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AUGUST 2000

Isoperimetric problems for the helicity of vector elds and the BiotSavart and curl operators

Jason Cantarellaa)

Department of Mathematics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003-4515

Department of Mathematics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6395

Received 20 August 1999; accepted for publication 9 November 1999 The helicity of a smooth vector eld dened on a domain in three-space is the standard measure of the extent to which the eld lines wrap and coil around one another. It plays important roles in uid mechanics, magnetohydrodynamics, and plasma physics. The isoperimetric problem in this setting is to maximize helicity among all divergence-free vector elds of given energy, dened on and tangent to the boundary of all domains of given volume in three-space. The BiotSavart operator starts with a divergence-free vector eld dened on and tangent to the boundary of a domain in three-space, regards it as a distribution of electric current, and computes its magnetic eld. Restricting the magnetic eld to the given domain, we modify it by subtracting a gradient vector eld so as to keep it divergence-free while making it tangent to the boundary of the domain. The resulting operator, when extended to the L 2 completion of this family of vector elds, is compact and self-adjoint, and thus has a largest eigenvalue, whose corresponding eigenelds are smooth by elliptic regularity. The isoperimetric problem for this modied Biot Savart operator is to maximize its largest eigenvalue among all domains of given volume in three-space. The curl operator, when restricted to the image of the modied BiotSavart operator, is its inverse, and the isoperimetric problem for this restriction of the curl is to minimize its smallest positive eigenvalue among all domains of given volume in three-space. These three isoperimetric problems are equivalent to one another. In this paper, we will derive the rst variation formulas appropriate to these problems, and use them to constrain the nature of any possible solution. For example, suppose that the vector eld V, dened on the compact, smoothly bounded domain , maximizes helicity among all divergence-free vector elds of given nonzero energy, dened on and tangent to the boundary of all such domains of given volume. We will show that 1 V is a nonzero constant on the boundary of each component of ; 2 all the components of are tori; and 3 . Thus, among smooth simply connected dothe orbits of V are geodesics on mains, none are optimal in the above sense. In principal, one could have a smooth optimal domain in the shape, say, of a solid torus. However, we believe that there are no smooth optimal domains at all, regardless of topological type, and that the true optimizer looks like the singular domain presented in this paper, which we can think of either as an extreme apple, in which the north and south poles have been pressed together, or as an extreme solid torus, in which the hole has been shrunk to a point. A computational search for this singular optimal domain and the helicitymaximizing vector eld on it is at present under way, guided by the rst variation formulas in this paper. 2000 American Institute of Physics. S0022-2488 00 00705-2

0022-2488/2000/41(8)/5615/27/$17.00

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I. INTRODUCTION

Let be a compact domain in three-space with smooth boundary ; smooth for us to be disconnected. always means of class C . We allow both and Let VF be the set of all smooth vector elds V on . Then VF is an inniteV"Wd(vol). dimensional vector space, on which we use the L 2 inner product V,W The helicity H(V) of the vector eld V on , dened by the formula H V 1/4 V x V y " x y /x y 3 d volx d voly ,

was introduced by Woltjer1 in 1958 and named by Moffatt2 in 1969. The formula itself is a variation on Gauss integral formula3 for the linking number of two closed space curves, which dates back to 1833. To help understand the formula for helicity, think of V as a distribution of electric current, and use the BiotSavart law to compute its magnetic eld, BS(V): BS V y 1/4 V x y x /y x 3 d volx .

Although the magnetic eld BS(V) is well dened throughout all of three-space, we will restrict it to the domain and thus view the BiotSavart law as providing an operator BS:VF VF .

The relation between helicity and the BiotSavart operator is as follows: H V 1/4 V x V y " x V x y y /x y 3 d volx d voly x 3 d volx d voly

V y " 1/4

x /y

V y "BS V y d voly V"BS V d vol , so the helicity of V is just the L 2 inner product of V and BS(V), H V V, BS V .

In this paper, we will mainly be interested in divergence-free vector elds which are dened on and tangent to the boundary of the domain . They form a subspace K of VF( ), K V VF : "V 0, V"n 0 ,

where n is the unit outward normal vector eld to . These vector elds are often regarded as the uid analogs of knots and links. Recall the modication of the BiotSavart operator described in the abstract on the rst page. We start with a divergence-free vector eld V, dened on and tangent to the boundary of , thus an element of K . We compute its magnetic eld BS(V) and restrict it to . Then we subtract an appropriate gradient vector eld from BS(V) so that the resulting vector eld lies in K ; see

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Sec. II A for the Hodge Decomposition theorem. To say it another way, we take the L 2 orthogonal projection of BS(V) back into K . In this way we dene the modied BiotSavart operator BS : K K .

for any V VF( ), so the modied BiotSavart operator BS is related to helicity by the formula H V V, BS V

for any V K . The second formula follows from the rst, since BS (V) differs from BS(V) by a gradient vector eld, which is L 2 orthogonal to V if V K . Since we are focusing on divergence-free vector elds which are tangent to the boundary of their domain of denition, it is this second formula for helicity which plays a central role in the present paper. The modied BiotSavart operator BS , when extended to the L 2 completion of its domain K , is a compact, self-adjoint operator. Applying the spectral theorem and elliptic regularity, we will see that the vector elds V in K with maximum helicity for given energy are precisely the eigenelds of BS corresponding to its largest eigenvalue , and that for these vector elds we have H V where E(V) E V , we have

