Metric connection

In mathematics, a metric connection is a connection in a vector bundle E equipped with a bundle metric; that is, a metric for which the inner product of any two vectors will remain the same when those vectors are parallel transported along any curve.[1] This is equivalent to:

A special case of a metric connection is a Riemannian connection; there is a unique such which is torsion free, the Levi-Civita connection. In this case, the bundle E is the tangent bundle TM of a manifold, and the metric on E is induced by a Riemannian metric on M.

Another special case of a metric connection is a Yang–Mills connection, which satisfies the Yang–Mills equations of motion. Most of the machinery of defining a connection and its curvature can go through without requiring any compatibility with the bundle metric. However, once one does require compatibility, this metric connection defines an inner product, Hodge star, Hodge dual, and Laplacian, which are required to formulate the Yang–Mills equations.


Let   be any local sections of the vector bundle E, and let X be a vector field on the base space M of the bundle. Let   define a bundle metric, that is, a metric on the vector fibers of E. Then, a connection D on E is a metric connection if:


Here d is the ordinary differential of a scalar function. The covariant derivative can be extended so that it acts as a map on E-valued differential forms on the base space:


One defines   for a function  , and


where   is a local smooth section for the vector bundle and   is a (scalar-valued) p-form. The above definitions also apply to local smooth frames as well as local sections.

Metric versus dual pairingEdit

The bundle metric   imposed on E should not be confused with the natural pairing   of a vector space and its dual, which is intrinsic to any vector bundle. The latter is a function on the bundle of endomorphisms   so that


pairs vectors with dual vectors (functionals) above each point of M. That is, if   is any local coordinate frame on E, then one naturally obtains a dual coordinate frame   on E* satisfying  .

By contrast, the bundle metric   is a function on  


giving an inner product on each vector space fiber of E. The bundle metric allows one to define an orthonormal coordinate frame by the equation  

Given a vector bundle, it is always possible to define a bundle metric on it.

Following standard practice,[1] one can define a connection form, the Christoffel symbols and the Riemann curvature without reference to the bundle metric, using only the pairing   They will obey the usual symmetry properties; for example, the curvature tensor will be anti-symmetric in the last two indices and will satisfy the second Bianchi identity. However, to define the Hodge star, the Laplacian, the first Bianchi identity, and the Yang–Mills functional, one needs the bundle metric.

Connection formEdit

Given a local bundle chart, the covariant derivative can be written in the form


where A is the connection one-form.

A bit of notational machinery is in order. Let   denote the space of differentiable sections on E, let   denote the space of p-forms on M, and let   be the endomorphisms on E. The covariant derivative, as defined here, is a map


One may express the connection form in terms of the connection coefficients as


The point of the notation is to distinguish the indices j, k, which run over the n dimensions of the fiber, from the index i, which runs over the m-dimensional base space. For the case of a Riemann connection below, the vector space E is taken to be the tangent bundle TM, and n = m.

The notation of A for the connection form comes from physics, in historical reference to the vector potential field of electromagnetism and gauge theory. In mathematics, the notation   is often used in place of A, as in the article on the connection form; unfortunately, the use of   for the connection form collides with the use of   to denote a generic alternating form on the vector bundle.

Skew symmetryEdit

The connection is skew-symmetric in the vector-space (fiber) indices; that is, for a given vector field  , the matrix   is skew-symmetric; equivalently, it is an element of the Lie algebra  .

This can be seen as follows. Let the fiber be n-dimensional, so that the bundle E can be given an orthonormal local frame   with i = 1, 2, ..., n. One then has, by definition, that  , so that:


In addition, for each point   of the bundle chart, the local frame is orthonormal:


It follows that, for every vector  , that


That is,   is skew-symmetric.

This is arrived at by explicitly using the bundle metric; without making use of this, and using only the pairing  , one can only relate the connection form A on E to its dual A on E, as   This follows from the definition of the dual connection as  


There are several notations in use for the curvature of a connection, including a modern one using F to denote the field strength tensor, a classical one using R as the curvature tensor, and the classical notation for the Riemann curvature tensor, most of which can be extended naturally to the case of vector bundles. None of these definitions require either a metric tensor, or a bundle metric, and can be defined quite concretely without reference to these. The definitions do, however, require a clear idea of the endomorphisms of E, as described above.

Compact styleEdit

The most compact definition of the curvature F is to define it as the 2-form taking values in  , given by the amount by which the connection fails to be exact; that is, as


which is an element of


or equivalently,


To relate this to other common definitions and notations, let   be a section on E. Inserting into the above and expanding, one finds


or equivalently, dropping the section


as a terse definition.

