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Some intuition for the use of metric tensors to raise and lower indices

Dr. Christian Salas November 15, 2009

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Introduction

In this note I try to provide some intuition for the properties of tensors and in particular why the metric tensor can be used to raise and lower indices when applied to other tensors.

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Definition of tensors in terms of vectors

It is helpful to think of all tensors as being composed of contravariant and/or covariant vectors. A contravariant vector Ak defined with regard to a system ¯k defined with of coordinates {xk } is one which is transformed into a vector A regard to a system of coordinates {z k } by the transformation law
k ¯k = ∂z Am A ∂xm

(k, m = 1, . . . , N )

(1)

Contravariant vectors are always identified by a single upper index. In con¯k by trast, a covariant vector Bk is one which is transformed into a vector B the transformation law
m ¯k = ∂x Bm B ∂z k

(k, m = 1, . . . , N )

(2)

Covariant vectors are always identified with a single lower index. We can now define all types of tensors in terms of these two vectors. For example, a second-order contravariant tensor T uv with respect to the coordinate system {xk } can be defined as T uv = Au B v 1 (u, v = 1, . . . , N ) (3)

x2 . . 2. . N ) (10) (11) 2 . a third-order mixed tensor with two contravariant components and one covariant component can be defined as uv Tw = Au B v C w (u. . . 3 The metric tensor ds2 = (dy 1 )2 + (dy 2 )2 + · · · + (dy N )2 = δjk dy j dy k (9) The metric of the usual Euclidean metric space can be written as If instead of the Descartes orthogonal coordinates {y k } we introduce the arbitrary generalised coordinates {xk } by means of the equations y k = y k (x1 . N ) (7) Using (1) and (2) we see that it transforms according to the law u v p v p u uv ¯w ¯u B ¯vC ¯w = ∂z ∂z ∂x Am B n Cp = ∂z ∂z ∂x T mn T =A ∂xm ∂xn ∂z w ∂xm ∂xn ∂z w p (8) In the same way. . v. w = 1.This can be thought of as the N 2 matrix T = A ⊗ B. N ) (5) and using (2) we see that it transforms into a second-order covariant tensor ¯uv with respect to the coordinate system {z k } according to the law T m m n n ¯uv = A ¯u B ¯v = ∂x ∂x Am Bn = ∂x ∂x Tmn T ∂z u ∂z v ∂z u ∂z v (6) We can define tensors of any other order and type by adding vector factors. xN ) then we can write ∂y k 1 ∂y k 2 ∂y k N ∂y k m dx + 2 dx + · · · + N dx = dx dy = ∂x1 ∂x ∂x ∂xm k (k = 1. . Using (1) we see that ¯uv with respect T uv is transformed into a second-order contravariant tensor T to the coordinate system {z k } by the transformation law v v u u ¯uv = A ¯u B ¯ v = ∂z ∂z Am B n = ∂z ∂z T mn T ∂xm ∂xn ∂xm ∂xn (4) Similarly. v = 1. . . . . we can define a second-order covariant tensor Tuv with respect to the coordinate system {xk } as Tuv = Au Bv (u. we can define tensors of arbitrary order and type. . . . . For example. . .

