Mathematical discipline which uses the techniques of calculus to study geometric problems. General relativity is written in this language.

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Why would spacetime curvature cause gravity?

It is fine to say that for an object flying past a massive object, the spacetime is curved by the massive object, and so the object flying past follows the curved path of the geodesic, so it "appears" ...
41
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6answers
2k views

What is known about the topological structure of spacetime?

General relativity says that spacetime is a Lorentzian 4-manifold $M$ whose metric satisfies Einstein's field equations. I have two questions: What topological restrictions do Einstein's equations ...
27
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822 views

Intuitively, why are bundles so important in Physics?

This question probably seems silly and I don't really know if it fits properly here, but the point is the following: I've seem the notion of bundles, fiber bundles, connections on bundles and so on ...
25
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7answers
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Why are differential equations for fields in physics of order two?

What is the reason for the observation that across the board fields in physics are generally governed by second order (partial) differential equations? If someone on the street would flat out ask ...
20
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2answers
95 views

Kerr Geometry, Separability and Twistors

One of the remarkable properties of the Kerr black hole geometry is that scalar field equations separate and are exactly solvable (reducible to quadrature), even though naively it does not have enough ...
20
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4answers
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What is the physical meaning of the connection and the curvature tensor?

Regarding general relativity: What is the physical meaning of the Christoffel symbol ($\Gamma^i_{\ jk}$)? What are the (preferably physical) differences between the Riemann curvature tensor ($R^i_{\ ...
18
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6answers
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Laplace operator's interpretation

What is your interpretation of Laplace operator? When evaluating Laplacian of some scalar field at a given point one can get a value. What does this value tell us about the field or it's behaviour in ...
18
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4answers
1k views

Physical and Geometrical interpretation of Differential Forms

I have a doubt about the physical and geometrical interpretation of differential forms. I've been studying differential forms on Spivak's Calculus on Manifolds, but my real intent is to use those ...
17
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4answers
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Are matrices and second rank tensors the same thing?

Tensors are mathematical objects that are needed in physics to define certain quantities. I have a couple of questions regarding them that need to be clarified: 1-Are matrices and second rank tensors ...
16
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7answers
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Quantum mechanics on a manifold

In quantum mechanics the state of a free particle in three dimensional space is $L^2(\mathbb R^3)$, more accurately the projective space of that Hilbert space. Here I am ignoring internal degrees of ...
16
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1answer
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Flux through a Mobius strip

I was sent here from mathoverflow, hoping for a complete answer to this: === A friend of mine asked me what is the flux of the electric field (or any vector field like $$ \vec r=(x,y,z)\mapsto ...
13
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4answers
281 views

The Lagrangian as a metric

My question is, can the (classical) Lagrangian be thought of as a metric? That is, is there a meaningful sense in which we can think of the least-action path from the initial to the final ...
12
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1answer
321 views

Covariant derivatives

I need correctly define covariant derivatives on the coset space $G/H$, where a group $G \equiv \{X_i, Y_a\}$ ($X$ and $Y$ are generators) have a subrgroup $H \equiv \{X_i\}$ Lie algebra of $G$ has ...
12
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Why do objects follow geodesics in spacetime?

Trying to teach myself general relativity. I sort of understand the derivation of the geodesic equation ...
12
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3answers
590 views

Representing forces as one-forms

First of all, sorry if any of those things are silly or nonsense, I'm just trying to understand better how the concepts of forms, exterior derivative and so on can be used in physics. This question ...
12
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1answer
135 views

Soliton Moduli Spaces and Homotopy Theory

The four-dimensional $SU(N)$ Yang-Mills Lagrangian is given by $$\mathcal{L}=\frac{1}{2e^2}\mathrm{Tr}F_{\mu\nu}F^{\mu\nu}$$ and gives rise to the Euclidean equations of motion $\mathcal{D}_\mu ...
12
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1answer
361 views

Asymptotic symmetry algebra

So after a lot of research, and tons and tons of papers that I've went through, I finally have some idea how to solve the equations that will give me candidates for the asymptotic symmetry group for ...
11
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5answers
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What does a frame of reference mean in terms of manifolds?

