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Concept# Tangent bundle

Summary

In differential geometry, the tangent bundle of a differentiable manifold is a manifold which assembles all the tangent vectors in . As a set, it is given by the disjoint union of the tangent spaces of . That is,
where denotes the tangent space to at the point . So, an element of can be thought of as a pair , where is a point in and is a tangent vector to at .
There is a natural projection
defined by . This projection maps each element of the tangent space to the single point .
The tangent bundle comes equipped with a natural topology (described in a section below). With this topology, the tangent bundle to a manifold is the prototypical example of a vector bundle (which is a fiber bundle whose fibers are vector spaces). A section of is a vector field on , and the dual bundle to is the cotangent bundle, which is the disjoint union of the cotangent spaces of . By definition, a manifold is parallelizable if and only if the tangent bundle is trivial. By definition, a manifold is framed if and only if the tangent bundle is stably trivial, meaning that for some trivial bundle the Whitney sum is trivial. For example, the n-dimensional sphere Sn is framed for all n, but parallelizable only for n = 1, 3, 7 (by results of Bott-Milnor and Kervaire).
One of the main roles of the tangent bundle is to provide a domain and range for the derivative of a smooth function. Namely, if is a smooth function, with and smooth manifolds, its derivative is a smooth function .
The tangent bundle comes equipped with a natural topology (not the disjoint union topology) and smooth structure so as to make it into a manifold in its own right. The dimension of is twice the dimension of .
Each tangent space of an n-dimensional manifold is an n-dimensional vector space. If is an open contractible subset of , then there is a diffeomorphism which restricts to a linear isomorphism from each tangent space to . As a manifold, however, is not always diffeomorphic to the product manifold . When it is of the form , then the tangent bundle is said to be trivial.

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