. . dxN      ∂y N ∂y N ∂xN ∂x1 ∂y N ∂y N ∂xN ∂x2 ∂y N ∂y N ∂xN ∂xN  = dx1 dx2 · · · dxN     N i=1 N i=1 . ∂y i ∂xN ∂y i ∂xN      dx1 dx2 . . . . . ··· ∂y 1 ∂x1 ∂y 1 ∂x2 . ∂y N ∂x2 ∂y N ∂x2 ··· ··· . . . . . . . . . ··· ∂y 2 ∂x1 ∂y 2 ∂x2 . . . . . . . ∂y N ∂xN ∂y N ∂xN      dx1 dx2 . ··· N i=1 N i=1 ∂y i ∂x1 ∂y i ∂x2 . . . ··· ∂y N ∂x1 ∂y N ∂x2 . 2. . . . . . . . ∂y 1 ∂x1 ∂y 1 ∂x1 ∂y 1 ∂x1 ∂y 1 ∂x2 . . dxN      ∂y 2 ∂y 2 ∂xN ∂x1 ∂y 2 ∂y 2 ∂xN ∂x2 ∂y 2 ∂y 2 ∂xN ∂xN  + · · ·+ dx1 dx2 · · · dxN     ∂y N ∂x1 ∂y N ∂x2 . . . ∂y i ∂x1 ∂y i ∂x2 ∂y i ∂x1 ∂y i ∂x1 N i=1 N i=1 . ∂y 2 ∂x2 ∂y 2 ∂x2 ··· ··· . ∂y i ∂x1 ∂y i ∂x2 ∂y i ∂x2 ∂y i ∂x2 ··· ··· . . ∂y 2 ∂x1 ∂y 2 ∂x1 ∂y 2 ∂x1 ∂y 2 ∂x2 . dxN      ∂y 1 ∂y 1 ∂xN ∂x1 ∂y 1 ∂y 1 ∂xN ∂x2 ∂y 1 ∂y 1 ∂xN ∂xN  + dx 1 dx 2 ··· dx N     ∂y 2 ∂x1 ∂y 2 ∂x2 . . .for k = 1. dxN      N ∂y i ∂y i i=1 ∂xN ∂x1 N ∂y i ∂y i i=1 ∂xN ∂x2 N ∂y i ∂y i i=1 ∂xN ∂xN This can be written more compactly in tensor notation as ds2 = gmn dxm dxn 3 (12) . . and the metric form can be written as ds2 = ∂y 1 1 ∂y 1 2 ∂y 1 N dx + dx + · · · + dx ∂x1 ∂x2 ∂xN 2 + ∂y 2 1 ∂y 2 2 ∂y 2 N dx + dx + · · · + dx ∂x1 ∂x2 ∂xN 2 2 ∂y N 1 ∂y N 2 ∂y N N + ··· + dx + dx + · · · + N dx ∂x1 ∂x2 ∂x  = dx1 dx2 · · · dxN     ∂y 1 ∂x1 ∂y 1 ∂x2 . . ∂y 1 ∂xN ∂y 1 ∂xN      dx1 dx2 . . ∂y 1 ∂x2 ∂y 1 ∂x2 ··· ··· . . . N . . . ∂y N ∂x1 ∂y N ∂x1 ∂y N ∂x1 ∂y N ∂x2 . . . ∂y 2 ∂xN ∂y 2 ∂xN      dx1 dx2 .

. gmn = δjk N ∂y i ∂y i i=1 ∂xN ∂x1 N ∂y i ∂y i i=1 ∂xN ∂x2 ··· N ∂y i ∂y i i=1 ∂xN ∂xN 4 Raising and lowering indices gmn An = Am (15) Premultiplying a contravariant vector by gmn lowers the index i. Now. 0 4 0 ··· 0 0 . . . . . . .e. we have g mn An = Am (17) To get an intuitive feeling for why this is so.  0 0 · · · gN N Then the contravariant metric tensor is simply  1 0 ··· g11 1  0 ···  g22 mn −1 [g ] = [gmn ] =  . the inverse of the (covariant) metric tensor gmn gives the contravariant metric tensor g mn . . . . . . . . . (18)  . . . .  . . .  . .   g11 0 · · · 0  0 g22 · · · 0    [gmn ] =  . . This has the effect of raising the index on a covariant vector i.e. .where ∂y j ∂y k (13) ∂xm ∂xn The symmetric second-order system gmn is a covariant second-order tensor called the metric tensor. the full matrix form of gmn is  N ∂y i ∂y i N ∂y i ∂y i  N ∂y i ∂y i · · · 1 1 1 2 i=1 ∂x ∂x i=1 ∂x1 ∂xN i=1 ∂x ∂x N ∂y i ∂y i N ∂y i ∂y i N ∂y i ∂y i   ···  i=1 ∂x2 ∂x1 i=1 ∂x2 ∂x2 i=1 ∂x2 ∂xN  [gmn ] =  (14)  .e. . As can be seen from the calculations above. suppose we are dealing with an orthogonal system so that gmn is diagonal i. .   . . . 1 gN N      (19) . we have We can see that this is so by writing gmn An = δjk ∂y j ¯k ∂y k ¯k ∂y j ∂y k n A = δ A = A = Am jk ∂xm ∂xn ∂xm ∂xm (16) (by the transformation law for covariant vectors). .

A typical non-zero element is g so we have g mm Am = mm = 1 gmm ∂xm ∂xm = ∂y j ∂y j (20) ∂xm ∂xm ∂xm ¯ A = Aj = Am m ∂y j ∂y j ∂y j (21) (by the transformation law for contravariant vectors). Now. we can apply this raising and lowering of indices technique to tensors by remembering the definition of tensors in terms of contravariant and covariant vectors. (END OF NOTE) 5 . For example. we can write uv g mk Tk = T uvm (22) because uv g mk Tk = Au B v g mk Ck = Au B v C m = T uvm (23) The same applies to tensors of arbitrary order and type.