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The Geometry of Point Particles

Atiyah, M.F.; Sutcliffe, P.M.


M.F. Atiyah


There is a very natural map from the configuration space of n distinct points in Euclidean 3-space into the flag manifold U(n)/U(1)n, which is compatible with the action of the symmetric group. The map is well defined for all configurations of points provided a certain conjecture holds, for which we provide numerical evidence. We propose some additional conjectures, which imply the first, and test these numerically. Motivated by the above map, we define a geometrical multi-particle energy function and compute the energy-minimizing configurations for up to 32 particles. These configurations comprise the vertices of polyhedral structures that are dual to those found in a number of complicated physical theories, such as Skyrmions and fullerenes. Comparisons with 2- and 3-particle energy functions are made. The planar restriction and the generalization to hyperbolic 3-space are also investigated.


Atiyah, M., & Sutcliffe, P. (2002). The Geometry of Point Particles. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 458(2021), 1089-1115.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date May 8, 2002
Deposit Date May 1, 2007
Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Print ISSN 1364-5021
Electronic ISSN 1471-2946
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 458
Issue 2021
Pages 1089-1115
Keywords Point, Particles, Geometry, Energy, Minimization, Polyhedra.