Quantcast
  • Register
PhysicsOverflow is a next-generation academic platform for physicists and astronomers, including a community peer review system and a postgraduate-level discussion forum analogous to MathOverflow.

Welcome to PhysicsOverflow! PhysicsOverflow is an open platform for community peer review and graduate-level Physics discussion.

Please help promote PhysicsOverflow ads elsewhere if you like it.

News

New printer friendly PO pages!

Migration to Bielefeld University was successful!

Please vote for this year's PhysicsOverflow ads!

Please do help out in categorising submissions. Submit a paper to PhysicsOverflow!

... see more

Tools for paper authors

Submit paper
Claim Paper Authorship

Tools for SE users

Search User
Reclaim SE Account
Request Account Merger
Nativise imported posts
Claim post (deleted users)
Import SE post

Users whose questions have been imported from Physics Stack Exchange, Theoretical Physics Stack Exchange, or any other Stack Exchange site are kindly requested to reclaim their account and not to register as a new user.

Public \(\beta\) tools

Report a bug with a feature
Request a new functionality
404 page design
Send feedback

Attributions

(propose a free ad)

Site Statistics

145 submissions , 122 unreviewed
3,930 questions , 1,398 unanswered
4,848 answers , 20,603 comments
1,470 users with positive rep
501 active unimported users
More ...

How are closed 1-forms used in physics?

+ 3 like - 0 dislike
130 views

Closed 1-forms are well studied in foliation topology, algebraic geometry, and theory of manifolds. What are examples of their most typical or most interesting applications in physics?

I do not mean exact 1-forms (roughly speaking, functions -- not interesting). I am interested in examples of applications of closed 1-forms that that are not exact.

My motivation is to mention several good examples in an introductory section of a mathematical paper on closed 1-forms to show their importance to physics, both classical and modern. So several good (typical, or interesting) examples suitable to be mentioned in such a section would do.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user Irina
asked Jan 3, 2015 in Mathematics by Irina (75 points) [ no revision ]
This question is too broad - many areas of physics may be formulated with differential forms, and almost all of them will consequently deal with closed forms in particular.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user ACuriousMind
why exactly are you interested in just closed 1-forms?

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user Phoenix87
@Phoenix87 I am a mathematician, I study closed 1-forms, because they have many specific mathematical properties. In the Preface to my papers I want to show their importance for physics, classical (mechanics, electrodynamics, crystallography?) and modern (cosmology and gravitation?). But I am not a physicist and I'm not sure which applications are most important to mention.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user Irina
@ ACuriousMind I don't think the question is too broad: I mean precisely closed 1-forms --- not differential forms in general. And at the moment there is no answer :(

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user Irina
I edited the question to ask for good/best examples of applications and not for all applications. This allows for a reasonably short and specific answer.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user Irina

3 Answers

+ 2 like - 0 dislike

1-forms appear prominently in thermodynamics, where they denote reversible changes in thermodynamic observables. Sometimes these are closed and then lead to conserved quantities.

answered Mar 3, 2015 by Arnold Neumaier (12,355 points) [ no revision ]
+ 1 like - 0 dislike

Many. Classical mechanics is essentially geometry. In the Hamiltonian formulation, the dynamics takes place on a cotangent bundle to a manifold, the configuration space $\Gamma$, known as the phase space $T^*\Gamma$. The tautological, or Poincaré 1-form $\theta$, leads through exterior derivative to the natural symplectic 2-form $\omega$ on the cotangent bundle $T^*\Gamma$, that is $\omega = \text d\theta$.

In Electrodynamics, the 4-potential $A$ can be viewed as a 1-form, and its exterior derivative $\text dA$ is the Faraday, or electromagnetic, tensor $F$, which describes both electric and magnetic fields and is linked to the 4-current 1-form $J$ through Maxwell's equations. For more on this subject see this answer.

For some other ideas in General Relativity see this other answer.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user Phoenix87
answered Jan 3, 2015 by Phoenix87 (20 points) [ no revision ]
Thank you! The $\theta$ is not a closed form, otherwise $\omega=\mathrm{d}\theta$ were zero ($\omega$ is a closed form iff $\mathrm{d}\omega=0$). Your $\omega$ is closed but not a 1-form :-( It seems that the same holds for $A$ and $F$.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user Irina
Yep, these are examples of forms rather than 1-forms, so this is why i was asking you for you interests in just closed ones.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user Phoenix87
Perhaps fluid dynamics is another important example. Closed 1-forms describe irrotational flows under some circumstances, but i don't remember much at the moment

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user Phoenix87
+ 0 like - 0 dislike

Most notably, part of Maxwell's equations states that the Faraday 2-form is closed: $$dF=0$$ From this we can infer from Poincare's lemma that there exists a 1-form $A$ such that $dA=F$. In some elementary treatments $F$ is considered to be an exact form. But when considering magnetic monopoles is it important to treat it as a closed form because of the "locally" clause in the Poincare lemma.

