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Transport along null curves. (English) Zbl 1052.83502
Summary: Fermi transport is useful for describing the behaviour of spins or gyroscopes following non-geodesic, timelike worldlines. However, Fermi transport breaks down for null worldlines. We introduce a transport law for polarization vectors along non-geodesic null curves. We show how this law emerges naturally from the geometry of null directions by comparing polarization vectors associated with two distinct null directions. We then give a spinorial treatment of this topic and make contact with the geometric phase of quantum mechanics. There are two significant differences between the null and timelike cases. In the null case (a) the transport law does not approach a unique smooth limit as the null curve approaches a null geodesic and (b) the transport law for vectors is integrable, i.e. the result depends only on the local properties of the curve and not on the entire path taken. However, the transport of spinors is not integrable: there is a global sign of topological origin.
MSC:
83C10Equations of motion
53C80Applications of global differential geometry to physics