When geometers first realised they were working with something other than the standard Euclidean geometry, they described their geometry under many different names; Felix Klein finally gave the subject the name hyperbolic geometry to include it in the now rarely used sequence elliptic geometry (spherical geometry), parabolic geometry (Euclidean geometry), and hyperbolic geometry. In the former Soviet Union, it is commonly called Lobachevskian geometry, named after one of its discoverers, the Russian geometer Nikolai Lobachevsky.
This page is mainly about the 2-dimensional (planar) hyperbolic geometry and the differences and similarities between Euclidean and hyperbolic geometry.
Hyperbolic geometry can be extended to three and more dimensions; see hyperbolic space for more on the three and higher dimensional cases.
Hyperbolic geometry is more closely related to Euclidean geometry than it seems: the only axiomatic difference is the parallel postulate. When the parallel postulate is removed from Euclidean geometry the resulting geometry is absolute geometry. There are two kinds of absolute geometry, Euclidean and hyperbolic. All theorems of absolute geometry, including the first 28 propositions of book one of Euclid's Elements, are valid in Euclidean and hyperbolic geometry. Propositions 27 and 28 of Book One of Euclid's Elements prove the existence of parallel/non-intersecting lines.
This difference also has many consequences: concepts that are equivalent in Euclidean geometry are not equivalent in hyperbolic geometry; new concepts need to be introduced. Further, because of the angle of parallelism, hyperbolic geometry has an absolute scale, a relation between distance and angle measurements.
Single lines in hyperbolic geometry have exactly the same properties as single straight lines in Euclidean geometry. For example, two points uniquely define a line, and line segments can be infinitely extended.
Two intersecting lines have the same properties as two intersecting lines in Euclidean geometry. For example, two distinct lines can intersect in no more than one point, intersecting lines form equal opposite angles, and adjacent angles of intersecting lines are supplementary.
When a third line is introduced, then there can be properties of intersecting lines that differ from intersecting lines in Euclidean geometry. For example, given two intersecting lines there are infinitely many lines that do not intersect either of the given lines.
These properties are all independent of the model used, even if the lines may look radically different.
Non-intersecting lines in hyperbolic geometry also have properties that differ from non-intersecting lines in Euclidean geometry:
This implies that there are through P an infinite number of coplanar lines that do not intersect R.
Some geometers simply use the phrase "parallel lines" to mean "limiting parallel lines", with ultraparallel lines meaning just non-intersecting.
For ultraparallel lines, the ultraparallel theorem states that there is a unique line in the hyperbolic plane that is perpendicular to each pair of ultraparallel lines.
In hyperbolic geometry, there is no line all of whose points are equidistant from another line. Instead, the points that all have the same orthogonal distance from a given line lie on a curve called a hypercycle.
Another special curve is the horocycle, a curve whose normal radii (perpendicular lines) are all limiting parallel to each other (all converge asymptotically in one direction to the same ideal point, the centre of the horocycle).
The length of the line-segment is the shortest length between two points. The arc-length of a hypercycle connecting two points is longer than that of the line segment and shorter than that of a horocycle, connecting the same two points. The arclength of both horocycles connecting two points are equal. The arc-length of a circle between two points is larger than the arc-length of a horocycle connecting two points.
Unlike Euclidean triangles, where the angles always add up to π radians (180°, a straight angle), in hyperbolic geometry the sum of the angles of a hyperbolic triangle is always strictly less than π radians (180°, a straight angle). The difference is referred to as the defect.
The area of a hyperbolic triangle is given by its defect in radians multiplied by R2. As a consequence, all hyperbolic triangles have an area that is less than or equal to R2π. The area of a hyperbolic ideal triangle in which all three angles are 0° is equal to this maximum.
As in Euclidean geometry, each hyperbolic triangle has an incircle. In hyperbolic geometry, if all three of its vertices lie on a horocycle or hypercycle, then the triangle has no circumscribed circle.
In Euclidean geometry, the only way to construct such a polygon is to make the side lengths tend to zero and the apeirogon is indistinguishable from a circle, or make the interior angles tend to 180 degrees and the apeirogon approaches a straight line.
However, in hyperbolic geometry, a regular apeirogon has sides of any length (i.e., it remains a polygon).