Because of my mathematical background, I've been finding it hard to relate the physics-talk I've been reading, with mathematical objects. In (say special) relativity, we have a Lorentzian manifold, ...
11
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4answers
354 views

Discontinuities and nondifferentiability in thermodynamics

In physics and engineering sources, calculus-based formalisms - whether differential forms on a manifold, or "differentials" of functions of several variables - are presented as a way of modeling and ...
11
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1answer
477 views

Formulation of Transformation optics using a Material Manifold

Dear Community, recently, Transformation optics celebrates some sort of scientific revival due to its (possible) applications for cloaking, see e.g. Broadband Invisibility by Non-Euclidean Cloaking ...
10
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2answers
412 views

Equivalence of definitions of ADM Mass

ADM Mass is a useful measure of a system. It is often defined (Wald 293) $$M_{ADM}=\frac{1}{16\pi} \lim_{r \to \infty} \oint_{s_r} (h_{\mu\nu,\mu}-h_{\mu\mu,\nu})N^{\nu} dA$$ Where $s_r$ is two ...
10
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2answers
273 views

Why isn't general relativity the obvious thing to try after special relativity?

To preface my question, I ask this as a mathematics student, so I don't have a very good sense of how physicists think. Here is the historical context I'm imagining (in particular taking into account ...
10
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1answer
425 views

Is there a “covariant derivative” for conformal transformation?

A primary field is defined by its behavior under a conformal transformation $x\rightarrow x'(x)$: $$\phi(x)\rightarrow\phi'(x')=\left|\frac{\partial x'}{\partial x}\right|^{-h}\phi(x)$$ It's fairly ...
10
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1answer
562 views

Can GR be derived by postulating a maximum force?

This paper was published in a peer review journal, and claims the answer is yes. http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0607090 The derivation in the paper seems more like dimensional analysis hand-waving in ...
9
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3answers
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Why is the covariant derivative of the metric tensor zero?

I've consulted several books for the explanation of why $$\nabla _{\mu}g_{\alpha \beta} = 0,$$ and hence derive the relation between metric tensor and affine connection $\Gamma ^{\sigma}_{\mu ...
9
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3answers
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What does the dual of a tensor mean (e.g. dual stress tensor in relativistic ED)?

I know what the dual of a vector means (as a map to its field), and I am also aware of of the definition a dual of a tensor as, $$F^{*ij} = \frac{1}{2} \epsilon^{ijkl} F_{kl}\tag{1}$$ I just don't ...
9
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519 views

Is spacetime simply connected?

As I've stated in a prior question of mine, I am a mathematician with very little knowledge of Physics, and I ask here things I'm curious about/things that will help me learn. This falls into the ...
9
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3answers
333 views

Equation of motion of a photon in a given metric

I have this metric: $$ds^2=-dt^2+e^tdx^2$$ and I want to find the equation of motion (of x). for that i thought I have two options: using E.L. with the Lagrangian: $L=-\dot t ^2+e^t\dot x ^2 $. ...
9
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1answer
298 views

Contracting Indices

Does anyone know how to get from (1) to (2) in the system $$ \begin{align} \mathrm{g}^{\mu\nu}_{,\rho}+ \mathrm{g}^{\sigma\nu}{{\Gamma}}^{\mu}_{\sigma\rho}+ ...
9
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1answer
216 views

Can Fermionic symmetries be fully integrated into geometric deformation complexes or symplectic reduction?

How should a geometer think about quotienting out by a Fermionic symmetry? Is this a formal concept? A strictly linear concept? A sheaf theoretic concept? How does symplectic reduction work with odd ...
9
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1answer
378 views

Can masses move in 2+1 gravity?

I would like to understand basic concepts of the general relativity in 2+1 spacetime. As far as I know, GR predicts that such a spacetime is flat everywhere except for the point masses which create ...
8
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6answers
1k views

What is a tensor?

I have a pretty good knowledge of physics but couldn't understand what a tensor is. I just couldn't understand it, and the wiki page is very hard to understand as well. Can someone refer me to a good ...
8
votes
2answers
912 views

Does space curvature automatically imply extra dimensions?

Total newbie with basically no physics knowledge here :) I would welcome any correction to the steps of my reasoning that lead to my question, which could easily turn out to be invalid :) My current ...
8
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3answers
379 views

How to prove the covariant derivative cannot be written as an eigendecomposition of the partial derivative?

The Question How does one prove that Rindler's definition of the covariant derivative of a covariant vector field $\lambda_a$ as \begin{align} \lambda_{a;c} = \lambda_{a,c} - \Gamma^{b}_{\ \ ca} ...
8
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3answers
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Can spacetime be non-orientable?