This approach to helicity was pioneered by Arnold4 in his 1974 study of the asymptotic Hopf invariant for vector elds on closed orientable three-manifolds. might seem to favor vector elds of Searching for the largest eigenvalue of BS on VF positive helicity. However, if we reect the domain through the origin in three-space to obtain , and carry along the vector eld V on to a vector eld V on , then the domain H(V). helicities change sign because the reection is orientation reversing. That is, H(V ) Thus the vector elds of negative helicity on reect through the origin to vector elds of positive helicity on , where they get their deserved attention. In particular, for any vector eld V on , we have H V max , E V .

Suppose the domain is subject to a smooth volume-preserving deformation h t : t , with h 0 the identity, whose initial velocity is the vector eld W dened by W(x) d/dt t 0 h t (x). By volume-preserving, we always mean that the volume form is preserved at each point; thus "W 0. We would like to have a rst variation formula for the largest eigenvalue of the modied BiotSavart operator BS : K K . However, as we know from elementary linear algebra, the largest eigenvalue of a smooth one-parameter family of self-adjoint matrices does not always vary smoothly. We nesse this annoyance as follows. Given a divergence-free vector eld V dened on and tangent to the boundary of , consider the Rayleigh quotient V BS V ,V / V,V H V /E V .

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If V happens to be an eigeneld of the modied BiotSavart operator BS , then (V) will be the corresponding eigenvalue. The largest eigenvalue of BS is the maximum of all the Rayleigh quotients (V). Now, given the smooth volume-preserving deformation h t of dened above, let V t (h t ) V * be the push-forward of V to a vector eld on the domain t . One says that V t is frozen into the domain t as it deforms. The quantity (V t ) does vary smoothly, so we dene the rst variation (V) of (V) to be V d/dt

t 0

Vt

and seek a formula for (V). Since (V) H(V)/E(V), it is natural to seek rst variation formulas for the helicity H(V) and the energy E(V). In the following theorems, keep in mind that the vector eld V is divergence-free and tangent to the boundary of the domain , and remains frozen in as is subject to a volume-preserving deformation with initial velocity eld W. Theorem A: The helicity H(V t ) is independent of t. This theorem is inspired by Arnold,4 who showed that for certain divergence-free vector elds V on a compact orientable three-manifold without boundary, the helicity H(V) remains constant when V is carried along by any volume-preserving, orientation-preserving diffeomorphism. We discuss this at the beginning of Sec. III. Theorem B: The rst variation of energy is given by the formula E V 2 V V , W V

2

W"n d area .

If the domain is again replaced by a compact orientable three-dimensional manifold without boundary, then the second term on the right disappears, and Theorem B reduces to another result of Arnold.4 Theorem C: The rst variation of the Rayleigh quotient (V) H(V)/E(V) is given by the formula V V 2 V V , W V V d vol

2 2

W"n d area

2

2

The inequality appears only in the case that the largest eigenvalue has multiplicity 1. This can certainly happen: when is a round ball the largest eigenvalue has multiplicity 3. When this eigenvalue is simple, the inequality can be replaced by an equality. The third part of Theorem C plays a key role in proving the next theorem. Theorem D: Suppose the vector eld V, dened on the compact, smoothly bounded domain , maximizes helicity among all divergence-free vector elds of given nonzero energy, dened on and tangent to the boundary of all such domains of given volume in three-space.

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Then 1 V is a nonzero constant on the boundary of each component of 2 All the components of are tori. . 3 The orbits of V are geodesics on .

We already mentioned some of the consequences of this result in the abstract. After proving Theorem A, we will modify its proof to derive a general rst variation formula for helicity, H V 2 BS V "V "W d vol ,

in which the vector eld V is, as usual, divergence-free and tangent to the boundary of its domain , but in which the deformation h t is not required to be volume preserving, and hence in which its initial velocity eld W is arbitrary. But we will not use this formula in the paper. After proving Theorem C, we will describe an alternative rst variation formula for the eigenvalues of the modied BiotSavart operator BS which appears as an equality rather than an inequality. For further information about helicity, its mathematical foundations, and the role it plays in uid mechanics and plasma physics, we refer the reader to the papers of Berger and Field,5 Moffatt and Ricca,6,7 and to our papers.814

II. BACKGROUND A. The Hodge decomposition theorem

Let be a compact domain with smooth boundary in three-space. The following theorem is arguably the single most useful expression of the interplay between the topology of the domain , the traditional calculus of vector elds dened on this domain, and the L 2 inner product structure on VF . We will use this result a number of times in the sections to come. The reader can nd a detailed treatment and proof of this theorem in Ref. 9, along with a number of applications to boundary value problems for vector elds. Hodge decomposition theorem: We have a direct sum decomposition of VF into ve mutually orthogonal subspaces, VF with ker curl image grad HK CG HG GG, CG HG GG, FK HK CG HG GG,

