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Now that we have reviewed the foundations of measure theory, let us now put it to work to set up the basic theory of one of the fundamental families of function spaces in analysis, namely the L^p spaces (also known as Lebesgue spaces). These spaces serve as important model examples for the general theory of topological and normed vector spaces, which we will discuss a little bit in this lecture and then in much greater detail in later lectures. (See also my previous blog post on function spaces.)

Just as scalar quantities live in the space of real or complex numbers, and vector quantities live in vector spaces, functions f: X \to {\Bbb C} (or other objects closely related to functions, such as measures) live in function spaces. Like other spaces in mathematics (e.g. vector spaces, metric spaces, topological spaces, etc.) a function space V is not just mere sets of objects (in this case, the objects are functions), but they also come with various important structures that allow one to do some useful operations inside these spaces, and from one space to another. For example, function spaces tend to have several (though usually not all) of the following types of structures, which are usually related to each other by various compatibility conditions:

  1. Vector space structure. One can often add two functions f, g in a function space V, and expect to get another function f+g in that space V; similarly, one can multiply a function f in V by a scalar c and get another function cf in V. Usually, these operations obey the axioms of a vector space, though it is important to caution that the dimension of a function space is typically infinite. (In some cases, the space of scalars is a more complicated ring than the real or complex field, in which case we need the notion of a module rather than a vector space, but we will not use this more general notion in this course.) Virtually all of the function spaces we shall encounter in this course will be vector spaces. Because the field of scalars is real or complex, vector spaces also come with the notion of convexity, which turns out to be crucial in many aspects of analysis. As a consequence (and in marked contrast to algebra or number theory), much of the theory in real analysis does not seem to extend to other fields of scalars (in particular, real analysis fails spectacularly in the finite characteristic setting).
  2. Algebra structure. Sometimes (though not always), we also wish to multiply two functions f, g in V and get another function fg in V; when combined with the vector space structure and assuming some compatibility conditions (e.g. the distributive law), this makes V an algebra. This multiplication operation is often just pointwise multiplication, but there are other important multiplication operations on function spaces too, such as convolution. (One sometimes sees other algebraic structures than multiplication appear in function spaces, most notably derivations, but again we will not encounter those in this course. Another common algebraic operation for function spaces is conjugation or adjoint, leading to the notion of a *-algebra.)
  3. Norm structure. We often want to distinguish “large” functions in V from “small” ones, especially in analysis, in which “small” terms in an expression are routinely discarded or deemed to be acceptable errors. One way to do this is to assign a magnitude or norm \|f\|_V to each function that measures its size. Unlike the situation with scalars, where there is basically a single notion of magnitude, functions have a wide variety of useful notions of size, each measuring a different aspect (or combination of aspects) of the function, such as height, width, oscillation, regularity, decay, and so forth. Typically, each such norm gives rise to a separate function space (although sometimes it is useful to consider a single function space with multiple norms on it). We usually require the norm to be compatible with the vector space structure (and algebra structure, if present), for instance by demanding that the triangle inequality hold.
  4. Metric structure. We also want to tell whether two functions f, g in a function space V are “near together” or “far apart”. A typical way to do this is to impose a metric d: V \times V \to {\Bbb R}^+ on the space V. If both a norm \| \|_V and a vector space structure are available, there is an obvious way to do this: define the distance between two functions f, g in V to be d( f, g ) := \|f-g\|_V. (This will be the only type of metric on function spaces encountered in this course. But there are some nonlinear function spaces of importance in nonlinear analysis (e.g. spaces of maps from one manifold to another) which have no vector space structure or norm, but still have a metric.) It is often important to know if the vector space is complete with respect to the given metric; this allows one to take limits of Cauchy sequences, and (with a norm and vector space structure) sum absolutely convergent series, as well as use some useful results from point set topology such as the Baire category theorem. All of these operations are of course vital in analysis. [Compactness would be an even better property than completeness to have, but function spaces unfortunately tend be non-compact in various rather nasty ways, although there are useful partial substitutes for compactness that are available, see e.g. this blog post of mine.]
  5. Topological structure. It is often important to know when a sequence (or, occasionally, nets) of functions f_n in V “converges” in some sense to a limit f (which, hopefully, is still in V); there are often many distinct modes of convergence (e.g. pointwise convergence, uniform convergence, etc.) that one wishes to carefully distinguish from each other. Also, in order to apply various powerful topological theorems (or to justify various formal operations involving limits, suprema, etc.), it is important to know when certain subsets of V enjoy key topological properties (most notably compactness and connectedness), and to know which operations on V are continuous. For all of this, one needs a topology on V. If one already has a metric, then one of course has a topology generated by the open balls of that metric; but there are many important topologies on function spaces in analysis that do not arise from metrics. We also often require the topology to be compatible with the other structures on the function space; for instance, we usually require the vector space operations of addition and scalar multiplication to be continuous. In some cases, the topology on V extends to some natural superspace W of more general functions that contain V; in such cases, it is often important to know whether V is closed in W, so that limits of sequences in V stay in V.
  6. Functional structures. Since numbers are easier to understand and deal with than functions, it is not surprising that we often study functions f in a function space V by first applying some functional \lambda: V \to {\Bbb C} to V to identify some key numerical quantity \lambda(f) associated to f. Norms f \mapsto \|f\|_V are of course one important example of a functional; integration f \mapsto \int_X f\ d\mu provides another; and evaluation f \mapsto f(x) at a point x provides a third important class. (Note, though, that while evaluation is the fundamental feature of a function in set theory, it is often a quite minor operation in analysis; indeed, in many function spaces, evaluation is not even defined at all, for instance because the functions in the space are only defined almost everywhere!) An inner product \langle,\rangle on V (see below) also provides a large family f \mapsto \langle f, g \rangle of useful functionals. It is of particular interest to study functionals that are compatible with the vector space structure (i.e. are linear) and with the topological structure (i.e. are continuous); this will give rise to the important notion of duality on function spaces.
  7. Inner product structure. One often would like to pair a function f in a function space V with another object g (which is often, though not always, another function in the same function space V) and obtain a number \langle f, g \rangle, that typically measures the amount of “interaction” or “correlation” between f and g. Typical examples include inner products arising from integration, such as \langle f, g\rangle := \int_X f \overline{g}\ d\mu; integration itself can also be viewed as a pairing, \langle f, \mu \rangle := \int_X f\ d\mu. Of course, we usually require such inner products to be compatible with the other structures present on the space (e.g., to be compatible with the vector space structure, we usually require the inner product to be bilinear or sesquilinear). Inner products, when available, are incredibly useful in understanding the metric and norm geometry of a space, due to such fundamental facts as the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality and the parallelogram law. They also give rise to the important notion of orthogonality between functions.
  8. Group actions. We often expect our function spaces to enjoy various symmetries; we might wish to rotate, reflect, translate, modulate, or dilate our functions and expect to preserve most of the structure of the space when doing so. In modern mathematics, symmetries are usually encoded by group actions (or actions of other group-like objects, such as semigroups or groupoids; one also often upgrades groups to more structured objects such as Lie groups). As usual, we typically require the group action to preserve the other structures present on the space, e.g. one often restricts attention to group actions that are linear (to preserve the vector space structure), continuous (to preserve topological structure), unitary (to preserve inner product structure), isometric (to preserve metric structure), and so forth. Besides giving us useful symmetries to spend, the presence of such group actions allows one to apply the powerful techniques of representation theory, Fourier analysis, and ergodic theory. However, as this is a foundational real analysis class, we will not discuss these important topics much here (and in fact will not deal with group actions much at all).
  9. Order structure. In some cases, we want to utilise the notion of a function f being “non-negative”, or “dominating” another function g. One might also want to take the “max” or “supremum” of two or more functions in a function space V, or split a function into “positive” and “negative” components. Such order structures interact with the other structures on a space in many useful ways (e.g. via the Stone-Weierstrass theorem). Much like convexity, order structure is specific to the real line and is another reason why much of real analysis breaks down over other fields. (The complex plane is of course an extension of the real line and so is able to exploit the order structure of that line, usually by treating the real and imaginary components separately.)

