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Levi-Civita symbol and cross product vector/tensor

Patrick Guio
$Id: levi-civita.tex,v 1.3 2011/10/03 14:37:33 patrick Exp $
1 Denitions
The Levi-Civita symbol
ijk
is a tensor of rank three and is dened by

ijk
=
_
_
_
0, if any two labels are the same
1, if i, j, k is an even permutation of 1,2,3
1, if i, j, k is an odd permutation of 1,2,3
(1)
The Levi-Civita symbol
ijk
is anti-symmetric on each pair of indexes.
The determinant of a matrix A with elements a
ij
can be written in term of
ijk
as
det

a
11
a
12
a
13
a
21
a
22
a
23
a
31
a
32
a
33

=
3

i=1
3

j=1
3

k=1

ijk
a
1i
a
2j
a
3k
=
ijk
a
1i
a
2j
a
3k
(2)
Note the compact notation where the summation over the spatial directions is dropped. It is this
one that is in use.
Note that the Levi-Civita symbol can therefore be expressed as the determinant, or mixed
triple product, of any of the unit vectors ( e
1
, e
2
, e
3
) of a normalised and direct orthogonal frame
of reference.

ijk
= det( e
i
, e
j
, e
k
) = e
i
( e
j
e
k
) (3)
Now we can dene by analogy to the denition of the determinant an additional type of
product, the vector product or simply cross product
ab = det

e
1
e
2
e
3
a
1
a
2
a
3
b
1
b
2
b
3

=
ijk
e
i
a
j
b
k
(4)
or for each coordinate
(ab)
i
=
ijk
a
j
b
k
(5)
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2 Properties
The Levi-Civita tensor
ijk
has 3 3 3 = 27 components.
3 (6 + 1) = 21 components are equal to 0.
3 components are equal to 1.
3 components are equal to 1.
3 Identities
The product of two Levi-Civita symbols can be expressed as a function of the Kroneckers sym-
bol
ij

ijk

lmn
= +
il

jm

kn
+
im

jn

kl
+
in

jl

km

im

jl

kn

il

jn

km

in

jm

kl
(6)
Setting i = l gives

ijk

imn
=
jm

kn

jn

km
(7)
proof

ijk

imn
=
ii
(
jm

kn

jn

km
) +
im

jn

ki
+
in

ji

km

im

ji

kn

in

jm

ki
= 3(
jm

kn

jn

km
) +
km

jn
+
jn

km

jm

kn

kn

jm
=
jm

kn

jn

km
Setting i = l and j = m gives

ijk

ijn
= 2
kn
(8)
Setting i = l, j = m and k = n gives

ijk

ijk
= 6 (9)
Therefore
a(bc) = b(a c) c(a b) (10)
proof
d = a(bc)
d
m
=
mni
a
n
(
ijk
b
j
c
k
)
=
imn

ijk
a
n
b
j
c
k
= (
mj

nk

mk

nj
)a
n
b
j
c
k
= b
m
a
k
c
k
c
m
a
j
b
j
= [b(a c)]
m
[c(a b)]
m
2
In the same way
[(a)]
i
=
ijk

kmn

m
a
n
=
kij

kmn

m
a
n
=
j

i
a
j

j
a
i
=
i

j
a
j

j
a
i
=
_
( a)
2
a

i
4 Properties
The cross product is a special vector. If we transform both vectors by a reection transformation,
for example a central symmetry by the origin, i.e. v v

= v, the cross product vector is


conserved.
proof
p = ab =
_
_
a
2
b
3
a
3
b
2
a
3
b
1
a
1
b
3
a
1
b
2
a
2
b
1
_
_
p

= a

=
_
_
(a
2
)(b
3
) (a
3
)(b
2
)
(a
3
)(b
1
) (a
1
)(b
3
)
(a
1
)(b
2
) (a
2
)(b
1
)
_
_
= p
The cross product does not have the same properties as an ordinary vector. Ordinary vectors
are called polar vectors while cross product vector are called axial (pseudo) vectors. In one way
the cross product is an articial vector.
Actually, there does not exist a cross product vector in space with more than 3 dimensions.
The fact that the cross product of 3 dimensions vector gives an object which also has 3 dimensions
is just pure coincidence.
The cross product in 3 dimensions is actually a tensor of rank 2 with 3 independent coordi-
nates.
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proof
(ab)
ij
= a
i
b
j
a
j
b
i
= c
ij
=
_
_
0 a
1
b
2
a
2
b
1
a
1
b
3
a
3
b
1
a
2
b
1
a
1
b
2
0 a
2
b
3
a
3
b
2
a
3
b
1
a
1
b
3
a
3
b
2
a
2
b
3
0
_
_
=
_
_
0 (a
2
b
1
a
1
b
2
) a
1
b
3
a
3
b
1
a
2
b
1
a
1
b
2
0 (a
3
b
2
a
2
b
3
)
(a
1
b
3
a
3
b
1
) a
3
b
2
a
2
b
3
0
_
_
=
_
_
0 c
3
c
2
c
3
0 c
1
c
2
c
1
0
_
_
The correct or consistent approach of calculating the cross product vector from the tensor
(ab)
ij
is the so called index contraction
(ab)
i
=
1
2
(a
j
b
k
a
k
b
j
)
ijk
=
1
2
(ab)
jk

ijk
(11)
proof
(ab)
i
=
1
2
c
jk

ijk
= c
i
=
1
2
a
j
b
k

ijk

1
2
b
j
a
k

ijk
=
1
2
(ab)
i

1
2
(ba)
i
= (ab)
i
In 4 dimensions, the cross product tensor is thus written
a
i
b
j
= (a
i
b
j
a
j
b
i
) =
_
_
_
_
0 c
21
c
31
c
41
c
21
0 c
32
c
42
c
31
c
32
0 c
43
c
41
c
42
c
43
0
_
_
_
_
(12)
This tensor has 6 independent components. There should be 4 components for a 4 dimensions
vector, therefore it cannot be represented as a vector.
More generally, if n is the dimension of the vector, the cross product tensor a
i
b
j
is a tensor
of rank 2 with
1
2
n(n 1) independent components.
The cross product is connected to rotations and has a structure which also looks like rotations,
called a simplectic structure.
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