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This is a note on three of the basic derivatives involved in the study of differential geometry that every beginner must learn to use: Covariant, Exterior and Lie derivative. It has been written in enough detail specifically for the novice.

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S.N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences

JD Block, Sector-3, Salt Lake, Calcutta-700098, INDIA.

September 10, 2014

1 Introduction : the basis / unit vectors

When we describe any point on a manifold, it is given in terms of co-ordinates, which are an array

of numbers. Each number describes the distance from a chosen origin along each of the independent

directions accross the dimensionality. So before being able to write the co-ordinates, we need to list

the various directions that span the manifold and their algebra. These independent direction labels

are known as unit vectors.

Since these unit vectors may vary accross the manifold (imagine the NS, EW and up-down

direction axes that you would point out at dierent locations on the manifold that is the earths

surface), they cannot be globally described. Thus, we will employ only local descriptions as tangent

unit vectors. Consequently all vectors are locally described tangent vectors.

We are familiar with the unit vector multiplication algebra:

e

i

.e

j

=

ij

where e

i

are the unit vectors used to describe vectors in the following manner:

v =

n

i=1

v

i

.e

i

However, the inner products with vectors such as those described above must be invariant under

dieomorphic basis transformation. They should also obey all the laws of vectors, even ones on

curved spaces. The second requirement can be fullled by picturing the curved vector space as

a patch-work of open at vector sub-spaces, each of which is labelled by a point at which it is

described. These open vector sub-spaces are known as tangent spaces T

p

M.

The current format still does not serve our purpose, so we need a better description of unit

vector bases. To this end, at a point p, we dene a dual tangent space T

p

M on which we dene

a dual basis that undergoes an inverse dieomorphic transformation. This dual tangent space is

called a co-tangent space.

There is another important point to note. Beginners will remember from basic geometry, that

a tangent is a straight line passing through a point on an arc, touching it only once. Thus, just as

the name implies, the tangent space hints at the idea of a locally at neighbourhood that can be

constructed about every point on a manifold that acts as a vector space.

1

1 INTRODUCTION : THE BASIS / UNIT VECTORS

We can see how such a description is more convenient for representing invariant inner products:

u

i

v

i

= u

_

x

i

x

x

i

_

v

= u

= u

p

M and cotangent space T

p

M can respectively be written as:

V = V

E

T

p

M v = v

p

M (1.1)

An alternative representation

the unit vector eld basis E

p

M can be written as:

E

(1.2)

This representation can be understood since we know that:

r =

r

x

=

x

r

E

r

2

=

_

x

_

2

Now, consequently any vectors on the co-tangent space will have a representation following a

similar principle. Since the opposite of dierentiation is integration, we can say:

e

=

_

_

1

_

dx

dx

(1.3)

where integration in the immediate locality can be interpreted as the rst term of the series

_

dx

i

_

dx

_

i

,

_

ie.:-

_ _

dx

_

loc

= dx

_

. This representation is understood in the sense that:

_

dx

r

dx

r

_

x

r

_

loc

= e

It essentially means that we can represent the basis and co-basis in terms of dierential and

integral operator bases. Their actions upon each other can be seen as:

dx

_

dx

dx

_

dx

We also must note a structure equation property of the inverse vierbeins, that is dependent on

the curvature of the manifold in question:

_

E

, E

= f

= f

because on curved manifolds, we have:

_

=

_

. .

0

at manifold

0

In any case, we will represent a vector in tangent space bases and 1-forms in co-tangent space

bases as described in (1.1). This concludes our introduction to the concept of bases and tangent

spaces. We will now look at the various kinds of derivatives one will encounter and need to deal

with in dierential geometry and gereral relativity.

2

2 DERIVATIVES IN DIFFERENTIAL GEOMETRY

2 Derivatives in dierential geometry

One will encounter the necessity and usage of various kinds of derivatives in the study of dierential

geometry. They are listed as shown below:

1. Covariant derivative

2. Exterior derivative

3. Lie derivative

Sometimes one can even form combinations out of these, such as the covariant-exterior derivative,

covariant Lie derivative, etc. But for now, we will take a closer look at the detailed nature of the

above three derivatives.