This question asks what constraints there are on the global topology of spacetime from the Einstein equations. It seems to me the quotient of any global solution can in turn be a global solution. In ...
8
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2answers
722 views

Visualizing Ricci Tensor

By definition Ricci Tensor is a Tensor formed by contracting two indices of Riemann Tensor. Riemann Tensor can be visualized in terms of a curve, a vector is moving and orientation of the initial and ...
8
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2answers
802 views

Dirac equation in curved space-time

I have seen the Dirac equation in curved space-time written as $$[i\bar{\gamma}^{\mu}\frac{\partial}{\partial x^{\mu}}-i\bar{\gamma}^{\mu}\Gamma_{\mu}-m]\psi=0 $$ This ...
8
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6answers
481 views

In coordinate-free relativity, how do we define a vector?

Relativity can be developed without coordinates: Laurent 1994 (SR), Winitzski 2007 (GR). I would normally define a vector by its transformation properties: it's something whose components change ...
8
votes
2answers
282 views

Why can we assume torsion is zero in GR?

The first Cartan equation is $$\mathrm{d}\omega^{a} + \theta^{a}_{b} \wedge \omega^{b} = T^{a}$$ where $\omega^{a}$ is an orthonormal basis, $T^{a}$ is the torsion and $\theta^{a}_{b}$ are the ...
8
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1answer
163 views

How to prove that a spacetime is maximally symmetric?

In Carroll's book on general relativity, I found the following remark: In two dimensions, finding that $R$ is a constant suffices to prove that the space is maximally symmetric [...] In higher ...
8
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2answers
208 views

What are orbifolds and why are they useful and interesting for physics?

Just what the title says. What's the basic definition of an orbifold? How do they arise in physics and why are they interesting?
8
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1answer
617 views

What all is needed to solve for the metric in GR?

Einstein's field equations are: $R_{ab} - {1 \over 2}g_{ab}\,R + g_{ab} \Lambda = {8 \pi G \over c^4} T_{ab}$ And since the Ricci curvature tensor is "less information" than the Riemann curvature ...
8
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1answer
406 views

The Role of Active and Passive Diffeomorphism Invariance in GR

I'd like some clarification regarding the roles of active and passive diffeomorphism invariance in GR between these possibly conflicting sources. 1) Wald writes, after explaining that passive ...
8
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0answers
186 views

What's the physical intuition for symplectic structures?

I always thought about symplectic forms as elements of areas in little subspaces because of the Darboux theorem, however I cannot get the physical intuition for it and for the hamiltonian vector ...
8
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0answers
329 views

Classical mechanics: Generating function of lagrangian submanifold

I have a short question regarding the geometrical interpretation of the Hamilton-Jacobi-equation. One has the geometric version of $H \circ dS = E$ as an lagrangian submanifold $L=im(dS)$, which is ...
7
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3answers
585 views

Covariant and contravariant vectors

Reading Weinberg's "gravitation and cosmology" I came across the sentence "The partial derivative operator $\partial/\partial x^\mu$ is a covariant vector, or in other words a 1-form,..." (p.115, ...
7
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3answers
658 views

What is a dual / cotangent space?

Dual spaces are home to bras in quantum mechanics; cotangent spaces are home to linear maps in the tensor formalism of general relativity. After taking courses in these two subjects, I've still never ...
7
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3answers
745 views

Maxwell's Equations using Differential Forms

Maxwell's Equations written with usual vector calculus are $$\nabla \cdot E=\rho/\epsilon_0 \qquad \nabla \cdot B=0$$ $$\nabla\times E=-\dfrac{\partial B}{\partial t} \qquad\nabla\times ...
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7answers
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Introduction to differential forms in thermodynamics

I've studied differential geometry just enough to be confident with differential forms. Now I want to see application of this formalism in thermodynamics. I'm looking for a small reference, to learn ...
7
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2answers
542 views

Lorentz invariance of the 3 + 1 decomposition of spacetime

Why is allowed decompose the spacetime metric into a spatial part + temporal part like this for example $$ds^2 ~=~ (-N^2 + N_aN^a)dt^2 + 2N_adtdx^a + q_{ab}dx^adx^b$$ ($N$ is called lapse, $N_a$ is ...