The formal notion of curvature is a formalization and generalization of the intuitive notion of the (“extrinsic”) curvature of a surface embedded in a Cartesian space $\mathbb{R}^n$.
This extrinsic curvature of a surface is called Gaussian curvature?. It may also be understood intrinsically as a property of just the surface without reference to the ambient Cartesian space that it is embedded in: the canonical metric on $\mathbb{R}^n$ induces a Riemannian metric on the surface and the surface’s curvature is encoded in the Levi-Civita connection on the tangent bundle of the surface.
This notion of curvature of a Levi-Civita connection in turn generalizes straightforwardly to a notion of curvature of any connection on a bundle and thus gives the name to the general concept.
For instance in the first-order formulation of gravity the curvature of spacetime is literally the curvature of the Levi-Civita connection on spacetime in this sense. But also the Yang-Mills field is a connection on a principal bundle and its curvature encodes the field strength of the Yang-Mills field, which is a concept rather remote from the intuition of a curved surface (thogh not unrelated).
Even more generally, the notion of a connection on a bundle and of a Lie algebra-valued 1-form generalizes to connections on principal 2-bundles and principal ∞-bundles and curvature of ∞-Lie algebroid valued differential forms.
In Eilenberg-Steenrod-type differential cohomology describing abelian such higher connections these curvatures appear in the form of generalized Chern character curvature characteristic forms.
Curvature $\kappa(\gamma)$ of a smooth curve $\gamma$ at a point $p$ of a smooth curve is the (signed) inverse radius of the (oriented) circle having tangency of order 1 with the curve at the point $p$. Every smooth curve in a 3-dimensional space is determined up to isometry by its (parametrised) curvature and torsion. Intuitively, the curvature measures how much curves are bent, when measured in some metrics. Frenet-Serret formulas describe the curvature, torsion and higher analogues for naturally parametrized curves in $n$-dimensional Euclidean space.
For higher dimensional surfaces one can look at normal curvature which is the curvature of the curve which is intersection of a plane determined by the normal vector to the surface and a given tangent vector. For any 2-dimensional tangent plane, the normal curvature has two extreme values. Their product is called the Gaussian curvature.
Sectional curvature of a higher dimensional smooth surface at its point $p$ in an Euclidean space along a tangent 2-dimensional plane is the Gaussian curvature of the curve which is the intersection of the surface with the plane. As a plane is determined by two vectors, the sectional curvature is determined by a surface and a pair of vectors, and all possible sectional curvatures can be read form that 2-form; therefore we talk about the operator of the curvature.
Curvature can be described also intrinsically, without recourse to the ambient space and its metric. Therefore it makes sense in Riemannian geometry based on the metric tensor just on a manifold. In 1917, Herman Weyl postulated a more fundamental quantity than a Riemannian metric, the connection on a fibre bundle, giving hence rise to a modern, generalized idea of the curvature. While Riemannian metric gives rise to a Levi-Civita connection on the tangent bundle of the Riemannian manifold, not every connection on a vector or principal bundles is induced by metrics. In that sense the connection is a more basic notion in geometry.
The curvature of a connection on a bundle measures how the connection is locally non-trivial.
In as far as the notion of connection on a bundle is generalized by the notion of a cocycle in differential cohomology, curvature is essentially the Chern character.
In as far as cocycles in differential cohomology represent gauge fields in physics, the curvature is the field strength of these gauge fields.
After the conception of gauge theory, the term curvature was firmly established in its generalization from this special case to the case of connections on all kinds of bundles and higher bundles.
A connection on a trivial line bundle on a space $X$ is just a 1-form
The curvature in this case is the 2-form $F = d A$.
A connection on a trivial $G$-principal bundle for $G$ a Lie group with Lie algebra $\mathfrak{g}$ is a $\mathfrak{g}$-valued 1-forfm (see groupoid of Lie-algebra valued forms)
Its curvature is the Lie-algebra valued 2-form
where $[-,-]$ is the Lie bracket in $\mathfrak{g}$.
According to the discussion at ∞-Chern-Weil theory, a connection on a trivial principal ∞-bundle is given by a collection of ∞-Lie algebroid valued differential forms. The notion of curvature in this general context is discussed at curvature of ∞-Lie algebroid valued differential forms.
For the geometric interpretation of the curvature 2-form of a $\mathfrak{g}$-valued 1-form
it is useful to recall that both the deRham complex $\Omega^\bullet(X)$ as well as the Chevalley-Eilenberg algebra $CE(\mathfrak{g})$ are naturally interpreted as function algebras on infinitesimal objects, as discussed at ∞-Lie algebroid.