2.1 Covariant derivative

As you know from school, a vector can be expressed in terms of the components in a particular

basis. This representation is equivalent in all bases, seen as:

V = V

E

=

V

i

E

i

(2.1)

The derivative of this vector can therefore be written as:

V =

_

V

E

_

=

_

V

_

E

+ V

_

E

_

(2.2)

For familiarity, we take a slight detour through the study of dynamics in rotating frame of

reference. Here, we consider not just the variation of the component magnitudes, but also variation

of the bases. First we set a few denitions and rules in this case:

Dv

Dt

:=

Dv

i

Dt

E

i

=

d

dt

(v

i

E

i

),

dv

dt

:=

dv

i

dt

E

i

,

v

x

j

:=

v

i

x

j

E

i

(2.3)

E

i

E

j

=

ij

k

E

k

A

E

j

= A

i

E

i

E

j

=

ij

k

A

i

E

k

(2.4)

The time derivative of the basis vector under pure rotation can be written as:

d

E

i

dt

=

d

dt

E

i

=

E

i

(2.5)

Thus, the overall covariant time-derivative gives:

Dv

Dt

=

dv

i

dt

E

i

+ v

i

d

E

i

dt

=

dv

dt

d

dt

E

i

v

i

Dv

Dt

=

dv

dt

d

dt

v

Dv

Dx

j

=

v

x

j

x

j

v =

_

v

i

x

j

+

_

i

mk

m

x

j

_

v

k

_

E

i

here, we can say that

i

jk

=

i

mk

m

x

j

=

i

km

m

x

j

.

3

2 DERIVATIVES IN DIFFERENTIAL GEOMETRY

(2.5)

j

E

i

=

i

km

m

x

j

E

i

=

i

jk

E

i

(2.6)

and

Dv

Dx

j

=

v

x

j

x

j

v =

v

i

x

j

+

i

jk

v

k

(2.7)

A special note to make here is that when taking the covariant derivative of the co-ordinate

itself, we must remember that the basis {E

i

} we are using is dened at the origin of the manifold

for our reference, and not the center of the chosen locality tangent space. Consequently, this basis

is constant, meaning that the covariant derivative of the co-ordinate is:

x = x

i

_

E

i

_

0

Dx

Dx

j

=

x

i

x

j

_

E

i

_

0

Dx

i

Dx

j

=

x

i

x

j

=

i

j

This is why we write the velocity components as v

i

=

dx

i

dt

and not as:

v

i

=

Dx

i

Dt

=

dx

i

dt

+

i

jk

x

j

dx

k

dt

So far, we only considered rotational basis transformation. But for curved manifolds in general,

the time derivative of the basis vectors locally is not just a result of rotation, but scaling as well.

Simply put, we expect to throw every ingredient into the broth:

d

E

i

dt

=

_

v.(x)

_

E

i

+ (x)

E

i

i

jk

=

j

(x)

i

k

+ (x)

i

km

m

x

j

(2.8)

We remember that the connection co-ecient / christoel symbol is dened as:

_

E

_

=

(2.9)

Giving the covariant derivative from (2.2) as:

V =

_

V

_

E

+ V

V

_

E

=

_

V

+

V

_

E

(2.10)

4

2 DERIVATIVES IN DIFFERENTIAL GEOMETRY

2.2 Exterior derivative

We start by looking at the exterior derivative of a 1-form, described by:

1

= (

1

dx

) = (

1

)dx

+

1

(dx

)

=

dx

+

1

d(x

)

. .

[ (dx

) = d(x

)]

..

d(

1

) d(

1

)x

dx

dx

+ d(

1

)

=

_

x

dx

dx

_

+ d(

1

)

The rule followed here is that the derivative performed later must appear to the left in the tensor

product series, ie.:- always appears left of d. Writing in a more familiar form, we see that:

dx

= x

dx

dx

d

2

x

d

1

x

1

= (

1

dx

) =

_

x

dx

dx

_

+ d(

1

)

Writing as integrals between limits, we can say:

__

2

1

dx

_

=

_

2

1

_

b

a

_

x

dx

dx

_

. .

d

1

+ d

__

b

a

_

(2.11)

_

V

_

x

dx

dx

_

. .

d

1

+

_

V

(2.12)

=

_

V

d

1

+

_

V

(2.13)

where V spans the region d and V is the boundary of V spanning . We can also see Stokes

Theorem hidden within (2.11) upon swapping the indices for the 2nd term of d

1

:

__

2

1

dx

_

=

_

2

1

_

b

a

_

_

x

dx

. .

d

1

+d

__

b

a

_

(2.14)

Henceforth, writing x

dx

following equivalent forms:

d

1

=

dx

dx

(2.15)

=

1

2

_

_

dx

dx

(2.16)

=

_

_

x

dx

(2.17)

5

2 DERIVATIVES IN DIFFERENTIAL GEOMETRY

Thus, the exterior derivative of an n-form can be written as:

d

n

=

1

n!

