Einstein manifold

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In differential geometry and mathematical physics, an Einstein manifold is a Riemannian or pseudo-Riemannian manifold whose Ricci tensor is proportional to the metric. They are named after Albert Einstein because this condition is equivalent to saying that the metric is a solution of the vacuum Einstein field equations (with cosmological constant), although the dimension, as well as the signature, of the metric can be arbitrary, unlike the four-dimensional Lorentzian manifolds usually studied in general relativity.

If M is the underlying n-dimensional manifold and g is its metric tensor the Einstein condition means that

\mathrm{Ric} = k\,g,

for some constant k, where Ric denotes the Ricci tensor of g. Einstein manifolds with k = 0 are called Ricci-flat manifolds.

The Einstein condition and Einstein's equation[edit]

In local coordinates the condition that (Mg) be an Einstein manifold is simply

R_{ab} = k\,g_{ab}.

Taking the trace of both sides reveals that the constant of proportionality k for Einstein manifolds is related to the scalar curvature R by

R = nk\,

where n is the dimension of M.

In general relativity, Einstein's equation with a cosmological constant Λ is

R_{ab} - \frac{1}{2}g_{ab}R + g_{ab}\Lambda = 8\pi T_{ab},

written in geometrized units with G = c = 1. The stress–energy tensor Tab gives the matter and energy content of the underlying spacetime. In a vacuum (a region of spacetime with no matter) Tab = 0, and one can rewrite Einstein's equation in the form (assuming n > 2):

R_{ab} = \frac{2\Lambda}{n-2}\,g_{ab}.

Therefore, vacuum solutions of Einstein's equation are (Lorentzian) Einstein manifolds with k proportional to the cosmological constant.


Simple examples of Einstein manifolds include:

  • Any manifold with constant sectional curvature is an Einstein manifold—in particular:
    • Euclidean space, which is flat, is a simple example of Ricci-flat, hence Einstein metric.
    • The n-sphere, Sn, with the round metric is Einstein with k = n − 1.
    • Hyperbolic space with the canonical metric is Einstein with negative k.
  • Complex projective space, CPn, with the Fubini–Study metric.
  • Calabi–Yau manifolds admit an Einstein metric that is also Kähler, with Einstein constant "k"="0". Such metrics are not unique, but rather come in families; there is a Calabi–Yau metric in every Kähler class, and the metric also depends on the choice of complex structure. For example, there is a 60-parameter family of such metrics on K3, 57 parameters of which give rise to Einstein metrics which are not related by isometries or rescalings.

A necessary condition for closed, oriented, 4-manifolds to be Einstein is satisfying the Hitchin–Thorpe inequality.


Four dimensional Riemannian Einstein manifolds are also important in mathematical physics as gravitational instantons in quantum theories of gravity. The term "gravitational instanton" is usually used restricted to Einstein 4-manifolds whose Weyl tensor is self-dual, and it is usually assumed that metric is asymptotic to the standard metric of Euclidean 4-space (and are therefore complete but non-compact). In differential geometry, self-dual Einstein 4-manifolds are also known as (4-dimensional) hyperkähler manifolds in the Ricci-flat case, and quaternion Kähler manifolds otherwise.

Higher-dimensional Lorentzian Einstein manifolds are used in modern theories of gravity, such as string theory, M-theory and supergravity. Hyperkähler and quaternion Kähler manifolds (which are special kinds of Einstein manifolds) also have applications in physics as target spaces for nonlinear σ-models with supersymmetry.

Compact Einstein manifolds have been much studied in differential geometry, and many examples are known, although constructing them is often challenging. Compact Ricci-flat manifolds are particularly difficult to find: in the monograph on the subject by the pseudonymous author Arthur Besse, readers are offered a meal in a starred restaurant in exchange for a new example.

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