The side and angle bisectors will, depending on the side length and the angle between the sides, be limiting or diverging parallel (see lines above). If the bisectors are limiting parallel the apeirogon can be inscribed and circumscribed by concentric horocycles.
If the bisectors are diverging parallel then a pseudogon (distinctly different from an apeirogon) can be inscribed in hypercycles (all vertices are the same distance of a line, the axis, also the midpoint of the side segments are all equidistant to the same axis.)
There are an infinite number of uniform tilings based on the Schwarz triangles (p q r) where 1/p + 1/q + 1/r < 1, where p, q, r are each orders of reflection symmetry at three points of the fundamental domain triangle, the symmetry group is a hyperbolic triangle group. There are also infinitely many uniform tilings that cannot be generated from Schwarz triangles, some for example requiring quadrilaterals as fundamental domains.
Though hyperbolic geometry applies for any surface with a constant negative Gaussian curvature, it is usual to assume a scale in which the curvature K is −1.
In hyperbolic geometry, the sum of the angles of a quadrilateral is always less than 360 degrees, and hyperbolic rectangles differ greatly from Euclidean rectangles since there are no equidistant lines, so a proper Euclidean rectangle would need to be enclosed by two lines and two hypercycles. These all complicate coordinate systems.
There are however different coordinate systems for hyperbolic plane geometry. All are based around choosing a point (the origin) on a chosen directed line (the x-axis) and after that many choices exist.
The Lobachevski coordinates x and y are found by dropping a perpendicular onto the x-axis. x will be the label of the foot of the perpendicular. y will be the distance along the perpendicular of the given point from its foot (positive on one side and negative on the other).
Other coordinate systems use the Klein model or the Poincare disk model described below, and take the Euclidean coordinates as hyperbolic.
Construct a Cartesian-like coordinate system as follows. Choose a line (the x-axis) in the hyperbolic plane (with a standardized curvature of −1) and label the points on it by their distance from an origin (x=0) point on the x-axis (positive on one side and negative on the other). For any point in the plane, one can define coordinates x and y by dropping a perpendicular onto the x-axis. x will be the label of the foot of the perpendicular. y will be the distance along the perpendicular of the given point from its foot (positive on one side and negative on the other). Then the distance between two such points will be
This formula can be derived from the formulas about hyperbolic triangles.
In this coordinate system, straight lines are either perpendicular to the x-axis (with equation x = a constant) or described by equations of the form
where A and B are real parameters which characterize the straight line.
Since the publication of Euclid's Elements circa 300 BCE, many geometers made attempts to prove the parallel postulate. Some tried to prove it by . Foremost among these were Proclus, Ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen), Omar Khayyám, Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī, Witelo, Gersonides, Alfonso, and later Giovanni Gerolamo Saccheri, John Wallis, Johann Heinrich Lambert, and Legendre. Their attempts were doomed to failure (as we now know, the parallel postulate is not provable from the other postulates), but their efforts led to the discovery of hyperbolic geometry.
The theorems of Alhacen, Khayyam and al-Tūsī on quadrilaterals, including the Ibn al-Haytham–Lambert quadrilateral and Khayyam–Saccheri quadrilateral, were the first theorems on hyperbolic geometry. Their works on hyperbolic geometry had a considerable influence on its development among later European geometers, including Witelo, Gersonides, Alfonso, John Wallis and Saccheri.
In the 19th century, hyperbolic geometry was explored extensively by Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky, János Bolyai, Carl Friedrich Gauss and Franz Taurinus. Unlike their predecessors, who just wanted to eliminate the parallel postulate from the axioms of Euclidean geometry, these authors realized they had discovered a new geometry. Gauss wrote in an 1824 letter to Franz Taurinus that he had constructed it, but Gauss did not publish his work. Gauss called it "non-Euclidean geometry" causing several modern authors to continue to consider "non-Euclidean geometry" and "hyperbolic geometry" to be synonyms. Taurinus published results on hyperbolic trigonometry in 1826, argued that hyperbolic geometry is self consistent, but still believed in the special role of Euclidean geometry. The complete system of hyperbolic geometry was published by Lobachevsky in 1829/1830, while Bolyai discovered it independently and published in 1832.