image curl FK HK CG, ker div FK HK CG HG, where FK HK CG HG GG "V 0,V"n 0,all interior uxes 0 , Fluxless knots "V 0, V 0,V"n 0 , Harmonic knots Curly gradients V , "V 0, all boundary uxes 0 , , "V 0, locally constant on Harmonic gradients V Grounded gradients V , 0,

and furthermore,

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HK H 1 ( ;R) H 2 ( , HG H 2 ( ;R) H 1 ( ,

of

) (# components of

We need to explain the meanings of the conditions which appear in the statement of this theorem. is denoted by n, so the condition The outward pointing unit vector eld orthogonal to V"n 0 indicates that the vector eld V is tangent to the boundary of . . Orient by picking one Let stand generically for any smooth surface in with of its two unit normal vector elds n. Then, for any vector eld V on , we can dene the ux of V"n d area . V through to be the value of the integral . Then the value of this ux depends only Assume that V is divergence-free and tangent to on the homology class of in the relative homology group H 2 ( , ;Z). For example, if is an n-holed solid torus, then there are disjoint oriented cross-sectional disks 1 ,..., n , positioned so that cutting along these disks will produce a simply-connected region. The uxes 1 ,..., n of V through these disks determine the ux of V through any other cross-sectional surface. vanishes, well say If the ux of V through every smooth surface in with all interior uxes 0. Then FK V VF : "V 0, V"n 0, all interior uxes 0

of harmonic knots is isomorphic to the absolute homology group H 1 ( ;R) and also, via Poincare duality, to the relative homology group H 2 ( , ;R), and is thus a nite-dimensional vector . space, with dimension equal to the genus of The orthogonal direct sum of these two subspaces, K FK HK,

is the subspace of VF mentioned earlier, consisting of all divergence-free vector elds dened on and tangent to its boundary. If V is a vector eld dened on , we will say that all boundary uxes of V are zero if the ux is zero. Then of V through each component of CG V VF : V , "V 0, all boundary uxes 0

will be called the subspace of curly gradients because these are the only gradients which lie in the image of curl. We dene the subspace of harmonic gradients, HG V VF : V , "V 0, locally constant on ,

. This subspace is isomorphic to the absolute meaning that is constant on each component of homology group H 2 ( ;R) and also, via Poincare duality, to the relative homology group H 1 ( , ;R), and is hence a nite-dimensional vector space, with dimension equal to the number minus the number of components of . of components of The denition of the subspace of grounded gradients, GG is self-explanatory. V VF :V , 0 ,

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The following result, extracted from Ref. 8, provides a bound on the helicity of any vector eld V; this bound depends only on the energy of V and the volume of . Theorem E: Let V be a smooth vector eld in three-space, dened on the compact domain with smooth boundary. Then the helicity H(V) of V is bounded by H V R E V ,

where R( ) is the radius of a round ball having the same volume as and E(V) V"V d vol is the energy of V. This upper bound is not sharp, but it is of the right order of magnitude: for example, the Woltjer spheromak eld V on the round ball shown in Fig. 2 has helicity greater than one-fth of the asserted upper bound. Sharp upper bounds obtained by spectral methods will be discussed in the following sections.

C. Properties of the BiotSavart operators

It is useful to have a clear picture of the image of the modied BiotSavart operator. We will say that a vector eld V K satises Amperes law if V"ds 0

C

which bound in R 3 . for all closed curves C on We refer the reader to Ref. 10 for proofs of the following three theorems. Theorem F: The image of the modied BiotSavart operator consists of those vector elds V K which satisfy Amperes law. Theorem G: The ordinary and modied BiotSavart operators BS and BS are bounded operators, and hence they extend to bounded operators on the L 2 completions of their domains; there they are both compact and self-adjoint. Theorem H: The equation BS(V) V holds in if and only if V K , that is, if and only if V is divergence-free and tangent to the boundary of .

D. Connection with the curl operator

If the vector eld V is divergence-free and tangent to the boundary of its domain Theorem H, BS V V.

, then, by

Since BS(V) and BS (V) differ by a gradient vector eld, we also have BS V If V is an eigeneld of BS , BS V then V 1/ V. V, V.

Thus the eigenvalue problem for BS can be converted to an eigenvalue problem for curl on the image of BS , which means to a system of partial differential equations. Even though we extended BS to the L 2 completion of K in order to apply the spectral theorem, the eigenelds are smooth vector elds in K ; this follows, thanks to elliptic regularity, because on divergence-

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free vector elds, the square of the curl is the negative of the Laplacian. Hence these eigenelds can be and are discovered by solving this system of partial differential equations PDEs .

