Cayley-Menger determinants

Nice

Complex Projective 4-Space

Niccolo Fontana Tartaglia, whom you may recognise from having discovered Cardano’s solution to the general cubic equation, also discovered a generalisation of Heron’s formula to compute the volume of a tetrahedron:

tartaglia

As you may expect, this can be generalised to compute the volume of any n-simplex (n = 2 reducing to Heron’s formula for the area of a triangle). I wondered how one would go about proving this identity, and then realised it can be accomplished by elementary facts about determinants. Firstly, it is easy to show the following result:

  • The volume of an n-simplex S with vertices at {, e_1, …, e_n} is equal to 1/n!, where e_i is the ith standard basis vector.

This can be proved, for instance, by subdividing a unit cube into n! simplices, each of which is congruent to S. Now…

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About varasdemate

n00bie blogger, just recently getting the hang of blogging
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