What is Tensor: Definition and 1000 Discussions

In mathematics, a tensor is an algebraic object that describes a (multilinear) relationship between sets of algebraic objects related to a vector space. Objects that tensors may map between include vectors and scalars, and even other tensors. There are many types of tensors, including scalars and vectors (which are the simplest tensors), dual vectors, multilinear maps between vector spaces, and even some operations such as the dot product. Tensors are defined independent of any basis, although they are often referred to by their components in a basis related to a particular coordinate system.
Tensors have become important in physics because they provide a concise mathematical framework for formulating and solving physics problems in areas such as mechanics (stress, elasticity, fluid mechanics, moment of inertia, ...), electrodynamics (electromagnetic tensor, Maxwell tensor, permittivity, magnetic susceptibility, ...), or general relativity (stress–energy tensor, curvature tensor, ...) and others. In applications, it is common to study situations in which a different tensor can occur at each point of an object; for example the stress within an object may vary from one location to another. This leads to the concept of a tensor field. In some areas, tensor fields are so ubiquitous that they are often simply called "tensors".
Tullio Levi-Civita and Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro popularised tensors in 1900 - continuing the earlier work of Bernhard Riemann and Elwin Bruno Christoffel and others - as part of the absolute differential calculus. The concept enabled an alternative formulation of the intrinsic differential geometry of a manifold in the form of the Riemann curvature tensor.

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  1. ergospherical

    I Ricci tensor from this action

    Here is an action for a theory which couples gravity to a field in this way:$$S = \int d^4 x \ \sqrt{-g} e^{\Phi} (R + g^{ab} \Phi_{;a} \Phi_{;b})$$I determine\begin{align*} \frac{\partial L}{\partial \phi} &= \sqrt{-g} e^{\Phi} (R + g^{ab} \Phi_{;a} \Phi_{;b}) \\ \nabla_a \frac{\partial...
  2. H

    A Derivation of energy-momentum tensor in "QFT and the SM" by Schwartz

    My question is about this step in the derivation: When the ##\partial_\nu \mathcal L## in 3.33 moves under the ##\partial_\mu## in 3.34 and gets contracted, I'd expect it to become ##\delta_{\mu \nu} \mathcal L##. Why is it rather ##g_{\mu \nu} \mathcal L## in the 3.34? (In this text, ##g_{\mu...
  3. jv07cs

    I Question Regarding Definition of Tensor Algebra

    I am currently reading this book on multilinear algebra ("Álgebra Linear e Multilinear" by Rodney Biezuner, I guess it only has a portuguese edition) and the book defines an Algebra as follows: It also defines the direct sum of two vector spaces, let's say V and W, as the cartesian product V x...
  4. H

    I Diagrammatic tensor notation?

    Penrose demonstrates in his book "The Road to Reality" a "diagrammatic tensor notation", e.g., As I haven't seen it anywhere else, I wonder if anybody else uses it.
  5. MatinSAR

    Prove that K is a tensor using quotient theorem

    $$K'_{ij}A'_{jk}=B'_{ik}=a_{ip}a_{kq}B_{pq}=a_{ip}a_{kq}K_{pr}A_{rq}=a_{ip}a_{kq}K_{pr}a_{jr}a_{kq}A'_{jk}$$$$K'_{ij}=a_{ip}a_{kq}a_{kq}a_{jr}K_{pr}$$ Can someone point out my mistake? What I've found shows that K is not a tensor. It is different from my book and I cannot find my mistake...
  6. MatinSAR

    How many independent components does a tensor have?

    It's a 4th-dimensional 4th-rank tensor so at first we have ##4^4=256## components. According to the book, Given that ##R_{iklm}=-R_{ikml}## 256 components reduces to 96. But I cannot see how. For one pair of i,k 16 components are dependent. We have 12 pairs of i,k(for ##i≠k## becsuse for i=k...
  7. Tommolo

    A A question about tensor calculus in Von Neumann algebra (W*)

    Hi there, have a wonderful next year! I'm here because I have a doubt. I was trying to generalize the Einstein Field Equation for Von Neumann W* Algebra, which is related with non-integer, non always positive degrees of freedom. In particular, with the sum of positive and negative fractal...
  8. H

    I Intuition regarding Riemann curvature tensor

    The Riemann curvature tensor contains second derivatives of metric and squares of the first derivatives. The second derivatives have to be there because they are the ones that cannot be eliminated locally by a choice of coordinates. But other than being a mathematical artifact, is there a...
  9. Thytanium

