb{C})$ of $2 \times 2$ hermitian matrices with entries in $\mathbb{C}$ may be identified with 4-dimensional Minkowski spacetime, since the determinant is a quadratic form of signature $(1,3)$. Any element $g \in \mathrm{SL}(2,\mathbb{C})$ acts as a linear transformation of $\mathfrak{h}_2(\mathbb{C})$ as follows:

$X \mapsto g X g^\ast , \qquad X \in \mathfrak{h}_2(\mathbb{C})$

and this action preserves the determinant on $\mathfrak{h}_2(\mathbb{C})$, so we obtain a group homomorphism from $\mathrm{SL}(2,\mathbb{C})$ to $\mathrm{O}(1,3)$. In fact this is a 2-1 homomorphism from $\mathrm{SL}(2,\mathbb{C})$ onto $SO_0(1,3)$. Since $\mathrm{SL}(2,\mathbb{C})$ is simply connected, this allows us to identify $\mathrm{SL}(2,\mathbb{C})$ with $\mathrm{Spin}(1,3) \cong \mathrm{Spin}(3,1)$.

Following this pattern, the space $\mathfrak{h}_2(\mathbb{O})$ of $2 \times 2$ hermitian matrices with entries in the octonions $\mathbb{O}$ may be identified with 10-dimensional Minkowski spacetime, since the determinant is a quadratic form of signature $(1,9)$. (The determinant of an element of $\mathfrak{h}_2(\mathbb{O})$ is well-defined using the usual formula for the determinant of a $2 \times 2$ matrix, because any octonion commutes with its conjugate.) Let $\mathbb{M}_2(\mathbb{O})$ be the set of $2 \times 2$ octonionic matrices all of whose entries lie in an arbitrary subalgebra of $\mathbb{O}$ isomorphic to $\mathbb{C}$. Then the determinant of $g \in \mathbb{M}_2(\mathbb{O})$ is well-defined by the usual formula, and furthermore $(g X) g^\ast = g ( X g^\ast)$ for all $X \in \mathfrak{h}_2(\mathbb{O})$.

Let then $\mathrm{SL}(2,\mathbb{O})$ be the subgroup of linear transformations of $\mathbb{O}^2$ generated by those of the form

$\psi \mapsto g \psi$

where $g \in \mathbb{M}_2(\mathbb{O})$ has $det(g) = 1$. This group acts by linear transformations of $\mathfrak{h}_2(\mathbb{O})$ in a unique way such that

$X \mapsto (g X) g^\ast , \qquad X \in \mathfrak{h}_2(\mathbb{O})$

when $g \in \mathbb{M}_2(\mathbb{O})$ has $det(g) = 1$. This action preserves the determinant on $\mathfrak{h}_2(\mathbb{O})$. Thus, there is a group homomorphism from $\mathrm{SL}(2,\mathbb{O})$ to $\mathrm{O}(1,9)$, and in fact it maps to $\mathrm{SO}_0(1,9)$ in a 2-1 and onto way, which allows us to identify $\mathrm{SL}(2,\mathbb{O})$ with $\mathrm{Spin}(1,9) \cong \mathrm{Spin}(9,1)$.

### By Hitchin

Another proposal for making sense of $SL(2,\mathbb{O})$ is due to Hitchin. In this approach, “$SL(2,\mathbb{O})$” is a submanifold of “$GL(2,\mathbb{O})$”, which is an open orbit of $Spin(9,1) \times GL(2,\mathbb{R})$ on ${S} \otimes \mathbb{R}^2$. Here ${S}$ is the 16-dimensional spin representation of $Spin(9,1)$; this may be identified with $\mathbb{O}^2$.

• John Baez, The octonions, Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 39 (2002), 145–205. Section 3.3: $\mathbb{O}\mathrm{P}^1$ and Lorentzian geometry. (html)

• Tevian Dray, Corinne Manogue, Octonionic Cayley spinors and $\mathrm{E}_6$, Comment. Math. Univ. Carolin. 51 (2010), 193–207. (arXiv:0911.2255)

• Tevian Dray, John Huerta, Joshua Kincaid, The magic square of Lie groups: the $2 \times 2$ case, Lett. Math. Phys. 104 (2014), 1445–68. (arXiv:2009.00390)

• Nigel Hitchin, $SL(2)$ over the octonions, Mathematical Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Vol. 118. No. 1. Royal Irish Academy, 2018. (arXiv:1805.02224)

• Corinne Manogue, Jörg Schray, Finite Lorentz transformations, automorphisms, and division algebras. Section 5: Lorentz transformations. J. Math. Phys. 34 (1993), 3746-3767. (arXiv:hep-th/9302044)