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The Euler equations for incompressible inviscid fluids may be written as

\displaystyle  \partial_t u + (u \cdot \nabla) u = -\nabla p

\displaystyle  \nabla \cdot u = 0

where {u: [0,T] \times {\bf R}^n \rightarrow {\bf R}^n} is the velocity field, and {p: [0,T] \times {\bf R}^n \rightarrow {\bf R}} is the pressure field. To avoid technicalities we will assume that both fields are smooth, and that {u} is bounded. We will take the dimension {n} to be at least two, with the three-dimensional case {n=3} being of course especially interesting.

The Euler equations are the inviscid limit of the Navier-Stokes equations; as discussed in my previous post, one potential route to establishing finite time blowup for the latter equations when {n=3} is to be able to construct “computers” solving the Euler equations, which generate smaller replicas of themselves in a noise-tolerant manner (as the viscosity term in the Navier-Stokes equation is to be viewed as perturbative noise).

Perhaps the most prominent obstacles to this route are the conservation laws for the Euler equations, which limit the types of final states that a putative computer could reach from a given initial state. Most famously, we have the conservation of energy

\displaystyle  \int_{{\bf R}^n} |u|^2\ dx \ \ \ \ \ (1)

(assuming sufficient decay of the velocity field at infinity); thus for instance it would not be possible for a computer to generate a replica of itself which had greater total energy than the initial computer. This by itself is not a fatal obstruction (in this paper of mine, I constructed such a “computer” for an averaged Euler equation that still obeyed energy conservation). However, there are other conservation laws also, for instance in three dimensions one also has conservation of helicity

\displaystyle  \int_{{\bf R}^3} u \cdot (\nabla \times u)\ dx \ \ \ \ \ (2)

and (formally, at least) one has conservation of momentum

\displaystyle  \int_{{\bf R}^3} u\ dx

and angular momentum

\displaystyle  \int_{{\bf R}^3} x \times u\ dx

(although, as we shall discuss below, due to the slow decay of {u} at infinity, these integrals have to either be interpreted in a principal value sense, or else replaced with their vorticity-based formulations, namely impulse and moment of impulse). Total vorticity

\displaystyle  \int_{{\bf R}^3} \nabla \times u\ dx

is also conserved, although it turns out in three dimensions that this quantity vanishes when one assumes sufficient decay at infinity. Then there are the pointwise conservation laws: the vorticity and the volume form are both transported by the fluid flow, while the velocity field (when viewed as a covector) is transported up to a gradient; among other things, this gives the transport of vortex lines as well as Kelvin’s circulation theorem, and can also be used to deduce the helicity conservation law mentioned above. In my opinion, none of these laws actually prohibits a self-replicating computer from existing within the laws of ideal fluid flow, but they do significantly complicate the task of actually designing such a computer, or of the basic “gates” that such a computer would consist of.

Below the fold I would like to record and derive all the conservation laws mentioned above, which to my knowledge essentially form the complete set of known conserved quantities for the Euler equations. The material here (although not the notation) is drawn from this text of Majda and Bertozzi.

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Almost a year ago today, I was in Madrid attending the 2006 International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM). One of the many highlights of an ICM meeting are the plenary talks, which offer an excellent opportunity to hear about current developments in mathematics from leaders in various fields, aimed at a general mathematical audience. All the speakers sweat quite a lot over preparing these high-profile talks; for instance, I rewrote the slides for my own talk from scratch after the first version produced bemused reactions from those friends I had shown them to.

I didn’t write about these talks at the time, since my blog had not started then (and also, things were rather hectic for me in Madrid). During the congress, these talks were webcast live, but the video for these talks no longer seems to be available on-line.

A couple weeks ago, though, I received the first volume of the ICM proceedings, which is the one which among other things contains the articles contributed by the plenary speakers (the other two volumes were available at the congress itself). On reading through this volume, I discovered a pleasant surprise – the publishers had included a CD-ROM on the back page which had all the video and slides of the plenary talks, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies! This was a very nice bonus and I hope that the proceedings of future congresses also include something like this.

Of course, I won’t be able to put the data on that CD-ROM on-line, for both technical and legal reasons; but I thought I would discuss a particularly beautiful plenary lecture given by Étienne Ghys on “Knots and dynamics“. His talk was not only very clear and fascinating, but he also made a superb use of the computer, in particular using well-timed videos and images (developed in collaboration with Jos Leys) to illustrate key ideas and concepts very effectively. (The video on the CD-ROM unfortunately does not fully capture this, as it only has stills from his computer presentation rather than animations.) To give you some idea of how good the talk was, Étienne ended up running over time by about fifteen minutes or so; and yet, in an audience of over a thousand, only a handful of people actually left before the end.

The slides for Étienne’s talk can be found here, although, being in PDF format, they only have stills rather than full animations. Some of the animations though can be found on this page. (Étienne’s article for the proceedings can be found here, though like the contributions of most other plenary speakers, the print article is more detailed and technical than the talk.) I of course cannot replicate Étienne’s remarkable lecture style, but I can at least present the beautiful mathematics he discussed.
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