# Caltech Ph106 Fall 2001

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1 Caltech h106 Fall 2001 ath for physicists: differential forms Disclaimer: this is a first draft, so a few signs might be off. 1 Basic properties Differential forms come up in various parts of theoretical physics, including advanced classical mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, general relativity, and quantum field theory. So they re well worth knowing about. This is supposed to be a self-contained exposition for someone who has some knowledge of multivariable calculus. Forms are like infinitesimal objects, but this is (or can be made a completely rigorous subject. The most basic object is exterior derivative, d. For a function F (,..., x n, df = F x i dx i (1 by definition. Summation over i from 1 to n is implicit. In some subjects (particularly relativity, there is a preference to write x i and/or dx i, but I will eschew this here. Eq. (1 looks like an infinitesimal variation. The special thing about forms is that they involve an anti-commuting wedge product,, defined so that A general p-form (for p n is dx i dx j = dx j dx i. (2 ω = 1 p! ω i 1...i p dx i1 dx i2... dx ip. (3 Again there is an implicit sum on i 1 through i p, each from 1 to n. The coefficient functions ω i1 i p may be assumed to be antisymmetric in i 1 through i p. So for instance, if p = 2, ω ij = ω ji. The 1/p! is there in (3 because the sum contains p! copies of each term. Again for the case of 2-forms, say now in 2 dimensions, we would have ω = 1 2 ω ijdx i dx j = ω 12 d d. (4 The middle expression, explicitly, is 1 2 (ω 12d d + ω 21 d d, but the last expression is obviously equal to this. 1

2 The exterior derivative of a p-form can be defined as dω = ω i 1...i p x j dx j dx i1... dx ip. (5 It s crucial to put the dx j consistently where I did. You can verify the following product rule for d: d(µ (p ν (q = dµ (p ν (q + ( 1 p µ (p dν (q, (6 where by µ (p I mean a p-form. And you can show that d 2 = 0, in the sense that if µ = dω, then dµ = 0. An important and non-trivial theorem says that if dµ = 0, then µ = dω for some ω. 1 Differential forms were invented for integration. Here s how it works. Suppose you have some integration region, which could be any smooth p-surface in R n, and suppose you have a set of smooth 1-1 functions, (ξ 1,..., ξ p (,..., x n, which map a fiducial p-dimensional integration region I into. For instance, I could be [0, 1] p in R p. Then, for any p-form ω, we define ω = I 1 ω (x i1,..., x ip p! i 1...i p (ξ 1,..., ξ p dp ξ. (7 Here (x i1,..., x ip / (ξ 1,..., ξ p denotes a Jacobian: that is, the determinant of the matrix of partial derivatives x ij / ξ k, where j and k run from 1 to p. The definition (7 would follow, formally, if we wrote dx i = x i ξ j dξ j. (Try it! The most important theorem in this subject is Stokes Theorem, which says that if ω is a (p 1-form and is a p-suface, then dω = ω, (8 where is the boundary of. Actually, there s something a little tricky about (8: both and have orientations which must be specified, and picking them in some ways gives a minus sign in front of the right hand side of (8. To understand this orientation business, note that if you replaced ξ 1 by ξ 1, or swapped ξ 1 and ξ 2, in (7, it would change the sign of the Jacobian, and hence the sign of the integral. It s not a priori obvious how to relate the orientations of and in general, but this is getting beyond the scope of what we really need to know. 2 Div, grad, and curl Let s now consider some examples. Start with a function f on R 3. Its exterior derivative, v = df, can be written as v = v i dx i, where v = (v 1, v 2, v 3 = f is the gradient. 1 This is true up to cohomology. So it s precisely true if we re working on R n, or on any other space that s contractable to a point. 2

