Need Help?

Get in touch with us


Minkowski Space – Mathematical Definition, Structure, FAQs

Mar 14, 2023

What is Minkowski Space?

Hermann Minkowski was one of Einstein’s mathematics professors. In 1905, Einstein printed his paper on Special Relativity. In 1907, Minkowski noticed that if a dimension of time was added to the three dimensions of space, all of the calculations of Special Relativity became much simpler.

According to his theory, if you add a time dimension to the three dimensions of space, you can always travel the same distance. The more you travel across space, the less you travel through time. Still, your distance traveled through Minkowski space time is always the same.


Minkowski Space Structure

Minkowski Space Time Definition

Do you know what the Minkowski space time definition is? It is an interesting concept that every student must know to learn new fundamentals in physics. The concept originated from Maxwell’s equation of electromagnetism. Minkowski’s space theory has a wide application in mathematical physics. It has special mentions in special relativity. The spacetime interval is not dependent on the inertial frame of reference between two events.

Moreover, it combines a 3D Euclidean space into a 4D manifold. The Minkowski space time interval between two events is either space-like, light-like, or time-like.


Minkowski Structure

Minkowski space is a 4D real vector space with a symmetric bilinear, non-degenerate form with a signature (-, +, +, +). You will also see references where signatures are mentioned in the form (+, -, -, -). According to physicists and mathematicians, the former is used by general relativists, and particle physicists use the latter.

In different terms, the Minkowski space is a pseudo-Euclidean space with elements known as the four vectors or events. R1,3 denotes it with n = 4 and n – k = 1 to emphasize the signature, where R = pseudo-Riemannian manifold.


In Minkowski space time, the interval between space and time is not affected by the inertial frame of reference in which it is usually measured. With the help of special relativity postulates, the mathematical structure of the Minkowski spacetime was discovered.

Credit goes to Maxwell’s electromagnetism equations, with the help of which Minkowski developed the geometry of spacetime. The geometry is 4D, and the axes are named as (x, y, z, ct). Considering that the units of space and time should be similar, time should be measured in units of light speed. Hence, the new axes become (x1, x2, x3, x4).


The differential equation in spacetime is denoted by: ∂s2 = ∂x2 + ∂y2 + ∂z2 – c2∂t2

We mostly use the Minkowski space in relativity theory. In Minkowski space, the set of all null vectors at an event extends the event’s light cone. 


Standard Basis

In Minkowski space, the standard basis is a set of four mutually orthogonal vectors, e0, e1, e2, and e3, such that

-(e0)2 = e12 = e22 = e32 = 1


The following conditions can be rewritten as: eμ, e𝛎  = ημ𝛎

Where μ and 𝛎 possess the values 0, 1, 2, 3, whose matrix, known as the Minkowski metric or pseudo-Riemannian metric, is given by:


Minkowski Space MetricThis Minkowski metric is known as the Minkowski tensor. Relative to a standard basis, the vector components are written (v0, v1, v2, v3 ). You must use the Einstein notation to write v = v μ eμ. You should know that the component v0 is called the timelike component of v, while the other three components are often referred to as the spatial components. In terms of components, the inner product between two vectors v and w is given by:

(v, w) =  ημ𝛎 vμ w𝛎  = -v0 w0 + v1 w1 + v2 w2 + v3 w3

The normal squared form of a vector is represented by:

v2 =  ημ𝛎 vμ v𝛎  = -(v0)2 + (v1)2 + (v2)2 + (v3)2

Minkowski Space Time Diagram

Given are the points that can be inferred from the Minkowski space time diagram:

  • You should know that in Physics, the twin paradox occurs.
  • Space, in special relativity, consists of identical twins.
  • Consider that the first twin travels into space with the help of a high-speed rocket. It returns to another twin, who remains on Earth and is getting aged with time.
  • Both the twins notice that each of them is moving. This is referred to as the end of a perplexing record.
  • However, each twin should find the other to have aged less paradoxically. This happens in accordance with the application of time dilation and relativity principles.
  • Physicists have to use special relativity’s standard framework to solve this problem.
  • There’s another to solve this. It can be done if it’s assumed that the traveling twin is accelerating. This means that the traveler becomes a non-inertial observer.
  • In either view, the symmetry between the two twins is not maintained.

