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Physics  2013 

The geometry of the tangent bundle and the relativistic kinetic theory of gases

DOI: 10.1088/0264-9381/31/8/085013

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This article discusses the relativistic kinetic theory for a simple collisionless gas from a geometric perspective. We start by reviewing the rich geometrical structure of the tangent bundle TM of a given spacetime manifold, including the splitting of the tangent spaces of TM into horizontal and vertical subspaces and the natural metric and symplectic structure it induces on TM. Based on these structures we introduce the Liouville vector field L and a suitable Hamiltonian function H on TM. The Liouville vector field turns out to be the Hamiltonian vector field associated to H. On the other hand, H also defines the mass shells as Lorentzian submanifolds of the tangent bundle. A simple collisionless gas is described by a distribution function on a particular mass shell, satisfying the Liouville equation. Together with the Liouville vector field the distribution function can be thought of as defining a fictitious incompressible fluid on the mass shells, with associated conserved current density. Flux integrals of this current density provide the averaged properties of the gas, while suitable fibre integrals of the distribution function define divergence-free tensor fields on the spacetime manifold such as the current density and stress-energy tensor. Finally, we discuss the relationship between symmetries of the spacetime manifold and symmetries of the distribution function. As a first application of our formalism we derive the most general spherically symmetric distribution function on any spherically symmetric spacetime and write the Einstein-Liouville equations as effective field equations on the two-dimensional radial manifold. As a second application we derive the most general collisionless distribution function on a Kerr black hole spacetime background.


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