Weight (representation theory)
In the mathematical field of representation theory, a weight of an algebra A over a field F is an algebra homomorphism from A to F, or equivalently, a one-dimensional representation of A over F. It is the algebra analogue of a multiplicative character of a group. The importance of the concept, however, stems from its application to representations of Lie algebras and hence also to representations of algebraic and Lie groups. In this context, a weight of a representation is a generalization of the notion of an eigenvalue, and the corresponding eigenspace is called a weight space.
Motivation and general concept
Given a set S of matrices, each of which is diagonalizable, and any two of which commute, it is always possible to simultaneously diagonalize all of the elements of S.[note 1][note 2] Equivalently, for any set S of mutually commuting semisimple linear transformations of a finite-dimensional vector space V there exists a basis of V consisting of simultaneous eigenvectors of all elements of S. Each of these common eigenvectors v ∈ V defines a linear functional on the subalgebra U of End(V) generated by the set of endomorphisms S; this functional is defined as the map which associates to each element of U its eigenvalue on the eigenvector v. This "generalized eigenvalue" is a prototype for the notion of a weight.
The notion is closely related to the idea of a multiplicative character in group theory, which is a homomorphism χ from a group G to the multiplicative group of a field F. Thus χ: G → F× satisfies χ(e) = 1 (where e is the identity element of G) and
- for all g, h in G.
Indeed, if G acts on a vector space V over F, each simultaneous eigenspace for every element of G, if such exists, determines a multiplicative character on G: the eigenvalue on this common eigenspace of each element of the group.
If A is a Lie algebra, then the commutativity of the field and the anticommutativity of the Lie bracket imply that this map vanish on commutators : χ([a,b])=0. A weight on a Lie algebra g over a field F is a linear map λ: g → F with λ([x, y])=0 for all x, y in g. Any weight on a Lie algebra g vanishes on the derived algebra [g,g] and hence descends to a weight on the abelian Lie algebra g/[g,g]. Thus weights are primarily of interest for abelian Lie algebras, where they reduce to the simple notion of a generalized eigenvalue for space of commuting linear transformations.
If G is a Lie group or an algebraic group, then a multiplicative character θ: G → F× induces a weight χ = dθ: g → F on its Lie algebra by differentiation. (For Lie groups, this is differentiation at the identity element of G, and the algebraic group case is an abstraction using the notion of a derivation.)
Weight space of a representation of a Lie algebra
Among the set of weights, some are related to the data of a representation. Let V be a representation of a Lie algebra g over a field F and let λ be a weight of g. Then the weight space of V with weight λ: ħ → F( ħ is the Cartan subalgebra of g.) is the subspace
(where denotes the action of ħ on V). A weight of the representation V is a weight λ such that the corresponding weight space is nonzero. Nonzero elements of the weight space are called weight vectors.
If V is the direct sum of its weight spaces
then it is called a weight module; this corresponds to there being a common eigenbasis (a basis of simultaneous eigenvectors) for all the represented elements of the algebra, i.e., to their being simultaneously diagonalizable matrices (see diagonalizable matrix).
Semisimple Lie algebras
Let g be a Lie algebra, h a maximal commutative Lie subalgebra consisting of semi-simple elements (sometimes called Cartan subalgebra) and let V be a finite dimensional representation of g. If g is semisimple, then [g, g] = g and so all weights on g are trivial. However, V is, by restriction, a representation of h, and it is well known that V is a weight module for h, i.e., equal to the direct sum of its weight spaces. By an abuse of language, the weights of V as a representation of h are often called weights of V as a representation of g.
Similar definitions apply to a Lie group G, a maximal commutative Lie subgroup H and any representation V of G. Clearly, if λ is a weight of the representation V of G, it is also a weight of V as a representation of the Lie algebra g of G.
We now assume that g is semisimple, with a chosen Cartan subalgebra h and corresponding root system. Let us suppose also that a choice of positive roots Φ+ has been fixed. This is equivalent to the choice of a set of simple roots.
Ordering on the space of weights
Let h*0 be the real subspace of h* (if it is complex) generated by the roots of g.
There are two concepts how to define an ordering of h*0.
The first one is
- μ ≤ λ if and only if λ − μ is nonnegative linear combination of simple roots.
The second concept is given by an element f in h0 and
- μ ≤ λ if and only if μ(f) ≤ λ(f).
Usually, f is chosen so that β(f) > 0 for each positive root β.
A weight λ ∈ h* is integral (or g-integral), if λ(Hγ) ∈ Z for each coroot Hγ such that γ is a positive root.
The fundamental weights are defined by the property that they form a basis of h* dual to the set of simple coroots .
Hence λ is integral if it is an integral combination of the fundamental weights. The set of all g-integral weights is a lattice in h* called weight lattice for g, denoted by P(g).
A weight λ of the Lie group G is called integral, if for each t in h such that . For G semisimple, the set of all G-integral weights is a sublattice P(G) ⊂ P(g). If G is simply connected, then P(G) = P(g). If G is not simply connected, then the lattice P(G) is smaller than P(g) and their quotient is isomorphic to the fundamental group of G.
A weight λ is dominant if for each coroot Hγ such that γ is a positive root. Equivalently, λ is dominant, if it is a non-negative linear combination of the fundamental weights.
The convex hull of the dominant weights is sometimes called the fundamental Weyl chamber.
Sometimes, the term dominant weight is used to denote a dominant (in the above sense) and integral weight.
A weight λ of a representation V is called the highest weight if no other weight of V is larger than λ. Sometimes, it is assumed that a highest weight is a weight, such that all other weights of V are strictly smaller than λ in the partial ordering given above. The term highest weight denotes often the highest weight of a "highest-weight module".
Similarly, we define the lowest weight.
The space of all possible weights is a vector space. Let's fix a total ordering of this vector space such that a nonnegative linear combination of positive vectors with at least one nonzero coefficient is another positive vector.
Then, a representation is said to have highest weight λ if λ is a weight and all its other weights are less than λ.
Similarly, it is said to have lowest weight λ if λ is a weight and all its other weights are greater than it.
A weight vector of weight λ is called a highest-weight vector, or vector of highest weight, if all other weights of V are smaller than λ.
A representation V of g is called highest-weight module if it is generated by a weight vector v ∈ V that is annihilated by the action of all positive root spaces in g.
For each dominant weight λ ∈ h*, there exists a unique (up to isomorphism) simple highest-weight g-module with highest weight λ, which is denoted L(λ).
A highest-weight module is a weight module. The weight spaces in a highest-weight module are always finite dimensional.
- The converse is also true – a set of diagonalizable matrices commutes if and only if the set is simultaneously diagonalisable (Horn & Johnson 1985, pp. 51–53).
- In fact, given a set of commuting matrices over an algebraically closed field, they are simultaneously triangularizable, without needing to assume that they are diagonalizable.
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