3 So vectors can be turned into one-forms. Now take v to be any one-form, and you get dv = v i dx j dx i x j ( v3 = v ( 2 v1 d dx 3 + v ( 3 v2 dx 3 d + v 1 d d x 3 x 3 = w 1 d dx 3 + w 2 dx 3 d + w 3 d d w (9 where w = (w 1, w 2, w 3 = v. Observe that if v = f, then w = v = 0. And recall that if a vector field has no curl, then it s the gradient of some function: that s why we can write E = Φ in electrostatics. These statements are special cases of d 2 = 0 and the deeper theorem that if dµ = 0 then µ = dω for some ω. An important point is that a vector w is naturally associated to a 2-form, in the way we wrote in (9. This is a special property of three dimensions: in n dimensions, a vector would be naturally associated to either a 1-form or a (n 1-form. Continuing on, let s consider any w and the associated 2-form w. Differentiating once more gives ( w1 dw = + w 2 + w 3 d d dx 3 = ( wd d dx 3. (10 x 3 Obviously, if w = dv, then dw = 0. This is precisely the statement that the curl of a vector field has no divergence. And recall also that if a vector field is divergencefree, then it s the curl of something: that s why we can always write B = A in electromagnetism. Again, these statements are special cases of d 2 = 0 and dµ = 0 µ = dω. We can pursue our vector calculus examples further to get a couple of special cases of Stokes Theorem. For instance, if we have a vector field w on R 3, then we know how to integrate its divergence over a simply connected region (simply connected just means, no holes: w d 3 x = ˆn w g d 2 ξ, (11 where ˆn is the outward-pointing unit vector normal to the boundary. This is sometimes called Gauss s Theorem. Saying that ˆn points outward amounts to specifying the orientation of. In (11, g d 2 ξ is by definition the area element on. So if were a ball, and we used angular coordinates, then g d 2 ξ = sin θdθdφ. I ve slipped in the g because something has to tell you that there s a non-trivial measure on the surface. A more concise way to phrase (11, which avoids needing to discuss complicated things like measures, is just dw = w. (12 3

4 The left side hardly needs explaining: we just plug in (10 for dw. On the right hand side, to integrate over, we require a map (ξ 1, ξ 2 (,, x 3, and then we use the definition (7. For the case where is a unit ball, we could take (ξ 1, ξ 2 = (θ, φ, and x = (r sin θ cos φ, r sin θ sin φ, r cos θ. With some work, you can show that the right hand side of (12 is the same as our previous expression in (11. 2 Another example, in two dimensions, is Green s theorem: if we have a vector field v = (v x, v y, and a simply connected region, then ( vy x v x = v d y l = (v x dx + v y dy, (13 where we traverse counterclockwise (this is the specification of orientation. You should be able to convince yourself in short order that this can be concisely rephrased as dv = v, where the right hand side is defined via a map that circles around counterclockwise as ξ ranges from 0 to 1. We could give a similar treatment of the classic statement of Stokes Theorem (really another small special case of (8 relating with a line integral over the boundary of a curved surface in three dimensions... but hopefully the basic ideas are by now obvious. 3 artial derivatives and forms An important aspect of differential forms is their relation to partial derivatives. Suppose we have different ways of coordinatizing the same space: say (, and (, y 2. If you like, the x coordinates could be Cartesian coordinates on R 2 while the y coordinates are polar coordinates. But this is only an example. Another example is for the x coordinates to be q and p for a classical system with one degree of freedom, while the y coordinates are some other Q and related by a canonical transformation. What we want in general is for there to be a smooth 1-1 map from the x coordinates to the y coordinates. In generic situations (that is, barring some accident like = y 2, we can choose any two of the four variables (,,, y 2 to parametrize R 2. So if we start with a function f(,, we could write it instead as a function of and y 2, or and y 2, or whatever we please. With this in mind, we should write partial derivatives of f like this: df = d + d, (14 2 The best way to go about this is to say (ξ 0, ξ 1, ξ 2 = (r, θ, φ, and then show (,, x 3 / (ξ 0, ξ 1, ξ 2 = r 2 sin θ. Now the result should be obvious at least for w = f(r sin θdθ dφ, which corresponds to w pointing in the radial direction. 4

