Re: Direct Products and SUms

well, yes, but you may not like it:

the direct sum (or "co-product") A_{1}+A_{2} of two (or more) objects A_{1},A_{2} is ANY object (up to a (____)-isomorphism) that comes with two (or more...depending on how many "factors") (usually, but in some structures not necessarily, injective) morphisms:

i_{1}:A_{1}-->A_{1}+A_{2}, i_{2}:A_{2}-->A_{1}+A_{2}

such that if X is any other object (in the same structure-type) with two (or more...) morphisms f_{1}:A_{1}-->X, f_{2}:A_{2}-->X

there exists a *unique* morphism f:A_{1}+A_{2}-->X with:

f_{1} = foi_{1}

f_{2} = foi_{2}

(often this is phrased as: an indexed set of morphisms from the factors to X factor through the "canonical injections" (the map f in the case of two factors is often written "f_{1}+f_{2}")).

the direct product (or "product") is the "dual" construction, now we have morphisms p_{1}:A_{1}xA_{2}-->A_{1}, p_{2}:A_{1}xA_{2}-->A_{2} (usually, but not necessarily surjective), and if f_{1}:X--->A_{1}, and f_{2}:X--->A_{2} then there is a morphism f (often called f_{1}xf_{2}) which is unique, such that:

f_{1} = p_{1}of

f_{2} = p_{2}of

the maps p_{j} are often called "canonical projections onto the factors" and we say the maps f_{j} "factor through the projections".

these constructions can vary widely, depending on the structure underlying our objects:

SETS: coproduct = disjoint union, product = cartesian product

GROUPS: coproduct = free product, product = direct product

ABELIAN GROUPS : coproduct = direct sum, product = direct product (for finite abelian groups, these are the same, but for an infinite number of factors of abelian groups the direct product is "bigger")

VECTOR SPACES/MODULES: coproduct = direct sum, product = direct product (for finite-dimensional vector spaces, these are the same. for modules, the same considerations on the number of factors apply as for abelian groups).

with the most common algebraic objects, the canonical injections can be thought of as inclusion maps, which are injective homomorphisms, and the canonical projections can be thought of as quotient maps, which are surjective homomorphisms. in many cases, the direct sum and the direct product coincide, and the terms are used interchangeably:

Z + Z = Z x Z

here is one example, to help you understand the difference:

the additive group (R[x],+) (the additive group of all real polynomials) is (isomorphic to) the direct sum of countably many copies of (R,+)

the additive group (R[[x]],+) (the additive group of all real formal power series in x) is (isomorphic to) the direct product of countably many copies of (R,+).

it is a worth-while exercise to show that the usual definition of direct product/sum satisfy these so-called "universal properties" (doing so will also indicate why if something does satisfy them, it is isomorphic to a direct product/sum).