We solve V (1/ )V on the at solid torus D 2 (a) S 1 , where D 2 (a) is a disk of radius 1 a and S is a circle of any length. Although this is not a subdomain of three-space, the solution here is so clear cut and instructive as to be irresistable; see Ref. 12. The largest eigenvalue of BS on this domain is D 2 a S 1 a/2.405...,

where the denominator is the rst positive zero of the Bessel function J 0 . The corresponding eigeneld, discovered by Lundquist15 in 1951 in his study of force-free magnetic elds on a cylinder, and known in plasma physics as a tokamak eld see Fig. 1 , is V J 1 r/ J 0 r/ z,

expressed in terms of cylindrical coordinates r, , z and the Bessel functions J 0 and J 1 . It follows that if V is any vector eld in KD 2 (a) S 1 , then H V with equality for the above eigeneld V. We solve V (1/ )V on the round ball B 3 (a) of radius a in terms of spherical Bessel functions in Ref. 13. The largest eigenvalue of BS on this domain is B 3 a a/4.4934...; the denominator is the rst positive zero of sin x /x cos x. The corresponding eigeneld is Woltjers model for the magnetic eld in the Crab Nebula,16 also known in plasma physics as a spheromak eld see Fig. 2 , and is described below in spherical on a ball of radius a 1: coordinates r, , V r, , where u r, r v r, w r, , a/2.405... E V ,

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u r,

v r,

2 /r 2 sin r/ / r/

/ r/ sin r/ / r/

cos r/ cos , / r/

2

1/r cos r/ w r,

sin r/ sin ,

1/r sin r/

cos r/ sin .

Note that the value 1/4.4934... makes both u(r, ) and w(r, ) vanish when r 1, that is, at the boundary of the ball. As a consequence, the vector eld V is tangent to the boundary of the ball, and directed there along the meridians of longitude. It follows that if V is any vector eld in KB 3 (a), then H V a/4.4934... E V ,

with equality for the above eigeneld V. Compare this with the earlier rough upper bound, H V aE V ,

promised by Theorem E. Comparison of the two pictures above shows how the fundamental features of the helicitymaximizer persist even as the domain changes topological type.

III. THE ISOPERIMETRIC PROBLEM A. Invariance of helicity

Arnold4 showed in 1974 that the helicity he called it the mean Hopf invariant of a vector eld V on a closed orientable three-manifold can be dened using just a volume element rather than a Riemannian metric , provided the vector eld is homologous to zero. To see what he meant by this, convert the vector eld V to a two-form V in the usual way by dening V (U 1 ,U 2 ) vol(V,U 1 ,U 2 ). If V is divergence-free, then V is closed. Arnold called a divergence-free vector eld V homologous to zero if the corresponding two-form V is exact. If a Riemannian metric compatible with the volume form is present, then a vector eld is homologous to zero if and only if it is in the image of curl. The corresponding results about helicity of vector elds dened on domains in three-space are as follows.

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1 Let 1 be a compact simply-connected domain in three-space with smooth boundary, and V 1 a divergence-free vector eld dened on 1 and tangent to its boundary. Let h: 1 2 be an orientation-preserving, volume-preserving diffeomorphism, and dene V 2 h (V 1 ). Then the * helicity H(V 1 ) H(V 2 ). 2 The same result holds if we drop the hypothesis that 1 is simply connected, but add the hypothesis that the vector eld V 1 is uxless as dened in the section on the Hodge decomposition theorem . The arguments are straightforward adaptations of those of Arnold; we do not give them here, nor do we use these two results. By contrast, if in 1 we drop the hypothesis that 1 is simply connected, and do not replace it with another suitable assumption, then we can have H(V 1 ) H(V 2 ) see Fig. 3 . The invariance property of helicity in three-space that we do need is that it remains constant when the vector eld is carried along by a volume-preserving deformation of domain, as asserted in Theorem A. We turn to this next.

Our proof of Theorem A will use material derivatives and the transport theorem from uid mechanics, so we pause for a brief reminder, referring the reader to Chap. 1 of Ref. 17 for more details. Suppose that a uid is moving through three-space, and that W(x,t) is the velocity of the uid particle at location x and time t. Let F(x,t) be some quantity, scalar or vector, dened in the region where the uid is owing. Let DF/Dt denote the rate of change of F as measured by a person moving with the ow. This quantity is known as the material derivative of F and is given by DF/Dt F/ t

i

F/ x i dx i /dt F.

F/ t

W"

Let d(vol) be a small chunk of uid moving with the ow. Then D/Dt d vol Hence D/Dt Fd vol DF/Dt d vol F/ t W" F D/Dt d vol F F "W d vol . "W d vol .

Suppose that t is a region moving with the uid and always containing the same uid particles. Then the transport theorem asserts that

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d/dt

t

F x,t d vol

t

If the uid is incompressible that is, the ow is volume-preserving , then W is divergence-free and the last term in the integrand above is zero.

C. Proof of Theorem A

Let be a compact domain with smooth boundary in three-space, and V a divergence-free vector eld dened on and tangent to its boundary. Let h t : t be a smooth family of volume-preserving diffeomorphisms of into R 3 , with h 0 the identity. Dene a vector eld W on by W(x) d/dt t 0 h t (x). This vector eld records the initial velocity of the deformation h t . Since each h t is volume preserving, W is divergence-free. Let V t (h t ) V, a smooth divergence-free vector eld dened on t and tangent to its * boundary. Thus V t is frozen into t as it deforms. Theorem A asserts that the helicity H(V t ) is independent of t. We will demonstrate this by showing that the derivative (d/dt)H(V t ) is zero, and since the argument will be independent of which instant of time we are at, it will be sufcient to show that d/dt We begin by writing H Vt

t

t 0H

Vt

0.

