Characteristic classes are invariants of bundles living in the cohomology of the base. The most common examples of characteristic classes are the Chern, Stiefel–Whitney, and Pontryagin classes.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

19
votes
3answers
2k views

How to interpret the Euler class?

Although I (hardly) understand the formal definition of the Euler class, I have very little intuition of it. I understand that the Euler class of $E\to X$ is zero if and only if there is a section, ...
18
votes
2answers
959 views

How to understand the Todd class?

I am reading the article "K-Theory and Elliptic Operators"(http://arxiv.org/abs/math/0504555), which is about Atiyah-Singer index theorem. In page 14 the article discussed the Thom isomorphism: $$\psi:...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

Where do Chern classes live? $c_1(L)\in \textrm{?}$

If $X$ is a complex manifold, one can define the first Chern class of $L\in \textrm{Pic}\,X$ to be its image in $H^2(X,\textbf Z)$, by using the exponential sequence. So one can write something like $...
14
votes
1answer
133 views

Exists homeomorphism which carries each fiber isomorphically to itself, composition?

Let $\mu$ and $\mu'$ be two different Euclidean metrics on the same vector bundle $\xi$. How do I see that there exists a homeomorphism $f: E(\xi) \to E(\xi)$ which carries each fiber isomorphically ...
13
votes
2answers
444 views

Different ways of representing a second cohomology class

There are probably many ways of talking about a second (integral) cohomology class of a smooth, closed, orientable manifold $M$ of dimension $n$. Here are a few, with $\alpha\in H^2(M,\mathbb{Z})$: ...
12
votes
1answer
633 views

Second Stiefel-Whitney Class of a 3 Manifold

This is exercise 12.4 in Characteristic Classes by Milnor and Stasheff. The essential content of the exercise is to show that $w_2(TM)=0$, where $M$ is a closed, oriented 3-manifold, $TM$ its tangent ...
12
votes
2answers
143 views

How do we construct an associated bundle $V_{n, q}(\omega)$ over $B$ with typical fiber $V_{n - q}(F)$?

Let $V_{n - q}(\mathbb{C}^n)$ denote the complex Stiefel manifold consisting of all complex $(n - q)$-frames in $\mathbb{C}^n$, where $0 \le q < n$. This manifold is $2q$-connected, and$$\pi_{2q + ...
12
votes
0answers
269 views

Has anyone seen this combinatorial identity involving the Bernoulli and Stirling numbers?

Does anyone know a nice (combinatorial?) proof and/or reference for the following identity? $$\left( \frac{\alpha}{1 - e^{-\alpha}} \right)^{n+1} \equiv \sum_{j=0}^n \frac{(n-j)!}{n!} |s(n+1, n+1-...
11
votes
0answers
1k views

Cohomology ring of Grassmannians

I'm reading a paper called An Additive Basis for the Cohomology of Real Grassmannians, which begins by making the following claim (paraphrasing): Let $w=1+w_1+ \ldots + w_m$ be the total Stiefel-...
10
votes
2answers
656 views

When characteristic classes determine a bundle?

Let $k$ be a natural number and $F$ be $\mathbb C$ or $\mathbb R$. What conditions should be imposed on a topological space that it was true that a $k$-dimensional vector bundle defined over $F$ on ...
9
votes
2answers
992 views

The “Wu formula” and Steenrod algebras

The Wikipedia page on Stiefel-Whitney classes includes the following paragraph: Over the Steenrod algebra, the Stiefel–Whitney classes of a smooth manifold (defined as the Stiefel–Whitney ...
8
votes
3answers
236 views

Why $\mathbb{RP}^2$ can not be embedded to $\mathbb{R}^3$?

Is there any answer of this question around basic theory of differentiable manifolds?
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Elementary proof of the fact that any orientable 3-manifold is parallelizable

A parallelizable manifold $M$ is a smooth manifold such that there exist smooth vector fields $V_1,...,V_n$ where $n$ is the dimension of $M$, such that at any point $p\in M$, the tangent vectors $V_1(...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Spin manifold and the second Stiefel-Whitney class

We know that: Spin structures will exist if and only if the second Stiefel-Whitney class $w_2(M)\in H^2(M,\mathbb Z/2)$ of $M$ vanishes. Can someone use simple words and logic to show why the ...
8
votes
2answers
278 views

Why is the constant relating the chern class and curvature form always $2\pi i$?

I'm reading Milnor's book on Characteristic Classes. In Appendix C, Milnor shows the invariant polynomial of the curvature form and the Chern class differ by powers of $2\pi i$. He first shows that ...
8
votes
1answer
312 views

Relation between Stiefel-Whitney class and Chern class

A complex vector bundle of rank n can be viewed as a real vector bundle of rank 2n. From nLab, we have that the second Stiefel-Whitney class of the real vector bundle is given by the first Chern class ...
8
votes
1answer
574 views

Chern Classes and Stiefel-Whitney Classes

I'm trying to understand the relationship between Chern classes and Stiefel-Whitney classes, and I came upon this problem (14-E) in Milnor-Stasheff's Characteristic Classes. We are asked to define ...
8
votes
2answers
322 views

On the smooth structure of $\mathbb{R}P^n$ in Milnor's book on characteristic classes.