Component styleEdit

In terms of components, let   where   is the standard one-form coordinate bases on the cotangent bundle T*M. Inserting into the above, and expanding, one obtains (using the summation convention):


Keep in mind that for an n-dimensional vector space, each   is an n×n matrix, the indices of which have been suppressed, whereas the indices i and j run over 1,...,m, with m being the dimension of the underlying manifold. Both of these indices can be made simultaneously manifest, as shown in the next section.

The notation presented here is that which is commonly used in physics; for example, it can be immediately recognizable as the gluon field strength tensor. For the abelian case, n=1, and the vector bundle is one-dimensional; the commutator vanishes, and the above can then be recognized as the electromagnetic tensor in more or less standard physics notation.

Relativity styleEdit

All of the indices can be made explicit by providing a smooth frame  , i = 1, ..., n on  . A given section   then may be written as


In this local frame, the connection form becomes


with   being the Christoffel symbol; again, the index i runs over 1, ..., m (the dimension of the underlying manifold M) while j and k run over 1, ..., n, the dimension of the fiber. Inserting and turning the crank, one obtains


where   now identifiable as the Riemann curvature tensor. This is written in the style commonly employed in many textbooks on general relativity from the middle-20th century (with several notable exceptions, such as MTW, that pushed early on for an index-free notation). Again, the indices i and j run over the dimensions of the manifold M, while r and k run over the dimension of the fibers.

Tangent-bundle styleEdit

The above can be back-ported to the vector-field style, by writing   as the standard basis elements for the tangent bundle TM. One then defines the curvature tensor as


so that the spatial directions are re-absorbed, resulting in the notation


Alternately, the spatial directions can be made manifest, while hiding the indices, by writing the expressions in terms of vector fields X and Y on TM. In the standard basis, X is


and likewise for Y. After a bit of plug and chug, one obtains




is the Lie derivative of the vector field Y with respect to X.

To recap, the curvature tensor maps fibers to fibers:


so that


To be very clear,   are alternative notations for the same thing. Observe that none of the above manipulations ever actually required the bundle metric to go through. One can also demonstrate the second Bianchi identity


without having to make any use of the bundle metric.

Yang–Mills connectionEdit

The above development of the curvature tensor did not make any appeals to the bundle metric. That is, they did not need to assume that D or A were metric connections: simply having a connection on a vector bundle is sufficient to obtain the above forms. All of the different notational variants follow directly only from consideration of the endomorphisms of the fibers of the bundle.

The bundle metric is required to define the Hodge star and the Hodge dual; that is needed, in turn, to define the Laplacian, and to demonstrate that


Any connection that satisfies this identity is referred to as a Yang–Mills connection. It can be shown that this connection is a critical point of the Euler–Lagrange equations applied to the Yang–Mills action


where   is the volume element, the Hodge dual of the constant 1. Note that three different inner products are required to construct this action: the metric connection on E, an inner product on End(E), equivalent to the quadratic Casimir operator (the trace of a pair of matricies), and the Hodge dual.

Riemannian connectionEdit

An important special case of a metric connection is a Riemannian connection. This is a connection   on the tangent bundle of a pseudo-Riemannian manifold (M, g) such that   for all vector fields X on M. Equivalently,   is Riemannian if the parallel transport it defines preserves the metric g.

A given connection   is Riemannian if and only if


for all vector fields X, Y and Z on M, where   denotes the derivative of the function   along this vector field  .

The Levi-Civita connection is the torsion-free Riemannian connection on a manifold. It is unique by the fundamental theorem of Riemannian geometry. For every Riemannian connection, one may write a (unique) corresponding Levi-Civita connection. The difference between the two is given by the contorsion tensor.

In component notation, the covariant derivative   is compatible with the metric tensor   if


Although other covariant derivatives may be defined, usually one only considers the metric-compatible one. This is because given two covariant derivatives,   and  , there exists a tensor for transforming from one to the other:


If the space is also torsion-free, then the tensor   is symmetric in its first two indices.

A word about notationEdit

It is conventional to change notation and use the nabla symbol ∇ in place of D in this setting; in other respects, these two are the same thing. That is, ∇ = D from the previous sections above.

Likewise, the inner product   on E is replaced by the metric tensor g on TM. This is consistent with historic usage, but also avoids confusion: for the general case of a vector bundle E, the underlying manifold M is not assumed to be endowed with a metric. The special case of manifolds with both a metric g on TM in addition to a bundle metric   on E leads to Kaluza–Klein theory.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Jost, Jürgen (2011), Riemannian geometry and geometric analysis (PDF), Universitext (Sixth ed.), Springer, Heidelberg, doi:10.1007/978-3-642-21298-7, ISBN 978-3-642-21297-0, MR 2829653.(Third edition: see chapter 3; Sixth edition: see chapter 4.)