Fundamental class

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For the fundamental class in class field theory, see class formation.

In mathematics, the fundamental class is a homology class [M] associated to an oriented manifold M, which corresponds to the generator of the homology group H_r(M;\mathbf{Z})\cong\mathbf{Z} . The fundamental class can be thought of as the orientation of the top-dimensional simplices of a suitable triangulation of the manifold.


Closed, orientable[edit]

When M is a connected orientable closed manifold of dimension n, the top homology group is infinite cyclic: H_n(M,\mathbf{Z}) \cong \mathbf{Z}, and an orientation is a choice of generator, a choice of isomorphism \mathbf{Z} \to H_n(M,\mathbf{Z}). The generator is called the fundamental class.

If M is disconnected (but still orientable), a fundamental class is the direct sum of the fundamental classes for each connected component (corresponding to an orientation for each component).

In relation with de Rham cohomology It represents a integration over M; namely for M a smooth manifold, an n-form ω can be paired with the fundamental class as

\langle\omega, [M]\rangle = \int_M \omega\ ,

which is the integral of ω over M, and depends only on the cohomology class of ω.

Stiefel-Whitney class[edit]

If M is not orientable, the homology group is not infinite cyclic : H_n(M,\mathbf{Z}) \ncong \mathbf{Z} , one cannot define a orientation of M, Indeed, one cannot integrate differential n-forms over non-orientable manifolds.

However, every closed manifold is \mathbf{Z}_2-orientable, and H_n(M;\mathbf{Z}_2)=\mathbf{Z}_2 (for M connected). Thus every closed manifold is \mathbf{Z}_2-oriented (not just orientable: there is no ambiguity in choice of orientation), and has a \mathbf{Z}_2-fundamental class.

This \mathbf{Z}_2-fundamental class is used in defining Stiefel–Whitney class.

With boundary[edit]

If M is a compact orientable manifold with boundary, then the top relative homology group is again infinite cyclic H_n(M,\partial M)\cong \mathbf{Z}, and the notion of the fundamental class is extended to the relative case.

Poincaré duality[edit]

Main article: Poincaré duality

For any abelian group G and non negative integer q \ge 0 one can obtain an isomorphism

[M]\cap:H^q(M;G) \rightarrow H_{n-q}(M;G) .

using the cap product of the fundamental class and the q -homology group . This isomorphism gives Poincaré duality:

H^* (M; G) \cong H_{n-*}(M; G) .

Poincaré duality is extended to the relative case .

See also Twisted Poincaré duality


In the Bruhat decomposition of the flag variety of a Lie group, the fundamental class corresponds to the top-dimension Schubert cell, or equivalently the longest element of a Coxeter group.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]