Geometry and physics: Though lovers be lost love shall not

The title of this post comes from Dylan Thomas, And Death Shall Have No Dominion (1933). Here I give a non-technical essay on the interplay between geometry and physics, which I hope with give some of the readers a better idea of why I do what I do. Please enjoy and leave feedback if you like.

Geometry and physics: Though lovers be lost love shall not

To paraphrase a certain Polish mathematician: “the most important ideas in mathematics come from physics”. While there is no reason why mathematics — as mathematics — should come from physics, there is some deep connection between mathematics and our understanding of the Universe. Wigner in 1960 in his famous “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” article, noticed how the mathematical structure of physical theories can lead to new physical insight. And of course, physical insight can lead to new mathematics. By physics, I will mean the construction of mathematical models of natural phenomena and the comparing of the predictions of these models against nature.

From the very nature of physics it is clear that there is at least some superficial relation with mathematics. After all, physics uses mathematics. However, physics is not mathematics in the sense that mathematical constructions in physics should have (maybe not directly) some meaning. There must be some relation of the mathematics to a physical law. In mathematics, there is no such constraint that any of it have any meaning beyond what it mathematically means. It is a complete mystery as to why nature seems generally amenable to being understood in terms of abstract mathematics.

The deep interconnection between mathematics and physics seems especially true when focusing in on geometry: literally geometry means `Earth measurement’. At the most basic level, geometry is the study of spaces, which are understood as collections of points, together with a notion of points being `close to each other or not’, and usually with some further mathematical structures on them, such as a notion of the distance between to near by points. But this is definition in terms of points is not enough to cover the modern usage of `geometry’. So, what is geometry and where does it come from? Moreover, what has the study of spaces got to do with physics?

The first work on synthetic geometry is the book Elements written Euclid of Alexandria (c.325–265 BC). In this book an axiomatic approach to plane geometry, so parallel lines on flat surfaces etc., is established. For example, the internal angles of a triangle on the plane always add up to 180 degrees. However, curves, circles and spheres had been known about since antiquity. Solid geometry — the study of three dimensional objects — was needed as soon as humans started to imagine buildings such as domes and pyramids. In addition to this, the heavenly sky can be imagined as the inner surface of a dome speckled with stars — at least as we see it, and ancient astronomers saw it!

Methods of calculating the volume of simple regular three dimensional objects were developed. For example, the ancient Egyptians knew how to calculate the volume of pyramids and chambers therein: they were the mummy of all modern mathematicians! Archimedes (287–212 BC) in his `eureka’ moment realised that one could deduce the volume of three dimensional irregular objects based on the amount of water they displaced. However, Archimedes was unable to actually calculate volumes in any generality.

In another direction, Apollonius of Perga (c.262–190 BC) showed that the regular curves — circles; ellipses; parabola; and hyperbola — can be formed by cutting the cone, hence conic sections. Amazingly, in Newtonian gravity (circa 1686) the orbits of the two massive bodies are described by conic sections. This is part of the unifying power of mathematics: the mathematics involved in cutting cones is exactly the mathematics needed to describe orbits, for example the path of the Moon around the Earth! These mathematical coincidences are abound.

The most important mathematical works on conic sections — as far as our story goes — are that of Descartes (1596–1650) and Fermat (1601–1665), who in the 17th century brought algebra in to the game. Conic sections can be described by algebraic equations via coordinates — analytic and algebraic geometry were born! \par

The use coordinates (eg. x and x on the plane) opens up the use of calculus in geometry. Newton’s differential and integral calculus allows for methods of calculating gradients of curves, areas under curves, the volumes of objects etc. — calculus today is a common method of torturing undergraduate students! Differential geometry was born … or at least the seeds of the theory were planted by Newton (1642–1727) and Leibniz (1646–1716). One should not forget that much of Newton’s inspiration in developing calculus comes from his work on classical mechanics: so the mathematical description of the motion of massive bodies.

Curved surfaces – such as the sphere – represent non-Euclidean geometries. Lines drawn on them violate the axioms of Euclid’s plane geometry: this was seen as a real problem by mathematicians. It was Eugenio Beltrami (1835–1899) who showed that hyperbolic geometry is consistent: this is the geometry of surfaces of constant curvature for which the internal angles of a triangle add up to less that 180 degrees. Similar results were obtained for spherical geometries, so geometries of constant curvature for which the internal angles of triangles add up to more that 180 degrees.

