If $M$ is a compact Riemannian manifold and $X$ is a tangent field, I am seeking to define the object $\exp {\mathrm i t X}$ for $t \in \mathbb R$, and I do not know how to do it.

One option was to extend by analyticity the $1$-parameter group of diffeomorphisms $\exp (t X)$. Unfortunately, the theorem that I know requires that $\exp (t X)$ be self-adjoint and contraction in $L^2 (M)$ for all $t$, which is not possible.

Another approach would be to view $X$ as a bounded operator in some Banach space $B$, and consider the solution of the abstract Cauchy problem $U' (t) = \mathrm i X U(t)$ with $U(0) = I$. Unfortunately, it is not clear who $B$ could be: Sobolev spaces of finite order are not good because $X$ decreases their order by $1$, and the Sobolev space of infinite order is not Banach.

The third option would be to use some form of functional calculus - but which one? Notice that $X$ is not even normal as a densely-defined operator in $L^2 (M)$.

  • $\begingroup$ Although it’s not compact, it might be worth first asking what the answer should be for $\mathbb{R}^n$. Or the flat torus. $\endgroup$ – Deane Yang Feb 4 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ @DeaneYang: I don't know! On $\mathbb R^n$ one might define $[\exp (\mathrm i t X) f ] (x)$ as $f(x + itX)$ - a thing clearly impossible to do on arbitrary manifolds, and even on Lie groups. I would need to evaluate the flow of $X$ at imaginary times, and how would I do this? $\endgroup$ – Alex M. Feb 4 at 19:38
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    $\begingroup$ you probably want to figure out those cases first. It’s probably premature to ask it for a closed Riemannian manifold. My only thought is to thicken the manifold into a complex manifold. $\endgroup$ – Deane Yang Feb 4 at 20:24

Let's try this. I didn't check all the estimates but the idea should be roughly as follows: since $M$ is compact, the flow $\Phi$ of $X$ is complete giving a one-parameter group action of $\mathbb{R}$ on $C^\infty(M)$. The latter is treated as Frechet space in the usual way. For a function $f \in C^\infty(M)$ define \begin{equation} f_s = \int_{\mathbb{R}} \Phi^*_\tau f e^{-1/\mu (\tau-s)^2} d\tau \end{equation} i.e. the convolution with the Gaussian.

Edit: Now the tricky point is whether the derivatives of $\Phi_t^*f$ stay bounded for all times $t$. Here the mere compactness will not help. The problem is that we will need something like that in order to differentiate into the integral to show that $f_s$ is still smooth.

Now the compactness of $M$ shows that the derivatives of the flow map on an interval $[0, 1]$ times $M$ we have bounded derivatives of $\Phi$. Using now the flow property $\Phi_n = \Phi_1 \circ \cdots \circ \Phi_1$ for all $n \in \mathbb{N}$ shows that the derivatives of $\Phi_t$ can grow at most exponentially in time, uniformly on $M$. Indeed, we can estimate the derivatives of $\Phi$ at $t$ by the derivatives of the $n$-fold composition of the map $\Phi_1$ and a sup over the derivatives of $\Phi$ on the above compact $[0, 1] \times M$ for some suitable $n$. This is a bit awkward to write down but should be OK (I hope). Now the integral together with the Gaussian can handle an exponential growth.

  1. $f_0$ converges to $f$ for $\mu \to 0$ in the Frechet topology of $C^\infty(M)$. This is the standard kind of convolution argument. This shows that the span of the functions $f_s$ for varing $\mu$ and $s$ is dense.

  2. $f_s$ has an entire extension in $s$. This should be OK from the explicit formula with the Gaussian. Replacing $s$ by $z \in \mathbb{C}$ gives a convergent integral since the factor $e^{-1/\mu t^2}$ dominates the other factors.

  3. For $t \in \mathbb{R}$ one has $\Phi_t^*f_s = f_{t+s}$. This is just a change of variables in the integral.

  4. This last point allows you to treat $z \mapsto f_z$ as an entire function with values in $C^\infty(M)$ extending the action of the flow on $f_0$.

Now, I guess this is as far as one can get. A few comments are perhaps necessary:

The ideas are sort of common with people doing Lie group representation theory. There, things are more complicated as there is typically nothing like a nice Gaussian available. This is very special to the abelian group $\mathbb{R}$.

The big question is of course what this is all good for? Well, I have no idea what your intention is to complexify the action. It is clear that there is no immediate geometric interpretation. On the other hand, the above construction uses only compactness but not the Riemannian metric, nice...

  • $\begingroup$ This is really interesting, let me see where it takes me (if anywhere). My first thought would be: why not modify the above construction, and instead of the whole convolution thing work with the Fourier transform on $\mathbb R$, in the hope of being able to use the Paley-Wiener theorem? Let me see if I can squeeze anything out of your idea. $\endgroup$ – Alex M. Feb 5 at 10:34
  • $\begingroup$ thanks. But be careful, the above check of smoothness is not completely harmless and you should really go through it first :) $\endgroup$ – Stefan Waldmann Feb 5 at 11:02

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