There are of course many ways to combine various flavours of these structures together, and there are entire subfields of mathematics that are devoted to studying particularly common and useful categories of such combinations (e.g. topological vector spaces, normed vector spaces, Banach spaces, Banach algebras, von Neumann algebras, C^* algebras, Frechet spaces, Hilbert spaces, group algebras, etc.). The study of these sorts of spaces is known collectively as functional analysis. We will study some (but certainly not all) of these combinations in an abstract and general setting later in this course, but to begin with we will focus on the L^p spaces, which are very good model examples for many of the above general classes of spaces, and also of importance in many applications of analysis (such as probability or PDE).

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As many readers may already know, my good friend and fellow mathematical blogger Tim Gowers, having wrapped up work on the Princeton Companion to Mathematics (which I believe is now in press), has begun another mathematical initiative, namely a “Tricks Wiki” to act as a repository for mathematical tricks and techniques.    Tim has already started the ball rolling with several seed articles on his own blog, and asked me to also contribute some articles.  (As I understand it, these articles will be migrated to the Wiki in a few months, once it is fully set up, and then they will evolve with edits and contributions by anyone who wishes to pitch in, in the spirit of Wikipedia; in particular, articles are not intended to be permanently authored or signed by any single contributor.)

So today I’d like to start by extracting some material from an old post of mine on “Amplification, arbitrage, and the tensor power trick” (as well as from some of the comments), and converting it to the Tricks Wiki format, while also taking the opportunity to add a few more examples.

Title: The tensor power trick

Quick description: If one wants to prove an inequality X \leq Y for some non-negative quantities X, Y, but can only see how to prove a quasi-inequality X \leq CY that loses a multiplicative constant C, then try to replace all objects involved in the problem by “tensor powers” of themselves and apply the quasi-inequality to those powers.  If all goes well, one can show that X^M \leq C Y^M for all M \geq 1, with a constant C which is independent of M, which implies that X \leq Y as desired by taking M^{th} roots and then taking limits as M \to \infty.

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