The deRham complex may be thought of as the algebra of functions on the infinitesimal path ∞-groupoid $\Pi^{inf}(X)$. This has as objects the points of $X$, as morphisms infinitesimal paths
in $X$
as 2-morphisms infinitesimal little surfaces
in $X$, and so on.
On the other hand, $CE(\mathfrak{g})$ is the algebra of functions on the infinitesimal version $\mathbf{B}G_{(1)}$ of what is called the delooping groupoid $\mathbf{B}G$ of the Lie group of which $\mathfrak{g}$ is a Lie algebra. This has a single object ${*}$, and a morphism is an infinitesimal group element
for $e$ the neutral element of the group (the identity), for $t_a$ an element of the Lie algebra as before and for $\lambda^a$ some coefficient.
A 2-morphism is an infinitesimal surface bounded by such infinitesimal 1-morphisms such that going either way around the surface
produces the same result when then morphisms are composed using the product in the Lie group: the top right way around the square here yields
and the other way round yields
A morphism of dg-algebras of the form we have been considering
is now evidently equivalenty a morphism
that sends infinitesimal paths in $X$ to infinitesimal group elements of the form $e + \lambda^a t_a$:
If we denote by
the tangent vector that connects the infinitesimally close points $x$ and $y$ and write $A(x,y) = A_x(v)$ as a function of the first point and the vector pointing away from it, then this reads
We can now look at what this assignment $A$ of infinitesimal group elements to infinitesimal paths does to a little square in $X$ as above, with sides spanned by tangent vectors $v_1$ and $v_2$. We find
For the result on the right to qualify as a 2-morphism in $\mathbf{B}G_{(1)}$ we need that
going around the top right edges, which yields
is the same as
To express what this means as a condition at the point $x$, we may Taylor expand to first order
and
Then some terms cancel and the above condition becomes, to second order
In other words, the expression
has to vanish. This is the curvature form that we already found above by more algebraic means.
If this does not vanish, then we don’t really have a morphism $A : \Pi^{inf}(X) \to \mathbf{B}G_{(1)}$. But then we instead have some morphism that uses the 1-forms $A^a$ to assigns data to little edges, and that uses the 2-forms $F_A^a$ to assign data to little surfaces. That morphism then will respect a condition as above, but now on little cubes. That condition is the Bianchi identity
on the curvature 2-form.
The notion of curvature of a Lie-algebra valued 1-form discussed above generalizes to that of ∞-Lie algebroid valued differential forms.
Let $\mathfrak{g}$ be an ∞-Lie algebra. A $\mathfrak{g}$-valued differential form on a smooth manifold $X$ is a morphism
of dg-algebras, where $\Omega^\bullet(X)$ is the de Rham complex and $W(\mathfrak{g})$ is the Weil algebra.
There is a canonical inclusion of graded vector spaces
The curvature of the $\infty$-Lie algebroid valued form $A$ is the composite
This consists, in general, of a tower of components: write $\mathfrak{g}_n$ for the degree $n$-part of the $\infty$-Lie algebra, then we have the further restrictions
So
is a $\mathfrak{g}_{n-1}$-valued $n$-form on $X$.
One may speak of the 2-form curvature, the 3-form curvature, the 4-form curvature and so on.
If instead of just an $\infty$-Lie algebra $\mathfrak{g}$ we take more generally an ∞-Lie algebroid, then there is also a 1-form curvature component.
Remark In some places in the literature, the lower curvature form components have been called fake curvature (BreenMessing).
Precisely if the curvatures $F_A$ vanish does the morphism $A : W(\mathfrak{g}) \to \Omega^\bullet(X)$ factor through the Chevalley-Eilenberg algebra $W(\mathfrak{g}) \to CE(\mathfrak{g})$.
in which case we call $A$ flat.
By the fact that $A$ is a dg-algebra homomorphism, its curvature forms satisfy
This is the Bianchi identity.
The algebra $inv(\mathfrak{g})$ of invariant polynomials embeds into the Weil algebra
For $A$ a $\mathfrak{g}$-valued form, and $\langle - \rangle \in inv(\mathfrak{g})$, the ordinary closed $n$-form
is the corresponding curvature characteristic form.
(TO ADD: Something about curved $A_\infty$ algebras and curved dg algebras.)
curvature
gauge field: models and components