Geodesics on the Torus and other Surfaces of Revolution Clarified Using Undergraduate Physics Tricks with Bonus: Nonrelativistic and Relativistic Kepler Problems
In considering the mathematical problem of describing the geodesics on a torus or any other surface of revolution, there is a tremendous advantage in conceptual understanding that derives from taking the point of view of a physicist by interpreting parametrized geodesics as the paths traced out in time by the motion of a point in the surface, identifying the parameter with the time. Considering energy levels in an effective potential for the reduced motion then proves to be an extremely useful tool in studying the behavior and properties of the geodesics. The same approach can be easily tweaked to extend to both the nonrelativistic and relativistic Kepler problems. The spectrum of closed geodesics on the torus is analogous to the quantization of energy levels in models of atoms.