My professor keeps mentioning the word “isomorphic” in class, but has yet to define it… I’ve asked him and his response is that something that is isomorphic to something else means that they have the same vector structure. I’m not sure what that means, so I was hoping anyone could explain its meaning to me, using knowledge from elementary linear algebra only. He started discussing it in the current section of our textbook: General Vector Spaces.
I’ve also heard that this is an abstract algebra term, so I’m not sure if isomorphic means the same thing in both subjects, but I know absolutely no abstract algebra, so in your definition if you keep either keep abstract algebra out completely, or use very basic abstract algebra knowledge, that would be appreciated.
Isomorphisms are defined in many different contexts; but, they all share a common thread.
Given two objects G and H (which are of the same type; maybe groups, or rings, or vector spaces… etc.), an isomorphism from G to H is a bijection ϕ:G→H which, in some sense, respects the structure of the objects. In other words, they basically identify the two objects as actually being the same object, after renaming of the elements.
In the example that you mention (vector spaces), an isomorphism between V and W is a bijection ϕ:V→W which respects scalar multiplication, in that ϕ(α→v)=αϕ(→v) for all →v∈V and α∈K, and also respects addition in that ϕ(→v+→u)=ϕ(→v)+ϕ(→u) for all →v,→u∈V. (Here, we’ve assumed that V and W are both vector spaces over the same base field K.)