Bernhard Riemann (1826–1866) in his PhD thesis extended the work of Beltrami to surfaces that have non-uniform curvature, and to higher dimensions. The work of Riemann allowed algebra and calculus to be applied to spaces known as smooth manifolds, i.e., spaces such that every `small piece’ of them looks like a `small piece’ of the n-dimensional plane for some integer n. One should keep in mind the relation between a globe and a map: any small piece of the globe can be represented on a sheet of paper as a map, and points on the globe are then represented by two numbers, the coordinates with respect to the given map. The notion of a smooth manifold underpins Einstein’s special and general relativity, as well as Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism, Yang–Mills theories and classical mechanics: even thermodynamics has a geometric formulation!

It is worth saying a little more about Einstein’s general relativity (1916). This theory is a theory of gravity, and to date it is the most accurate theory of gravity we have. Moreover four dimensional smooth manifolds are central to the theory. Einstein took the earlier idea that space and time should be unified into space-time seriously, we have one time coordinate and three space coordinates. Einstein then told us that gravity is not your typical force, but rather it really is due to the local shape of space-time! The mathematical theory of curved smooth manifolds is vital to our understanding of gravity and the Universe as a whole, and vice versa, physics has been the impetus for many mathematical works on curved smooth manifolds.

There is a duality between a space and the algebra of functions on that space ( i.e., maps from that space to the real or complex numbers). Loosely, if you know the algebra of functions on a space, then you know the space. The algebra of functions on a classical space is commutative: the order of pointwise multiplication does not matter. We can imagine a more general notion of a `space’ by considering any algebra — not necessarily commutative — as the algebra of functions on some `space’. The phase space of quantum mechanics, that is the `space’ of positions and momenta of a quantum particle, is a noncommutative geometry.

A quantum theory of gravity could be some kind of noncommutative geometry: both string theory and loop quantum gravity suggest noncommutativity of space-time at some level — both the loopers and p-braners agree on this! Trying to make sense of physics at the smallest scales pushes what we mean by geometry well beyond our original understanding. Noncommutative geometries are in general not set theoretical objects, i.e., they do not consist of a collection of points — it is all rather pointless!

There is a kind of `halfway house’ between classical and quantum geometry: here I refer to supermanifolds as defined by Berezin and Leites in 1976. Without details and being very loose, a supermanifold is a `manifold-like object’ which comes with some coordinates that commute with all the coordinates, and some coordinates that anticommute amongst themselves. By anticommute we mean that they pick up a minus sign when we exchange the order they appear in expressions. In particular we have some coordinates that square to zero!

Supermanifolds play the role of manifolds when, for example, fermions such as the electron are present in the theory. If we want to develop a `classical’ theory of fermions then we must employ objects that anticommute: one can justify this using the Pauli exclusion principle — no more than one fermion can be in a given quantum state, while for bosons there is no such restriction. Heuristically, one can say that bosons like to be together, while fermions are rather more like hermits.

Supermanifolds offer a conceptual and geometric way to treat bosons and fermions on equal footing: supermanifolds are the geometry of supersymmetry. In short, supersymmetry is an operation that allows us to `rotate’ a boson into a fermion and vice versa. It turns out that this is not just a neat way of unifying bosons and fermions, but theories that posses supersymmetry can have remarkable mathematical and phenomenological properties — we await CERN’s confirmation that nature uses supersymmetry!

Another amazing link between geometry and physics can be found in mirror symmetry which relates pairs of particular manifolds called Calabi-Yau manifolds. Superstring theory is 10 dimensional, yet our physical world appears 4 dimensional — one time and three space dimensions. To overcome this discrepancy one can postulate that 6 of these dimensions is `scrunched up tightly’, and all we see is four dimensions on all but the very smallest scales. These compactifications as they are known, are Calabi-Yau manifolds, and different compactifications in general lead to different physics. However, it was noticed in the late 1980s by Dixon, Lerche, Vafa, and Warner that two different versions of superstring theory (type IIA and IIB) can be compactified on two different Calabi-Yau manifolds, yet lead to the same physics. In this case the two Calabi-Yau manifolds are said to be mirror duals, and the symmetry between the physics is known as mirror symmetry. This pairing of Calabi-Yau manifolds is now an active area of mathematical research with much effort devoted to carefully understanding the intuitive physics based picture.

