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The first Chern number $\cal C$ is known to be related to various physical objects.

  1. Gauge fields are known as connections of some principle bundles. In particular, principle $U(1)$ bundle is said to be classified by first Chern number. In terms of electromagnetic field, ${\cal C} \neq 0$ is equivalent to the existence of monopoles.

  2. In the case of integer quantum Hall states, Chern number is simply the Hall conductance up to a constant.

In both physical problems, Chern number is related to vorticity -- a quantized value (first case, Dirac's string argument and second, vortices in magnetic Brillouin zone).

Then my questions:

  1. What was the "physical" picture in Chern's mind when he originally "dreamed up" the theory? (Maybe knots, but how?)

  2. If I want to learn how Chern classified $U(1)$ bundles using integers (first Chern number), which books or papers should I refer to?

Notes:

My point is that mathematical theorems are not God-given but arose from concrete problems. I was asking what was the original problem that Chern solved, from which he codified the general theorems? And Chern number seems related to vorticity and then what are the corresponding vortices in his problem?

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I thought Chern was a pure mathematician, working on the problem of classifying bundles. The applications to physical problems weren't done by him (but I may be wrong). To understand Chern classes, you need to research characteristic classes which belongs to the fields of algebraic topology/differential geometry. For this topic I always recommend this reference‌​. –  twistor59 Jan 25 '13 at 9:43
    
Thank you for the comment. My point is that mathematical theorems are not God-given but arose from concrete problems. I was asking what was the original problem that Chern solved, from which he codified the general theorems? And Chern number seems related to vorticity and then what are the corresponding vortices in his problem? –  ChenChao Jan 25 '13 at 12:31
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1 Answer 1

"In quantum Hall effect(QAHE), Klitzing found the Hall conductivity to be integer multiples of a fundamental constant. This effect is independent of size and impurities of the system with which we deals with. Based on it, a famous scientist R. Laughlin proposed a theory describing the integer states in terms of a topological invariant. This topological invariant is known as chern number.

For details of the cern number,there is a wikipedia link."

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