nLab division algebra and supersymmetry




Lie theory

∞-Lie theory (higher geometry)


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∞-Lie groupoids

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\infty-Lie groupoids

\infty-Lie groups

\infty-Lie algebroids

\infty-Lie algebras

Exceptional structures



There is a close relationship between

This is based on the fact that in certain dimensions, spin group representations are naturally identified with a 𝕂 n\mathbb{K}^n, for 𝕂\mathbb{K} one of the normed division algebras, see at spin group The exceptional isomorphisms.

For detailed exposition see

exceptional spinors and real normed division algebras

AA\phantom{AA}spin groupnormed division algebra\,\, brane scan entry
3=2+13 = 2+1Spin(2,1)SL(2,)Spin(2,1) \simeq SL(2,\mathbb{R})A\phantom{A} \mathbb{R} the real numberssuper 1-brane in 3d
4=3+14 = 3+1Spin(3,1)SL(2,)Spin(3,1) \simeq SL(2, \mathbb{C})A\phantom{A} \mathbb{C} the complex numberssuper 2-brane in 4d
6=5+16 = 5+1Spin(5,1)Spin(5,1) \simeq SL(2,H)A\phantom{A} \mathbb{H} the quaternionslittle string
10=9+110 = 9+1Spin(9,1) {\simeq}SL(2,O)A\phantom{A} 𝕆\mathbb{O} the octonionsheterotic/type II string

The structure of the normed division algebras also governs the existence of the brane scan and the super-∞-Lie algebras such as the supergravity Lie 3-algebra. By the D'Auria-Fre formulation of supergravity the ∞-Lie algebra valued forms with values in these constitute the field content of (11-dimensional) supergravity.

Combining this, one finds that supergravity coupled to super Yang-Mills theory (super Einstein-Yang-Mills theories) are parameterized by triples of real normed division algebras, forming a “magic pyramid”.


The relation between supersymmetry and division algebras was gradually established by a variety of authors, including

Corresponding discussion of twistor space:

and its AdS version

Streamlined proof and exposition is in

The case of 2-component quaternionic spinors in 6d (see at SL(2,H)) is discussed in more detail in:

Discussion with an emphasis on super Yang-Mills theory and U-duality in supergravity and the Freudenthal magic square is in

The relationship in string theory via octonion algebra between the NRS spinning string and the Green-Schwarz superstring sigma-models is discussed in

  • Rafael I. Nepomechie, Nonabelian bosonization, triality, and superstring theory Physics Letters B Volume 178, Issues 2-3, 2 October 1986, Pages 207-210

  • Itzhak Bars, D. Nemschansky and S. Yankielowicz, SLACPub-3758.

  • H. Tachibana, K. Imeda, Octonions, superstrings and ten-dimensional spinors , Il nuovo cimento, Vol 104 B N.1

The relation of the division algebras to ordinary (Lie algebraic) extensions of the super Poincare Lie algebra is discussed in

  • Jerzy Lukierski, Francesco Toppan, Generalized Space-time Supersymmetries, Division Algebras and Octonionic M-theory (arXiv:hep-th/0203149, pdf)

  • A. Anastasiou, L. Borsten, Mike Duff, L. J. Hughes, S. Nagy, An octonionic formulation of the M-theory algebra (arXiv:1402.4649)

Normed division algebras are used to describe the construction of Lie 2-algebra extensions of the super Poincare Lie algebra in

This is made use of in the homotopy theoretic description of M-theory in:

Last revised on February 4, 2023 at 13:45:53. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.