In $\mathbb{R}^n$, there is a globally defined orthonormal frame

$$E_{1p}=(1,0,\cdots,0)_p,\ E_{2p}=(0,1,0,\cdots,0)_p,\cdots,E_{np}=(0,\cdots,0,1)_p.$$

For any tangent vector $X_p\in T_p(\mathbb{R}^n)$, $X_p=\sum_{i=1}^n\alpha^iE_{ip}$. Note that the coefficients $\alpha^i$ are the ones that distinguish tangent vectors in $T_p(\mathbb{R}^n)$. For a differentiable function $f$, the directional derivative $X_p^\ast f$ of $f$ with respect to $X_p$ is given by

$$X_p^\ast f=\sum_{i=1}^n\alpha^i\left(\frac{\partial f}{\partial x_i}\right).$$

We identify each $X_p$ with the differential operator

$$X_p^\ast=\sum_{i=1}^n\alpha^i\frac{\partial}{\partial x_i}:C^\infty(p)\longrightarrow\mathbb{R}.$$

Then the frame fields $E_{1p},E_{2p},\cdots,E_{np}$ are identified with

$$\left(\frac{\partial}{\partial x_1}\right)_p,\left(\frac{\partial}{\partial x_2}\right)_p,\cdots,\left(\frac{\partial}{\partial x_n}\right)_p$$

respectively. Unlike $\mathbb{R}^n$, we cannot always have a globally defined frame on a differentiable manifold. So it is necessary for us to use local coordinate neighborhoods that are homeomorphic to $\mathbb{R}^n$ and the associated frames $\frac{\partial}{\partial x_1},\frac{\partial}{\partial x_2},\cdots,\frac{\partial}{\partial x_n}$.

*Example*. The points $(x,y,z)$ are represented in terms of the spherical coordinates $(\phi,\theta)$ as

$$x=\sin\phi\cos\theta,y=\sin\phi\sin\theta,z=\cos\phi,\ 0\leq\phi\leq\pi,\ 0\leq\theta\leq 2\pi.$$

By chain rule, one finds the standard basis $\frac{\partial}{\partial\phi},\frac{\partial}{\partial\theta}$ for $T_\ast S^2$:

\begin{align*}

\frac{\partial}{\partial\phi}&=\cos\phi\cos\theta\frac{\partial}{\partial x}+\cos\phi\sin\theta\frac{\partial}{\partial y}-\sin\phi\frac{\partial}{\partial z},\\

\frac{\partial}{\partial\theta}&=-\sin\phi\sin\theta\frac{\partial}{\partial x}+\sin\phi\cos\theta\frac{\partial}{\partial y}.

\end{align*}

The frame field is not globally defined on $S^2$ since $\frac{\partial}{\partial\theta}$ at $\phi=0,\pi$. More generally, the following theorem holds.

*Theorem.* [Hairy Ball Theorem] If $n$ is even, a non-vanishing $C^\infty$ vector field on $S^n$ does not exist i.e. a $C^\infty$ vector field on $S^n$ must take zero value at some point of $S^n$.

The Hairy Ball Theorem tells us why we have ball spots on our heads. It can be also stated as “you cannot comb a hairy ball flat.” There may also be a meteorological implication of this theorem. It may implicate that there must be at least one spot on earth where there is no wind at all. No-wind spot may be the eye of a hurricane. So, as long as there is wind (and there always is) on earth, there must be a hurricane somewhere at all times.

It has been known that all odd-dimensional spheres have at least one non-vanishing $C^\infty$ vector field and that only spheres $S^1, S^3, S^7$ have a $C^\infty$ field of basis. For instance, there are three mutually perpendicular unit vector fields on $S^3\subset\mathbb{R}^4$ i.e. a frame field: Let $S^3=\{(x^1,x^2,x^3,x^4)\in\mathbb{R}^4: \sum_{i=1}^4(x^i)^2=1\}$. Then

\begin{align*}

X&=-x^2\frac{\partial}{\partial x^1}+x^2\frac{\partial}{\partial x^2}+x^4\frac{\partial}{\partial x^3}-x^3\frac{\partial}{\partial x^4},\\

Y&=-x^3\frac{\partial}{\partial x^1}-x^4\frac{\partial}{\partial x^2}+x^1\frac{\partial}{\partial x^3}+x^2\frac{\partial}{\partial x^4},\\

Z&=-x^4\frac{\partial}{\partial x^1}+x^3\frac{\partial}{\partial x^2}-x^2\frac{\partial}{\partial x^3}+x^1\frac{\partial}{\partial x^4}

\end{align*}

form an orthonormal basis of $C^\infty$ vector fields on $S^3$.