Math people:

The title is the question: What fields can be used for an inner product space?

This question has been discussed in Math Stack Exchange with no definitive resolution. A similar question appeared here, and an answer was accepted, but someone pointed out a serious problem with the answer.

I am using the standard definition of inner product, which includes $\langle \mathbf{x}, \mathbf{x} \rangle > 0$ for all non zero vectors $\mathbf{x}$.

It seems to me that any field of prime characteristic does not make sense, because it does not have an order relation that respects addition. It also seems to me that the field $\mathbb{F}$ can be any ordered field or any subfield of $\mathbb{C}$ that is stable under complex conjugation (for any non-algebraists like me, the word "stable" seems to be standard here. Anyone else would use the word "closed"). I do not know if any other fields are possible. Of course, an ordered field may or may not be a subfield of $\mathbb{R}$.

It seems to be rare for people, even mathematicians, to use any field other than $\mathbb{R}$ or $\mathbb{C}$ for an inner product space.

Can anyone clear this up?

EDIT: someone alerted me to a Wikipedia page that addresses this question (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inner_product_space#Definition). Let me quote the relevant part : "There are various technical reasons why it is necessary to restrict the basefield to $\mathbb{R}$ and $\mathbb{C}$ in the definition. Briefly, the basefield has to contain an ordered subfield[citation needed] (in order for non-negativity to make sense) and therefore has to have characteristic equal to 0 (since any ordered field has to have such characteristic). This immediately excludes finite fields. The basefield has to have additional structure, such as a distinguished automorphism. More generally any quadratically closed subfield of $\mathbb{R}$ or $\mathbb{C}$ will suffice for this purpose, e.g., the algebraic numbers$\ldots$"

The Wikipedia article fails to explain why the basefield has to have additional structure. They do not define a "distinguished automorphism" or provide a link to a definition. I am not an algebraist. I Googled the term and I could not find a definition of "distinguished automorphism". I did find links to papers and books that probably do contain a definition. The article states it is "necessary" to restrict the basefield to $\mathbb{R}$ and $\mathbb{C}$ in the definition but then contradicts itself by at least suggesting that the basefield can be any quadratically closed subfield of $\mathbb{R}$ or $\mathbb{C}$.

Stefan (STack Exchange FAN)

formally real fielden.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formally_real_field ... Your condition would then be $\langle \mathbf{x},\mathbf{x}\rangle \ne 0$ for nonzero vectors $\mathbf x$. $\endgroup$ – Gerald Edgar May 2 '13 at 12:55together with the order relationwhile a "formally real" field is a field thatcan be endowed withan order relation with the required properties. I don't really understand your first comment. I don't see an obvious order relation for formal real-valued rational functions in real variables $x$ and $y$ similar to the standard order relation for rational functions in just $x$. $\endgroup$ – Stefan May 2 '13 at 15:24