Recently, I've been studying a course in differential geometry.
Some keywords include (differentiable) manifold, atlas, (co)tangent space, vector field, integral curve, lie derivative, lie bracket, connections, riemannian geometry, symplectic geometry.
However, I've been wondering what problems in pure mathematics that are obvious and interesting can be solved with tools from differential geometry. In other words what questions could one ask that will motivate the study of differential geometry for someone who's interested in pure mathematics mainly.
Please don't limit yourself to merely stating a problem, but include a hint, full solution, or reference on how exactly differential geometry becomes useful.
Here are some possible answers with my own comment that may inspire you:
- It's a great language to formulate problems in physics. That may be true, but unfortunately I don't care about pysics (enough).
- It's a language to talk about differential equations, which are "naturally interesting". But honestly, I don't think I care about applications to differential equations, knowing that what it comes down to in the end is that the equations are rammed into a computer and brutally 'solved' by numerical methods anyway, no matter how fancy you formulate them.
- Perelman's solution of the Poincaré conjecture, which may be considered a topic in pure mathematics, uses differential geometry. Apparently it does, but isn't that a bit like using Wiles' solution to FLT as a motivation for a course in commutative algebra?
- It provides deeper insights in the whole of mathematics. Well, I just made that up. But maybe it provides a wealth of examples in, for instance, topology, or maybe techniques can be borrowed from differential geometry and used in other branches. But then again, doesn't it make more sense to study them where they become interesting?
As a final example, a simple question that I consider motivating for exploring groups beyond their definition would be: "how many groups of order 35 are there?": it's an easy question, only refering to one easy definition with a somwhat surprising answer where the surprise vanishes once you've developed a sufficient amount of theory.
ps - Since there is no best answer to my question maybe it should be community wiki. I'm sure some moderator will do what's appropriate.
pps - In reply to Thomas Rot's answer I must apologise for the tone when I'm talking about differential equations. Actually I'm a person who obtained a degree in applied physics before turning over to "pure" (in a sense that I don't mind if it's hard to find applications in real life situations) math. I've seen how these people solve differential equations -- I've seen how I used to do it Myself, actually. No cute mathematical theory, just discretize everything and put it into a computer. If it doesn't work out, let's try a finer grid, let's leave out a term or two, until it works. Surprisingly they don't use cotangent spaces to even state the problem, still it appears sufficient to calculate the heat distribution in nuclear reactors, or calculate the electron density around a deuteron. Because I've seen all this and didn't think it is pretty, I've turned away from it. But feel free to change my mind on the subject.