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Original Title: Absolute Differential Form in NLab

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1. Idea

2. Definitions

3. Examples

4. Related concepts

5. References

1. Idea

It's well known that one can integrate a differential form on an oriented submanifold.

Less well known (but also true), one can integrate a differential pseudoform on an

pseudoriented (transversely oriented) submanifold. But in classical differential

geometry, one also sees forms that can be integrated on unoriented submanifolds.

I call these absolute forms. The term ‘absolute’ suggests a lack of additional required

structure, in this case some sort of orientation on the domain of integration. It also

suggests absolute value, since many of the examples from classical differential

geometry involve absolute values. Indeed, we can define the absolute value of a form

or a pseudoform to be an absolute form, although not every absolute form arises in this

way.

(pseudo)-oriented p-dimensional submanifold, then

| ω| ≤ |ω|,

∫ ∫

R |R|

where |ω| is an absolute p-form (the absolute value of ω ), |R| is simply R with its

(pseudo)-orientation ignored, and the absolute value on the left is the ordinary absolute

value of scalars. This theorem also applies if we start with an absolute p-form ω ,

(although in that case R starts out unoriented and so is the same as |R|). If R is a de

Rham chain (a formal linear combination of appropriately oriented submanifolds), we

also take absolute values of the formal coefficients in |R|. (This operation does not

respect the usual notion of equality of chains, but the theorem is true all the same.)

2. Definitions

Let X be a differentiable manifold (or similar sort of space), and let p be a natural

number (typically 0 ≤ p ≤ n, where n is the dimension of X ). Recall that an (exterior

differential) p -form ω on X is a function that assigns a real number (or whatever is the

relevant sort of scalar) ω (v , …, v ) to a point c in X and a p-tuple (v , …, v ) of tangent

c 1 p 1 p

o

c 1 p

1 p i

ω (v , …, v ) to a point c in X and a p-tuple (v , …, v ) of tangent vectors at c and that

c 1 p 1 p

1 p c 1 p

c

S. Now given a linearly independent p-tuple (v , …, v ) from S (that is a basis of 1 p

o

c 1 p S c 1 p

induced by the v matches o, and extend this by continuity to all p-tuples from S

i

(which extension must be unique and exists by 1&2). The resulting function

ω ( −) shall be multilinear (and so also alternating, by 2).

o

c S

The multilinearity condition here is rather weaker than for a (pseudo)-form, since it

applies only within a p-dimensional subspace. Shifting one vector even slightly outside

of S loses all connection provided by multilinearity, which is why we need a continuity

condition; continuity holds for (pseudo)-forms automatically.

as the v ). Since the domain of the function ω is a manifold (a vector bundle over X ,

i

smoothness, and even analyticity of ω when X has the relevant structure.

dimensional manifold X is essentially the same thing as an n-pseudoform; with the

notation from condition 3, the only possibility for S is the entire tangent space T X , and c

we have

o o

ω̃c (v1 , …, vn ) = ωc (v1 , …, vn )

Tc X

to relate the n-pseudoform ω̃ to the absolute n-form ω . Finally, the only absolute p-form

for p > n is 0.

indefinite if ω (v , …, v

c 1 p) > 0 for some (necessarily linearly independent) p-tuple

of vectors and ω (v , …,

c 1 vp ) < 0 for some p-tuple,

tuple of vectors at c,

(it is enough when they are independent),

tuple of vectors.

All these are at a point c; ω satisfies the condition tout court if it holds for all c.

Given an absolute p-form ω , its absolute value |ω| is a positive semidefinite absolute

p-form:

If we start with a p-form ω , then the same definition defines a positive absolute p-form

|ω|. If we start with a p-pseudoform ω , then essentially the same definition still works;

we use either orientation to evaluate ω with the same result. Note that |ω| is

continuous if ω is. However, we may not conclude that |ω| is differentiable just because

ω is differentiable (or even analytic). On the other hand, |ω| inherits differentiability

except in 1 dimension.)

form:

In this way, the space of absolute p-forms is a module over the algebra of scalar fields

and the space of sections of a vector bundle. For now, we decline to define products of

absolute forms of aribtrary rank.

R : U → X, the pullback R ω is an absolute p-form on U :

∗

∗

(R ω)c (v1 , …, vp ) ≔ ωR(c) (R∗ v1 , …, R∗ vp ).

∗ i i

∗

also pull back differentiability and analyticity properties that ω and R both have.

Given a continuous absolute p-form ω on X , a p-dimensional manifold U , and a

continuously differentiable map R : U → X, the integral ∫ ω is a scalar:

R

∗

ω ≔ R ω.

∫ ∫

R U

∗

already know how to integrate this (see integration of differential forms).

3. Examples

Examples of absolute forms from classical differential geometry include:

(and hence the same as absolutely continuous Radon measures).

integration. This literally is the absolute value of the differential of the identity map

z.

absolute 1-form. Neither ds nor (in general) dx is actually the differential of

anything, but dx is the canonical vector-valued 1-form (which, on an affine space,

really is the differential of the identity map x), and we really can use the metric to

take the norm of such a form to get an absolute 1-form.

form, and we can continue into higher dimensions (although the classical volume

element dV in ℝ is already covered as a 3-pseudoform). In principle, we ought to

3

be able to write down expression for dS etc in terms of ds, although so far the only

thing that I know how to do is dS = ‖dx ×̂ dx‖ / 2, where ×̂ indicates a wedge

product of vector-valued forms whose vectors are multiplied by the cross product.

(This can be generalized to any finite-dimensional area in any finite-dimensional

Riemannian manifold; in particular, dV = |dx ⋅ ̂ dx ×̂ dx| / 6.)

4. Related concepts

exterior differential forms

5. References

Near the end of a Usenet post from 2002, we see a definition of ∫ |ω| for ω a (pseudo)-

R

p-form and R a p-dimensional submanifold, but without a broader context for |ω| itself:

Toby Bartels and Ralph Hartley; Densitized Pseudo Twisted Forms

Apparently absolute p-forms (at least if continuous) are the same as even p-densities

as defined by Gelfand; see this MathOverflow answer:

Juan Carlos Álvarez Paiva; answer to Why do I need densities in order to integrate

on a non-orientable manifold?.

Last revised on May 21, 2018 at 00:43:37. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.

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