    I Invariance of a tensor of order 2

    Good morning friends of the Forum. For me it is difficult to geometrically imagine a tensor of order 2 and maybe that is why it is difficult for me to know, what remains invariant when making a change of coordinates of this tensor. The only thing I can think of it, is that since a tensor of...
  10. Q

    I How do you differentiate between the inner and lower indices on a Lambda tensor?

    $$ {\Lambda}^{i}_{j} $$ When indices are written on top of one another I am confused wich is the inner index and which is the lower one when we lower the upper index.
  11. prabin

    A Why does the description of a composite system involve a tensor product?

    Can anyone answer me that why the description of composite system involve tensor product ? Is there any way to realize this intuitively ?
  12. DuckAmuck

    A Anti-symmetric tensor question

    The sigma tensor composed of the commutator of gamma matrices is said to be able to represent any anti-symmetric tensor. \sigma_{\mu\nu} = i/2 [\gamma_\mu,\gamma_\nu] However, it is not clear how one can arrive at something like the electromagnetic tensor. F_{\mu\nu} = a \bar{\psi}...
  13. P

    I Having trouble understanding Tensor Contraction

    I'm having trouble understanding tensor contraction. So for example, for something like AuvBvu, would this equal to some scalar?
  14. milkism

    Maxwell Stress components of the energy-stress-momentum tensor

    Question: Solution: I need help with the last part. I think my numerical factors are incorrect, even if I add the last term it will get worse. What have I done wrong, or is there a better way to deal with this?
  15. P

    I Tensor Calculus (Einstein notation)

    Hello, I realize this might sound dumb, but I'm having such a hard time understanding Einstein notation. For something like ∂uFv - ∂vFu, why is this not necessarily 0 for tensor Fu? Since all these indices are running through the same values 0,1,2,3?
  16. StenEdeback

    I do not understand stress energy tensor for fluids

    I do private studies on my own for fun and right now I read about relativistic field theory as a preparation for later studies of quantum field theory. I simply do not understand where equation 13.78 in Goldstein's "Classical Mechanics" third edition comes from. Please explain. Please also...
  17. E

    General relativity - Using Ricc and Weyl tensor to find the area

    I have the following question to solve:Use the metric:$$ds^2 = -dt^2 +dx^2 +2a^2(t)dxdy + dy^2 +dz^2$$ Test bodies are arranged in a circle on the metric at rest at ##t=0##. The circle define as $$x^2 +y^2 \leq R^2$$ The bodies start to move on geodesic when we have $$a(0)=0$$ a. we have to...
  18. J

    I Schwarzschild Geometry: Einstein Tensor & Mass Density

    The Einstein tensors for the Schwarzschild Geometry equal zero. Why do they not equal something that has to do with the central mass, given that the Einstein equations are of the form: Curvature Measure = Measure of Energy/Matter Density?
  19. MrFlanders

    A GW Binary Merger: Riemann Tensor in Source & TT-Gauge

    In the book general relativity by Hobson the gravitational wave of a binary merger is computed in the frame of the binary merger as well as the TT-gauge. I considered what components of the Riemann tensor along the x-axis in both gauges. The equation for the metric in the source and TT-gauge are...
  20. K

    I Tensor decomposition, Sym representations and irreps.

    New to group theory. I have 3 questions: 1. Tensor decomposition into Tab = T[ab] +T(traceless){ab} + Tr(T{ab}) leads to invariant subspaces. Is this enough to imply these subreps are irreducible? 2. The Symn representations of a group are irreps. Why? 3. What is the connection between...
  21. binbagsss

    A Varying an action wrt a symmetric and traceless tensor

    Consider a Lagrangian, #L#, which is a function of, as well as other fields #\psi_i#, a traceless and symmetric tensor denoted by #f^{uv}#, so that #L=L(f^{uv})#, the associated action is #\int L(f^{uv}, \psi_i)d^4x #. To vary w.r.t #f^{uv}# , I write...
  22. Vanilla Gorilla

    B Solving for the Nth divergence in any coordinate system

    Preface We know that, in Cartesian Coordinates, $$\nabla f= \frac{\partial f}{\partial x} + \frac{\partial f}{\partial y} + \frac{\partial f}{\partial z}$$ and $$\nabla^2 f= \frac{\partial^2 f}{\partial^2 x} + \frac{\partial^2 f}{\partial^2 y} + \frac{\partial^2 f}{\partial^2 z}$$ Generalizing...
  23. Vanilla Gorilla

