Cross-ratio

In geometry, the cross-ratio, also called the double ratio and anharmonic ratio, is a number associated with a list of four collinear points, particularly points on a projective line. Given four points A, B, C and D on a line, their cross ratio is defined as

Points A, B, C, D and A′, B′, C′, D′ are related by a projective transformation so their cross ratios, (A, B; C, D) and (A′, B′; C′, D′) are equal.

where an orientation of the line determines the sign of each distance and the distance is measured as projected into Euclidean space. (If one of the four points is the line's point at infinity, then the two distances involving that point are dropped from the formula.) The point D is the harmonic conjugate of C with respect to A and B precisely if the cross-ratio of the quadruple is 1, called the harmonic ratio. The cross-ratio can therefore be regarded as measuring the quadruple's deviation from this ratio; hence the name anharmonic ratio.

The cross-ratio is preserved by linear fractional transformations. It is essentially the only projective invariant of a quadruple of collinear points; this underlies its importance for projective geometry.

The cross-ratio had been defined in deep antiquity, possibly already by Euclid, and was considered by Pappus, who noted its key invariance property. It was extensively studied in the 19th century.[1]

Variants of this concept exist for a quadruple of concurrent lines on the projective plane and a quadruple of points on the Riemann sphere. In the Cayley–Klein model of hyperbolic geometry, the distance between points is expressed in terms of a certain cross-ratio.


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