Differential topology

For a list of differential topology topics, see the following reference: List of differential geometry topics.

Differential topology and differential geometry are first characterized by their similarity. They both study primarily the properties of differentiable manifolds, sometimes with a variety of structures imposed on them.

From the point of view of differential geometry, the coffee cup and the donut are different because it is impossible to rotate the coffee cup in such a way that its configuration matches that of the donut. This is also a global way of thinking about the problem. But an important distinction is that the geometer does not need the entire object to decide this. By looking, for instance, at just a tiny piece of the handle, they can decide that the coffee cup is different from the donut because the handle is thinner (or more curved) than any piece of the donut.

To put it succinctly, differential topology studies structures on manifolds that, in a sense, have no interesting local structure. Differential geometry studies structures on manifolds that do have an interesting local (or sometimes even infinitesimal) structure.