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.

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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, ...
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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: ...
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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 ...
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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 $\alpha\in H^2(M,\mathbb{Z})$: ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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.
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Exercise 4-A “Characteristic Classes” by Milnor and Stasheff

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} ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Computing characteristic numbers of homogeneous spaces

I apologize in advance if this is a bad question. I would like to prove or refute a conjecture about the vanishing of characteristic numbers of homogeneous spaces, and to this end am looking (and ...
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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 ...
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Working out an example of a Chern class

I'm trying to understand page 161 of Fulton's "Young tableaux" in an explicit example. I'm looking at flags in $\mathbb{C}^4$, which I think of as flags in $\mathbb{CP}^3$ (and I'm really just able ...
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Grothendieck on (topological) Chern Classes

I have been reading through the wikipedia article about Chern classes and it currently has a section devoted to the Alexander Grothendieck axiomatic approach. The language used throughout the section ...
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Euler class and Vandermonde polynomial

I found the following in the wikipedia page for Euler class. «If the rank $r$ is even, then this cohomology class $e(E) \cup e(E)$ equals the top Pontryagin class $p_{r/2}(E)$. Under the splitting ...
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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 $\chi(X)=I(\Delta,\Delta)$, ...
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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?
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Intuition of Chern-Weil theory

Let $ P \rightarrow M$ be a $G$-principal bundle. The lie algebra of $G$ is $\frak{g}$ and $P$ has connection form $\omega \in H^1(P,\frak{g})$ and curvature form $\Omega \in H^2(P,\frak{g})$. We ...
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The complex tangent bundle of $\mathbb{C}P^1$ is not isomorphic to its conjugate bundle.

In " Characteristic Classes" by Milnor and Stasheff on pages 167-168, the authors give a brief argument about why: The complex tangent bundle of $\mathbb{C}P^1$ is not isomorphic to its conjugate ...
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Representation of an oriented manifold as a set of common zeroes of smooth functions

Let $M$ be an arbitrary oriented smooth manifold of dimension $m$. Is it always diffeomorphic to a sumbanifold in ${\mathbb R}^n$ (with some $n$) defined as a set $X$ of common zeroes of $n-m$ smooth ...
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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 ...
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Stiefel-Whitney numbers for product bundle

I'm reading Milnor's "characteristic classes" and I want to compute Stiefel-Whitney numbers of $ P^2 \times P^2 $ (product of projective spaces) for one of the problems, I know how Stiefel-Whitney ...
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Calculate the Wu class from the Stiefel-Whitney class

The total Stiefel-Whitney class $w=1+w_1+w_2+\cdots$ is related to the total Wu class $u=1+u_1+u_2+\cdots$: The total Stiefel-Whitney class $w$ is the Steenrod square of the Wu class $u$: ...
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How to calculate characteristic classes of tensor products?

I was given the following as an execrise: Prove that the tensor product of complex line bundles over $X$ satisfies the following relationship: $$c_{1}(\otimes E_{i})=\sum c_{1}(E_{i})$$ It is ...
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Nontriviality and calculations of explicit line bundle over surface

Sometimes I end up with a concrete bundle, rather than an abstractly defined one. I have a complex line bundle $E\to\Sigma$ over a closed surface, and it is described explicitly: View $\Sigma$ as a ...
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2-forms represented by a first Chern class?

Let $M$ be a complex manifold and $\omega$ be a 2-form on $M$. Is there a good way to see whether $\omega$ is represented by the first Chern class of a line bundle on $M$? In other words, when is it ...
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Characteristic Class exercises

I tagged this as "homework" because my supervisor told me I need to be better at computing characteristic classes. The classic examples I can think of are tangent bundles and tautological line ...
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The action of the Steenrod algebra on $H^*(BU; \mathbb{Z}_p)$

By considering the classifying map $f \colon (\mathbb{C} P^{\infty})^n \rightarrow BU(n)$, its induced map on cohomology, and using the Cartan formula, we can derive the Wu formula for the action of ...
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Intuition for multiplicative sequences

I have recently been reading about multiplicative sequences and genera from a couple of different sources, most notably "Spin Geometry" by Lawson and Michelsohn and "Characteristic Classes" by Milnor ...
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Characteristic Class with arbitrary coefficient

I'm looking for some "natural definition" for characteristic class with arbitrary coefficient. For example, the chern class satisfies four conditions and Stiefel-Whitney class satisfies three ...
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Does naturality imply isomorphism invariance for characteristic classes?

A property of characteristic classes $c$ is that $c(f^* E) = f^* c(E)$ where $E\to M$ is a bundle and $f^* E$ is the pullback of $E$ by some map $f: N\to M$. In Bott and Tu it is stated (for Chern ...
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Translation of french paper into English

I am currently reading a mathematical paper in french and I am not sure how to translate the following sentence: "On suppose que la premiere classe de Chern $c_1(N)$ est $p\alpha$ ou $p$ est un ...
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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 ...
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An alternative description of the first Stiefel-Whitney class

I've heard this description of the first Stiefel-Whitney class of a vector bundle but I don't know why this is true. Can anyone help me with this, please? The first Stiefel-Whitney class of a vector ...