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Introduction to Mathematics of General Relativity

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Introduction to mathematics of general relativity 1

An understanding of calculus and differential equations is necessary for the understanding of nonrelativistic physics.

In order to understand special relativity one also needs an understanding of tensor calculus. To understand the

general theory of relativity, one needs a basic introduction to the mathematics of curved spacetime that includes

a treatment of curvilinear coordinates, nontensors, curved space, parallel transport, Christoffel symbols, geodesics,

covariant differentiation, the curvature tensor, Bianchi identity, and the Ricci tensor. This article follows the basic

treatment in the lecture series on the topic, intended for advanced undergraduates, given by Paul Dirac at Florida

State University. (Dirac 1996)

All the mathematics discussed in this article were known before Einstein's general theory of relativity.

For an introduction based on the specific physical example of particles orbiting a large mass in circular orbits, see

Newtonian motivations for general relativity for a nonrelativistic treatment and Theoretical motivation for general

relativity for a fully relativistic treatment.

Vectors

Spacetime physics requires four coordinates for the description of a point in spacetime:

A point very close to our original point is

.

The square of the distance, or interval, between the two points is

and is invariant under coordinate transformations. Here we are using the Minkowski metric.

Coordinate transformations

Transformation of dx

If one defines a new coordinate system such that

then

where repeated indices are summed according to the Einstein summation convention.

The comma in the subscript of the last term indicates differentiation.

Introduction to mathematics of general relativity 2

The gradient of a scalar quantity transforms as

Contravariant vectors

Quantities that transform in the same way as under a change of coordinates,

,

form a contravariant vector. The squared length of the vector is the invariant quantity

.

The term on the left is the notation for the inner product of A with itself.

Covariant vectors

A covariant vector is defined as

.

It transforms the same way as the gradient of a scalar:

.

Inner product

The inner product of two vectors is written

.

This quantity is also invariant under coordinate transformations.

Tensors

Definition

A rank-2 (or "order" 2) contravariant tensor can be constructed from the outer product of vectors as

.

Contravariant tensor

The components of a rank 2 contravariant tensor transform in the same way as the quantities ,

Higher rank tensors are constructed similarly as are covariant and mixed tensors. For a rank 2 covariant tensor, the

transformation is

.

Introduction to mathematics of general relativity 3

Oblique axes

An oblique coordinate system is one in which the axis are not necessarily orthogonal to each other. For oblique axes,

the interval is

where the coefficients , called the metric tensor depend on the system of oblique axes.

The determinant of is denoted and is always negative for any real coordinate axis.

Inner product

The inner product of any two vectors

is invariant.

Covariant tensors can be converted to and from contravariant tensors by

and

and

Nontensors

A nontensor is a tensor-like quantity that behaves like a tensor in the raising and lowering of indices,

and

,

but that does not transform like a tensor under a coordinate transformation.

Curvilinear coordinates are coordinates in which the angles between axes can change from point-to-point. In other

words, the metric tensor in curvilinear coordinates is no longer a constant, but depends upon the spacetime

location of the metric tensor. The metric tensor is therefore a field quantity.

Like the surface of a ball embedded in three-dimensional space, we can imagine four-dimensional spacetime as

embedded in a flat space of a higher dimension. The coordinates on the surface of the ball are curvilinear, while the

coordinates in three-dimensional space can be rectilinear. While the coordinates of four-dimensional, curved

spacetime are curvilinear; the coordinates of four-dimensional spacetime are embedded in a larger, N-dimensional

Introduction to mathematics of general relativity 4

Parallel transport

space

spacetime is embedded in a larger N

dimensional flat space. Any true

physical vector lies entirely in the

curved physical space. In other words,

the vector is tangent to the curved

physical spacetime. It has no

component normal to the

four-dimensional, curved spacetime.

two dimensions. The circle of radius r is embedded in a two-dimensional space

characterized by the coordinates z^1 and z^2. The circle itself is characterized by

coordinates y^1 and y^2 in the two dimensional space. The circle itself is

one-dimensional and can be characterized by its arc length x. The coordinate y is related

to the coordinate x through the relation y^1 = r \cos( x / r) and y^2 = r \sin( x / r) . This

gives \partial y^1 / \partial x = - \sin( x / r) and \partial y^2 / \partial x = \cos( x / r) . In

this case the metric is a scalar and is given by g = \cos^2( x / r) + \sin^2(x/r) = 1 . The

interval is then ds^2 = g dx^2 = dx^2 . The interval is just equal to the arc length as

expected.

