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Concept# Curvature

Summary

In mathematics, curvature is any of several strongly related concepts in geometry. Intuitively, the curvature is the amount by which a curve deviates from being a straight line, or a surface deviates from being a plane.
For curves, the canonical example is that of a circle, which has a curvature equal to the reciprocal of its radius. Smaller circles bend more sharply, and hence have higher curvature. The curvature at a point of a differentiable curve is the curvature of its osculating circle, that is the circle that best approximates the curve near this point. The curvature of a straight line is zero. In contrast to the tangent, which is a vector quantity, the curvature at a point is typically a scalar quantity, that is, it is expressed by a single real number.
For surfaces (and, more generally for higher-dimensional manifolds), that are embedded in a Euclidean space, the concept of curvature is more complex, as it depends on the choice of a direction on the surface or manifold. This leads to the concepts of maximal curvature, minimal curvature, and mean curvature.
For Riemannian manifolds (of dimension at least two) that are not necessarily embedded in a Euclidean space, one can define the curvature intrinsically, that is without referring to an external space. See Curvature of Riemannian manifolds for the definition, which is done in terms of lengths of curves traced on the manifold, and expressed, using linear algebra, by the Riemann curvature tensor.
In Tractatus de configurationibus qualitatum et motuum, the 14th-century philosopher and mathematician Nicole Oresme introduces the concept of curvature as a measure of departure from straightness; for circles he has the curvature as being inversely proportional to the radius; and he attempts to extend this idea to other curves as a continuously varying magnitude.
The curvature of a differentiable curve was originally defined through osculating circles. In this setting, Augustin-Louis Cauchy showed that the center of curvature is the intersection point of two infinitely close normal lines to the curve.

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Geometry

Geometry (; ) is a branch of mathematics concerned with properties of space such as the distance, shape, size, and relative position of figures. Geometry is, along with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. A mathematician who works in the field of geometry is called a geometer. Until the 19th century, geometry was almost exclusively devoted to Euclidean geometry, which includes the notions of point, line, plane, distance, angle, surface, and curve, as fundamental concepts.

Manifold

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point. More precisely, an -dimensional manifold, or -manifold for short, is a topological space with the property that each point has a neighborhood that is homeomorphic to an open subset of -dimensional Euclidean space. One-dimensional manifolds include lines and circles, but not lemniscates. 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.

Differential geometry

Differential geometry is a mathematical discipline that studies the geometry of smooth shapes and smooth spaces, otherwise known as smooth manifolds. It uses the techniques of differential calculus, integral calculus, linear algebra and multilinear algebra. The field has its origins in the study of spherical geometry as far back as antiquity. It also relates to astronomy, the geodesy of the Earth, and later the study of hyperbolic geometry by Lobachevsky.

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