This question concerns problem 1-B in the book of Milnor and Stasheff part a. They first define the set $F:=\{f:\mathbb{R}P^n\rightarrow\mathbb{R} \mid \text{$f\circ q$ is smooth}\}$ where $q:\mathbb{...
7
votes
2answers
151 views

Chern-Weil: why do we divide by $2\pi$?

So here's a somewhat incoherent question. To define characteristic classes in the Chern–Weil way, one takes a curvature form $\Omega$ on a vector bundle $E \to M$ and an invariant polynomial $f$...
7
votes
1answer
106 views

Intuitive interpration of the Thom isomorphism and relative cohomology

Let $p: E \rightarrow B $ be an an oriented real vector bundle or rank $n$. Then there exists a unique class $u \in H^n(E, E - B; \mathbb{Z})$, where $B$ is embedded into $E$ as the zero section, such ...
7
votes
1answer
196 views

What can we say about a vector bundle with trivial unit sphere bundle?

If you want to avoid the back story to this question, feel free to skip the paragraphs between the horizontal lines. Yesterday Georges Elencwajg asked me the following question (I'm paraphrasing): ...
7
votes
1answer
346 views

Questions on Chern characters.

Let $X$ be a complex manifold and $\mathcal{O}_p$ a skyscraper sheaf. How can one compute the Chern character $ch(\mathcal{O}_p)$? For vecoto bundles, we have $ch(V)\cup ch(W)=ch(V\otimes W)$, but ...
7
votes
0answers
328 views

Two Grassman manifold problems from Milnor and Stasheff's book

I'm stuck on the following two problems in Milnor and Stasheff's book Characteristic Classes. Really can't get my head around this material and I'm hoping that more worked examples would help. Even ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

Chern Classes of a Trivial Bundle

Could someone explain to me why the chern classes of a trivial bundle are zero? (I'm studying it from Bott & Tu book) To be more specific I can't understand why, given the vector bundle $E$ on $M$...
6
votes
1answer
244 views

Why are characteristic classes well-defined?

In the definition of characteristic classes for a complex vector bundle $E$ ober a topological space $X$, we consider some space $X_S$ and a continuous map $p: X \rightarrow X'$ such that $E$ is ...
6
votes
1answer
470 views

Relations of Characteristic classes: Chern, Stiefel-Whitney, Pontryagin, Euler, Wu class. [closed]

We have a quite some characteristic classes: Chern class, Stiefel-Whitney class, Pontryagin class, Euler class, Wu class, etc. I wonder whether some math experts can use simple words and basic ...
6
votes
2answers
531 views

Quick question: Chern classes of Sym, Wedge, Hom, and Tensor

Given $L$ is a line bundle and $V$ is bundle of rank $r$ on a surface (compact complex manifold of dim 2). Recall the formula for $c_1$ and $c_2$: $c_1(V\otimes L)=c_1(V)+rc_1(L)$ $c_2(V\...
6
votes
1answer
213 views

Tensor product of real line bundles is trivial as a map $\mathbb{R}P^\infty\to\mathbb{R}P^\infty\times\mathbb{R}P^\infty\to\mathbb{R}P^\infty$

The tensor product of a real line bundle with itself is trivial, as is easily seen by looking at the transition functions or checking the Stiefel-Whitney class. Real line bundles are classified by the ...
6
votes
1answer
228 views

Topological invariance of chern classes

Are Chern classes topological invariants? To be more precise: Given two complex manifolds $M$ and $N$. Does a homeomophism $f:M\to N$ map Chern classes to Chern classes?
6
votes
1answer
694 views

Euler characteristic is equal to self-intersection number of zero-section?

As I recall (from Guillemin and Pollack "Differential Topology") the Euler characteristic of a (for my purposes, compact and oriented) smooth manifold X is defined as $\chi(X)=I(\Delta,\Delta)$, ...
6
votes
1answer
419 views

To prove a vector bundle $\xi$ is orientable $\iff w_1(\xi)=0$

I went about it this way: $\xi$ an $n$-rank vector bundle over a topological space $M$ is orientable. $\iff$ its top exterior power $\bigwedge^n\xi$ is trivial $\iff$ the 1-frame bundle $V_1(\...
6
votes
1answer
149 views

If the top Stiefel-Whitney class of a compact manifold is nonzer0, must there be another non-vanishing Stiefel-Whitney class?

I was trying to collect some examples of Stiefel-Whitney class computations, just to make myself more familiar with them. It seems from my (relatively short list) that if the top Stiefel-Whitney ...
6
votes
1answer
274 views

What's the map $BU \times \mathbb{Z} \to \prod K(\mathbb{Z},n)$ representing the total Chern class?

