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Let $V$ and $W$ be two algebraic structures, $v\in V$, $w\in W$ be two arbitrary elements.

Then, what is the geometric intuition of $v\otimes w$, and more complex $V\otimes W$ ? Please explain for me in the most concrete way (for example, $v, w$ are two vectors in 2 dimensional vector spaces $V, W$)


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@WillieWong : Thank you very much. Yes I have. However, the links above just mentioned the algebraic properties/structures. What I could not imagine is the concrete picture of tensor product. – Arsenaler Mar 2 '12 at 13:29
The tensor product is an algebraic convenience and does not in general admit a geometric interpretation. (On the other hand, it is easy to give a geometric interpretation of the wedge product.) – Zhen Lin Mar 2 '12 at 17:18
Do you have a geometric appreciation for bilinear forms? – Dylan Moreland Apr 1 '12 at 16:57
@eduardo: Related:… – user23238 Feb 23 '13 at 9:04

2 Answers 2

You want to stay concrete, so let's let $V$ be a two-dimensional real vector space and $W = \operatorname{Hom}(W,\mathbb{R})$. Then $V = T^1_0(V)$ and $W = T^0_1(V)$, so for any $v\in V$ and $w\in W$, $v\otimes w\in T^1_1(V)$.

Each of $v,w$ has two components, $v = v^1e_1 + v^2e_2$ and $w = w_1e^1 + w_2e^2$, where $e_1,e_2$ is a basis for $V$ and $e^1,e^2$ is the dual basis in $V^*$.

The components of $v\otimes w$ are all the components of $v$ times all the components of $w$: $$(v\otimes w)^i_j = v^iw_j.$$

To see this, observe that $(v\otimes w)(\theta, x)=v(\theta)w(x),$ so that $(v\otimes w)(e^i, e_j) = v(e^i)w(e_j).$

More generally, if $A = A^{i_1\cdots i_p}_{j_1\cdots j_q}\in T^p_q$ and $B = B^{k_1\cdots k_r}_{l_1\cdots l_s}\in T^r_s$, then

$$(A\otimes B)^{i_1\cdots i_pk_1\cdots k_r}_{j_1\cdots j_q l_1\cdots l_s} = A^{i_1\cdots i_p}_{j_1\cdots j_q}B^{k_1\cdots k_r}_{l_1\cdots l_s}.$$

Note that our example is from the derived tensor algebra over a two-dimensional vector space, $T^p_q(V) = (V^*)^{\otimes p}V^{\otimes q}.$ Hopefully this helps build your intuition about the case where $V$ and $W$ are two vector spaces of potentially different dimension.

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Double multi-indices in a question regarding "geometric intuition"! – Martin Brandenburg yesterday

The difference between the ordered pair $(v,w)$ of vectors and the tensor product $v\otimes w$ of vectors is that for a scalar $c\not\in\{0,1\}$, the pair $(cv,\;w/c)$ is different from the pair $(v,w)$, but the tensor product $(cv)\otimes(w/c)$ is the same as the tensor product $v\otimes w$.

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