Projective straight line

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projective line

A projective space of dimension . A projective line, considered as an independent object, is a closed one-dimensional manifold. A projective line is a special (and peculiar) projective space: there are no interesting incidence relations on it similar to those on projective spaces of higher dimensions. The only invariant of a projective line is the number of its points. A projective line is called continuous, discrete or finite if it is incident to a point set of the cardinality of the continuum, of countable cardinality or of finite cardinality, respectively.

A projective line is called ordered if a relation of separation of two pairs of distinct points is given on it. It is assumed that this relation does not depend on the order of the pairs or on the order of the points in the pairs, and that any quadruple of distinct points splits uniquely into two mutually separating pairs. In addition, the location axiom is adopted, which connects five distinct points (see, for example, [1]). The ordering of a projective line over the field is related to the ordering of the field . Namely, a pair of points separates a pair if the cross ratio is negative, and does not separate if is positive. The finite projective line over a Galois field of odd order can be ordered similarly to the real projective line. It is assumed (see [4]) that a pair of points separates a pair if and only if is a quadratic residue in the Galois field .

A projective line acquires a certain geometric structure if it is imbedded in a projective space of higher dimension. For example, a projective line is uniquely determined by two distinct points, while the analytic definition of a projective line as a set of equivalence classes of pairs of elements of a skew-field that are not simultaneously equal to zero, is actually equivalent to an imbedding of the projective line into a projective space , . If is the projective line over the field , then the group of automorphisms of the projective line can be represented on the points of in parametric form as the set of mappings

The group of algebraic automorphisms of the real projective line is isomorphic to the group of displacements of the real hyperbolic plane, and the order of the group equals .

On a projective line one can construct different geometries. For example, the Möbius plane of order admits an interpretation on the projective line (see [5]). Another traditional geometric construction is the representation of the projective space on the projective line (see [2]) under which a point of is represented by an -tuple of points of the projective line (here is an algebraically closed field).


[1] N.A. Glagolev, "Projective geometry" , Moscow (1963) (In Russian)
[2] I.R. Shafarevich, "Basic algebraic geometry" , Springer (1977) (Translated from Russian)
[3] D.R. Hughes, F.C. Piper, "Projective planes" , Springer (1973)
[4] P. Kustaanheimo, "On a relation of order in geometries over a Galois field" Soc. Sci. Fenn. Comment. Phys.-Math. , 20 : 8 (1957)
[5] O. Veblen, J.W. Young, "Projective geometry" , 1 , Blaisdell (1938)


The relation of separation (for a projective line over ) is invariant under projective transformations, as follows from the above-mentioned properties of cross ratios.

If all classical separation axioms hold, then the coordinate field has characteristic zero, and is infinite.


[a1] J.W.P. Hirschfeld, "Projective geometries over finite fields" , Clarendon Press (1979)
How to Cite This Entry:
Projective straight line. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by V.V. Afanas'ev (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article