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29
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4answers
9k views

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: Are matrices and second rank tensors ...
25
votes
4answers
5k views

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_{\ ...
20
votes
8answers
2k views

Is it foolish to distinguish between covariant and contravariant vectors?

A vector space is a set whose elements satisfy certain axioms. Now there are physical entities that satisfy these properties, which may not be arrows. A co-ordinate transformation is linear map from a ...
20
votes
4answers
1k views

Why do Maxwell's equations contain each of a scalar, vector, pseudovector and pseudoscalar equation?

Maxwell's equations, in differential form, are $$\left\{\begin{align} \vec\nabla\cdot\vec{E}&=~\rho/\epsilon_0,\\ \vec\nabla\times\vec B~&=~\mu_0\vec J+\epsilon_0\mu_0\frac{\partial\vec ...
20
votes
7answers
1k views

Tensor Operators

Motivation. I was recently reviewing the section 3.10 in Sakurai's quantum mechanics in which he discusses tensor operators, and I was left desiring a more mathematically general/precise discussion. ...
19
votes
4answers
3k views

Irreducible tensors concept

This might be a little naive question, but I am having difficulty grasping the concept of irreducible tensors. Particularly, why do we decompose tensors into symmetric and anti-symmetric parts? I have ...
18
votes
7answers
3k 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 ...
16
votes
3answers
665 views

How to tell that the electromagnetic field tensor transforms as a tensor?

Is any matrix a tensor in special relativity? My question is inspired by the definition of the electromagnetic field tensor in Carroll's Spacetime and Geometry book. In equation (1.69), he defines a ...
16
votes
2answers
405 views

In relativity, can/should every measurement be reduced to measuring a scalar?

Different authors seem to attach different levels of importance to keeping track of the exact tensor valences of various physical quantities. In the strict-Catholic-school-nun camp, we have Burke ...
15
votes
2answers
3k views

Why is stress a tensor quantity?

Why is stress a tensor quantity? Why is pressure not a tensor? According to what I know pressure is an internal force whereas stress is external so how are both quantities not tensors? I am ...
15
votes
1answer
2k views

Mathematically, what is color charge?

A similar question was asked here, but the answer didn't address the following, at least not in a way that I could understand. Electric charge is simple - it's just a real scalar quantity. Ignoring ...
15
votes
4answers
2k views

History of Electromagnetic Field Tensor

I'm curious to learn how people discovered that electric and magnetic fields could be nicely put into one simple tensor. It's clear that the tensor provides many beautiful simplifications to the ...
13
votes
2answers
772 views

Introduction to spinors in physics, and their relation to representations

First, I shall say that I am familiar with the intuitive idea that a spinor is like a vector (or tensor) that only transforms "up to a sign" when acted on by the rotation group. I have even rotated a ...
13
votes
1answer
515 views

What are the local covariant tensors one can form from the metric?

Normally in differential geometry, we assume that the only way to produce a tensorial quantity by differentiation is to (1) start with a tensor, and then (2) apply a covariant derivative (not a plain ...
12
votes
4answers
511 views

Is the concept of tensor rank useful in physics?

The term 'tensor rank' is sporadically used in the mathematical literature to denote the minimum number of simple terms (i.e. tensor products of vectors) needed to express the tensor. This is ...
12
votes
4answers
253 views

Difference between matrix representations of tensors and $\delta^{i}_{j}$ and $\delta_{ij}$?

My question basically is, is Kronecker delta $\delta_{ij}$ or $\delta^{i}_{j}$. Many tensor calculus books (including the one which I use) state it to be the latter, whereas I have also read many ...
12
votes
2answers
1k views

Can any rank tensor be decomposed into symmetric and anti-symmetric parts?

I know that rank 2 tensors can be decomposed as such. But I would like to know if this is possible for any rank tensors?
12
votes
3answers
607 views

Is force a contravariant vector or a covariant vector (or either)?

