Connection (mathematics)

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In differential geometry, a connection (also connexion) or covariant derivative is a way of specifying a derivative of a vector field along another vector field on a manifold. That is an application to tangent bundles; there are more general connections, used in differential geometry and other fields of mathematics to formulate intrinsic differential equations. Connection may refer to a connection on any vector bundle, or also a connection on a principal bundle.

Connections give rise to parallel transport along a curve on a manifold. A connection also leads to invariants of curvature (see also curvature tensor and curvature form), and the so-called torsion.

General concept

The general concept can be summarized as follows: given a fiber bundle

\eta :E\to B,

with E the total space and B the base space, the tangent space at any point of E has a canonical "vertical" subspace ( see vertical space), the subspace tangent to the fiber. The connection fixes a choice of "horizontal" subspace (see horizontal space) at each point of E so that the tangent space of E is a direct sum of vertical and horizontal subspaces. Usually more requirements are imposed on the choice of "horizontal" subspaces, but they depend on the type of the bundle.

Given a B'\to B the induced bundle has an induced connection. If B'=I is a segment then the connection on B gives a trivialization on the induced bundle over I, i.e. a choice of smooth one-parameter family of isomorphisms between the fibers over I. This family is called parallel displacement along the curve I\to B and it gives an equivalent description of connection (which in case of Levi-Civita connection on a Riemannian manifold is called parallel transport).

There are many ways to describe a connection; in one particular approach, a connection can be locally described as a matrix of 1-forms on the base space which is the multiplant of the difference between the covariant derivative and the ordinary partial derivative in a coordinate chart. That is, partial derivatives are not an intrinsic notion on a manifold: a connection 'fixes up' the concept and permits discussion in geometric terms.

Possible approaches

There are quite a number of possible approaches to the connection concept. They include the following:

The connections referred to above are linear or affine connections. There is also a concept of projective connection; the most commonly-met form of this is the Schwarzian derivative in complex analysis.

See also: Gauss-Manin connection