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We continue our study of $\kappa$-solutions. In the previous lecture we primarily exploited the non-negative curvature of such solutions; in this lecture and the next, we primarily exploit the ancient nature of these solutions, together with the finer analysis of the two scale-invariant monotone quantities we possess (Perelman entropy and Perelman reduced volume) to obtain a important scaling limit of $\kappa$-solutions, the asymptotic gradient shrinking soliton of such a solution.

The main idea here is to exploit what I have called the infinite convergence principle in a previous post: that every bounded monotone sequence converges. In the context of $\kappa$-solutions, we can apply this principle to either of our monotone quantities: the Perelman entropy $\displaystyle \mu(g(t),\tau) := \inf \{ {\mathcal W}(M,g(t),f,\tau): \int_M (4\pi\tau)^{-d/2} e^{-f}\ d\mu = 1 \}$ (1)

where $\tau := -t$ is the backwards time variable and $\displaystyle {\mathcal W}(M,g(t),f,\tau) := \int_M (\tau(|\nabla f|^2 + R) + f - d) (4\pi\tau)^{-d/2} e^{-f}\ d\mu$, (2)

or the Perelman reduced volume $\displaystyle \tilde V_{(0,x_0)}(-\tau) := \tau^{-d/2} \int_M e^{-l_{(0,x_0)}(-\tau,x)}\ d\mu(x)$ (3)

where $x_0 \in M$ is a fixed base point. As pointed out in Lecture 11, these quantities are related, and both are non-increasing in $\tau$.

The reduced volume starts off at $(4\pi)^{d/2}$ when $\tau=0$, and so by the infinite convergence principle it approaches some asymptotic limit $0 \leq \tilde V_{(0,x_0)}(-\infty) \leq (4\pi)^{d/2}$ as $\tau \to -\infty$. (We will later see that this limit is strictly between 0 and $(4\pi)^{d/2}$.) On the other hand, the reduced volume is invariant under the scaling $g^{(\lambda)}(t) := \frac{1}{\lambda^2} g( \lambda^2 t )$, (4)

in the sense that $\tilde V_{(0,x_0)}^{(\lambda)}(-\tau) = \tilde V_{(0,x_0)}(-\lambda^2 \tau)$. (5)

Thus, as we send $\lambda \to \infty$, the reduced volumes of the rescaled flows $t \mapsto (M, g^{(\lambda)}(t))$ (which are also $\kappa$-solutions) converge pointwise to a constant $\tilde V_{(0,x_0)}(-\infty)$.

Suppose that we could somehow “take a limit” of the flows $t \mapsto (M, g^{(\lambda)}(t))$ (or perhaps a subsequence of such flows) and obtain some limiting flow $t \mapsto (M^{(\infty)}, g^{(\infty)}(t))$. Formally, such a flow would then have a constant reduced volume of $\tilde V_{(0,x_0)}(-\infty)$. On the other hand, the reduced volume is monotone. If we could have a criterion as to when the reduced volume became stationary, we could thus classify all possible limiting flows $t \mapsto (M^{(\infty)}, g^{(\infty)}(t))$, and thus obtain information about the asymptotic behaviour of $\kappa$-solutions (at least along a subsequence of scales going to infinity).

We will carry out this program more formally in the next lecture, in which we define the concept of an asymptotic gradient-shrinking soliton of a $\kappa$-solution.
In this lecture, we content ourselves with a key step in this program, namely to characterise when the Perelman entropy or Perelman reduced volume becomes stationary; this requires us to revisit the theory we have built up in the last few lectures. It turns out that, roughly speaking, this only happens when the solution is a gradient shrinking soliton, thus at any given time $-\tau$ one has an equation of the form $\hbox{Ric} + \hbox{Hess}(f) = \lambda g$ for some $f: M \to {\Bbb R}$ and $\lambda > 0$. Our computations here will be somewhat formal in nature; we will make them more rigorous in the next lecture.

The material here is largely based on Morgan-Tian’s book and the first paper of Perelman. Closely related treatments also appear in the notes of Kleiner-Lott and the paper of Cao-Zhu.

It is well known that the heat equation $\dot f = \Delta f$ (1)

on a compact Riemannian manifold (M,g) (with metric g static, i.e. independent of time), where $f: [0,T] \times M \to {\Bbb R}$ is a scalar field, can be interpreted as the gradient flow for the Dirichlet energy functional $\displaystyle E(f) := \frac{1}{2} \int_M |\nabla f|_g^2\ d\mu$ (2)

using the inner product $\langle f_1, f_2 \rangle_\mu := \int_M f_1 f_2\ d\mu$ associated to the volume measure $d\mu$. Indeed, if we evolve f in time at some arbitrary rate $\dot f$, a simple application of integration by parts (equation (29) from Lecture 1) gives $\displaystyle \frac{d}{dt} E(f) = - \int_M (\Delta f) \dot f\ d\mu = \langle -\Delta f, \dot f \rangle_\mu$ (3)

from which we see that (1) is indeed the gradient flow for (3) with respect to the inner product. In particular, if f solves the heat equation (1), we see that the Dirichlet energy is decreasing in time: $\displaystyle \frac{d}{dt} E(f) = - \int_M |\Delta f|^2\ d\mu$. (4)

Thus we see that by representing the PDE (1) as a gradient flow, we automatically gain a controlled quantity of the evolution, namely the energy functional that is generating the gradient flow. This representation also strongly suggests (though does not quite prove) that solutions of (1) should eventually converge to stationary points of the Dirichlet energy (2), which by (3) are just the harmonic functions (i.e. the functions f with $\Delta f = 0$).

As one very quick application of the gradient flow interpretation, we can assert that the only periodic (or “breather”) solutions to the heat equation (1) are the harmonic functions (which, in fact, must be constant if M is compact, thanks to the maximum principle). Indeed, if a solution f was periodic, then the monotone functional E must be constant, which by (4) implies that f is harmonic as claimed.

It would therefore be desirable to represent Ricci flow as a gradient flow also, in order to gain a new controlled quantity, and also to gain some hints as to what the asymptotic behaviour of Ricci flows should be. It turns out that one cannot quite do this directly (there is an obstruction caused by gradient steady solitons, of which we shall say more later); but Perelman nevertheless observed that one can interpret Ricci flow as gradient flow if one first quotients out the diffeomorphism invariance of the flow. In fact, there are infinitely many such gradient flow interpretations available. This fact already allows one to rule out “breather” solutions to Ricci flow, and also reveals some information about how Poincaré’s inequality deforms under this flow.

The energy functionals associated to the above interpretations are subcritical (in fact, they are much like $R_{\min}$) but they are not coercive; Poincaré’s inequality holds both in collapsed and non-collapsed geometries, and so these functionals are not excluding the former. However, Perelman discovered a perturbation of these functionals associated to a deeper inequality, the log-Sobolev inequality (first introduced by Gross in Euclidean space). This inequality is sensitive to volume collapsing at a given scale. Furthermore, by optimising over the scale parameter, the controlled quantity (now known as the Perelman entropy) becomes scale-invariant and prevents collapsing at any scale – precisely what is needed to carry out the first phase of the strategy outlined in the previous lecture to establish global existence of Ricci flow with surgery.

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