I don't understand whether something physical, like velocity for example, has a single correct classification as either a contravariant vector or a covariant vector. I have seen texts indicate that ...
11
votes
4answers
5k views

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 ...
11
votes
4answers
589 views

Is partial derivative a vector or dual vector?

The textbook(Introduction to the Classical Theory of Particles and Fields, by Boris Kosyakov) defines a hypersurface by $$F(x)~=~c,$$ where $F\in C^\infty[\mathbb M_4,\mathbb R]$. Differentiating ...
11
votes
7answers
289 views

How can a set of components fail to make up a vector?

Many books in Physics insist to define vectors are objects with components with the property that the components transform in a proper way under a change of coordinates. Now, in mathematics, on the ...
11
votes
2answers
924 views

Symmetry of the $3\times 3$ Cauchy Stress Tensor

When presenting the stress tensor (say in a non-relativistic context), it is shown to be a tensor in the sense that it is a linear vector transformation: it operates on a vector $n$ (the normal to a ...
11
votes
4answers
4k views

What is the difference between a spinor and a vector or a tensor?

Why do we call a 1/2 spin particle satisfying the Dirac equation a spinor, and not a vector or a tensor?
10
votes
5answers
506 views

Motivation for tensor product in Physics

This question is about a mathematical object (the tensor product) but thinking about the motivation that comes from Physics. Algebraists motivate the tensor product like that: "given $k$ vector spaces ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

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 ...
10
votes
3answers
796 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} ...
10
votes
2answers
192 views

Inverting the equation for $T_{\mu\nu}$ in terms of $F_{\mu\nu}$

The Stress-Energy Tensor for electromagnetism is given by: $$ T_{\mu \nu} = F_{\mu}\,^{\alpha}F_{\nu\alpha}-\frac{1}{4}g_{\mu\nu}F_{\alpha\beta}F^{\alpha\beta} $$ How can I find $F_{\mu\nu}$ in ...
10
votes
2answers
567 views

Mixed symmetrization and antisymmetrization / Combinatorics

I have the following sum of 10 terms: $$ \delta^{ab}f^{cde} + \delta^{ac}f^{bde} + \delta^{ad}f^{bce} + \delta^{ae}f^{bcd} + \delta^{bc}f^{ade} + \delta^{bd}f^{ace} + \delta^{be}f^{acd} + ...
9
votes
1answer
137 views

Group notation $\otimes$ and $\oplus$ used for representations of quarks and mesons

I've been trying to figure out this statement from the PDG quark model summary (PDF). Following $\mathrm{SU}(3)$, the nine possible $q\bar{q}′$ combinations containing the light $u$, $d$, and $s$ ...
9
votes
2answers
216 views

If $v_{a \dot{b}}$ transforms like a four-vector, what does $v_{a}^{\dot{b}}$ describe?

The $( \frac{1}{2}, 0)$ representation of the Lorentz group acts on left-chiral spinors $\chi_a$, the $( 0,\frac{1}{2} )$ representation on right-chiral spinors $\chi^{\dot a}$. The $( \frac{1}{2}, ...
9
votes
1answer
367 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
votes
1answer
922 views

Diffeomorphisms, Isometries And General Relativity

Apologies if this question is too naive, but it strikes at the heart of something that's been bothering me for a while. Under a diffeomorphism $\phi$ we can push forward an arbitrary tensor field $F$ ...
8
votes
3answers
846 views

Covariant and contravariant vectors

Reading Weinberg's Gravitation and Cosmology, I came across the sentence (p.115, above equation (4.11.8)) The partial derivative operator $\partial/\partial x^\mu$ is a covariant vector, or in ...
8
votes
2answers
154 views

Torsion and gauge invariant EM kinetic term

Everytime I hear about adding torsion to GR, something struggles me: how do you create a kinetic term for the electromagnetic field that is still gauge-invariant? One of the consequences of torsion is ...
8
votes
1answer
140 views

What does Ricci tensor do with two vectors?

