More formally, a map
is called conformal (or angle-preserving) at if it preserves oriented angles between curves through , as well as their orientation, i.e. direction. Conformal maps preserve both angles and the shapes of infinitesimally small figures, but not necessarily their size.
The conformal property may be described in terms of the Jacobian derivative matrix of a coordinate transformation. If the Jacobian matrix of the transformation is everywhere a scalar times a rotation matrix, then the transformation is conformal.
is conformal if and only if it is holomorphic and its derivative is everywhere non-zero on U. If f is antiholomorphic (that is, the conjugate to a holomorphic function), it still preserves angles, but it reverses their orientation.
The Riemann mapping theorem, one of the profound results of complex analysis, states that any non-empty open simply connected proper subset of admits a bijective conformal map to the open unit disk in .
A map of the extended complex plane (which is conformally equivalent to a sphere) onto itself is conformal if and only if it is a Möbius transformation. Again, for the conjugate, angles are preserved, but orientation is reversed.
An example of the latter is taking the reciprocal of the conjugate, which corresponds to circle inversion with respect to the unit circle. This can also be expressed as taking the reciprocal of the radial coordinate in circular coordinates, keeping the angle the same. See also inversive geometry.
A diffeomorphism between two Riemannian manifolds is called a conformal map if the pulled back metric is conformally equivalent to the original one.
One can also define a conformal structure on a smooth manifold, as a class of conformally equivalent Riemannian metrics.
Conformal mappings are invaluable for solving problems in engineering and physics that can be expressed in terms of functions of a complex variable but that exhibit inconvenient geometries. By choosing an appropriate mapping, the analyst can transform the inconvenient geometry into a much more convenient one. For example, one may be desirous of calculating the electric field, arising from a point charge located near the corner of two conducting planes separated by a certain angle (where is the complex coordinate of a point in 2-space). This problem per se is quite clumsy to solve in closed form. However, by employing a very simple conformal mapping, the inconvenient angle is mapped to one of precisely pi radians, meaning that the corner of two planes is transformed to a straight line. In this new domain, the problem — that of calculating the electric field impressed by a point charge located near a conducting wall — is quite easy to solve. The solution is obtained in this domain, and then mapped back to the original domain by noting that was obtained as a function (viz., the composition of and ) of whence can be viewed as which is a function of the original coordinate basis. Note that this application is not a contradiction to the fact that conformal mappings preserve angles, they do so only for points in the interior of their domain, and not at the boundary.
In cartography, several named map projections (including the Mercator projection) are conformal.
Navigating your mind; Topology and neurology; Mapping brains with maths.(a 19th-century mathematical technique is making it possible to map the details of people's brains)(Science and Technology)(A 19th-century mathematical technique is making it possible to map the details of people's brains)(Brief Article)
Jan 27, 2001; YOUR neurologist would love to flatten your brain. Not physically, you will be glad to know, but mathematically. For, just as the...