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Conformally Compactified Minkowski Space: Myths and Facts

Arkadiusz Jadczyk


Maxwell's equations are invariant not only under the Lorentz group but also under the conformal group. Irving E. Segal has shown that while the Galilei group is a limiting case of the Poincare group, and the Poincare group comes from a contraction of the conformal group, the conformal group ends the road, it is rigid. There are thus compelling mathematical and physical reasons for promoting the conformal group to the role of the fundamental symmetry of space-time, more important than the Poincare group that formed the group-theoretical basis of special and general theories of relativity. While the action of the conformal group on Minkowski space is singular, it naturally extends to a nonsingular action on the compactified Minkowski space, often referred to in the literature as “Minkowski space plus light-cone at infinity". Unfortunately in some textbooks the true structure of the compactified Minkowski space is sometimes misrepresented, including false proofs and statements that are simply wrong.

In this paper we present in, a simple way, two different constructions of the compactified Minkowski space, both stemming from the original idea of Roger Penrose, but putting stress on the mathematically subtle points and relating the constructions to the Clifford algebra tools. In particular the little-known antilinear Hodge star operator is introduced in order to connect real and complex structures of the algebra. A possible relation to Waldyr Rodrigues' idea of gravity as a plastic deformation of Minkowski's vacuum is also indicated.

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