# projective plane

I am just reading a wiki article about projective plane, a concept I really never understood. Reading the article, I found out that projective plane is an ordinary plane equipped with a point at infinity.

The article says: Think perspective. I have a question. With perspective, parallel lines only APPEAR to be getting closer, they are not actually getting closer. So, am I right that in projective plane we have two parallel lines that have constant distance of, say 10 cm everywhere, but at infinity they intersect? That seems crazy to me.

• Are you talking about $\mathbb{CP}^1$? $\mathbb{RP}^1$? $\mathbb{RP}^2$? something else?... – T.J. Gaffney Jan 21 '14 at 9:41
• You can't really define distance like that in the projective plane. You have two lines that are paralel everywhere you look at them, but at infinity, they meet. Think lines of longitudte. – 5xum Jan 21 '14 at 9:44
• The Projective plane is useful (when doing Geometry), because every pair of different lines intersects at one point. Thus, you can't really talk about 'distance' between lines I think, but the notion of distance is still useful for other reasons (like similar triangles etc.) – Ragnar Jan 21 '14 at 9:49
• (If you're speaking of the real projective plane, $\mathbf{RP}^2$, there's a projective line of points "at infinity", not just one point.) There's a notion of "projective distance" between points, but it doesn't agree with Euclidean distance in a "finite part" of the plane. Lines that are parallel in some finite part of the projective plane are not "separated by constant distance", and their distance approaches zero at infinity, as expected. It's difficult to be more precise without getting quantitative. – Andrew D. Hwang Jan 21 '14 at 12:15
• I really don't think these intuitive ideas elucidate the structure of $\mathbb{P}^2(\mathbb{R})$, at least not for me personally. To really understand it, I would look up either a topological definition of the real projective plane, or a geometrical one using homogeneous coordinates. Wiki reference. – Viktor Vaughn Jan 22 '14 at 16:40

For the real projective plane $\mathbb{RP}^2$ that would be a (projective) line at infinity, which itself is a normal real line plus an additional point, although that additional point isn't designated in any way, so calling it “the point at infinity” only makes sense in some cases, and none if you consider that whole line to lie at infinity.