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Intrinsic winding of braided vector fields in tubular subdomains

Prior, Christopher B; Yeates, Anthony R

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Braided vector fields on spatial subdomains which are homeomorphic to the cylinder play a crucial role in applications such as solar and plasma physics, relativistic astrophysics, fluid and vortex dynamics, elasticity, and bio-elasticity. Often the vector field's topology—the entanglement of its field lines—is non-trivial, and can play a significant role in the vector field's evolution. We present a complete topological characterisation of such vector fields (up to isotopy) using a quantity called field line winding. This measures the entanglement of each field line with all other field lines of the vector field, and may be defined for an arbitrary tubular subdomain by prescribing a minimally distorted coordinate system. We propose how to define such coordinates, and prove that the resulting field line winding distribution uniquely classifies the topology of a braided vector field. The field line winding is similar to the field line helicity considered previously for magnetic (solenoidal) fields, but is a more fundamental measure of the field line topology because it does not conflate linking information with field strength.


Prior, C. B., & Yeates, A. R. (2021). Intrinsic winding of braided vector fields in tubular subdomains. Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical, 54(46), Article 465701.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 11, 2021
Online Publication Date Nov 3, 2021
Publication Date 2021-11
Deposit Date Jan 14, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jan 14, 2022
Journal Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical
Print ISSN 1751-8113
Electronic ISSN 1751-8121
Publisher IOP Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 54
Issue 46
Article Number 465701


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (2.9 Mb)

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Advance online version Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI.

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