The
LeviCivita symbol, also called the
permutationIn mathematics, the notion of permutation is used with several slightly different meanings, all related to the act of permuting objects or values. Informally, a permutation of a set of objects is an arrangement of those objects into a particular order...
symbol,
antisymmetric symbol, or
alternating symbol, is a
mathematicalMathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...
symbol used in particular in tensor calculus. It is named after the
ItalianThe Italian people are an ethnic group that share a common Italian culture, ancestry and speak the Italian language as a mother tongue. Within Italy, Italians are defined by citizenship, regardless of ancestry or country of residence , and are distinguished from people...
mathematician and physicist
Tullio LeviCivitaTullio LeviCivita, FRS was an Italian mathematician, most famous for his work on absolute differential calculus and its applications to the theory of relativity, but who also made significant contributions in other areas. He was a pupil of Gregorio RicciCurbastro, the inventor of tensor calculus...
.
Definition
In three dimensions, the LeviCivita symbol is defined as follows:
i.e.
is 1 if (
i,
j,
k) is an
even permutationIn mathematics, when X is a finite set of at least two elements, the permutations of X fall into two classes of equal size: the even permutations and the odd permutations...
of (1,2,3), −1 if it is an odd permutation, and 0 if any index is repeated.
The formula for the three dimensional LeviCivita symbol is:
The formula in four dimensions is:
For example, in
linear algebraLinear algebra is a branch of mathematics that studies vector spaces, also called linear spaces, along with linear functions that input one vector and output another. Such functions are called linear maps and can be represented by matrices if a basis is given. Thus matrix theory is often...
, the
determinantIn linear algebra, the determinant is a value associated with a square matrix. It can be computed from the entries of the matrix by a specific arithmetic expression, while other ways to determine its value exist as well...
of a 3×3 matrix A can be written
(and similarly for a square matrix of general size, see below)
and the
cross productIn mathematics, the cross product, vector product, or Gibbs vector product is a binary operation on two vectors in threedimensional space. It results in a vector which is perpendicular to both of the vectors being multiplied and normal to the plane containing them...
of two vectors can be written as a determinant:
or more simply:
According to the
Einstein notationIn mathematics, especially in applications of linear algebra to physics, the Einstein notation or Einstein summation convention is a notational convention useful when dealing with coordinate formulae...
, the summation symbols may be omitted.
The
tensorTensors are geometric objects that describe linear relations between vectors, scalars, and other tensors. Elementary examples include the dot product, the cross product, and linear maps. Vectors and scalars themselves are also tensors. A tensor can be represented as a multidimensional array of...
whose components in an
orthonormal basisIn mathematics, particularly linear algebra, an orthonormal basis for inner product space V with finite dimension is a basis for V whose vectors are orthonormal. For example, the standard basis for a Euclidean space Rn is an orthonormal basis, where the relevant inner product is the dot product of...
are given by the LeviCivita symbol (a tensor of covariant rank n) is sometimes called the
permutation tensor. It is actually a
pseudotensorIn physics and mathematics, a pseudotensor is usually a quantity that transforms like a tensor under an orientation preserving coordinate transformation , but gains an additional sign flip under an orientation reversing coordinate transformation In physics and mathematics, a pseudotensor is usually...
because under an orthogonal transformation of jacobian determinant −1 (i.e., a rotation composed with a reflection), it acquires a minus sign. Because the LeviCivita symbol is a pseudotensor, the result of taking a cross product is a
pseudovectorIn physics and mathematics, a pseudovector is a quantity that transforms like a vector under a proper rotation, but gains an additional sign flip under an improper rotation such as a reflection. Geometrically it is the opposite, of equal magnitude but in the opposite direction, of its mirror image...
, not a vector.
Note that under a general coordinate change, the components of the permutation tensor get multiplied by the jacobian of the transformation matrix. This implies that in coordinate frames different from the one in which the tensor was defined, its components can differ from those of the LeviCivita symbol by an overall factor. If the frame is orthonormal, the factor will be ±1 depending on whether the orientation of the frame is the same or not.
Relation to Kronecker delta
The LeviCivita symbol is related to the
Kronecker delta. In three dimensions, the relationship is given by the following equations:


 ("contracted epsilon identity")
In Einstein notationIn mathematics, especially in applications of linear algebra to physics, the Einstein notation or Einstein summation convention is a notational convention useful when dealing with coordinate formulae...
, the duplication of the i index implies the sum on i. The previous is then denoted:
Generalization to n dimensions
The LeviCivita symbol can be generalized to higher dimensions:
Thus, it is the sign of the permutationIn mathematics, when X is a finite set of at least two elements, the permutations of X fall into two classes of equal size: the even permutations and the odd permutations...
in the case of a permutation, and zero otherwise.
Some generalized formulae are:
where n is the dimension (rank), and
where G(n) is the Barnes GfunctionIn mathematics, the Barnes Gfunction G is a function that is an extension of superfactorials to the complex numbers. It is related to the Gamma function, the Kfunction and the GlaisherKinkelin constant, and was named after mathematician Ernest William Barnes...
.
For any n, the property
follows from the facts that (a) every permutation is either even or odd, (b) (+1)^{2} = (1)^{2} = 1, and (c) the permutations of any nelement set number exactly n!.
In indexfree tensor notation, the LeviCivita symbol is replaced by the concept of the Hodge dualIn mathematics, the Hodge star operator or Hodge dual is a significant linear map introduced in general by W. V. D. Hodge. It is defined on the exterior algebra of a finitedimensional oriented inner product space.Dimensions and algebra:...
.
In general, for n dimensions, one can write the product of two LeviCivita symbols as:.
Properties
(in these examples, superscripts should be considered equivalent with subscripts)
1. In two dimensions, when all are in ,

2. In three dimensions, when all are in

3. In n dimensions, when all are in :

Proofs
For equation 1, both sides are antisymmetricThe word antisymmetric refers to a change to an opposite quantity when another quantity is symmetrically changed. This concept is related to that of Symmetry and Asymmetry. The difference between these three concepts can be simply illustrated with Latin letters. The character "A" is symmetric about...
with respect of and . We therefore only need to consider the case and . By substitution, we see that the equation holds for , i.e., for and . (Both sides are then one). Since the equation is antisymmetric in and , any set of values for these can be reduced to the above case (which holds). The equation thus holds for all values of and . Using equation 1, we have for equation 2



 .
Here we used the Einstein summation convention with going from to . Equation 3 follows similarly from equation 2. To establish equation 4, let us first observe that both sides vanish when . Indeed, if , then one can not choose and such that both permutation symbols on the left are nonzero. Then, with fixed, there are only two ways to choose and from the remaining two indices. For any such indices, we have (no summation), and the result follows. Property (5) follows since and for any distinct indices in , we have (no summation).
Examples
1. The determinant of an matrix can be written as

where each should be summed over
Equivalently, it may be written as

where now each and each should be summed over .
2. If and are vectors in (represented in some right hand oriented orthonormal basis), then the th component of their cross product equals

For instance, the first component of is . From the above expression for the cross product, it is clear that . Further, if is a vector like and , then the triple scalar product equals

From this expression, it can be seen that the triple scalar product is antisymmetric when exchanging any adjacent arguments. For example, .
3. Suppose is a vector field defined on some open set of with Cartesian coordinates . Then the th component of the curl of equals

Notation
A shorthand notation for antisymmetrization is denoted by a pair of square brackets. For example, in arbitrary dimensions, for a rank 2 covariant tensor M,
and for a rank 3 covariant tensor T,
In three dimensions, these are equivalent to
While in four dimensions, these are equivalent to
More generally, in n dimensions
Tensor density
In any arbitrary curvilinear coordinate system and even in the absence of a metric on the manifold, the LeviCivita symbol as defined above may be considered to be a tensor densityIn differential geometry, a tensor density or relative tensor is a generalization of the tensor concept. A tensor density transforms as a tensor when passing from one coordinate system to another , except that it is additionally multiplied or weighted by a power of the Jacobian determinant of the...
field in two different ways. It may be regarded as a contravariant tensor density of weight +1 or as a covariant tensor density of weight 1. In four dimensions,
Notice that the value, and in particular the sign, does not change.
Ordinary tensor
In the presence of a metric tensorIn the mathematical field of differential geometry, a metric tensor is a type of function defined on a manifold which takes as input a pair of tangent vectors v and w and produces a real number g in a way that generalizes many of the familiar properties of the dot product of vectors in Euclidean...
field, one may define an ordinary contravariant tensor field which agrees with the LeviCivita symbol at each event whenever the coordinate system is such that the metric is orthonormal at that event. Similarly, one may also define an ordinary covariant tensor field which agrees with the LeviCivita symbol at each event whenever the coordinate system is such that the metric is orthonormal at that event. These ordinary tensor fields should not be confused with each other, nor should they be confused with the tensor density fields mentioned above. One of these ordinary tensor fields may be converted to the other by raising or lowering the indices with the metric as is usual, but a minus sign is needed if the metric signatureThe signature of a metric tensor is the number of positive and negative eigenvalues of the metric. That is, the corresponding real symmetric matrix is diagonalised, and the diagonal entries of each sign counted...
contains an odd number of negatives. For example, in Minkowski spaceIn physics and mathematics, Minkowski space or Minkowski spacetime is the mathematical setting in which Einstein's theory of special relativity is most conveniently formulated...
(the four dimensional spacetime of special relativitySpecial relativity is the physical theory of measurement in an inertial frame of reference proposed in 1905 by Albert Einstein in the paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies".It generalizes Galileo's...
)
Notice the minus sign.