In conclusion, not only has geometry been essential in developing physical theories, but these theories then push our understanding of geometry and lead to new mathematics. I have only touched upon a tiny part of this interrelation. There are a great number of other things I could have described and new links are being uncovered all the time. What will future mathematicians understand by the term `geometry’ is anyone’s guess. However, I am sure it will be closely related to our understanding of the physical Universe.

Mrs Brown on relativity

I briefly watched a few moments of Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas special 2016; a comedy program on the BBC.

Agnes Brown’s grandson Bono asked his grandmother about Einstein’s theory of relativity. The joke is that this is far to complicated for an old Irish Granny to answer.

This made me think. Einstein first published on special relativity in 1905 and the field equations for general relativity were published in 1916. So humanity has had knowledge of Einstein’s relativity for 100 years now, yet Mrs Brown was unable to say anything!

Not that we should expect everyone to have a detailed mathematical knowledge of Einstein’s relativity, but should just about everyone be able to say something?

Special relativity
Special relativity is based on two postulates – that then lead to a consistent mathematical description in terms of differential geometry, but we should ignore that for now – that can be paraphrased as follows

  1.  The laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating observers.
  2.  All  non-accelerating observers measure the speed of light to be the same,  irrespective of the source of light.


Even more pedagogically, all observers that are not experiencing a net force are `equally as good’ as far as determining the laws of physics are concerned, and on top of that, light waves travel at a fixed speed as measured by these privileged observers.

General relativity
This is a bit harder to paraphrase, but basically we have three key features

  1. All observers (not just the non-accelerating ones) are equally as good for determining the laws of physics.
  2. Space-time is curved and the force of gravity is the `bending’ of space and time.
  3. In `small enough’ regions, the non-gravitational laws of physics reduce to that of special relativity.


Again, all this can be made mathematically precise.

Are we expecting too much?
I think it is too much to expect any real knowledge of Einstein’s relativity from the general public. So, we should not ask for this, but only a vague idea of the ideas from most people.

From my own perspective it is all differential geometry 🙂

Geometry of Jets and Fields in honour of Professor Janusz Grabowski

The conference proceedings for Geometry of Jets and Fields in honour of Professor Janusz Grabowski are now published: you can find an online version here.

I have a contribution with Janusz Grabowski, Katarzyna Grabowska and Paweł Urbański entitled New developments in geometric mechanics.

Gennadi Sardanashvily – passed away on the September 1, 2016 – also has a contribution in the proceedings. I did not know Sardanashvily well, but our few interactions told me he was a nice guy. I am sure the community will miss him.

In better news, my wife Gemma had a portrait of Janusz Grabowski published in the proceedings!

Linearising graded manifolds

Our paper, Polarisation of Graded Bundles, with Janusz Grabowski and Mikołaj Rotkiewicz has now been published in SIGMA [1].

In the paper we show that Graded bundles (cf. [2]), which are a particular kind of graded manifold (cf. [3]), can be `fully linearised’ or `polarised’. That is, given any graded bundle of degree k, we can associate with it in a functorial way a k-fold vector bundle – we call this the full linearisation functor. In the paper [1], we fully characterise this functor. Hopefully, this notion will prove fruitful in applications as k-fold vector bundles are nice objects that that various equivalent ways of describing them.

Graded Bundles
Graded bundles are particular examples of polynomial bundles: that is we have a fibre bundle whose are \(\mathbb{R}^{N}\) and the admissible changes of local coordinates are polynomial. A little more specifically, a graded bundle $F$, is a polynomial bundle for which the base coordinates are assigned a weight of zero, while the fibre coordinates are assigned a weight in \(\mathbb{N} \setminus 0\). Moreover we require that admissible changes of local coordinates respect the weight. The degree of a graded bundle is the highest weight that we assign to the fibre coordinates.