BS V t "V t d vol ,

t 0H

Vt

d/dt

t 0

t

BS V t "V t d vol ,

t 0 BS

D/Dt

D/Dt

t 0 BS

where the next-to-last equality uses the material derivative D/Dt and the transport theorem, as reviewed in the previous section, while the last equality uses the fact that the diffeomorphisms h t are volume preserving. Now D/Dt

t 0 BS

V t "V t D/Dt

t 0 BS

t 0V t

t 0 BS t 0V t

d/dt

t 0V t

W" W"

V, BS V ,

Vt

d/dt

t 0 BS

Vt

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We need to learn the values of d/dt t 0 V t and d/dt t 0 BS(V t ). We begin by staying put at the xed location x in the interior of V t (x) change with time: d/dt

t 0V t

t0

lim 1/t V t x

V x V h t 1x V x

t0

the value at x of the Lie bracket V,W of the vector elds V and W. Remaining at x, we watch the magnetic eld BSV t (x) change with time. This change is due to two inuences: for one thing, the vector eld V t is changing; for another, the domain t is shifting. The contribution to d/dt t 0 BS(V t ) due to the changing vector eld is simply BS(d/dt t 0 V t ) by the linearity of the operator BS. The contribution to d/dt t 0 BS(V t ) due to the shifting domain is the magnetic eld due to a surface current distribution (Wn)V along the boundary of . We will record this contribution as BS W"n V Thus d/dt

t 0 BS

Vt

BS d/dt

t 0V

BS W"n V BS W"n V

t 0 BS(V t ),

BS V,W Having learned the values of d/dt t 0 V t and d/dt for the material derivatives of V t and BS(V t ): D/Dt D/Dt

t 0 BS t 0V t

V,W

W"

V, W" BS V .

Vt

BS V,W

BS W"n V

We insert this information into our computation of the time rate of change of helicity: d/dt

t 0H

Vt

t 0 BS t 0 BS

t 0V t t 0V t

d vol

t 0 BS

V t ,V

BS V,W BS V , W"

BS W"n V V ,

BS V ,V BS W"n V

BS V , V,W ,V W"

W" BS V ,V

BS V,W ,V

BS V , V,W

where we have reordered the ve terms for the convenience of further computation. To begin, the rst two terms are equal, thanks to the self-adjointness of the operator BS, and we combine them as 2 BS(V), V,W . The last two terms combine to yield W" BS V "Vd vol .

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W"n V"BS V d area , by using a version of the symmetry of BS appropriate to this situation. Assembling, we get d/dt

t 0H

Vt

2 BS V , V,W

W"

BS V "V d vol .

Our job is now to process the three terms on the right-hand side of this equation and show that they add up to zero. We begin with the rst term. Recall the formula A B B" B, A A A A" "B B A B "B "A . B "A

Apply this formula with A W and B V, keeping in mind that both V and W are divergence-free, to get W V Next, recall the formula " A B B" A A" B . V,W .

Apply this formula with A W V and B BS(V) to get " W V since the term W V " BS V W V "V 0, . BS V BS V " W V ,

because V is divergence-free and tangent to the boundary of Thus BS V , V,W BS V , BS V "( " W V W V BS V W V

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BS V "WV BS V "V W)"n d area BS V "V) W"n d area , . since V is tangent to The middle term in our expression for d/dt W"n V"BS V d area needs no further modication. We process the nal term as follows. W" BS V "V d vol since W is divergence-free, and then BS V "V W"n d area . Putting this all together, we get d/dt

t 0H

t 0 H(V t ),

Vt

2 BS V , V,W

W" BS V V d vol . BS V "V W"n d area BS V "V W"n d area completing the proof of Theorem A. 0, BS V "V W"n d area

We continue to assume that the vector eld V is divergence-free and tangent to the boundary of , but for this section only we give up the assumption that the deformation h t : t is volume preserving, and hence lose the condition that W is divergence-free. As a result, the helicity H(V t ) will no longer be independent of t ; instead, we will derive a rst variation formula for helicity involving the term BS V "V "W d vol .

To get this formula, we simply modify the proof of Theorem A at the three locations where we used the old hypothesis that "W 0, as follows. First, at the beginning of the proof, when we apply the transport theorem, we must now add the above integral into our formula for the rst variation of helicity.

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Again in the middle, where we process the term 2 BS(V), V,W , we must now use the identity V,W W V V "W ,

and so gain the term 2 BS(V),V( "W) , which is twice the above integral. And nally at the end, when we process the term W" BS(V)"V d(vol), we must now use the identity W" BS V "V " BS V "VW BS V "V "W ,

and therefore must subtract our new integral from the formula. The net result, 1 2 1 2, is that we must now add twice our new integral to the old rst variation formula for helicity. Since helicity was invariant under volume-preserving deformations, the new formula reads H V 2 BS V "V "W d vol .

We can do a spot check on this new formula, as follows. Let h t be a gradual expansion of all of three-space dened by h t (x) (1 t)x, and then restrict h t to the domain . The initial velocity eld W of this deformation is the position vector r xx yy zz ,

t

and hence "W 3. The vector eld V t on V t (1 t)x (1 t)V(x). But then in the helicity formula H V 1/4 V x V y " x

(1 t)

y /x

y 3 d volx d voly ,

each term in the integrand, including d(volx ) and d(voly ), will be multiplied by an appropriate power of (1 t) when computing H(V t ), with the net result H Vt It follows that H V Since d/dt H V t

t 0

1 t 6H V .

