The Unapologetic Mathematician

Mathematics for the interested outsider

The Exterior Derivative is a Derivation

To further make our case that the exterior derivative deserves its name, I say it’s a derivation of the algebra \Omega(M). But since it takes k-forms and sends them to k+1-forms, it has degree one instead of zero like the Lie derivative. As a consequence, the Leibniz rule looks a little different. If \alpha is a k-form and \beta is an l-form, I say that:

\displaystyle d(\alpha\wedge\beta)=(d\alpha)\wedge\beta+(-1)^k\alpha\wedge(d\beta)

This is because of a general rule of thumb that when we move objects of degree p and q past each other we pick up a sign of (-1)^{pq}.

Anyway, the linearity property of a derivation is again straightforward, and it’s the Leibniz rule that we need to verify. And again it suffices to show that

\displaystyle d(\alpha_1\wedge\dots\wedge\alpha_k)=\sum\limits_{i=1}^k(-1)^{i-1}\alpha_1\wedge\dots\wedge(d\alpha_i)\wedge\dots\wedge\alpha_k

If we plug this into both sides of the Leibniz identity, it’s obviously true. And then it suffices to show that we can peel off a single 1-form from the front of the list. That is, we can just show that the Leibniz identity holds in the case where \alpha is a 1-form and bootstrap it from there.

So here’s the thing: this is a huge, tedious calculation. I had this thing worked out most of the way; it was already five times as long as this post you see here, and the last steps would make it even more complicated. So I’m just going to assert that if you let \alpha be a 1-form and \beta be an l-form, and if you expand out both sides of the Leibniz rule all the way, you’ll see that they’re the same. To make it up to you, I promise that we can come back to this later once we have a simpler expression for the exterior derivative and show that it works then.

July 16, 2011 - Posted by | Differential Topology, Topology


  1. […] is that for all exterior forms . This is only slightly less messy to prove than the fact that is a derivation. But since it’s so extremely important, we soldier onward! If is a -form we […]

    Pingback by The Exterior Derivative is Nilpotent « The Unapologetic Mathematician | July 19, 2011 | Reply

  2. After reading these insightful “blaths”, I am wondering if you are going to write about complex manifolds too.
    Thanks for great articles.

    Comment by RK | August 6, 2011 | Reply

  3. […] this is clearer if we write it in terms of differential forms; since the exterior derivative is a derivation we can […]

    Pingback by Gauss’ Law for Magnetism « The Unapologetic Mathematician | January 12, 2012 | Reply

  4. […] Armstrong: The algebra of differential forms, Pulling back forms, The Lie derivative on forms, The exterior derivative is a derivative, The exterior derivative is nilpotent, De Rham Cohomology, Pullbacks on Cohomology, De Rham […]

    Pingback by Tenth Linkfest | August 21, 2012 | Reply

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