Any graded bundle admits a series of affine fibrations
\(F = F_k \rightarrow F_{k-1} \rightarrow \cdots \rightarrow F_{1} \rightarrow F_{0} =M\),
which is locally given by projecting out the higher weight coordinates.

For example, a graded bundle of degree 2 admits local coordinates \((x, y ,z)\) of weight 0,1, and 2 respectively. Changes of coordinates are then, `symbolically’
\(x’ = x'(x)\),
\(y’ = y T(x)\),
\(z’ = z G(x) + \frac{1}{2} y y H(x)\),
which clearly preserve the weight.

We then have a series of fibrations
\(F_2 \rightarrow F_1 \rightarrow M\),
given (locally) by
\((x,y,z) \mapsto (x,y) \mapsto (x)\).

The basic idea of the full linearisation is quite simple – I won’t go into details here. Recall the notion of polarisation of a homogeneous polynomial. The idea is that one adjoins new variables in order to produce a multi-linear form from a homogeneous polynomial. The original polynomial can be recovered by examining the diagonal.

As graded bundles are polynomial bundles, and the changes of local coordinates respect the weight, we too can apply this idea to fully linearise a graded bundle. That is, we can enlarge the manifold by including more and more coordinates in the correct way as to linearise the changes of coordinates. In this way we obtain a k-fold vector bundle, and the original graded bundle, which we take to be of degree k.

So, how do we decide on these extra coordinates? The method is to differentiate, reduce and project. That is we should apply the tangent functor as many times as is needed and then look for a substructure thereof. So, let us look at the degree 2 case, which is simple enough to see what is going on. In particular we only need to differentiate once, but you can quickly convince yourself that for higher degrees we just repeat the procedure.

The tangent bundle \( T F_2\) – which we consider the tangent bundle as a double graded bundle – admits local coordinates
\((\underbrace{x}_{(0,0)}, \; \underbrace{y}_{(1,0)} ,\; \underbrace{z}_{(2,0)} \; \underbrace{\dot{x}}_{(0,1)}, \; \underbrace{\dot{y}}_{(1,1)} ,\; \underbrace{\dot{z}}_{(2,1)})\)

The changes of coordinates for the ‘dotted’ coordinates are inherited from the changes of coordinates on \(F_2\),
\(\dot{x}’ = \dot{x}\frac{\partial x’}{\partial x}\),
\( \dot{y}’ = \dot{y}T(x) + y \dot{x} \frac{\partial T}{\partial x}\),
\(\dot{z}’ = \dot{z}G(x) + z \dot{x}\frac{\partial G}{\partial x} + y \dot{y}H(x) + \frac{1}{2}y y \dot{x}\frac{\partial H}{\partial x}\).
Thus we have differentiated.

Clearly we can restrict to the vertical bundle while still respecting the assignment of weights – one inherited from \(F_2\) and the other comes from the vector bundle structure of a tangent bundle. In fact, what we need to do is shift the first weight by minus the second weight. Technically, this means that we no longer are dealing with graded bundles, the coordinate \(\dot{x}\) will be of bi-weight (-1,1). However, the amazing thing here is that we can set this coordinate to zero – as we should do when looking at the vertical bundle – and remain in the category of graded bundles. That is, not only is setting \(\dot{x}=0\) well-defined, you see this from the coordinate transformations; but also this keeps us in the right category. We have preformed a reduction of the (shifted) tangent bundle.

Thus we arrive at a double graded bundle \(VF_2\) which admits local coordinates
\((\underbrace{x}_{(0,0)}, \; \underbrace{y}_{(1,0)} ,\; \underbrace{z}_{(2,0)}, \; \underbrace{\dot{y}}_{(0,1)} ,\; \underbrace{\dot{z}}_{(1,1)})\),
and the obvious admissible changes thereof.

Now, observe that we have the degree of \(z\) as (2,0), which is the coordinate with the highest first component of the bi-weight. Thus, as we have the structure of a graded bundle, we can project to a graded bundle of one lower degree \(\pi : VF_2 \rightarrow l(F_2)\). The resulting double vector bundle is what we will call the linearisation of \(F_2\).