6H V .

"W 3, we get the same result from our new formula, H V 2 6 BS V "V "W d vol ,

BS V "V d vol

E. Variation of energy

As usual,

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But now we let V be any smooth vector eld on , thus an arbitrary member of VF . We do not assume that V is divergence-free, and we do not assume that V is tangent to the boundary of . Our rst variation of energy formula will be presented in a way which makes clear the simplifying effects of the various special assumptions about V. Let h t : t be a smooth one-parameter family of volume-preserving diffeomorphisms of into three-space. As before, we dene the vector eld W on by W(x) d/dt t 0 h t (x). Since the deformation is volume preserving, W is divergence-free. Again we let our original vector eld V on be carried along by the deformation, and so dene the vector eld V t on t by the formula V t (h t ) V. * This time we consider the energy of the vector eld V t on t , E Vt

t

V t "V t d vol ,

and seek a useful formula for its rst variation, E V Theorem I: E V 2 V 2 V ,W 2 "V V,W V

2

d/dt

t 0E

Vt .

W"n d area .

F. Proof of Theorem I

t 0E

Vt

d/dt

t 0

t

V t "V t d vol

t 0

D/Dt since the diffeomorphisms h t are volume preserving. Continuing, we get D/Dt V t "V t d vol 2 2 2 V"DV t /Dt V" V,W

V t "V t d vol ,

t 0

t 0

W"

The rst integral on the right is simply the L 2 inner product 2 V, V,W . The second integral on the right can be written as " V 2 W d vol , since W is divergence-free, and then as

5631

V 2 W"n d area by the divergence theorem. So we have shown that E V 2 V, V,W V 2 W"n d area .

This formula can be regarded as a way station on route to our nal answer. It is useful in itself if V,W 0, which means that V t (x) agrees with V(x) to rst order at t 0. In that case E V V 2 W"n d area ,

which, upon a moments reection, is intuitively plausible. However, in general we will do better to further process the term V, V,W . Our handling of the term V, V,W here will be very similar to our treatment of the term BS(V), V,W in the proof of Theorem A. Once again we use from vector calculus the formula A B B" A A" B A "B B "A B, A A "B B "A ,

again with A W and B V, but this time we only know that We get W V or V,W Thus V, V,W V, W V V,W W V W "V . V,W W "V ,

"W 0.

"V .

Focus on the rst term on the right, and let us try to take the curl operator away from (W V) and give it to V. To this end, we once again recall the formula: " A B A "B A" B .

This time we apply the formula with A V and B W V to get "V or V" W V V " W V "V V W . W V V " W V V" W V ,

and apply the divergence theorem to get V V W "n d area V"W V"n d area V 2 W"n d area ,

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where the last equality relies on the identity V Finally, we get E V 2 V, V,W 2 V, 2 V 2 V,W 2 V W V V ,W "V V ,W 2 V 2 W"n d area 2 V,W 2 "V V 2 W"n d area 2 V 2 W"n d area V W V"W V V"V W.

G. Proof of Theorem B and other corollaries to Theorem I

Consider once again the rst variation of energy formula given by Theorem I: E V 2 V 2 V ,W 2 "V V,W V 2 W"n d area .

If V is divergence-free, then the second term on the right vanishes; if V is tangent to the boundary of , then the third term vanishes. We are left with E V 2 V V ,W V

2

W"n d area ,

which is exactly the assertion of Theorem B. We turn now to a sequence of corollaries to Theorem I. Corollary 1: If V is divergence-free and tangent to the boundary of its domain E V 2 V" V,W .

, then

Proof: We begin with the formula of Theorem B, and make the substitution V 2 W"n d area since W is divergence-free, to get E V Then we use the formula 2V V V 2 ,W . " V 2 W d vol V

2

"W d vol ,

5633

A"

B"

A,

2V

2 V"

V,

from which the desired result follows. Corollary 2: If V is divergence-free and tangent to the boundary of , then E(V) 0 for all divergence-free W if and only if (V" )V is the gradient of a function which vanishes on . Proof: Recall, from the Hodge decomposition theorem, that the vector elds on which are form the subspace GG of grounded gradients, which is the gradients of functions vanishing on orthogonal complement inside VF( ) of the subspace of divergence-free vector elds. Then Corollary 2 follows immediately from Corollary 1. Corollary 3: Let V be divergence-free and tangent to , and suppose that E(V) 0 for all , the orbits of V are constant speed geodesics. divergence-free W. Then on Caution: That constant speed may, at least in principle, vary from geodesic to geodesic. Proof: Let g t (p) be the orbit of V which at time 0 passes through the point p. Thus (d/dt)g t (p) Vg t (p). A straightforward computation shows that the acceleration along this orbit is given by d 2 /dt 2 g t p V" Vg t p .

Now the hypotheses on V imply, by Corollary 2, that (V" )V is the gradient of a function that vanishes on , and hence that (V" )V is orthogonal to . , then the acceleration vector Thus if p, and hence the orbit g t (p) through it, lie on (d 2 /dt 2 )g t (p) is orthogonal to , and therefore this orbit is a constant speed geodesic on . Corollary 4: If V is divergence-free and tangent to the boundary of , and is an eigeneld of the curl operator, then E V V

2

W"n d area .