    B Attempted proof of the Contracted Bianchi Identity

    My Attempted Proof ##R^{mn}_{;n} - \frac {1} {2} g^{mn} R_{;n} = 0## ##R^{mn}_{;n} = \frac {1} {2} g^{mn} R_{;n}## So, we want ##2 R^{mn}_{;n} = g^{mn} R_{;n} ## Start w/ 2nd Bianchi Identity ##R_{abmn;l} + R_{ablm;n} + R_{abnl;m} = 0## Sum w/ inverse metric tensor twice ##g^{bn} g^{am}...
  24. P

    A Problems with the interpretation of the Torsion tensor and the Lie Bracket

    Hi, I've been doing a course on Tensor calculus by Eigenchris and I've come across this problem where depending on the way I compute/expand the Lie bracket the Torsion tensor always goes to zero. If you have any suggestions please reply, I've had this problem for months and I'm desperate to...
  25. D

    I Understanding tensor product and direct sum

    Hi, I'm struggling with understanding the idea of tensor product and direct sum beyond the very basics. I know that direct sum of 2 vectors basically stacks one on top of another - I don't understand more than this . For tensor product I know that for a product of 2 matrices A and B the tensor...
  26. S

    I Reconciling 2 expressions for Riemann curvature tensor

    I'm reading Carroll's GR notes and I'm having trouble deciphering a particular expression for the Riemann curvature tensor. The coordinate-free definition is (eq. 3.71 in the notes): $$R(X,Y)Z=\nabla_X\nabla_YZ-\nabla_Y\nabla_XZ-\nabla_{[X,Y]}Z$$ An index-based expression is also given in (eq...
  27. toabek

    A Get GR Tensor II: Where to Buy Program Library

    Please, how can I get a copy of this program library?
  28. L

    A Going from Cauchy Stress Tensor to GR's Energy Momentum Tensor

    Why do the Cauchy Stress Tensor & the Energy Momentum Tensor have the same SI units? Shouldn't adding time as a dimension changes the Energy Momentum Tensor's units? Did Einstein start with the Cauchy Tensor when he started working on the right hand side of the field equations of GR? If so, What...
  29. Vanilla Gorilla

    B Array Representation Of A General Tensor Question

    So, I've been watching eigenchris's video series "Tensors for Beginners" on YouTube. I am currently on video 14. I, in the position of a complete beginner, am taking notes on it, and I just wanted to make sure I wasn't misinterpreting anything. At about 5:50, he states that "The array for Q is...
  30. Vanilla Gorilla

    B Transformation Rules For A General Tensor M

    So, I've been watching eigenchris's video series "Tensors for Beginners" on YouTube. I am currently on video 14. I am a complete beginner and just want some clarification on if I'm truly understanding the material. Basically, is everything below this correct? In summary of the derivation of the...
  31. M

    A Maxwell theory invariant under dual field strength tensor application

    Hello everybody! I know in classical field theory adding in the Lagrangian density a term of the form Fαβ (*F)αβ (where by * we denote the dual of the field strength tensor) does not change the EOM, since this corresponds to adding a total derivative term to the action. However when computing...
  32. S

    I Orthonormal basis expression for ordinary contraction of a tensor

    I'm reading Semi-Riemannian Geometry by Stephen Newman and came across this theorem: For context, ##\mathcal{R}_s:Mult(V^s,V)\to\mathcal{T}^1_s## is the representation map, which acts like this: $$\mathcal{R}_s(\Psi)(\eta,v_1,\ldots,v_s)=\eta(\Psi(v_1,\ldots,v_s))$$ I don't understand the...
  33. C

    I Visualising Torsion Tensor: Is There a Picture?

