What is Triviality?

What does it mean when we say that we should not be bothered about trivial matters? What does the word trivial mean? We often hear this word in different scenarios, during conversations with others, or maybe while reading a book or an article. So what does trivial mean? If we look at a dictionary for its meaning, the oxford dictionary says that triviality means having little value or importance. Something that is insignificant. We can list down a few synonyms of triviality for you. Trifle, non - essential, trivia, minutiae are all synonyms of triviality. Trivial antonyms are profundity, essential, significant, and important. Triviality is a word that we use to define a result that needs very little to no effort for proving or deriving it. Richard Feynman was a Nobel prize winner and he once stated that “a trivial theorem is a theorem whose proof has been obtained once”. It doesn’t matter how challenging the proof of that theorem is for the first time. 

A “deep theorem” is a term that we can use as an opposite of a trivial theorem. Now that we know what triviality means, we should probably want to know what significance this term has in Mathematics. Again, we are already aware of the word “triviality” that we use in our day to day life. We know that it is referred to as something that is unimportant or has little significance. What we don’t know is that from where the word “triviality” is derived. It is a word that is derived from the Latin word “trivium”, meaning a lower division of liberal arts. We can say that it means something with a lack of attention or maybe a lack of seriousness. 

What Does Triviality Means In Mathematics?

In Mathematics, we define triviality as a property of objects that have simple structures. The word trivial is basically used for very simple and evident concepts or things, for example – topological spaces and groups have a very simple arrangement. The basic and easiest antonym of trivial is nontrivial. We use it to indicate the non-obvious statements and easy-to-prove theorems both in Mathematics as well as in Engineering. 

Proof of Triviality

In logical or mathematical reasoning, the trivial proof is known as the statement of logical implication. The implication can be denoted by A → B.It symbolizes that consequent B is always true, even if the truth of the antecedent A is genuine. Let us write the truth table for triviality:

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Relation A → B is known as true trivially. Its proof is referred to as trivial proof.

Trivial and Nontrivial Solutions

Trivial solutions are only possible for some equations that have a simple structure. Though they are of less importance, they cannot be skipped due to the sake of completeness. In simple words, a simple solution to any equation is called a trivial solution. Nontrivial solutions are one step more difficult therefore it is a little tricky as well as challenging to find the solution of nontrivial equations than the trivial ones. So basically, it is said that trivial solutions include number 0 whereas non-zero solutions are said to be nontrivial.

For example, If x+2y is an equation, and if we put the value of x and y equal to zero, then the solution will definitely be trivial, but instead if we put a non-zero value to x and y variables, then the solution will be nontrivial.

Triviality Examples

  1. In linear algebra, let X = An unknown vector and 

A = Matrix and 

O = A zero vector

One simple solution of the matrix equation can be AX = O is X = 0. This is known as a “trivial solution”. Any other non-zero solution can be termed as a “nontrivial” solution.

  1. Let us consider that ‘n’ is an integer number. The two clear factors of ‘n’ are ‘1’ and ‘n’. These can be called “trivial factors“. If there are any other factors, they will be known as “nontrivial factors”.

  2. In modern algebra, a simple group with merely one member or variable in it will be called as “trivial group“. Other complex groups will be called “nontrivial”.

  3. While we discuss a graph theory, the trivial graph can be a graph having just one vertex and no edges.

  4. We can call an empty set trivial if it contains no elements.

  5. A trivial ring can be a ring that is used for a singleton set. 

  6. There are still a lot of terms that can be related to triviality, for example,  trivial topology, trivial proof, trivial representation, trivial theorem,  trivial bundle,  trivial module,  trivial basis,  trivial loop, etc. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question 1. What is Life’s Greatest Triviality?

Answer. The answer to this question is subjective. It varies from one person to another. For some, worrying or talking about materialistic things can be trivial and for some everything can be trivial except himself and what he wants. Sometimes, we think that something is a trivial matter like simply listening to someone without any judgment or maybe the importance of expressing oneself but then it turns out that these are not triviality but the gifts of life. So the question of triviality is very subjective. 

Question 2. Why Do We Use the Term Triviality so Often in Maths?

Answer. We use the term triviality very often in maths basically to draw the readers attention to a statement whose proof is actually ‘cite the definition’ and of course, we don’t like wasting time by talking in circles where in fact the reader can understand it within a second. For example, if we want to say that the set of even integers is very much a subset of integers. Now the proof will be like “every even integer is an integer” which means every number in the set of even integers is an integer. What actually is happening here is because of the whole paragraph, the main train of thoughts gets distracted creating fewer chances for understanding. This is the reason cut it out and this is why we use triviality in maths.