Proof: This follows immediately from the rst variation formula for the energy given in Theorem I, since the hypotheses on V imply that the rst three terms on the right-hand side of the formula vanish. Note that if the vector eld V is an eigeneld of the modied BiotSavart operator BS , then it is also an eigeneld of curl, according to Theorem H, and hence the above formula holds. In particular, this formula holds when the vector eld V maximizes helicity for given energy. Corollary 5: If V is divergence-free and tangent to the boundary of , and is an eigeneld of the curl operator, then E(V) 0 for all volume-preserving deformations of if and only if V is constant on the boundary of each component of . Proof: We begin with the formula of Corollary 4 for E(V) under these circumstances: E V Since W is divergence-free, we have V is constant on each i , we get E V V

2

W"n d area

W"n d area

i

i

V V

i 2

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If V is not constant on the boundary of the component i of , pick two points p and q on V(q) . Connect p and q by a thin tube running through i . Then dene a i where V(p) volume-preserving deformation h t : t which is entirely supported on this thin tube, pushing the material in it so that it dimples in from i near p and bulges out near q. The corresponding initial velocity vector eld W(x) d/dt t 0 h t (x) is also supported in this tube, and satises (W"n) 0 on W"n d area 0. Then i near p and (W"n) 0 on i near q, and of course i clearly E V V

2

W"n d area

i

W"n d area

0,

H. Variation of energyan illustrative example

The domain in this example is the spherical shell centered at the origin in three-space, with boundary spheres of radii a b see Fig. 4 . The vector eld V, given in spherical coordinates by V r sin ,

is the velocity eld of rigid rotation of R 3 about the z axis, and is divergence-free and tangent to the boundary of . The vector eld W 1/r 2 r ,

dened on R 3 origin, is divergence-free and is the innitesimal generator of the one-parameter group h t of volume-preserving diffeomorphisms of R 3 origin, given by h t r, , r 3 3t

1/3

, , .

The vector eld V is invariant under the ow h t , that is, (h t ) V V. * The energy

5635

E V of V inside

V 2 d vol

t

Let

is given by

8 /15 b 3 3t

5/3

a 3 3t

5/3

d/dt

t 0E t

8 /3 b 2 a 2 .

2 V, V,W

obtained during the proof of Theorem I. In the present example, V,W simplies to E V V 2 W"n d area .

The right-hand side can be computed by direct integration, yielding (8 /3)(b 2 a 2 ), which coincides with the value obtained above by computing the left-hand side directly. Now consider the formula E V 2 V V ,W V

2

W"n d area ,

from Theorem B. Direct computation shows that the rst term on the right-hand side is (16 /3)(b 2 a 2 ), thus providing yet another conrmation.

Proof of Theorem C

Recall the setup. is a compact domain with smooth boundary in three-space. V is a divergence-free vector eld dened on and tangent to its boundary. h t : t is a smooth volume-preserving deformation of , with h 0 the identity. W is the vector eld on dened by W(x) d/dt t 0 h t (x). We are seeking a rst variation formula for the Rayleigh quotient V that is to say, a formula for V The rst part of Theorem C asserts that V V 2 V V ,W V V d vol

2 2

H V /E V ,

d/dt

t 0

Vt .

W"n d area

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This is an easy consequence of Theorems A and B, as follows. According to Theorem A, H V Hence V H V /E V H V /E V 2 E V H V /E V V Substituting the value E V 2 V V ,W V

2

0.

E V /E V .

E V /E V

W"n d area

we get the desired formula for (V). The second part of Theorem C asserts that if V is an eigeneld of the modied BiotSavart (V)V, then operator BS , say BS (V) V V V

2

V (V) 1 V. Thus we have We saw earlier that curl is a left inverse to BS . Hence V ( V) 0, and so the second part of Theorem C follows from the rst. The third part of Theorem C asserts that if this eigeneld V corresponds to the largest eigenvalue of BS on , then V

2

(V t ). We signal this by writing In this case, ( ) (V). At the same time, ( t ) ( ) (V), without meaning to suggest that ( t ) depends differentiably on t. Thus the third part of Theorem C follows from the second. Theorem C is proved.

F. An alternative version of Theorem C

As mentioned in the Introduction, the largest eigenvalue of a smooth one-parameter family of self-adjoint matrices does not always vary smoothly, and, as a result of this, our rst variation formula for the largest eigenvalue of the modied BiotSavart operator BS appears as an inequality rather than an equality: V

2

In this section we will describe an alternative rst variation formula which appears as an equality.