The term "hyperbolic geometry" was introduced by Felix Klein in 1871. Klein followed an initiative of Arthur Cayley to use the transformations of projective geometry to produce isometries. The idea used a conic section or quadric to define a region, and used cross ratio to define a metric. The projective transformations that leave the conic section or quadric stable are the isometries. "Klein showed that if the Cayley absolute is a real curve then the part of the projective plane in its interior is isometric to the hyperbolic plane..."
The discovery of hyperbolic geometry had important philosophical consequences. Before its discovery many philosophers (for example Hobbes and Spinoza) viewed philosophical rigour in terms of the "geometrical method", referring to the method of reasoning used in Euclid's Elements.
Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason came to the conclusion that space (in Euclidean geometry) and time are not discovered by humans as objective features of the world, but are part of an unavoidable systematic framework for organizing our experiences.
It is said that Gauss did not publish anything about hyperbolic geometry out of fear of the "uproar of the Boeotians", which would ruin his status as princeps mathematicorum (Latin, "the Prince of Mathematicians"). The "uproar of the Boeotians" came and went, and gave an impetus to great improvements in mathematical rigour, analytical philosophy and logic. Hyperbolic geometry was finally proved consistent and is therefore another valid geometry.
Because Euclidean, hyperbolic and elliptic geometry are all consistent, the question arises: which is the real geometry of space, and if it is hyperbolic or elliptic, what is its curvature?
Lobachevsky had already tried to measure the curvature of the universe by measuring the parallax of Sirius and treating Sirius as the ideal point of an angle of parallelism. He realised that his measurements were not precise enough to give a definite answer, but he did reach the conclusion that if the geometry of the universe is hyperbolic, then the absolute length is at least one million times the diameter of the earth's orbit (2000000 AU, 10 parsec). Some argue that his measurements were methodologically flawed.
The geometrization conjecture gives a complete list of eight possibilities for the fundamental geometry of our space. The problem in determining which one applies is that, to reach a definitive answer, we need to be able to look at extremely large shapes – much larger than anything on Earth or perhaps even in our galaxy.
Special relativity places space and time on equal footing, so that one considers the geometry of a unified spacetime instead of considering space and time separately. Minkowski geometry replaces Galilean geometry (which is the three-dimensional Euclidean space with time of Galilean relativity).
In relativity, rather than considering Euclidean, elliptic and hyperbolic geometries, the appropriate geometries to consider are Minkowski space, de Sitter space and anti-de Sitter space, corresponding to zero, positive and negative curvature respectively.
Hyperbolic geometry enters special relativity through rapidity, which stands in for velocity, and is expressed by a hyperbolic angle. The study of this velocity geometry has been called kinematic geometry. The space of relativistic velocities has a three-dimensional hyperbolic geometry, where the distance function is determined from the relative velocities of "nearby" points (velocities).
By Hilbert's theorem, it is not possible to isometrically immerse a complete hyperbolic plane (a complete regular surface of constant negative Gaussian curvature) in a three-dimensional Euclidean space.
There are four models commonly used for hyperbolic geometry: the Klein model, the Poincaré disk model, the Poincaré half-plane model, and the Lorentz or hyperboloid model. These models define a hyperbolic plane which satisfies the axioms of a hyperbolic geometry. Despite their names, the first three mentioned above were introduced as models of hyperbolic space by Beltrami, not by Poincaré or Klein. All these models are extendable to more dimensions.
The Poincaré disk model, also known as the conformal disk model, also employs the interior of the unit circle, but lines are represented by arcs of circles that are orthogonal to the boundary circle, plus diameters of the boundary circle.
The Poincaré half-plane model takes one-half of the Euclidean plane, bounded by a line B of the plane, to be a model of the hyperbolic plane. The line B is not included in the model.
The hyperboloid model or Lorentz model employs a 2-dimensional hyperboloid of revolution (of two sheets, but using one) embedded in 3-dimensional Minkowski space. This model is generally credited to Poincaré, but Reynolds says that Wilhelm Killing used this model in 1885
The hemisphere model is not often used as model by itself, but it functions as a useful tool for visualising transformations between the other models.
The hyperbolic lines are half-circles orthogonal to the boundary of the hemisphere.
The hemisphere model is part of a Riemann sphere, and different projections give different models of the hyperbolic plane:
In 1966 David Gans proposed a flattened hyperboloid model in the journal American Mathematical Monthly. It is an orthographic projection of the hyperboloid model onto the xy-plane. This model is not as widely used as other models but nevertheless is quite useful in the understanding of hyperbolic geometry.
