Commutative operation

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For other meanings of commutation, see commutation (disambiguation).

Mathematical meaning

In mathematics, especially abstract algebra, a binary operation on a set S is commutative if

for all x and y in S. Otherwise, the operation is noncommutative.

Additionally, if

for a particular pair of elements x and y, then x and y are said to commute. Every element commutes with itself and, in a group, every element commutes with the identity, with its own inverse, and with its powers.

The most well-known examples of commutative binary operations are addition and multiplication of real numbers; for example:

  • 4 + 5 = 5 + 4 (since both expressions evaluate to 9)
  • 2 × 3 = 3 × 2 (since both expressions evaluate to 6)

Further examples of commutative binary operations include addition and multiplication of complex numbers, addition of vectors, and intersection and union of sets.

Among the noncommutative binary operations are subtraction (ab), division (a/b), exponentiation (ab), function composition (f o g), tetration (a↑↑b), matrix multiplication, and quaternion multiplication.

An abelian group is a group whose group operation is commutative. A commutative ring is a ring whose multiplication is commutative. (Addition in a ring is always commutative.) In a field both addition and multiplication are commutative.

Neurophysiological meaning

In neurophysiology, commutative has much the same meaning as in algebra.

Physiologist Douglas A. Tweed and coworkers consider whether certain neural circuits in the brain exhibit noncommutativity and state:

In non-commutative algebra, order makes a difference to multiplication, so that . This feature is necessary for computing rotary motion, because order makes a difference to the combined effect of two rotations. It has therefore been proposed that there are non-commutative operators in the brain circuits that deal with rotations, including motor circuits that steer the eyes, head and limbs, and sensory circuits that handle spatial information. This idea is controversial: studies of eye and head control have revealed behaviours that are consistent with non-commutativity in the brain, but none that clearly rules out all commutative models.

(Douglas A. Tweed and others, Nature 399, 261 - 263; 20 May 1999). Tweed goes on to demonstrate non-commutative computation in the vestibulo-ocular reflex by showing that subjects rotated in darkness can hold their gaze points stable in space---correctly computing different final eye-position commands when put through the same two rotations in different orders, in a way that is unattainable by any commutative system.

See also

ar:عملية تبديلية bg:Комутативност cs:Komutativita da:Kommutativitet de:Kommutativgesetz et:Kommutatiivsus es:Conmutatividad eo:Komuteco fr:Commutativité ko:교환법칙 it:Operazione commutativa he:קומוטטיביות lt:Komutatyvumas nl:Commutativiteit ja:交換法則 pl:Przemienność sk:Komutatívna operácia sl:Komutativnost sv:Kommutativitet zh:交換律