Ok, we know what connections and covariant derivatives are. Now we can use them to get a map from the tangent space ${T_p(M)}$ at one point to the manifold ${M}$ which is a local isomorphism. This is interesting because it gives a way of saying, “start at point ${p}$ and go five units in the direction of the tangent vector ${v}$,” in a rigorous sense, and will be useful in proofs of things like the tubular neighborhood theorem—which I’ll get to shortly.

Anyway, first I need to talk about geodesics. A geodesic is a curve ${c}$ such that the vector field along ${c=(c_1, \dots, c_n)}$ created by the derivative ${c'}$ is parallel. In local coordinates ${x_1, \dots, x_n}$, here’s what this means. Let the Christoffel symbols be ${\Gamma^k_{ij}}$. Then using the local formula for covariant differentiation along a curve, we get

$\displaystyle D(c')(t) = \sum_j \left( c_j''(t) + \sum_{i,k} c_i'(t) c_k'(t) \Gamma^j_{ij}(c(t)) \right) \partial_j,$

so ${c}$ being a geodesic is equivalent to the system of differential equations

$\displaystyle c_j''(t) + \sum_{i,k} c_i'(t) c_k'(t) \Gamma^j_{ij}(c(t)) = 0, \ 1 \leq j \leq n.$ (more…)

A couple of days back I covered the definition of a (Koszul) connection. Now I will describe how this gives a way to differentiate vector fields along a curve.

Covariant Derivatives

First of all, here is a minor remark I should have made before. Given a connection ${\nabla}$ and a vector field ${Y}$, the operation ${X \rightarrow \nabla_X Y}$ is linear in ${X}$ over smooth functions—thus it is a tensor (of type (1,1)), and the value at a point ${p}$ can be defined if ${X}$ is replaced by a tangent vector at ${p}$. In other words, we get a map ${T(M)_p \times \Gamma(TM) \rightarrow T(M)_p}$, where ${\Gamma(TM)}$ denotes the space of vector fields. We’re going to need this below. (more…)