So we have constructed a manifold with coordinates
\((\underbrace{x}_{(0,0)}, \; \underbrace{y}_{(1,0)}, \; \underbrace{\dot{y}}_{(0,1)} ,\; \underbrace{\dot{z}}_{(1,1)})\),
with changes of coordinates
\(x’ = x'(x)\),
\(y’ = y T(x)\)
\( \dot{y}’ = \dot{y}T(x)\),
\(\dot{z}’ = \dot{z}G(x) + y \dot{y}H(x)\).

Then, by comparison with the changes of local coordinates on \(F_2\) you see that we have a canonical embedding of the original graded bundle in its linearisation as a ‘diagonal’
\(\iota : F_2 \rightarrow l(F_2)\),
by setting \(\dot{y} = y\) and \(\dot{z} = 2 z\).

[1] Andrew James Bruce, Janusz Grabowski and Mikołaj Rotkiewicz, Polarisation of Graded Bundles, SIGMA 12 (2016), 106, 30 pages.

[2] Janusz Grabowski and Mikołaj Rotkiewicz, Graded bundles and homogeneity structures, J. Geom. Phys. 62 (2012), 21-36.

[3] Th.Th. Voronov, Graded manifolds and Drinfeld doubles for Lie bialgebroids, in Quantization, Poisson Brackets and Beyond (Manchester, 2001), Contemp. Math., Vol. 315, Amer. Math. Soc., Providence, RI, 2002, 131-168.

HISTRUCT — Workshop on higher structures

There will be a workshop on Leibniz algebras and other higher structures at the University of Luxembourg December 13–16, 2016. For details check the announcement below.


HISTRUCT — Workshop on higher structures

When: 13–16 December 2016

Where: University of Luxembourg-campus Kirchberg, Luxembourg, LUXEMBOURG


Aim and scope
The purpose of this workshop is to bring together mathematicians working on Leibniz algebras and other higher structures.

Confirmed speakers include:
Olivier ELCHINGER (University of Luxembourg)
Yaël FRÉGIER (Université d’Artois)
Xevi GUITART (Universitat de Barcelona)
Honglei LANG (Max Planck Institute for Mathematics)
Camille LAURENT-GENGOUX (University of Lorraine)
Zhangju LIU (Peking University)
Mykola MATVIICHUK (University of Toronto)
Sergei MERKULOV (University of Luxembourg)
Norbert PONCIN (University of Luxembourg)
Florian SCHÄTZ (University of Luxembourg)
Martin SCHLICHENMAIER (University of Luxembourg)
Boris SHOIKET (Antwerp University)
Mathieu STIENON (Pennsylvania State University, USA)
Ping XU (Pennsylvania State University, USA)

Registration :
The deadline for registration is the 2nd of December 2016.

Research Project
– This conference is funded in the frame of the OPEN Scheme of the Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg (FNR) with the project QUANTMOD O13/5707106 and
– Partial funding by the Mathematics Research Unit is acknowledged.

Please feel free to circulate this announcement around you!

The organizers:
Martin Schlichenmaier (Luxembourg)
Ping Xu (Penn State, USA)
Olivier Elchinger (Luxembourg)

Trouble at the maths department at Leicester

This email made its way to me.


Twenty four members of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Leicester – the great majority of the members of the department – have been informed that their post is at risk of redundancy, and will have to reapply for their positions by the end of September. Only eighteen of those applying will be re-appointed (and some of those have been changed to purely teaching positions). This is supposedly because of a financial crisis at the University, though the union disputes this claim. It should be noted that there is no formal tenure in the UK, but such mass redundancies are highly unusual.

You can add your name to the online petition against this unusual
attempt at:

In this case it would be helpful to mention in the comments section that your signature is in support of the Mathematics Department (the petition is for the whole University, but apparently only the Math Dept has been formally notified of the redundancies at this stage).

You can also write directly to:

Professor Paul Boyle
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Leicester
University Road,
Leicester, LE1 7RH,
United Kingdom

On pre-Courant algebroids

Janusz Grabowski and I have placed a prepint on the arXiv with the title Pre-Courant Algebroids.