5 where the ( u notation means that u is held fixed. But it seems we could as well have written ( ( f f df = d + dy 2. (15 y 2 y 2 Equating these two reproduces the well-known multi-variable chain rule: ( ( ( f/ y1 x1 / y = 1 / f/ x1, (16 f/ y 2 / y 2 / y 2 f/ where now to avoid clutter I just leave it implicit that the partials on the left hand side hold either or y 2 fixed, whereas the ones on the right hand side hold either or fixed. A less obvious application of forms is to prove the relation To prove this, we can set d = = ( y1 d + solve for d, and plug back into (14 to get df = [ ( y1 ( / x2 ( / x1 ( / x2 (17 ( / x1 ] d = 0, (18 d with d = 0. (19 Now dividing by d gives (17. That wasn t quite rigorous, since I switched from regarding df and d as one-forms to regarding them as infinitesimals. A more rigorous method would be to equate (14 to df = d + ( f d (20 and then set d = 0, using (18. A special case of (17 is to set f = ; then we obtain ( x2 = ( y ( 1/ x2 x2 = ( / x1 lugging back into (17, we obtain the simpler identity = + ( y1 ( x2. (21 (22 5

6 4 Applications to physics The relations (21 and (22 are quite useful in thermodynamics. For instance, we could them to relate specific heats at fixed volume versus fixed pressure: ( ( ( ( S S S V C = T = T + T T T V T V T ( ( ( V = C V + T = C V T T T V V T ( V T In the third equality we used a axwell relation, ( S/ V T = ( / T V, which follows from the fact that both sides can be expressed as 2 F/ V T, where F = F (V, ( T is the Helmholtz free energy. Defining the isothermal compressibility, K T = 1 V (, V T and the expansion coefficient β 0 = 1 V, we find (c.f. andl, p. 123ff V T 2. (23 C C V = T V β 2 0/K T, (24 which has been called the most beautiful relation in thermodynamics (I think because it s hard to remember how to derive it. The crucial step in the derivation is the second equality in (23, which came from parametrizing the possible equilibrium states of the system either by (V, T (the canonical ensemble or by (, T (which we might call the Gibbs ensemble since it s associated with the Gibbs free energy but don t get confused between this and the grand canonical ensemble, where particle number fluctuates. Specializing to an ideal gas, we have V = NkT, and (24 becomes which you probably learned in high school. applies most directly to C V. C = C V + Nk, (25 Incidentally, the equipartition theorem After all this, hopefully the exposition of canonical transformations given in class makes better sense. It s worth making a few additional comments. The oisson bracket structure is equivalent in information content to specifying a so-called symplectic form on phase space: N ω = dq k dp k. (26 k=1 Canonical transformations by definition preserve the symplectic form: that is, if the canonically transformed coordinates are Q k and k, then N ω = dq k d k (27 k=1 6

7 is the same form as we had in (26. Once we realize that Hamiltonian flow generates canonical transformations, we can give an intuitive proof of Liouville s Theorem in just a few lines. Observe that vol = 1 N! N times {}}{ ω... ω = ± dq 1... dq N dp 1... dp N. (28 Ignoring the sign (which only depends on N, we see that vol is precisely the volume element on phase space. It is preserved by Hamiltonian flow because ω is. This is the essential content of Liouville s Theorem: phase space volume is invariant. Differential forms give a very natural formulation of electromagnetism. In R 3,1 (inkowski space, suppose we construct F = dt (E x dx + E y dy + E z dz B x dy dz B y dz dx B z dx dy F = dt (B x dx + B y dy + B z dz + E x dy dz + E y dz dx + E z dx dy J = ρdx dy dz dt (J x dy dz + J y dz dx + J z dx dy A = Φdt A x dx A y dy A z dz. (29 Here E and B are the electric and magnetic fields; ρ and J are charge and current density; and Φ and A are the electrostatic potential and vector potential. F is called the field strength tensor; F is its Hodge dual; and A is called the gauge potential. It s straightforward to verify that the basic equations of electromagnetism (in conventions where c = 1 c.f. Jackson p. 548ff, can be rephrased as E = 4πρ B = 0 E = Φ A t ρ t + J = 0, df = 0 E + B t = 0 B E t = 4π J B = A d F = 4πJ F = da dj = 0. Note that the second line is entirely a consequence of the first, given d 2 = 0 and dµ = 0 µ = dω. Incidentally, it s also obvious now that sending A A + dλ, for any function λ(t, x, doesn t change F at all. This is a gauge transformation. (30 (31 7

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