All models essentially describe the same structure. The difference between them is that they represent different coordinate charts laid down on the same metric space, namely the hyperbolic plane. The characteristic feature of the hyperbolic plane itself is that it has a constant negative Gaussian curvature, which is indifferent to the coordinate chart used. The geodesics are similarly invariant: that is, geodesics map to geodesics under coordinate transformation. Hyperbolic geometry generally is introduced in terms of the geodesics and their intersections on the hyperbolic plane.
Once we choose a coordinate chart (one of the "models"), we can always embed it in a Euclidean space of same dimension, but the embedding is clearly not isometric (since the curvature of Euclidean space is 0). The hyperbolic space can be represented by infinitely many different charts; but the embeddings in Euclidean space due to these four specific charts show some interesting characteristics.
Since the four models describe the same metric space, each can be transformed into the other.
Every isometry (transformation or motion) of the hyperbolic plane to itself can be realized as the composition of at most three reflections. In n-dimensional hyperbolic space, up to n+1 reflections might be required. (These are also true for Euclidean and spherical geometries, but the classification below is different.)
All the isometries of the hyperbolic plane can be classified into these classes:
M. C. Escher's famous prints Circle Limit III and Circle Limit IV illustrate the conformal disc model (Poincaré disk model) quite well. The white lines in III are not quite geodesics (they are hypercycles), but are close to them. It is also possible to see quite plainly the negative curvature of the hyperbolic plane, through its effect on the sum of angles in triangles and squares.
For example, in Circle Limit III every vertex belongs to three triangles and three squares. In the Euclidean plane, their angles would sum to 450°; i.e., a circle and a quarter. From this, we see that the sum of angles of a triangle in the hyperbolic plane must be smaller than 180°. Another visible property is exponential growth. In Circle Limit III, for example, one can see that the number of fishes within a distance of n from the center rises exponentially. The fishes have an equal hyperbolic area, so the area of a ball of radius n must rise exponentially in n.
The art of crochet has been used to demonstrate hyperbolic planes (pictured above) with the first being made by Daina Taimiņa, whose book Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes won the 2009 .
Hyperbolic geometry is not limited to 2 dimensions; a hyperbolic geometry exists for every higher number of dimensions.
The orthogonal group O(1, n) acts by norm-preserving transformations on Minkowski space R1,n, and it acts transitively on the two-sheet hyperboloid of norm 1 vectors. Timelike lines (i.e., those with positive-norm tangents) through the origin pass through antipodal points in the hyperboloid, so the space of such lines yields a model of hyperbolic n-space. The stabilizer of any particular line is isomorphic to the product of the orthogonal groups O(n) and O(1), where O(n) acts on the tangent space of a point in the hyperboloid, and O(1) reflects the line through the origin. Many of the elementary concepts in hyperbolic geometry can be described in linear algebraic terms: geodesic paths are described by intersections with planes through the origin, dihedral angles between hyperplanes can be described by inner products of normal vectors, and hyperbolic reflection groups can be given explicit matrix realizations.
In small dimensions, there are exceptional isomorphisms of Lie groups that yield additional ways to consider symmetries of hyperbolic spaces. For example, in dimension 2, the isomorphisms SO+(1, 2) ≅ PSL(2, R) ≅ PSU(1, 1) allow one to interpret the upper half plane model as the quotient SL(2, R)/SO(2) and the Poincaré disc model as the quotient SU(1, 1)/U(1). In both cases, the symmetry groups act by fractional linear transformations, since both groups are the orientation-preserving stabilizers in PGL(2, C) of the respective subspaces of the Riemann sphere. The Cayley transformation not only takes one model of the hyperbolic plane to the other, but realizes the isomorphism of symmetry groups as conjugation in a larger group. In dimension 3, the fractional linear action of PGL(2, C) on the Riemann sphere is identified with the action on the conformal boundary of hyperbolic 3-space induced by the isomorphism O+(1, 3) ≅ PGL(2, C). This allows one to study isometries of hyperbolic 3-space by considering spectral properties of representative complex matrices. For example, parabolic transformations are conjugate to rigid translations in the upper half-space model, and they are exactly those transformations that can be represented by unipotent upper triangular matrices.