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Branch of mathematics concerned with relations or laws that remain valid regardless of the coordinate system used to specify the quantities. Tensors, invented as an extension of vectors, are essential to the study of manifolds. Every vector is a tensor, but tensors are more general and not easily pictured as geometrical objects. A tensor can be thought of as an abstract object defined as a set of components (like geometric coordinates) that, under a transformation of coordinates, undergo a specific type of transformation. While tensors were explored before Albert Einstein, the success of his general theory of relativity led to their widespread exploration and use by mathematicians and physicists.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on tensor analysis, visit Britannica.com.
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