« PreviousContinue »
Coordinates, while gigantic systems like Invariants (which, by the way, are as easily introduced into Quaternions as into Cartesian methods) are quite beyond the amount of mathematics which even the best students can master in three years' reading. One grand step to the supply of this want is, of course, the introduction into the scheme of examination of such branches of mathematical physics as the Theories of Heat and Electricity. But it appears to me that the study of a mathematical method like Quaternions, which, while of immense power and comprehensiveness, is of extraordinary simplicity, and yet requires constant thought in its applications, would also be of great benefit. With it there can be no "shut your eyes, .
, and write down your equations,” for mere mechanical dexterity of analysis is certain to lead at once to error on account of the novelty of the processes employed.
"The Table of Contents has been drawn up so as to give the student a short and simple summary of the chief fundamental formulae of the Calculus itself, and is therefore confined to an analysis of the first five [and the two last] chapters.
In conclusion, I have only to say that I shall be much obliged to any one, student or teacher, who will point out portions of the work where a difficulty has been found ; along with any inaccuracies which may be detected. As I have had no assistance in the revision of the proof-sheets, and have composed the work at irregular intervals, and while otherwise laboriously occupied, I fear it may contain many slips and even errors. Should it reach another edition there is no doubt that it will be improved in many important particulars.'
To this I have now to add that I have been equally surprised and delighted by so speedy a demand for a second edition—and the more especially as I have had many pleasing proofs that the work has had considerable circulation in America. There seems now at last to be a reasonable hope that Hamilton's grand invention will soon find its way into the working world of science, to which it is certain to render enormous services, and not be laid
aside to be unearthed some centuries hence by some grubbing antiquary.
It can hardly be expected that one whose time is mainly engrossed by physical science, should devote much attention to the purely analytical and geometrical applications of a subject like this; and I am conscious that in many parts of the earlier chapters I have not fully exhibited the simplicity of Quaternions. I hope, however, that the corrections and extensions now made, especially in the later chapters, will render the work more useful for my chief object, the Physical Applications of Quaternions, than it could have been in its first crude form.
I have to thank various correspondents, some anonymous, for suggestions as well as for the detection of misprints and slips of the
pen. The only absolute error which has been pointed out to me is a comparatively slight one which had escaped my own notice: a very grave blunder, which I have now corrected, seems not to have been detected by any of my correspondents, so that I cannot be quite confident that others may not exist.
I regret that I have not been able to spare time enough to rewrite the work; and that, in consequence of this, and of the large additions which have been made (especially to the later chapters), the whole will now present even a more miscellaneously jumbled appearance than at first.
It is well to remember, however, that it is quite possible to make a book too easy reading, in the sense that the student may read it through several times without feeling those difficulties which (except perhaps in the case of some rare genius) must attend the acquisition of really useful knowledge. It is better to have a rough climb (even cutting one's own steps here and there) than to ascend the dreary monotony of a marble staircase or a well-made ladder. Royal roads to knowledge reach only the particular locality aimed at—and there are no views by the way. It is not on them that pioneers are trained for the exploration of unknown regions.
But I am happy to say that the possible repulsiveness of my
early chapters cannot long be advanced as a reason for not attacking this fascinating subject. A still more elementary work than the present will soon appear, mainly from the pen of my colleague Professor KELLAND. In it I give an investigation of the properties of the linear and vector function, based directly upon the Kinematics of Homogeneous Strain, and therefore so different in method from that employed in this work that it may prove of interest to even the advanced student.
Since the appearance of the first edition I have managed (at least partially) to effect the application of Quaternions to line, surface, and volume integrals, such as occur in Hydrokinetics, Electricity, and Potentials generally. I was first attracted to the study of Quaternions by their promise of usefulness in such applications, and, though I have not yet advanced far in this new track, I have got far enough to see that it is certain in time to be of incalculable value to physical science. I have given towards the end of the work all that is necessary to put the student on this track, which will, I hope, soon be followed to some purpose.
One remark more is necessary. I have employed, as the positive direction of rotation, that of the earth about its axis, or about the sun, as seen in our northern latitudes, i.e. that opposite to the direction of motion of the hands of a watch. In Sir W. Hamilton's great works the opposite is employed. The student will find no difficulty in passing from the one to the other; but, without previous warning, he is liable to be much perplexed.
With regard to notation, I have retained as nearly as possible that of Hamilton, and where new notation was necessary I have tried to make it as simple and as little incongruous with Hamilton's as possible. This is a part of the work in which great care is absolutely necessary; for, as the subject gains development, fresh notation is inevitably required; and our object must be to make each step such as to defer as long as possible the revolution which must ultimately come.
Many abbreviations are possible, and sometimes very useful in private work; but, as a rule, they are unsuited for print. Every analyst, like every short-hand writer, has his own special contractions; but, when he comes to publish his results, he ought invariably to put such devices aside. If all did not use a common mode of public expression, but each were to print as he is in the habit of writing for his own use, the confusion would be utterly intolerable.
Finally, I must express my great obligations to my friend M. M. U. WILKINSON of Trinity College, Cambridge, for the care with which he has read my proofs, and for many valuable suggestions.
P. G. TAIT.
Expression of a vector by one symbol, containing implicitly three distinct
numbers. Extension of the signification of the symbol
representing translation. $ 19.
Any vector whatever may be expressed in terms of three distinct vectors,
p= xa +yß+27,
p= a + 3B
is the equation of a line drawn through the extremity of a and parallel
to B. § 28.
P= ya + хв
represents the plane through the origin parallel to a and B. $ 29.