1

1...n

_

dx

i=1

dx

i

_

=

1

(n + 1)!

1

1...n]

_

dx

i=1

dx

i

_

(2.18)

d

n

=

1

n!

1

1...n

_

dx

i=1

dx

i

_

(2.19)

2.2.1 For at spaces

Now, we consider the 2nd order exterior derivative of an n-form

n

, we can write using (2.19) :

d

2

n

= d(d

n

) = dx

{dx

n

}

= dx

dx

n

=

1

2

_

(dx

dx

n

+ (dx

dx

n

_

=

1

2

(dx

dx

)

_

n

= 0

d

2

n

= 0 (2.20)

This is due to the property

the derivative operators commute as partial derivatives. It will also be valid on curved spaces where

we employ covariant derivatives as we shall see.

2.2.2 For curved spaces

In the case of curved spaces we use covariant derivatives, where

a

b

=

b

a

. However, we are

not just talking about the commuting property of the concerned derivative operators, but about the

resulting n + 2 forms. For this purpose, we must remember that for n-forms, the following holds:

n

=

n

2

....n

n

i=1

dx

i

=

n

a

1

a

2

....an

n

i=1

dy

a

i

(2.21)

where,

n

a

1

a

2

....an

is the equivalent at-space counterpart of

n

2

....n

, related via dieomorphism.

Thus, we can apply (2.21) for exterior derivatives too since they are also symplectic forms. ie.:-

D

n

= d

n

D

2

n

= d

2

n

= 0 (2.22)

This will eventually allow us to establish the Bianchi identity on curved spaces. The Darboux

Theorem states that at least locally such dieomorphic transformations are possible.

6

2 DERIVATIVES IN DIFFERENTIAL GEOMETRY

2.3 Lie derivative

We have so far considered the exterior derivative of a n-form. Now we will consider the exterior

derivative of a vector eld form wrt another vector eld. We start by looking at the exterior

derivative of a vector eld V along another vector eld U.

V = (V

) = (V

)

+ V

(

)

=

V

x

+ V

x

V

x

+ V

x

where we have used the commutative property of partial derivatives, applicable also as the struc-

ture equation for inverse vierbein elds in at space [E

, E

] = 0 mentioned in (1.4).

Now, we perform an interior product with the vector eld U.

U

V =

U

_

V

x

+ V

x

_

= U

+ V

_

= U

+ U

. .

..

V

_

U

_

V

U

V =

_

U

V

V

+ V

_

U

_

= L

U

V +

V

U

Thus, we have the Lie derivative of V wrt to U given by:

L

U

V =

_

U

V

V

(2.23)

For n-vector forms, such as W = W

{

i

}

_

n

i=1

i

, the Lie derivative is:

L

U

W = U

W

{

i

}

n

i=1

i

+

n

j=1

(1)

j

W

{

i

}

i=j

i=j=1

i

(2.24)

In the case of 1-forms, we have:

V

1

=

V

_

d

1

+ d

_

__

=

V

d

1

+ d

_

V

1

_

d(

V

)

1

=

_

V

d

1

+ d

V

1

_

(V

)

1

dx

L

V

1

=

V

d

1

+ d

V

1

(2.25)

7

2 DERIVATIVES IN DIFFERENTIAL GEOMETRY

This can be expanded to the case of n-forms, where similar to before, we have:

V

n

=

V

_

d

n

+ d

_

1

n!

n

[

1

{

j

}]

x

dx

j

__

=

V

d

n

+ d

_

1

n!

V

n

[

1

{

j

}]

x

dx

j

_

d(

V

)

1

n!

n

[

1

{

j

}]

x

dx

j

=

_

V

d

n

+ d

V

n

_

(V

1

)

1

n!

n

[

1

{

j

}]

dx

dx

j

Thus, the Lie derivative for n-forms is:

L

V

n

=

V

d

n

+ d

V

n

(2.26)

8

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