Euler class

Euler class

In mathematics, specifically in algebraic topology, the Euler class, named after Leonhard Euler, is a characteristic class of oriented, real vector bundles. Like other characteristic classes, it measures how "twisted" the vector bundle is. In the case of the tangent bundle of a smooth manifold, it generalizes the classical notion of Euler characteristic.

Throughout this article E o X is an oriented, real vector bundle of rank r.

Formal definition

The Euler class e(E) is an element of the integral cohomology group

:H^r(X; mathbb{Z}),

constructed as follows. An orientation of E amounts to a continuous choice of generator of the cohomology

:H^r(F, F setminus F_0; mathbb{Z})

of each fiber F relative to the complement F setminus F_0 to its zero element F_0. This induces an orientation class

:u in H^r(E, E setminus E_0; mathbb{Z})

in the cohomology of E relative to the complement E setminus E_0 to the zero section E_0. The inclusions

:(X, emptyset) hookrightarrow (E, emptyset) hookrightarrow (E, E setminus E_0),

where X includes into E as the zero section, induce maps

:H^r(E, E setminus E_0; mathbb{Z}) o H^r(E; mathbb{Z}) o H^r(X; mathbb{Z}).

The Euler class e(E) is the image of u under the composite of these maps.


The Euler class satisfies these useful properties:

* Functoriality: If F o Y is another oriented, real vector bundle and f : Y o X is continuous and covered by an orientation-preserving map F o E, then e(F) = f^* e(E). In particular, e(f^* E) = f^* e(E).

* Orientation: If ar E is E with the opposite orientation, then e(ar E) = -e(E).

* Whitney sum formula: If F o X is another oriented, real vector bundle, then the Euler class of the direct sum E oplus F is given by

:e(E oplus F) = e(E) cup e(F).

* Normalization: If E possesses a nowhere-zero section, then e(E) = 0.

Under mild conditions (such as X a smooth, closed, oriented manifold), the Euler class corresponds to the vanishing of a section of E in the following way. Let

:sigma : X o E

be a generic smooth section and Z subseteq X its zero locus. Then Z represents a homology class [Z] of codimension r in X, and e(E) is the Poincaré dual of [Z] .

For example, if Y is a compact submanifold, then the Euler class of the normal bundle of Y in X is naturally identified with the self-intersection of Y in X.

Relations to other invariants

In the special case when the bundle E in question is the tangent bundle of a compact, oriented, r-dimensional manifold, the Euler class is an element of the top cohomology of the manifold, which is naturally identified with the integers by evaluating cohomology classes on the fundamental homology class. Under this identification, the Euler class of the tangent bundle equals the Euler characteristic of the manifold. In the language of characteristic numbers, the Euler characteristic is the characteristic number corresponding to the Euler class.

Thus the Euler class is a generalization of the Euler characteristic to vector bundles other than tangent bundles. In turn, the Euler class is the archetype for other characteristic classes of vector bundles, in that each "top" characteristic class equals the Euler class, as follows.

Modding out by 2 induces a map

:H^r(X, mathbb{Z}) o H^r(X, mathbb{Z}/2).

The image of the Euler class under this map is the top Stiefel-Whitney class w_r(E). One can view this Stiefel-Whitney class as "the Euler class, ignoring orientation".

Any complex vector bundle V of complex rank d can be regarded as an oriented, real vector bundle E of real rank 2d. The top Chern class c_d(V) of the complex bundle equals the Euler class e(E) of the real bundle.

The Whitney sum E oplus E is isomorphic to the complexification E otimes mathbb{C}, which is a complex bundle of rank r. Comparing Euler classes, we see that

:e(E) cup e(E) = e(E oplus E) = e(E otimes mathbb{C}) = c_r(E otimes mathbb{C}) in H^{2r}(X, mathbb{Z}).

If the rank r is even, then this cohomology class e(E) cup e(E) equals the top Pontryagin class p_{r/2}(E).

Example: Line bundle over the circle

The cylinder is a line bundle over the circle, by the natural projection mathbb{R} imes mathbb{S}^1 o mathbb{S}^1. It is a trivial line bundle, so it possesses a nowhere-zero section, and so its Euler class is 0. It is also isomorphic to the tangent bundle of the circle; the fact that its Euler class is 0 corresponds to the fact that the Euler characteristic of the circle is 0.


*cite book | author=Bott, Raoul and Tu, Loring W. | title=Differential Forms in Algebraic Topology
publisher=Springer-Verlag | year=1982 | id=ISBN 0-387-90613-4

*cite book | author=Bredon, Glen E. | title=Topology and Geometry | publisher=Springer-Verlag | year=1993 | id= ISBN 0-387-97926-3
*cite book | author=Milnor, John W. and Stasheff, James D. | title=Characteristic Classes
publisher=Princeton University Press | year=1974 | id=ISBN 0-691-08122-0

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