nLab gradient



Riemannian geometry

Differential geometry

synthetic differential geometry


from point-set topology to differentiable manifolds

geometry of physics: coordinate systems, smooth spaces, manifolds, smooth homotopy types, supergeometry



smooth space


The magic algebraic facts




infinitesimal cohesion

tangent cohesion

differential cohesion

graded differential cohesion

singular cohesion

id id fermionic bosonic bosonic Rh rheonomic reduced infinitesimal infinitesimal & étale cohesive ʃ discrete discrete continuous * \array{ && id &\dashv& id \\ && \vee && \vee \\ &\stackrel{fermionic}{}& \rightrightarrows &\dashv& \rightsquigarrow & \stackrel{bosonic}{} \\ && \bot && \bot \\ &\stackrel{bosonic}{} & \rightsquigarrow &\dashv& \mathrm{R}\!\!\mathrm{h} & \stackrel{rheonomic}{} \\ && \vee && \vee \\ &\stackrel{reduced}{} & \Re &\dashv& \Im & \stackrel{infinitesimal}{} \\ && \bot && \bot \\ &\stackrel{infinitesimal}{}& \Im &\dashv& \& & \stackrel{\text{étale}}{} \\ && \vee && \vee \\ &\stackrel{cohesive}{}& \esh &\dashv& \flat & \stackrel{discrete}{} \\ && \bot && \bot \\ &\stackrel{discrete}{}& \flat &\dashv& \sharp & \stackrel{continuous}{} \\ && \vee && \vee \\ && \emptyset &\dashv& \ast }


Lie theory, ∞-Lie theory

differential equations, variational calculus

Chern-Weil theory, ∞-Chern-Weil theory

Cartan geometry (super, higher)



Let (X,g)(X,g) be a Riemannian manifold and fC (X)f \in C^\infty(X) a function.

The gradient of ff is the vector field

f:=g 1d dRfΓ(TX), \nabla f := g^{-1} d_{dR} f \in \Gamma(T X) \,,

where d dR:C (X)Ω 1(X)d_{dR} : C^\infty(X) \to \Omega^1(X) is the de Rham differential.

This is the unique vector field f\nabla f such that

d dRf=g(,f) d_{dR} f = g(-,\nabla f)

or equivalently, if the manifold is oriented, this is the unique vector field such that

d dRf= gι fvol g, d_{dR} f = \star_g \iota_{\nabla f} vol_g \,,

where vol gvol_g is the volume form and g\star_g is the Hodge star operator induced by gg. (The result is independent of orientation, which can be made explicit by interpreting both volvol and \star as valued in pseudoforms.)

Alternatively, the gradient of a scalar field AA in some point xMx\in M is calculated (or alternatively defined) by the integral formula

gradA=lim volD01volD DnAdS grad A = lim_{vol D\to 0} \frac{1}{vol D} \oint_{\partial D} \vec{n} A d S

where DD runs over the domains with smooth boundary D\partial D containing point xx and n\vec{n} is the unit vector of outer normal to the surface SS. The formula does not depend on the shape of boundaries taken in limiting process, so one can typically take a coordinate chart and balls with decreasing radius in this particular coordinate chart.


If (M,g)(M,g) is the Cartesian space n\mathbb{R}^n endowed with the standard Euclidean metric, then

f= i=1 nfx i i. \nabla f= \sum_{i=1}^n\frac{\partial f}{\partial x^i}\partial_i .

This is the classical gradient from vector analysis?.


In many classical applications of the gradient in vector analysis?, the Riemannian structure is actually irrelevant, and the gradient can be replaced with the differential 1-form.

Last revised on October 3, 2018 at 14:45:57. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.