In the N dimensional flat space with coordinates the interval between neighboring points

is

where is the metric for the flat space. We do not assume the coordinates are orthogonal, only rectilinear. ---

The difference in for two neighboring points in the surface differing by is

where

where

Introduction to mathematics of general relativity 5

A contravariant vector at a point x in physical spacetime is related to the same contravariant vector at the same point

in N-dimensional space by the relation

Now shift the vector to the point keeping it parallel to itself. In other words, we hold the

components of the vector constant during the shift. The vector no longer lies in the surface because of curvature of

the surface.

The shifted vector can be split into two parts, one tangent to the surface and one normal to surface, as

.

Let be the components of in the x coordinate system. This transformation is given by:

.

The normal vector is normal to every vector in the surface including the unit vectors that define the

components of . Therefore

.

This allows us to write

or

where

is a nontensor called the Christoffel symbol of the first kind. It can be shown to be related to the metric tensor

through the relation

Since the Christoffel symbol can be written entirely in terms of the metric in physical spacetime, all reference to the

N-dimensional space has disappeared.

The Christoffel symbol of the second kind is defined as

.

This operation is allowed for nontensors.

This allows us to write

and

.

The minus sign in the second expression can be seen from the invariance of an inner product of two vectors

.

Introduction to mathematics of general relativity 6

From Dirac:

The constancy of the length of the vector follows from geometrical arguments. When we split up the

vector into tangential and normal parts ... the normal part is infinitesimal and is orthogonal to the

tangential part. It follows that, to the first order, the length of the whole vector equals that of its

tangential part.

The partial derivative of a vector with respect to a spacetime coordinate is composed of two parts, the normal partial

derivative minus the change in the vector due to parallel transport

It is relatively easy to prove that the metric tensor is covariantly constant, i.e. for any choice of

.

The covariant derivative of a product is

that is, the covariant derivative satisfies the product rule (due to Gottfried Leibniz).

Geodesics

Suppose we have a point that moves along a track in physical spacetime. Suppose the track is parameterized with

the quantity . The "velocity" vector that points in the direction of motion in spacetime is

The variation of the velocity upon parallel displacement along the track is then

If there are no "forces" acting on the point, then the velocity is unchanged along the track and we have

Curvature tensor

Definition

The curvature K of a surface is simply the angle through which a vector is turned as we take it around an

infinitesimal closed path. For a two dimensional Euclidean surface we have

.

For a triangle on a spherical surface the angle is the excess (over 180 degrees) of the sum of the angles of the

triangle. For a spherical surface of radius r, the curvature is

where is an arbitrary vector transported around a closed loop of area along the and directions.

This expression can be reduced to the commutation relation

Introduction to mathematics of general relativity 7

where

.

In flat spacetime, the derivatives commute and the curvature is zero.

The curvature tensor is antisymmetric in the last two indices

.

Also

and

.

A consequence of the symmetries is that the curvature tensor has only 20 independent components.

Bianchi identity

The following differential relation, known as the Bianchi identity is true.

The Ricci tensor is defined as the contraction

.

A second contraction yields the scalar curvature

.

It can be shown that consequence of the Bianchi identity is

.

See also

• Differentiable manifold

• Christoffel symbol

• Riemannian geometry

• Differential geometry and topology

• List of differential geometry topics

• General Relativity

• Gauge gravitation theory

Introduction to mathematics of general relativity 8

References

• P. A. M. Dirac (1996). General Theory of Relativity. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01146-X.

• Misner, Charles; Thorne, Kip S. & Wheeler, John Archibald (1973). Gravitation. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.

ISBN 0-7167-0344-0.

• Landau, L. D. and Lifshitz, E. M. (1975). Classical Theory of Fields (Fourth Revised English Edition). Oxford:

Pergamon. ISBN 0-08-018176-7.

• R. P. Feynman, F. B. Moringo, and W. G. Wagner (1995). Feynman Lectures on Gravitation. Addison-Wesley.

ISBN 0-201-62734-5.

• Einstein, A. (1961). Relativity: The Special and General Theory. New York: Crown. ISBN 0-517-02961-8.

Article Sources and Contributors 9

Introduction to mathematics of general relativity Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?oldid=379861850 Contributors: 16@r, Alem Dain, BenFrantzDale, Benhocking, Brews ohare,

Butwhatdoiknow, Carcharoth, Carlog3, Complexica, ConfuciusOrnis, DAGwyn, DGG, Everton137, Filll, Giftlite, Hairy Dude, JRSpriggs, Juan Marquez, Ks.kishan, Loom91, Numericana,

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