Minkowski Space DiagramHere are a few points that will explain the Minkowski space’s nonlinear stability globally:

  • In the Einstein-Viasov system, Minkowski space is globally stable when all the particles have no mass. This acts as a solution to the EV system.
  • For proof, there is a need to demonstrate that the wave zone must support matter. Later, it should provide a small semi-global existence of data that results in the massless EV system in the current region for the characteristic initial value problem.
  • The above point is based on the weighted estimates. These were coined for the Viasov part by bringing the Sasaki metric on the mass shell. Later, evaluating Jacobi fields also came into existence to relate the metric using geometric quantities on spacetime.
  • The stability for the Minkowski space, for the leftover regions, is demanded that results from the vacuum Einstein equation.

Locally Flat Spacetime

The major application of Minkowski space lies in the Newtonian limit of systems without significant gravitation. It is used to describe physical systems over finite distances. The Minkowski spacetime becomes curved and ignorable to special relativity in favor of general relativity’s full theory. This is one of the most significant gravitation cases.

Minkowski space provides a good description of an infinitesimal region in most cases where the surrounding region prohibits gravitational singularities. To be more exact, in the presence of gravity spacetime, the Minkowski space is defined by a four-dimensional manifold, usually curved, for which the tangent space to any point is a four-dimensional Minkowski space. To understand this, the Minkowski structure is significant in describing general relativity.

In the presence of weak gravity, spacetime looks global and becomes flat, like the Minkowski space. For this reason, the Minkowski space is often called by another name, flat spacetime.


It’s the spacetime metric in the field equations of general relativity. As per Euclidean spacetime, it has three dimensions, whereas Minkowski includes time and counts four dimensions. According to Minkowski’s space time theory, the rate and duration of observed actions are in the concept of four dimensions. It introduces the idea of motion, or state change, in the context of Euclidean space.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Minkowski space flat?

Yes. In Minkowski space, there are coordinate arrangements in which the metric tensor has continuous components. It explains that the Christoffel symbols are all zero in the Minkowski space coordinate system. Consequently, the Riemann curvature tensor is also zero everywhere. Together with all this, the coordinate description of geodesics comprises linear functions of the parameter. Simply put, the geodesics of Minkowski space are straight lines. Therefore, you can say that Minkowski’s space is flat.

How can you interpret that a Minkowski space-time diagram is interactive?

The Minkowski diagram is interactive as it holds a perplexing record that notices both the twins are moving. Moreover, one of the twins is supposed to age per the time dilation theory and the principle of relativity. This approach is taken into consideration while solving problems using the special relativity framework.

Where is the Minkowski space used?

The Minkowski space is majorly used in mathematical physics. The mathematical derivation of Minkowski space originates from the principles of relativity. The single element of the Euclidean space and time varies per the time dilation and length diminution. The overall distance between the events in space and time works in relation to the Minkowski space, which is consistent with all the reference frames.

What is the space-time continuum definition?

According to the space-time continuum definition postulated by Einstein, space and time have sprung from the soil of experimental physics. They are radical. Both space and time are likely to fade away abruptly into mere shadows. The two will preserve an independent reality to let the one-of-a-kind.

Why is time and space known as space-time?

Earlier, there were three known coordinates in non-relativistic mechanics. After Einstein got his theory of relativity, he introduced another dimension known as space-time. The idea was further carried out by Minkowski, which is used in quantum field theory.

minkowski space


Relevant Articles

Thermal Energy

Understanding Thermal Energy: What It Is and How It Works

Thermal energy is essential to our daily lives, from warming …

Understanding Thermal Energy: What It Is and How It Works Read More »

Avogardo’s Number

Avogadro’s Number: Meaning, Importance, and More

Introduction The concept of measuring the microscopic particles that make …

Avogadro’s Number: Meaning, Importance, and More Read More »

Types Of Circuits

Types Of Circuits

Electricity has a critical place in modern society. It has …

Types Of Circuits Read More »

Kinetic Friction

Kinetic Friction – Definition, Laws, Types

Kinetic Friction Kinetic force is a force acting between two …

Kinetic Friction – Definition, Laws, Types Read More »


Study Abroad

card img

With Turito Study Abroad

card img

With Turito Study Abroad

card img

Get an Expert Advice from Turito

card img

Get an Expert Advice from Turito


card img

With Turito CAP.


card img

With Turito Coding.


card img

With Turito RoboNinja


card img

1-on-1 tutoring for the undivided attention