Concept

# Gaussian curvature

Summary
In differential geometry, the Gaussian curvature or Gauss curvature Κ of a smooth surface in three-dimensional space at a point is the product of the principal curvatures, κ1 and κ2, at the given point: The Gaussian radius of curvature is the reciprocal of Κ. For example, a sphere of radius r has Gaussian curvature 1/r2 everywhere, and a flat plane and a cylinder have Gaussian curvature zero everywhere. The Gaussian curvature can also be negative, as in the case of a hyperboloid or the inside of a torus. Gaussian curvature is an intrinsic measure of curvature, depending only on distances that are measured “within” or along the surface, not on the way it is isometrically embedded in Euclidean space. This is the content of the Theorema egregium. Gaussian curvature is named after Carl Friedrich Gauss, who published the Theorema egregium in 1827. At any point on a surface, we can find a normal vector that is at right angles to the surface; planes containing the normal vector are called normal planes. The intersection of a normal plane and the surface will form a curve called a normal section and the curvature of this curve is the normal curvature. For most points on most “smooth” surfaces, different normal sections will have different curvatures; the maximum and minimum values of these are called the principal curvatures, call these κ1, κ2. The Gaussian curvature is the product of the two principal curvatures Κ = κ1κ2. The sign of the Gaussian curvature can be used to characterise the surface. If both principal curvatures are of the same sign: κ1κ2 > 0, then the Gaussian curvature is positive and the surface is said to have an elliptic point. At such points, the surface will be dome like, locally lying on one side of its tangent plane. All sectional curvatures will have the same sign. If the principal curvatures have different signs: κ1κ2 < 0, then the Gaussian curvature is negative and the surface is said to have a hyperbolic or saddle point. At such points, the surface will be saddle shaped.