I was searching around for whether or not I could use the Euclidean distance with complex numbers because it seems to make sense but I was struggling to really know. I found someone say that it is true that we can use the euclidean distance because $\mathbb{C}$ is isomorphic to $\mathbb{R}^2$ and that just doesn't seem right to me at all, however when I research it I keep finding conflicting information.

I think I'm misunderstanding what isomorphic means here, because it seems to me that group operations aren't preserved between the two.

  • $\begingroup$ Say what's true? This question is very unclear the way it's phrased. $\endgroup$ – tilper Jun 17 '17 at 2:26
  • $\begingroup$ The claim was that "It's true that you can use Eucliean Distance for Complex Numbers" and justified by "$\mathbb{C}$ is isomorphic to $\mathbb{R}^2$" $\endgroup$ – Blake Jun 17 '17 at 2:27
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it's true. The complex number $a + bi$ corresponds to the point $(a,b)$ in the $xy$-plane. So to find the Euclidean distance between $z = a + bi$ and $w = x + yi$, just find the Euclidean distance between the points $(a,b)$ and $(x,y)$. $\endgroup$ – tilper Jun 17 '17 at 2:27
  • $\begingroup$ $\mathbb{C}$ is isomorhpic to $\mathbb{R}^2$, not $\mathbb{R}$, so your "hunch" is misguided. The fact that $\not\exists n\in\mathbb{R}:n^2=-1$ doesn't tell you anything. $\endgroup$ – user160738 Jun 17 '17 at 2:28
  • $\begingroup$ What you can't do is compare two imaginary numbers in the same way that you can compare real numbers, e.g., $1 < 2$. There's no corresponding notion of "order" for imaginary numbers. $\endgroup$ – tilper Jun 17 '17 at 2:28

Isomorphic here is regarding $\mathbb{C}$ and $\mathbb{R^2}$ as both being $2$ dimensional vector spaces over the field $\mathbb{R}$.

Vector spaces after all. Or before..

Let's see you get a non zero real number from a linear combination of smiley faces and frowny faces. :D


The function

$$f(a+ib)=(a,b)\in \mathbb{R}^2$$

is a (field) isomorphism, where $\mathbb{R}^2$ is usual group with pointwise addition and multiplication is defined as it should be:


This gives you $f(z_1+z_2)=f(z_1)+f(z_2)$ and $f(z_1z_2)=f(z_1)f(z_2)$.

Since once can define Euclidean metric on $\mathbb{R}^2$ then you can traslate this definition back to $\mathbb{C}$ via isomorphism.


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