# High order derivatives on manifold

Suppose I have a Riemannian manifold $$M$$ and a smooth function $$f:M \to \mathbb{R}$$. I denote the gradient of $$f$$ with $$\nabla f$$. What is the meaning of $$\nabla^N f$$ with $$N \ge 3$$ integer? Is it the $$N$$ covariant tensor field $$\nabla ^N f (X_1, \dots, X_N ) = \langle \nabla_{X_1} \nabla_{X_2} \dots \nabla_{X_{n-1}} \nabla f , X_N \rangle$$ ? In any case, what is the meaning of $$\int_M \nabla^N f \text{dm}$$ with m the volume measure?

• In general, $\nabla^{k+1}f(X_0, X_1, ...,X_k)=\nabla_{X_0}(\nabla^kf)(X_1,..., X_k)$. What is the context of your integral? Maybe $\nabla^N$ stands for some normal derivative? – Yu Ding Mar 30 at 6:51

An explicit expression for $$\nabla^{k+1}f(X_0, X_1, ...,X_k)=\nabla_{X_0}(\nabla^kf)(X_1,..., X_k)$$ from a comment to the question can be given as \begin{align} (\nabla^{N+1} f) (X_0, X_1, \dots, X_n) = & \nabla_{X_0} \big( (\nabla^{N} f) ( X_1, \dots, X_n) \big) \\ & - (\nabla^{N} f) (\nabla_{X_0} X_1, \dots, X_n) \\ & \dots \\ & - (\nabla^{N} f) (X_1, \dots, \nabla_{X_0} X_n) \end{align} \tag{1} (see Wikipedia).
This is because we want all $$f$$, $$\nabla f$$, $$\nabla \nabla f$$, and so on, to be tensors, so that $$\nabla^N f$$ is a $$N$$-covariant tensor, that is a multilinear function of all its variables ($$X_0$$, ..., $$X_{N-1}$$). In other words, we want $$\nabla^N f$$ to be linear at each slot.
To see why we need to subtract all those things in the lower lines in (1), let us do a simple calculation: $$\nabla_X\big(\nabla_{(\varphi Y))}f \big) = \nabla_X (\varphi \nabla_Y f) = (\nabla_X \varphi) \nabla_Y f + \varphi \nabla_X \nabla_Y f$$ which shows that $$\nabla_X (\nabla_Y f)$$ is nonlinear in slot $$Y$$, whereas \begin{align} (\nabla \nabla f) (X, \varphi Y) & = \nabla_X \big( \nabla_{\varphi Y} f \big) - \nabla_{\nabla_X(\varphi Y)} f \\ & = (\nabla_X \varphi) \nabla_Y f + \varphi \nabla_X \nabla_Y f - \nabla_{(\nabla_X \varphi)Y + \varphi \nabla_X Y} f \\ & = \varphi \nabla_X \nabla_Y f + (\nabla_X \varphi) \nabla_Y f - \nabla_{(\nabla_X \varphi)Y} f - \nabla_{\varphi \nabla_X Y} f \\ & = \varphi \nabla_X \nabla_Y f + (\nabla_X \varphi) \nabla_Y f - (\nabla_X \varphi)\nabla_{Y} f - \varphi \nabla_{\nabla_X Y} f \\ & = \varphi \nabla_X \nabla_Y f - \varphi \nabla_{\nabla_X Y} f = \varphi (\nabla \nabla f) (X, Y) \end{align}
• Thank you very much. What about the integral of a map $x \to T_y M$ over $M$ for some fixed $y \in M$? – Bremen000 Apr 1 at 17:03