In the `classical language’, a Courant algebroid is a vector bundle, whose sections come equipped with a bracket – bilinear map – together with an anchor map and a nondegenerate symmetric bilinear form that satisfy some compatibility conditions. The bracket on the space of sections is not a Lie bracket, but rather a non-skewsymmetric bracket that satisfies the Jacobi identity in Loday-Leibniz form. This bracket is usually called the Courant–Dorfman bracket.

A pre-Courant algebroid can be thought of as a Courant algebroid but without the Jacobi identity on the Courant–Dorfman pre-bracket.

It has long be known, due to Roytenberg [1], that Courant algebroids are `really’ symplectic Lie 2-algebroids. That is, we have an N-manifold of degree 2 (a supermanifold with a particular additional grading), equipped with a nondegenerate Poisson bracket of degree -2 and a homological vector field of degree 1 that is Hamiltonian. The brackets of Courant algebroid can then be recovered using the derived bracket formalism and the bilinear form is encoded in the symplectic structure.

Pre-Courant algebroids in the superlanguage
So, do we have a similar understanding of pre-Courant algebroids? The answer is yes…

First back to Courant algebroids. As stated above, they can be encoded in a Hamiltonian vector field – and so they can be encoded in a Grassmann odd Hamiltonian of degree/weight 3, which we denote as \( \Theta\). The fact that the Hamiltonian vector field is homological (Grassmann odd and squares to zero) is equivalent to

\( \{ \Theta, \Theta \} =0 \).

This condition encodes all the compatibility conditions between the bracket and the anchor map (a particular vector bundle map to the tangent bundle). More than that, this condition also encodes the Jacobi identity for the bracket. Thus, we need a weaker condition that is not too weak – we only want to lose the Jacobi identity and keep the other conditions. It turns out that we require

\( \{\{ \Theta, \Theta \}, f\} =0 \),

for all weight zero functions f, if we want to encode a pre-Courant algebroid in exactly the same way as we do a Courant algebroid. In the preprint we define what we call symplectic almost Lie 2-algebroids in this way and show how they correspond to pre-Courant algebroids.

Does this help any?
This change in starting position simplifies many basic facts about pre-Courant algebroids – just as it does with Courant algebroids. In particular, the notion a Dirac structures as a particular Lagrangian submanifolds is quite clear.

In the preprint was also show that including a compatible N-grading is quite simple when one uses the language of homogeneity structures [2]. One should also consult [3,4] where the notion of weighted Lie groupoids and weighted Lie algebroids are explored. As an example VB-Courant algebroids – Courant algebroids with a compatible vector bundle structure – are natural examples of weighted (pre-)Courant algebroids. This change of postion to `graded super bundles’ with some additional structures allows for a very neat understanding of weighted Dirac structure and in particular VB-Dirac structures. This framework simplifes the understanding of many thing.

The bottom line seems to be that Courant algebroids are `really’ sympelectic Lie 2-algebroids and pre-Courant algebroids are really symplectic almost Lie 2-algebroids.

[1] D. Roytenberg, On the structure of graded symplectic supermanifolds and Courant algebroids, in: Quantization, Poisson brackets and beyond (Manchester, 2001), 169–185, Contemp. Math. 315, Amer. Math. Soc., Providence, RI, 2002.

[2] J. Grabowski & M. Rotkiewicz, Graded bundles and homogeneity structures, J. Geom. Phys. 62 (2012), 21–36.

[3] A.J. Bruce, K. Grabowska & J. Grabowski, Graded bundles in the category of Lie groupoids, SIGMA 11 (2015), 090.

[4] A.J. Bruce, K. Grabowska & J. Grabowski, Linear duals of graded bundles and higher analogues of (Lie) algebroids, J. Geom. Phys. 101
(2016), 71–99.

Kirillov structures up to homotopy

My paper with Alfonso Tortorell on higher versions of Kirillov’s local Lie algebras has now been published in Diffrential Geometry and Applications [1]. If you have access to this journal you can follow this link.

In this paper we take the point of view that Jacobi geometry is best understood as homogeneous Poisson geometry – that is Poisson geometry on principle \(\mathbb{R}^{\times}\)-bundles. Every line bundle over a manifold can be understood in terms of such a principle bundle.