A really trivial example is the following: let $g$ be an orthonormal metric. Then it is a closed 0-form $$dg=0$$ This is merely the equation for the antisymmetry of the spin connection on a Riemannian manifold with orthonormal metric.

Cohomology is used quite extensively in a little sector of physics called String Theory. I'm sure you know how important closed forms are for that. A really important closed form is the Kahler form: $$dJ=0$$

EDIT: Those weren't 1-forms. The curl operator is $\star d$. Thus a closed one-form is isomorphic to a vector that has zero curl! Some examples I can think of off the top of my head:

Take Faraday's law $\nabla\times\mathbf{E}+\dot{\mathbf{B}}=0$. Suppose the fields are static. Then $\dot{\mathbf{B}}=0$ and $\nabla\times\mathbf{E}=0$. If $\mathcal{E}=\mathbf{E}^\flat$ $$d\mathcal{E}=0$$

The same works for the Maxwell-Ampere law in a vacuum. Then the magnetic 1-form $\mathcal{B}=\mathbf{B}^\flat$ is closed $$d\mathcal{B}=0$$

Suppose the integral of some force $\mathbf{F}$ is path-independent. Work is defined by $$W_P=\int_P\mathbf{F}\cdot d\mathbf{x}$$ If $\mathcal{F}=\mathbf{F}^\flat$ then $$W_P=\int_P\mathcal{F}$$ The difference of work along two different paths vanishes ($P'-P$ is a closed curve which is the boundary of a surface $S$) $$W_{P'}-W_P=\int_{P'-P}\mathcal{F}=\int_S d\mathcal{F}=0$$ by Stokes' theorem. This implies for any conservative force $$d\mathcal{F}=0$$

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user 0celo7
answered Jan 4, 2015 by 0celo7 (50 points) [ no revision ]
Most voted comments show all comments
Thank you! But Faraday form, Kahler form, even metrics are 2-forms. And I ask about a closed 1-form.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user Irina
Oh snap, didn't notice that. I'll rack my brain!

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user 0celo7
Oh, so any irrotational vector field (in particular, electric or magnetic irrotational field) on a 3-manifold corresponds to a closed 1-form! Thank you. As for a conservative force -- it corresponds to an exact form, which is trivially closed, and thus is not very interesting. Except for irrotational vector fields -- they are so classic-- is there something relevant in modern physics?

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user Irina
I'm actually not sure if a conservative force is by definition exact. It really depends on definitions! A conservative force is path-independent. As I showed above, it implies that F is closed. By the converse of the gradient theorem (and certain properties of $\mathbb{R}^n$) we can find a potential $V$ such that $F=-\nabla V$ globally. It's a special case of the Poincare lemma!

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user 0celo7
Modern physics...That's hard. I can think of so many closed forms that are not 1-forms (Ricci form, NS-NS field strength, etc.) and tensor-valued forms... In fact, there are some tensor valued one-forms that are closed! That might be cheating, because we have to use the absolute exterior differential $D$. But here goes... The torsion 1-form is closed: $D\Theta^i=0$. Let $T_{\mu}=T_{\mu\nu}\theta^\nu$ be the energy-momentum 1-form. Then $DT_\mu=0$. Let $G_\mu=G_{\mu\nu}\theta^\nu$ be the Einstein 1-form. Then $DG_\mu=0$. I am looking furiously! More to come!

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user 0celo7
Most recent comments show all comments
Perhaps it makes sense to add new examples to the answer and not only to the comments. This will make your answer even better!

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user Irina
I'm not sure about the specific magnetic example you mentioned, but the magnetic field does not produce a conservative force. This is because you cannot put B in the form of a gradient. Alternatively, observe that the magnetic field couples to velocity in the Lorentz force.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2015-01-06 10:51 (UTC), posted by SE-user 0celo7

Your answer

Please use answers only to (at least partly) answer questions. To comment, discuss, or ask for clarification, leave a comment instead.
To mask links under text, please type your text, highlight it, and click the "link" button. You can then enter your link URL.
Please consult the FAQ for as to how to format your post.
This is the answer box; if you want to write a comment instead, please use the 'add comment' button.
Live preview (may slow down editor)   Preview
Your name to display (optional):
Privacy: Your email address will only be used for sending these notifications.
Anti-spam verification:
If you are a human please identify the position of the character covered by the symbol $\varnothing$ in the following word:
p$\hbar\varnothing$sicsOverflow
Then drag the red bullet below over the corresponding character of our banner. When you drop it there, the bullet changes to green (on slow internet connections after a few seconds).
To avoid this verification in future, please log in or register.




user contributions licensed under cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required

Your rights
...