Recall that complex topological $K$-theory is representable on reasonable spaces by the space $BU \times \mathbb{Z}$ (where $BU$ is a colimit of various infinite Grassmannians), and that the total ...
6
votes
1answer
206 views

Chern classes via connections

Let $M$ be a smooth real manifold and $B$ an Hermitian vector bundle over it. Then one can define Chern classes as $$c(B)=\sum c_i(B)t^i=\det \left( I+\frac{it\Omega}{2\pi} \right) \in H_{DR}^*(M),...
6
votes
1answer
199 views

First Pontryagin class on real Grassmannian manifold?

I wonder if real Grassmannian manifold $SO(p+q)/SO(p) \times SO(q)$ have nontrivial first Pontryagin class? I only have physics background and know really little about characteristic class theory.
6
votes
1answer
484 views

The Stiefel–Whitney classes of a Cartesian product

Exercise 4-A of Milnor and Stasheff's book Characteristic Classes reads: Show that the Stiefel–Whitney classes of a Cartesian product are given by $$w_k(\xi\times\eta) = \sum^k_{i=0} w_i(\xi)\...
6
votes
1answer
71 views

Is $[N]^\#([N])$ congruent to $w_n(\nu_N)([N])$ mod $2$, where $\nu_N$ is the normal bundle of the embedding of $N$ in $M$?

Let $M$ be a closed, smooth, orientable $2n$-manifold, and let $N$ be a closed, smooth, orientable $n$-submanifold. Let $[N]^\#$ denote the cohomology class (Poincaré) dual to the homology class $[N]$....
6
votes
1answer
264 views

Manifolds with vanishing Stiefel-Whitney classes but are not stably parallelizable

It is known that if a manifold is stably parallelizable, then it's Stiefel-Whitney classes must vanish. Is the converse true? Note that we know that the converse cannot hold if stably parallelizable ...
6
votes
1answer
74 views

All tangential Stiefel-Whitney numbers of $\mathbb{R}P^q$ are zero iff $q$ is odd, reference?

Where can I find a reference to the proof of the following fact? All tangential Stiefel-Whitney numbers of $\mathbb{R}P^q$ are zero if and only if $q$ is odd. I made a quick search through ...
6
votes
1answer
89 views

Motivating Characteristic Classes Using $S^2$

Trying to understand characteristic classes, hoping someone can explain/fit my example below into the wider scheme of things: Chern's book says Characteristic classes are the simplest global ...
6
votes
1answer
47 views

Chern character in odd K-theory

I'm familiar with the definition of Chern character for a vector bundle. This leads to the definition of Chern character for $K$ theory (even theory) with values in even cohomology (the definition ...
6
votes
1answer
262 views

Intersection theory proof of the poincare hopf theorem.

Suppose that $M$ is a connected compact oriented smooth manifold, and $X:M\rightarrow TM$ a vector field with isolated zeros. Then if $Z$ is the zero set of $X$ (a $0$-dimensional oriented manifold), ...
6
votes
1answer
299 views

explicit cocycle representing Stiefel-Whitney class in Milnor and Stasheff

I am trying to do Problem 7A in Characteristic Classes by Milnor and Stasheff which asks the reader to do the following: Identify explicitly the cocycle $C^r(G_n) \cong H^r(G_n)$ which ...
6
votes
1answer
223 views

Obstruction cocycle of Stiefel manifold

I was reading about the interpretation of Stiefel Whitney classes as obstructions from Milnor-Stasheff's book and I got stuck at a step. The context is the following. Let $E \to B$ be a vector bundle ...
6
votes
1answer
215 views

How can we detect the existence of almost-complex structures?

Any smooth $2n$-manifold $M$ comes with a well-defined map $f:M\rightarrow BGL_{2n}(\mathbb{R})$ (up to homotopy) classifying its tangent bundle. Since $GL_{2n}(\mathbb{R})$ deformation-retracts onto ...
6
votes
0answers
83 views

Prop 12.8 in Bott & Tu

Yo! This proposition in Bott & Tu have been haunting me for a year or so since I always have to come back to this book for references. More precisely, the second equality in Proposition 12.8 in ...
6
votes
0answers
75 views

Finding the chern classes of line bundles over projective space using homotopy classes of clutching functions

I have just started to learn about characteristic classes and before learning more about the ways to compute them it would be nice to compute some examples using tools I already know. I only started ...
6
votes
0answers
79 views

Determining an explicit line bundle over surface

The following is a explicitly defined complex line bundle $E\to\Sigma$ over a closed surface: View $\Sigma$ as a subset of $\mathbb{R}^3$ and consider its Gauss map $n:\Sigma\to S^2$ given by (outward-...
6
votes
0answers
54 views

Chern classes of free quotient manoflds

Let $X$ be a compact complex manifold. Assume that a finite group acts on $X$ freely. Then the quotient $X/G$ is again a compact complex manifold. I wonder if there is a good way to compute Chern ...
5
votes
2answers
457 views

Vanishing of the second Stiefel–Whitney classes of orientable surfaces

How does one see that the second Stiefel-Whitney class is zero for all orientable surfaces. For $S^2$ this can be seen by $TS^2$ being stably trivial, and for $S^1 \times S^1$ one can use $T (S^1 \...