    As I understand it, parallel transport of a vector around a closed loop on a manifold can lead (in the tangent space) to 1) an angular change, given by the Riemann curvature tensor or, 2) a translational defect given by the Torsion tensor. I can see how the looping on the curvature of a 2D...
  34. Vanilla Gorilla

    B Beginner Einstein Notation Question On Summation In Regards To Index

    So, I have recently been trying to learn how to work with tensors. In doing this, I have come across Einstein Notation. Below is my question. $$(a_i x_i)_{e}= (\sum_{i=1}^3 a_i x_i)_r=(a_1 x_1+a_2 x_2+a_3 x_3)_r$$; note that the following expression is in three dimensions, and I use the...
  35. P

    A Why electromagnetic tensor (Faraday 2-form) is exact? (and not closed)

    Following from Wikipedia, the covariant formulation of electromagnetic field involves postulating an electromagnetic field tensor(Faraday 2-form) F such that F=dA where A is a 1-form, which makes F an exact differential form. However, is there any specific reason for expecting F to be exact...
  36. G

    A Principal Invariants of the Weyl Tensor

    It's possible that this may be a better fit for the Differential Geometry forum (in which case, please do let me know). However, I'm curious to know whether anyone is aware of any standard naming convention for the two principal invariants of the Weyl tensor. For the Riemann tensor, the names of...
  37. L

    Inertia tensor around principal Axes part 2

    Hi, it's about the task e) Since the density is homogeneous, I have assumed the following for ##\rho=\frac{M}{V}##. I then started the proof of ##I_{23}##, the integral looks like this: $$ I_{23}=\int_{}^{} -\frac{M}{V}r'_2r'_3 d^3r$$ Now I apply the transformation $$ I_{23}=\int_{}^{}...
  38. L

    Inertia tensor around principal Axes

    Hi, unfortunately, I am not getting anywhere with the following task The inertia tensor is as follows $$\left( \begin{array}{rrr} I_{11} & I_{12} & I_{13} \\ I_{21} & I_{22} & I_{23} \\ I_{31} & I_{32} & I_{33} \\ \end{array}\right)$$ I had now thought that I could simply rotate the...
  39. Onyx

    B Calculate Unit Normal Vector for Metric Tensor

    How do I calculate the unit normal vector for any metric tensor?
  40. Euge

    POTW Semisimple Tensor Product of Fields

    Let ##L/k## be a field extension. Suppose ##F## is a finite separable extension of ##k##. Prove ##L\otimes_k F## is a semisimple algebra over ##k##.
  41. fluidistic

    A Neumann's principle (group theory applied to crystals), Seebeck tensor

    I am reading about symmetries in crystals, and my knowledge in the field of group theory is almost nill. I am reading that, in the worst case, the electrical and thermal conductivity tensors can possess, at maximum, 6 different entries rather than 9, thanks to Neumann's principle which states...
  42. H

    B Tensor product of operators and ladder operators

    Hi Pfs i have 2 matrix representations of SU(2) . each of them uses a up> and down basis (d> and u> If i take their tensor product i will get 4*4 matrices with this basis: d>d>,d>u>,u>d>,u>u> these representation is the sum equal to the sum of the 0-representation , a singlet represertation with...
  43. Math Amateur

    I The Inertia Tensor .... Determining Components of Angular Momentum ....

    I am reading Tensor Calculus for Physics by Dwight E. Neuenschwander and am having difficulties in following his logic regarding proceeding to derive the components of Angular Momentum and from there the components of the Inertia Tensor ... On page 36 we read the following: In the above text...
  44. apostolosdt

    A Rich "isotropic tensor" concept

    My field is physics and I'm very cautious about the "math describing the Nature" attitude, but I can't help admiring the deep richness of mathematics! The other day, I was checking about isotropic tensors. An isotropic tensor keeps its components in all coordinated systems transformed under...
  45. G

    I Calculate Contraction 2nd & 4th Indices Riemann Tensor

    How to calculate the contraction of second and fourth indices of Riemann tensor?I can only deal with other indices.Thank you!
  46. G

    I Diagonal Matrix of Stress-Energy Tensor: Why?

    I came across a statement in《A First Course in General Relativity》:“The only matrix diagonal in all frames is a multiple of the identity:all its diagonal terms are equal.”Why?I don’t remember this conclusion in linear algebra.The preceding part of this sentence is:Viscosity is a force parallel...
  47. G

    I Question about Stress-Energy Tensor: A First Course in GR

    I came across a statement in《A First Course in General Relativity》on page 97 which confused me.It read:"if the forces are perpendicular to the interfaces,then##T^i{^j}##will be zero unless ##i=j##". Where the ##T## is stress-energy tensor,##T^i{^j}##is the flux of i momentum across the j surface.
  48. G

    I What kind of tensor is the gradient of a vector Field?

    (1,1)or(2,0)or(0,2)?And does a dual vector field have gradient?