nLab positive cone

Positive cones


Geometrically, the positive elements of a vector space with a partial order form a cone, called the positive cone. The concept makes sense even more generally but is particularly important in operator algebras.


Let VV be a partially ordered set and let 00 be an element of VV. Then the positive cone V +V^+ of the pointed poset (V,0)(V,0) is the up set of 00:

V +{x:V|0x}. V^+ \coloneqq \{x\colon V \;|\; 0 \leq x\} .

If VV is an operator algebra, or more generally an ordered group, then we use the usual identity element 00 here.


Let VV be an ordered group; that is, VV is a poset (as above) and also a group (written additively but not necessarily commutative) with this compatibility property:

  • If aba \leq b, then a+cb+ca + c \leq b + c and c+ac+bc + a \leq c + b.

Then the positive cone V +V^+ satisfies these properties:

  • If a,aV +a, -a \in V^+ (where a-a is the inverse of aa), then a=0a = 0;
  • Conversely, 0V +0 \in V^+;
  • If a,bV +a, b \in V^+, then a+bV +a + b \in V^+;
  • If aV +a \in V^+, then b+abV +b + a - b \in V^+ (which is trivial if VV is commutative).

Conversely, if V +V^+ is any subset of the group VV with these properties, then VV becomes an ordered group with either of these equivalent definitions:

  • aba \leq b iff baV +b - a \in V^+,
  • aba \leq b iff a+bV +-a + b \in V^+.

In this way, we have a bijection between ordered group structures and positive cones in a group.

The extended positive cone


The finite measures on a given measurable space form an ordered vector space VV, and the positive cone V +V^+ consists precisely of the finite positive measures. But we often want to allow positive measures to take infinite values. The space of (possibly infinite) positive measures is the extended positive cone of VV.

I only know the general definition in some rather limited cases:

Definition (positive cone of a von Neumann algebra)

Let VV be a W *W^*-algebra, and let V *V_* be its predual. Recall that VV is the space of continuous linear maps from V *V_* to the base field. The extended positive cone V¯ +\bar{V}^+ of VV is the space of lower semicontinuous linear maps from the positive cone V * +V_*^+ of V *V_* to the space ¯ +=[0,]\bar{\mathbb{R}}^+ = [0,\infty] of extended positive real numbers.

The extended positive real numbers are really showing up in their guise as the nonnegative lower real numbers (the appropriate targets for a lower semicontinuous map), and the extended positive cone is really a generalisation of the nonnegative upper reals. In particular, the extended positive cone of \mathbb{R} itself is [0,][0,\infty].

This doesn't include the motivating example, but the following generalisation does:

Definition (positive cone of an ordered module over a von Neumann algebra)

Let VV be a module over the W *W^*-algebra AA, and let VV have the structure of an ordered group such that the action of AA preserves order (in that a positive element acting on a positive element gives a positive element). Then the extended positive cone V¯ +\bar{V}^+ of VV consists of formal infinitary A¯ +\bar{A}^+-linear combinations of positive elements of VV modulo the (hopefully) obvious equivalence relation.

When applied to the space of finite measures on a localisable measurable space XX (acted on by the W *W^*-algebra L (X)L^\infty(X)), this should give the positive measures on XX (but I need to check the details).


The extended positive cone of a W *W^*-algebra is Definition 4.4 of:

Last revised on October 17, 2013 at 11:09:50. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.