Manifold

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point. More precisely, an n-dimensional manifold, or n-manifold for short, is a topological space with the property that each point has a neighborhood that is homeomorphic to an open subset of n-dimensional Euclidean space.

The real projective plane is a two-dimensional manifold that cannot be realized in three dimensions without self-intersection, shown here as Boy's surface.
The surface of the Earth requires (at least) two charts to include every point. Here the globe is decomposed into charts around the North and South Poles.

One-dimensional manifolds include lines and circles, but not figure eights. Two-dimensional manifolds are also called surfaces. Examples include the plane, the sphere, and the torus, and also the Klein bottle and real projective plane.

The concept of a manifold is central to many parts of geometry and modern mathematical physics because it allows complicated structures to be described in terms of well-understood topological properties of simpler spaces. Manifolds naturally arise as solution sets of systems of equations and as graphs of functions. The concept has applications in computer-graphics and augmented-reality given the need to associate pictures with coordinates (e.g. CT scans).

Manifolds can be equipped with additional structure. One important class of manifolds are differentiable manifolds; their differentiable structure allows calculus to be done. A Riemannian metric on a manifold allows distances and angles to be measured. Symplectic manifolds serve as the phase spaces in the Hamiltonian formalism of classical mechanics, while four-dimensional Lorentzian manifolds model spacetime in general relativity.

The study of manifolds requires working knowledge of calculus and topology.


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