This is a note on a Stokes’ theorem on a simplicial complex. Originally I wanted to establish some formulas on a graph, it turns out that it’s better to work on a simplicial complex. After discussing with Raymond, we arrived at some interesting results. Our goal is to prove the following

Theorem 1 (Raymond-Gauss-Green-Stokes theorem)

Let us now explain the setup.

Let be a simplicial complex. A directed edge (or simply, an edge) is an __ordered__ pair of adjacent vertices , also written as . We will denote by the opposite edge of , i.e. . We define the set of -simplices as follows.

Define be the vertices of . Define to be the set of all the edges of . (Edges always mean directed edges. )

An ordered pair of vertices is said to be a -simplex if are distinct and they are all mutually connected to each others. We identify two -simplices if can be obtained after applying an even permutation on . If is obtained by applying an odd permutation on , we will denote it by . E.g. . We denote by all the -simplices of .

A -chain is a (formal!) finite linear combination of -simplices with integer coefficients. For example, if are edges (i.e. 1-simplices), then is a -chain. We will denote by to be the set of all -chains. In other words is the free abelian group generated by . We use the convention that , which we will simply write as .

For , by a “tangent vector” we mean an edge (if it exists). The set of all tangent vectors at will be denoted as (in this setting this is not a vector space, though it’s certainly can be redefined to be one, we do not do this here). A -form is an assignment from each point to an alternating -linear map . (“form” here means alternating/antisymmetric multilinear (well… ) form, as opposed to symmetric multilinear form etc. ) If , a 0-form is just a function on the set of vertices, i.e. . By alternating we mean where are not necessarily distinct and is a permutation of . Here, is “-linear” if for all , holding other variables constant. It is easy to see that if any two of the ‘s are equal, then and thus must be trivial if . We will denote by to be the set of all -forms on .

We now define the integral of a -form as follows. For , is defined to be the sum

Definition 2

For example, if is an edge, then for a 1-form , . Thus we see that integrating a 1-form over an edge is just applying it on this edge, naturally. (In general, for a -form , we don’t require , i.e. cyclic permutation doesn’t necessarily gives the same result, so when integrating, we apply over all vertices and we take the average of it. ) Of course, we can also integrate on a -chain by extending this linearly, i.e. .

We would like to derive the Stoke’s theorem as in the classical case: for a smooth -form and a -dimensional (oriented) domain with smooth enough -dimensional boundary ,

In our case, there is a natural candidate for the “boundary operator” defined by

Definition 3

for and extend it linearly on .

For example, and .

Now, we define the exterior derivative of a -form , denoted by , as follows. For a 0-form , we define a 1-form by

For a 1-form , we define the two-form by

(Note that in this definition, . This is not an incidence. )

We know that for the ordinary exterior derivative, we have , let us check this for a 0-form :

So the definition is not unreasonable, at least in this case. For a two-form , we define

where means the index is omitted and

Remark 1Things are getting quite complicated at this stage, so let’s see what’s going on here by looking at : up a to factor 1/3, it is equal toi.e. sum of when applied on the 3 vertices of the triangle , so we can unambiguously define as . Therefore is just the average of over the 4 sides (taking care of the orientation) of the tetrahedron , in particular the base point () is not important, as long as orientation is maintained.

It is possible to check directly that for , however this is quite tedious, and it is actually possible to see in a more general way that . Nevertheless, I have done this exercise myself. You may check directly at my computation if you have doubt :-).

Example 1Let’s directly compute ! This is justwhere . To further simplify the notations, let’s denote simply by . (Since there are only 4 numbers I hope this is not too confusing. ) Then (using etc.)

Similarly

So the sum is

Definition 4In general, for a -form , we define by

Remark 2is exactly the integral , this is the crucial observation for proving the Stokes’ theorem, or in other way round, we make this way for Stokes’ theorem to work!

Proposition 5For , is a -form.

*Proof:* We check that

Note that

Thus . The remaining cases are similar.

Therefore we have the map

The above proof also shows that we have the following property, which is the other crucial observation for proving the Stokes theorem:

Proposition 6where is an even permutation of . Therefore we also have

where is an even permutation of .

We also have

Proposition 7

*Proof:* It actually comes from the fact that the boundary of the boundary of a -simplex is empty. More precisely, let’s take for concreteness, note that for , is just summing up the four numbers when is applied on the four (oriented) faces of . (Note: , so this is well-defined, independent of the vertices we base at, as long as the orientation is consistent. ) In turn, when applying exterior derivative again, for each of the four faces, this amounts to summing up the number when is applied to the (oriented) boundary (consisting of 3 directed edges) of this face (a triangle). Since each pair of adjacent faces share a common edge with opposite orientation, the result follows.

You will not miss the similarity between and . Indeed they can be regarded as the dual version of each other, roughly speaking: . But you will immediately object: a form does not act on the k-simplices, it acts on vectors! So in order to let the forms act on the simplices, we integrate them on simplices, so the above relation should read:

Theorem 8 (Raymond-Gauss-Green-Stokes theorem)

It turns out that this version of Stokes theorem is extremely easy to prove, once we set it up properly, partly because we are only doing combinatorics on some finite sets (and all forms are finite-valued), thus avoiding a lot of troubles concerning about all sorts of infinity (both in domain and in the value, as in analysis). Also, the “differentiability” condition is “trivial”, i.e. all forms can be exterior differentiated, we do not have to take care of any differentiability issue, e.g. on , is differentiable except at 0, do we still have fundamental theorem of calculus (simplest form of Stokes theorem): ?

__Proof of Raymond-Gauss-Green-Stokes theorem:__

Clearly we only have to prove it for the case is a -simplex, due to linearity of the integral over the domain. We use to denote an omission of .

Note that the R.H.S. of (2) is

The last equation holds because is by definition just the (signed) average of over the -th face , which in turn is , by definition. On the other hand,

By Proposition 6, are all independent of , and since there are such terms,

Compared with (3), we can get the result.