## Homotopic Maps Induce Identical Maps On Homology

The first and most important implication of the Poincaré lemma is actually the most straightforward.

We know that a map induces a chain map , which induces a map on the de Rham cohomology. This is what we mean when we say that de Rham cohomology is functorial.

Now if is a homotopy, then the Poincaré lemma gives us a chain homotopy from to as chain maps, which tells us that the maps they induce on homology are identical. That is, passing to homology “decategorifies” the 2-categorical structure we saw before and makes two maps “the same” if they’re homotopic.

As a great example of this, let’s say that is a contractible manifold. That is, the identity map and the constant map for some are homotopic. These two maps thus induce identical maps on homology. Clearly, by functoriality, is the identity map on . Slightly less clearly, is the trivial map sending everything in to . But this means that the identity map on is the same thing as the zero map, and thus must be trivial for all .

The upshot is that contractible manifolds have trivial homology. And — as an immediate corollary — we see that any compact, oriented manifold without boundary cannot be contractible, since we know that they have some nontrivial homology!

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[...] each carrying a current . Recall that Gauss’ law for magnetism tells us that ; since space is contractible, we know that its homology is trivial, and thus must be the curl of some other vector field , [...]

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[...] unspoken assumption that the second de Rham cohomology of our space vanishes. Yes, this is true for contractible spaces, but we must make mention of the fact that our space is contractible! In fact, I did exactly [...]

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