In mathematics, more particularly in functional analysis, differential topology, and geometric measure theory, a k-current in the sense of Georges de Rham is a functional on the space of compactly supported differential k-forms, on a smooth manifold M. Formally currents behave like Schwartz distributions on a space of differential forms. In a geometric setting, they can represent integration over a submanifold, generalizing the Dirac delta function, or more generally even directional derivatives of delta functions (multipoles) spread out along subsets of M.
is an m-current if it is continuous in the following sense: If a sequence of smooth forms, all supported in the same compact set, is such that all derivatives of all their coefficients tend uniformly to 0 when tends to infinity, then tends to 0.
Multiplication by a constant scalar represents a change in the multiplicity of the surface[clarification needed]. In particular multiplication by −1 represents the change of orientation of the surface.
Much of the theory of distributions carries over to currents with minimal adjustments. For example, one may define the support of a current T as the complement of the biggest open set U such that T(ω) = 0 whenever the support of ω lies entirely in U.
The linear subspace of consisting of currents with compact support is denoted . It can be naturally identified with the dual space to the space of all smooth m-forms on ℝn.
More generally, a boundary operator can be defined on arbitrary currents
by dualizing the exterior derivative:
for all compactly supported (m−1)-forms ω.
Topology and norms
It is possible to define several norms on subspaces of the space of all currents. One such norm is the mass norm. If ω is an m-form, then define its comass by
So if ω is a simple m-form, then its mass norm is the usual L∞-norm of its coefficient. The mass of a current T is then defined as
The mass of a current represents the weighted area of the generalized surface. A current such that M(T) < ∞ is representable by integration over a suitably weighted rectifiable submanifold. This is the starting point of homological integration.
An intermediate norm is Whitney's flat norm, defined by
Two currents are close in the mass norm if they coincide away from a small part. On the other hand they are close in the flat norm if they coincide up to a small deformation.
so that the following defines a 0-current:
Let (x, y, z) be the coordinates in ℝ3. Then the following defines a 2-current (one of many):
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