Tweetable way to see that Willmore energy is Möbius invariant? - MathOverflow most recent 30 from http://mathoverflow.net 2013-05-25T03:28:23Z http://mathoverflow.net/feeds/question/99555 http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/rdf http://mathoverflow.net/questions/99555/tweetable-way-to-see-that-willmore-energy-is-mobius-invariant Tweetable way to see that Willmore energy is Möbius invariant? fuzzytron 2012-06-14T05:49:03Z 2012-06-14T22:26:11Z <p>Consider a compact orientable Riemannian manifold $M$ (without boundary) isometrically immersed into $\mathbb{R}^3$. The <em>Willmore energy</em> of $M$ is the functional</p> <p>$$\mathcal{W} = \int_M H^2 dA$$</p> <p>where $H$ is the induced mean curvature. I am looking for a short, sweet, and utterly convincing (though not necessarily utterly formal) way of demonstrating that the Willmore energy is Möbius invariant. Of course, $H$ itself is rigid motion invariant, so the only thing that really needs to be explained is scale invariance and invariance w.r.t. sphere inversions.</p> <p>My oddball way of seeing scale invariance is that if you think of the surface as a conformal immersion $f:M \rightarrow \mathbb{R}^3$ then the Willmore energy is simply the (squared) $L^2$ norm of the so-called mean curvature half-density $H|df|$, where $|df|: TM \rightarrow \mathbb{R}; X \mapsto |df(X)|$ can be thought of as the (isotropic) length element. And since mean curvature times length is scale invariant, so is the Willmore energy. But that's an oddball way of seeing things, and certainly not the simplest explanation.</p> <p>As for sphere inversions, my only thought is that inversions are reflections in hyperbolic geometry. And reflections are isometries... So I have a sneaking suspicion that hyperbolic space provides a cute explanation -- perhaps for Möbius invariance on the whole -- but such an explanation eludes me.</p> <p>Other perspectives are, of course, very welcome!</p> <p><em><strong>Update:</em></strong> it is tempting to try to show that the Willmore energy is more generally <em>conformally</em> invariant, but this statement is not true -- in two dimensions conformal structure is much more flexible than in dimensions three or higher. In particular, given a smooth surface $M$ equipped with a conformal structure there are many immersions $f: M \rightarrow \mathbb{R}^3$ such that the induced metric is compatible with the conformal structure, and not all of these immersions will have the same Willmore energy. A concrete example is the Dirac spheres, which are conformal immersions of $S^2$ with progressively larger constant mean curvature-half density, hence progressively larger Willmore energy (some <a href="http://www.cms.caltech.edu/images/diracspheres.jpg" rel="nofollow">pictures here</a>, unfortunately low-resolution). But since there is only one conformal structure on $S^2$, $\mathcal{W}$ cannot be conformally invariant.</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/99555/tweetable-way-to-see-that-willmore-energy-is-mobius-invariant/99559#99559 Answer by Sebastian for Tweetable way to see that Willmore energy is Möbius invariant? Sebastian 2012-06-14T06:51:43Z 2012-06-14T07:47:12Z <p>There exist the notion of the mean curvature sphere for surfaces $f\colon M\to R^3$ in 3-space: for $p\in M$ the sphere $S(p)$ is defined to be the unique sphere which goes through $f(p),$ which has at $f(p)$ the same tangent space, and which has the same mean curvature. Then one can show that this notion is Moebius invariant. Moreover, the energy of the mean curvature sphere in the space of spheres is the exactly the Willmore functional. Of course, one has to do some computations for this, but the mean curvature sphere is clearly an important object in the field of Moebius invariant surface geometry.</p> <p>Some Literature: Bryant: A duality theorem for Willmore surfaces. Journal of Dif- ferential Geometry 20, Burstal, Ferus, Leschke, Pedit, Pinkall: Conformal geometry of surfaces in S4. Lec- ture Notes in Mathematics 1772</p> http://mathoverflow.net/questions/99555/tweetable-way-to-see-that-willmore-energy-is-mobius-invariant/99598#99598 Answer by Yuri Vyatkin for Tweetable way to see that Willmore energy is Möbius invariant? Yuri Vyatkin 2012-06-14T11:59:47Z 2012-06-14T22:26:11Z <p>The Willmore energy $\mathcal{W} = \int_M H^2 dA$ differs from the functional $$\widetilde{\mathcal{W}} = \int_M (H^2-K) dA$$ just by a constant as one can see from the Gauss - Bonnet theorem ($K$ here is the Gaussian curvature of $M$).</p> <p>The expression $H^2-K$ in $\widetilde{\mathcal{W}}$ is the half of the square of the length of <em>the trace-free part of the second fundamental form</em> which is a (pointwise) conformally invariant density of conformal weight $-2$, while "dA" can be seen as a density with conformal weight $2$, so the entire integrand $(H^2-K) dA$ is independent of a choice of a metric.</p> <p>Thus $\widetilde{\mathcal{W}}$ is manifestly conformally, and in particular, Möbius invariant. So is $\mathcal{W}$.</p> <p>(A Liouville's theorem ensures that conformal maps of $\mathbb{R}^n$, $n\ge 3$, are restrictions of Möbius transformations.)</p> <p><strong>Edit.</strong> The above is an attempt to address the original request for a "tweetable" argument.</p> <p>Of course, the precise statement is that the Willmore energy is conformally invariant with respect to the conformal transformations of the <em>ambient</em> space. (Otherwise we would not be able to invoke the Liouville's theorem).</p> <p>The correct definition of the Willmore energy involves an immersion $f\colon M \rightarrow \mathbb{R}^3$ and the induced conformal structure on the immersed manifold. The Dirac spheres show, in particular, that the Willmore energy does depend on the immersion. </p>