Zero element

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For other uses, see Zero (disambiguation).

In mathematics, a zero element is one of several generalizations of the number zero to other algebraic structures. These alternate meanings may or may not reduce to the same thing, depending on the context.

Additive identities[edit]

An additive identity is the identity element in an additive group. It generalises the property 0 + x = x. Examples include:

Absorbing elements[edit]

An absorbing element in a multiplicative semigroup or semiring generalises the property 0 × x = 0. Examples include:

  • The empty set, which is an absorbing element under Cartesian product of sets, since { } × S = { }
  • The zero function or zero map under function multiplication (f × g)(x) = f(x) × g(x), defined by z(x) = 0, since z × f = z

Many absorbing elements are also additive identities, including the empty set and the zero function. Another important example is the distinguished element 0 in a field or ring, which is both the additive identity and the multiplicative absorbing element, and whose principal ideal is the smallest ideal.

Zero objects[edit]

A zero object in a category is both an initial and terminal object (and so an identity under both coproducts and products). For example, the trivial structure (containing only the identity) is a zero object in categories where morphisms must map identities to identities. Specific examples include:

  • The trivial group, containing only the identity (a zero object in the category of groups)
  • The zero module, containing only the identity (a zero object in the category of modules over a ring)

Zero morphisms[edit]

A zero morphism in a category is a generalised absorbing element under function composition: any morphism composed with a zero morphism gives a zero morphism. Specifically, if 0XY : XY is the zero morphism among morphisms from X to Y, and f : AX and g : YB are arbitrary morphisms, then g ∘ 0XY = 0XB and 0XYf = 0AY.

If a category has a zero object 0, then there are canonical morphisms X0 and 0Y, and composing them gives a zero morphism 0XY : XY. In the category of groups, for example, zero morphisms are morphisms which always return group identities, thus generalising the function z(x) = 0.

Least elements[edit]

A least element in a partially ordered set or lattice may sometimes be called a zero element, and written either as 0 or ⊥.

Zero module[edit]

In mathematics, the zero module is the module consisting of only the additive identity for the module's addition function. In the integers, this identity is zero, which gives the name zero module. That the zero module is in fact a module is simple to show; it is closed under addition and multiplication trivially.

Zero ideal[edit]

In mathematics, the zero ideal in a ring R is the ideal \{ 0 \} consisting of only the additive identity (or zero element). It is immediate to show that this is an ideal.

Zero matrix[edit]

In mathematics, particularly linear algebra, a zero matrix is a matrix with all its entries being zero. Some examples of zero matrices are


0_{1,1} = \begin{bmatrix}
0 \end{bmatrix}
,\ 
0_{2,2} = \begin{bmatrix}
0 & 0 \\
0 & 0 \end{bmatrix}
,\ 
0_{2,3} = \begin{bmatrix}
0 & 0 & 0 \\
0 & 0 & 0 \end{bmatrix}
,\

The set of m×n matrices with entries in a ring K forms a module K_{m,n} \,. The zero matrix 0_{K_{m,n}} \, in K_{m,n} \, is the matrix with all entries equal to 0_K \, , where 0_K \, is the additive identity in K.


0_{K_{m,n}} = \begin{bmatrix}
0_K & 0_K & \cdots & 0_K \\
0_K & 0_K & \cdots & 0_K \\
\vdots & \vdots &  & \vdots \\
0_K & 0_K & \cdots & 0_K \end{bmatrix}

The zero matrix is the additive identity in K_{m,n} \, . That is, for all A \in K_{m,n} \, it satisfies

0_{K_{m,n}}+A = A + 0_{K_{m,n}} = A

There is exactly one zero matrix of any given size m×n having entries in a given ring, so when the context is clear one often refers to the zero matrix. In general the zero element of a ring is unique and typically denoted as 0 without any subscript indicating the parent ring. Hence the examples above represent zero matrices over any ring.

The zero matrix represents the linear transformation sending all vectors to the zero vector.

Zero tensor[edit]

In mathematics, the zero tensor is a tensor, of any order, all of whose components are zero. The zero tensor of order 1 is sometimes known as the zero vector.

Taking a tensor product of any tensor with any zero tensor results in another zero tensor. Adding the zero tensor is equivalent to the identity operation.

Zero divisor[edit]

A zero divisor in a ring R is a non-zero element aR such that ab = 0 for some non-zero bR.

Zerosumfree monoid[edit]

In abstract algebra, an additive monoid (M, 0, +) is said to be zerosumfree if nonzero elements do not sum to zero. Formally:

(\forall a,b\in M)\ a + b = 0 \implies a = 0 = b \!

This means that the only way zero can be expressed as a sum is as 0 + 0.

See also[edit]