The same holds try when we pass to supermanifolds. With this in mind Alfonso and I more-or-less just replace Poisson with higher or homotopy Poisson. This allows us to neatly define an \(L_{\infty}\)-algebra on the space of sections of an even line bundle in the categeory of supermanifolds. This algebra is the higher/homotopy generalisation of Kirillov’s local Lie algebra on the space of sections of a line bundle.

We show that the basic theorems from Kirillov’s local Lie algebras or Jacobi bundles all passes to this higher case.

[1] Andrew James Bruce & Alfonso Giuseppe Tortorella, Kirillov structures up to homotopy, Differential Geometry and its Applications Volume 48, October 2016, Pages 72–86.

A geometric framework for supermechanics

K. Grabowska, Moreno and myself have placed a preprint on the arXiv called ‘On a geometric framework for Lagrangian supermechanics‘.

In this work we take the notion of a curve on a supermanifold to be an S-curve, which is an ‘element’ of the mapping supermanifold Hom(R,M) [1]. This mapping supermanifold is a generalised supermanifold and so it is a functor from the (opposite) category of supermanifolds to sets. Each ‘element’ needs to be ‘probed’ by a supermanifold, and so S-curves are ‘curves’ that are parameterised by all supermanifolds. Or maybe better to say that an S-curve is a family of functors paramaterised by time. At any given time and a given supermanifold S, we have a morphism of supermanifolds S → M. That is, an S-curve tracks out the S-points of M.

With this robust notion of a curve, we go on to define what we mean by an autonomous ordinary differential equation on a supermaifold, and more importantly what we mean by a solution. This seems to have been a notion not at all clearly defined in the existing literature. For us, a differential equation is a sub-structure of the tangent bundle of the said supermanifold, and solutions are S-curves on the supermanifold for which their tangent prolongation sit inside the differential equation. This is very close to the classical notions, but now we use S-points and not just the topological points.

We then take these notion and apply them to supermechanical systems given in terms of a Lagrangian. We use Tulczyjew’s geometric approach to Lagrangian mechanics, and really we only modify the notion of a curve and not the underlying geometry of Tulczyjew’s approach [2]. In doing so, we have a well defined notion of the phase dynamics, the Euler-Lagrange equations and solutions thereof for mechanical systems on supermanifolds. We present a few nice example, includinh Witten’s N=2 supersymmetric model [3] and geodesics on a super-sphere.

The importance of this work is not so much in the equations we present, these can be derived using formal variations. The point is we give some proper mathematical understanding of solutions to the equations.

[1] Andrew James Bruce, On curves and jets of curves on supermanifolds, Archivum Mathematicum, vol. 50 (2014), issue 2, pp. 115-130.
[2] W. M. Tulczyjew, The Legendre transformation, Ann. Inst. H. Poincare Sect. A (N.S.), 27(1):101–114, 1977.
[3] Edward Witten, Dynamical Breaking of Supersymmetry, Nucl. Phys. , B188:513, 1981.

What I have mostly been doing…

J. Grabowski, K. Grabowska and I have placed a preprint on the arXiv called ‘Introduction to Graded Bundles‘ [1], which is based on a talk given by Prof Grabowski at the First International Conference of Differential Geometry, Fez (Morocco), April 11-15, 2016.

The preprint outlines much of our recent work on graded bundles (a nice kind of graded manifold) and their linearisation (as a functor to k-fold vector bundles), as well as the notions of weighted Lie groupoids and algebroids, including the Lie theory.

One key observation that must be made is that there are many examples of graded bundles that appear in the existing literature, it is just that they are not recognised as such and their graded structure is not really exploited. The canonical example here are the higher order tangent bundles which are well studied from the perspective of higher order mechanics.

Anyway, if anyone want to get a quick overview of some of the ideas behind my work, then I direct them to this preprint. If you are interested in the applications to mechanics, then I suggest [2] as well as references therein.

[1] Introduction to graded bundles, Andrew J. Bruce, K. Grabowska, J. Grabowski, arXiv:1605.03296 [math.DG]

[2] New developments in geometric mechanics, A. J. Bruce, K. Grabowska, J. Grabowski, P. Urbanski, arXiv:1510.00296 [math-ph].

Random thoughts on mathematics, physics and more…