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Yes, I took "circle" to mean any closed path since the difference is immaterial in generic manifold. You wouldn't normally be talking about "orienting a circle" in the manner the original poster did, but I see now what they mean. I took it to mean "choose an orientation along a closed path" which would be impossible to do for some (but not all) closed paths in a non-orientable surface.

A closed path is S^1, which is certainly orientable, no matter what it's embedded into. You just draw an arrow on the line.

ColinWright's point is that drawing such an arrow on a tiny circle is equivalent to drawing the letter R on the 2D manifold. It gives a local orientation to the 2D surface. (If you wish you may think of this as an arrow into some 3D embedding space, but you don't have to.)

If the 2D space is orientable, then when you take a copy of this little circle (or letter R) and go for a long walk, when you get home your copy will always match the original. That's all that orientable means. In the standard usage, it's a property of the 2D manifold, not of the particular walks you take. I think this is the point of confusion here.

Yes, you can always choose an orientation of the path but not necessarily of the manifold along the path. I understand what he was saying now and misunderstood since it is not the usual way one talks about specifying an orientation at a point and in fact had imagined he was specifically specifying a "big" circle, like a nontrivial loop on the torus. You'd more typically talk about choosing a basis of the tangent space at a point - presumably ColinWright wanted to avoid involving extra definitions like tangent space and so chose a visual definition that wasn't quite as precise. I don't think there's any further confusion.

Cool, I think we're on the same page. I know what you mean by "orientation of the manifold along the path" but this isn't precisely the standard usage. (My vague memory is that you can define an orientation without needing a tangent space, but I can't think of an example, so could be wrong here.)

My background is in riemannian geometry so I never had to worry about lack of a tangent space. Certainly you can define orientability of some topological spaces that aren't even manifolds. I'd forgotten but you can even define a local orientation at a point for a general topological manifold in terms of it's top-dimensional homology. I think that's the most general situation it makes sense in, you need a well defined dimension to consider this.

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