I have found it easier to understand the meaning of a particular tensor if I can find out what does it do if I cancel all its lower indices with vectors in short: $g_{ij} u^i v^j$: dot product of ...
8
votes
1answer
153 views

What is the intepretation of the electromagnetic tensor?

Let $A$ be the four-potential, then we know that we can form the electromagnetic tensor as $F=dA$. This is usually done as a way to have a better writing of Maxwell's equations. So, to simplify the ...
8
votes
1answer
251 views

Shape of the state space under different tensor products

I am currently studying generalized probabilistic theories. Let me roughly recall how such a theory looks like (you can skip this and go to "My question" if you are familiar with this). Recall: In a ...
7
votes
2answers
545 views

Tensor decomposition under $\mathrm{SU(3)}$

In Georgi's book (page 143), he calculates the tensor components of $3\otimes 8$ under the $\mathrm{SU(3)}$ explicitly using tensor components. Namely; $u^{i}$ (a $3$) times $v^{j}_k$ (an $8$, meaning ...
7
votes
3answers
347 views

Is “entanglement” unique to quantum systems?

My text shows (sections 0.2 and 0.3) that the joint "state space" of a system composed of two subsystems with $k$ and $l$ "bits of information", respectively, requires $kl$ bits to fully describe it. ...
7
votes
2answers
411 views

Is there any physics behind covariance and contravariance of indices of tensors?

Is there any physics behind covariance and contravariance (up and down) of indices of tensors?
7
votes
2answers
401 views

Tensor equations in General Relativity

In the context of general relativity it is often stated that one of the main purposes of tensors is that of making equations frame-independent. Question: why is this true? I'm looking for a ...
7
votes
4answers
918 views

Are covariant vectors representable as row vectors and contravariant as column vectors

I would like to know what are the range of validity of the following statement: Covariant vectors are representable as row vectors. Contravariant vectors are representable as column vectors. ...
7
votes
1answer
149 views

Are there cases in which we should consider tensors as equivalence classes?

Usually in texts about Physics that uses tensors defines them as multilinear maps. So if $V$ is a vector space over the field $F$, a tensor is a multilinear mapping: $$T:V\times\cdots\times V\times ...
6
votes
3answers
219 views

From Manifold to Manifold?

Tensor equations are supposed to stay invariant in form wrt coordinate transformations where the metric is preserved. It is important to take note of the fact that invariance in form of the tensor ...
6
votes
6answers
594 views

Is there a physical interpretation of a tensor as a vector with additional qualities?

What is a tensor? has been asked before, with the most highly up-voted answer defining a tensor of rank $k$ as a vector of a tensor of rank $k-1$. But if a scalar is defined as a physical quantity ...
6
votes
1answer
736 views

Difference between $\partial$ and $\nabla$ in general relativity

I read a lot in Road to Reality, so I think I might use some general relativity terms where I should only special ones. In our lectures we just had $\partial_\mu$ which would have the plain partial ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the covariant derivative in mathematician's language?

In mathematics, we talk about tangent vectors and cotangent vectors on a manifold at each point, and vector fields and cotangent vector fields (also known as differential one-forms). When we talk ...
6
votes
2answers
526 views

Why isn't invariant notation common?

In principle, one can write quantities in a manifestly invariant - rather than covariant - fashion in e.g. special relativity. For example, rather than writing just $x^\mu$, we could write the basis ...
6
votes
2answers
585 views

Do Dirac Gamma Matrices act like Tensors?

Do Dirac Gamma Matrices act like Tensors? Is it true that $$ \gamma_\mu = \eta_{\mu\nu}\gamma^\nu~? $$ Also what about $\sigma_{\mu\nu}$, where $\sigma_{\mu\nu}$ is defined to be: \begin{align*} ...
6
votes
4answers
679 views

Is the covariance or contravariance of vectors/tensors something that can be “visualized”?

I'm taking an undergrad GR course, and our text (Lambourne) mentions covariant and contravariant vectors and tensors ad-nauseum, but never really gives a formal definition for what they are, and how ...