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Toshihiko Ota1,

1

Yachay Tech, Hacienda San Jose s/n y Proyecto Yachay, 100119 San Miguel de Urcuqu, Ecuador

(Dated: September 8, 2017)

1, for (i, j, k) = (1, 2, 3), (2, 3, 1), (3, 1, 2),

ijk = 1, for (i, j, k) = (1, 3, 2), (2, 1, 3), (3, 2, 1), (1)

0, otherwise, e.g., (i, j, k) = (1, 1, 2).

3

3

ei ej = ijk ek , AB= ijk ei Aj Bk , (2)

k=1 i,j,k=1

where e1 = ex , e2 = ey , e3 = ez , and A1 = Ax etc. Why do we introduce this? Because we are, at least I am too

lazy to write all the elements of vector. Expressing vectors with indices and using Levi-Civita symbol, we can express

cross products in shorthand. For example, you can prove curl(gradf ) = 0 without writing all the elements;

3 [ ]

f

curl(gradf ) = (f ) = ijk ei

xj xk

i,j,k=1

Note that x1 = x, x2 = y, x3 = z.

3

= ikj ei f

xk xj

i,j,k=1

Here I exchanged the names of the indices Now I call j as k and call k as j.

3

= ijk ei f

xk xj

i,j,k=1

= curl(gradf ). (3)

This means

curl(gradf ) = 0. (4)

Please do the same calculation by writing explicitly all the components. Then, you will find this is nicer (at least,

you do not need to move your hands so much). You can prove div(rotA) = 0 in the same way.

There is a useful identity, which is

2

3

ijk klm = il jm im jl , (5)

k=1

You can show this by putting concrete numbers in i, j, l, and m and compare the LHS with the RHS. (cf. Problems

in Sec. 6 of Griths 3rd ed. and the Wikipedia article Levi-Civita symbol). With this identity, you can show

in 5 lines You do not need to memorize this formula! Please show Eq. (6) using Eq. (5) by yourself and get use to

express vectors with indices and calculate cross products with Levi-Civita symbols. I will use this kind of shorthand

and basically will not write all the components of vectors explicitly in the lecture It is tiresome and the space of

whiteboards is limited.

We sometimes/often need to express vectors in the other coordinates than Cartesian. Therefore, we also need to

express the nabla operator in the other coordinate than Cartesian. You do not need to memorize it I do not

recommend it. I rather recommend that you understand how to derive it.

You know nabla in Cartesian coordinate, which is

ex + ey + ez . (7)

x y z

What is nabla, for example, in spherical coordinates? You know the relations between the variables (x, y, z) in

Cartesian and those (r, , ) in spherical coordinates, which are

You also know the relations between the basis vectors in both the coordinates, which are1

e =ex cos cos + ey cos sin ez sin , (10)

e = ex sin + ey cos . (11)

Substituting these relations Eqs. (9)-(11) of the basis vectors into Eq. (7)2 , and using the chain rule

r

= + + , also for y and z, (12)

x x r x x

you can obtain nabla in spherical coordinates. The calculation is straightforward, but lengthy, tiresome, boring, and

not so beautiful. There is a smart short cut.

If you are familiar with total derivative df of a function f (qi ) in terms of the variables qi , which is defined as

f

df = dqi , (13)

i

qi

2 First, you have to solve the simultaneous equations Eqs. (9)-(11) in terms of ex,y,z , and substitute ex,y,z into Eq. (7).

3

you can explicitly see that the total derivative df is given with the dot product of the gradient of f and the infinitesimal

displacement vector dr in Cartesian coordinate:

df = (f ) dr. (14)

The important point is, this expression does not depend on the choice of coordinates (Griths calls this gradient

theorem. See Sec. 1.3.3).

Let us express the total derivative df in spherical coordinates. We do not know the gradient of f in spherical

coordinates That is what we want to derive. Here we give it as

f = er (f )r + e (f ) + e (f ) , (15)

and we will derive (f )r,, . What is the displacement vector in polar coordinate? The displacement vector is noting

but the total derivative of a position vector r. So we can calculate it as3

dr =d(r) = d(er r)

=(der )r + er dr

Here we used Leibniz rule (product rule) of derivative

( )

er er

= d + d r + er dr

See Eq. (9) er is a function of and . The definition of total derivative is given at Eq. (13)

=er dr + e rd + e r sin d. (16)

Substituting Eqs. (15) and (16) into Eq. (14), we have

df = (f )r dr + (f ) rd + (f ) r sin d. (17)

From the definition Eq. (13) of total derivative, we also have

f f f

df = dr + d + d. (18)

r

Comparing Eq. (17) and Eq. (18), we can read

f

(f )r = , (19)

r

f

(f ) r = , (20)

f

(f ) r sin = , (21)

i.e.,

f

(f )r = , (22)

r

1 f

(f ) = , (23)

r

1 f

(f ) = . (24)

r sin

Substituting back Eqs. (22)-(24) to Eq. (15), we have

f 1 f 1 f

f = er + e + e . (25)

r r r sin

This means,

3 You can also know the displacement vector by drawing it, without doing this calculation, if you are good at drawing...

4

1 1

= er + e + e . (26)

r r r sin

This is what we want to know nabla expressed with the variables and the basis vectors of a spherical coordinate.

You can find this in Wikipedia article Del in cylindrical and spherical coordinates. In the same way, you can also

derive nabla in cylindrical coordinates.

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