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We begin with a compact domain with smooth boundary in three-space, and a smooth volume-preserving deformation h t : t , which depends analytically on t, with h 0 the identity. We are interested in the eigenvalues and eigenelds of the modied BiotSavart operators BSt : K

t

Recall that the eigenelds lie in K( t ), rather than in its L 2 completion, as a consequence of elliptic regularity. Consider a single eigenvalue of BS BS0 , of nite multiplicity m. We assume that I is an interval of real numbers containing the eigenvalue and no other eigenvalues of BS . Then the Rellich perturbation theorem18 can be used to show that for t sufciently small, there exist m real-valued functions 1 (t),..., m (t), each taking the value when t 0, and each depending analytically on t, such that the portion of the spectrum of BSt which lies within the interval I consists of just these eigenvalues, with total multiplicity m. Moreover, the theorem promises that there are m vector elds V 1 (t),...,V m (t) in K( t ), each depending analytically on t, which form a corresponding orthonormal system of eigenelds. Now let i (t) and V i (t) be one of the above eigenvalue functions and its corresponding eigeneld function. We have i (0); for simplicity of notation, we will write V V i (0), and d i (t)/dt t 0 . As usual, W will denote the initial velocity vector eld of the deformaalso tion h t . Then the following rst variation equality holds: V

2

We left the denominator in place on the right-hand side to cover the case when V does not have L 2 norm equal to 1. We compare this rst variation formula with that appearing in Theorem C: 1 The above formula is an equality, while its counterpart in Theorem C is an inequality. 2 The above formula requires the smooth deformation of domain to be analytic in the time parameter t, unlike its counterpart in Theorem C. Indeed, the Rellich perturbation theorem is false when the family of operators is only C in t. 3 The above formula holds for all eigenvalues of BS , but only for the eigenvalue functions promised by the Rellich theorem; in particular, the largest eigenvalue function ( t ) may not be analytic in t. By contrast, the corresponding formula in Theorem C holds for the largest eigenvalue function ( t ). 4 The above formula holds only for the eigenelds promised by the Rellich theorem; in particular, we do not get to choose the eigeneld V. By contrast, the corresponding formula in Theorem C holds for all the eigenelds V with eigenvalue . In the proof of the above rst variation formula, we replace the various modied BiotSavart operators BSt by their inverse curl operators, and then pull all these operators back to the xed domain to permit application of the Rellich perturbation theorem. We will not use the above formula in this paper, and so omit its proof.

K. Proof of Theorem D

Now we suppose that the vector eld V on the compact, smoothly bounded domain maximizes helicity among all divergence-free vector elds of given nonzero energy, dened on and tangent to the boundary of all such domains of given volume in three-space.

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We must show that 1 V is a nonzero constant on the boundary of each component of 2 All the components of are tori. . 3 The orbits of V are geodesics on .

To start, the fact that V maximizes helicity for given energy on tells us that V must be an eigeneld of the modied BiotSavart operator BS corresponding to the largest eigenvalue (V) ( ). Furthermore, the fact that V on maximizes helicity for given energy among all domains having the same volume as tells us that (V) 0 for all volume-preserving deformations of . Otherwise there would be a volume-preserving deformation of for which (V) 0. Then by ( ) 0, contrary to assumption. part 3 of Theorem C, we would have We must also have E(V) 0 for all volume-preserving deformations, since V V E V /E V .

Then from Corollary 3 to Theorem I we learn that the orbits of V are constant speed geodesics , while from Corollary 5 we see that V must be constant on the boundary of each compoon nent of . It remains to see why each of these constants must be nonzero. Once this is in hand, it will follow immediately that all the components of are tori. Vainshteins lemma19 1992: Suppose the vector eld V dened on the compact, smoothly bounded domain is divergence-free and an eigeneld of curl. , then V 0 throughout . If V 0 on Proof: Following Vainshtein, we dene the vector eld U

1 2

V 2r

r"V V,

where r is the position vector eld in three-space, and will show in the following sublemma that 1 "U 2 V 2 as a consequence of the hypotheses that V is divergence-free and an eigeneld of curl. Assuming this for the moment, we then have

1 2

V 2 d vol

"U d vol

U"n d area

0,

since U 0 on . Thus V 0 throughout , as claimed. Sublemma: Let V be any vector eld, and dene the vector eld U by U Then "U

1 2 1 2

V 2r

r"V V.

V "r

r"V

"V .

1 2

V 2.

Proof: The argument seems to us a bit clumsy in the notation we have been using throughout this paper, but effortless in subscript notation with respect to rectangular coordinates. In that notation, the vector A (a 1 ,a 2 ,a 3 ) in rectangular coordinates is simply recorded as a i . Thus the position vector r (x 1 ,x 2 ,x 3 ) appears as x i . Summation convention over repeated indices is employed, so that

5639

A"B a i b i . The partial derivative v i / x j is recorded as v i, j , and thus "V v i,i . In this style, the triple vector product is given by A B "C

i jk a i b j c k ,

where i jk takes the value 1 if ijk is an even permutation of 123, the value permutation of 123, and the value 0 otherwise. Finally, the curl appears as V

i jk

1 if it is an odd

v j,i v i, j .

With this notation, the proof simply ows: U ui "U u i,i v j v j,i x i

1 2 1 2

v jv jxi x jv jvi ,

Now the divergence x i,i of the position vector r is 3 and the partial derivative x j,i is 1 if j and 0 if j i, so our expression for "U simplies to "U v j v j,i x i

1 2 1 2 3 2

v j v j v j v j x j v j,i v i x j v j v i,i

where the last line is obtained by interchanging the subscripts i and j in the third term of the line above it. 1 This is exactly the formula we want: the rst term on the last line above is 2 V 2 , the second can be recognized as the triple product V ( V)"r by using the subscript formulas for curl and triple product, and the third term is (r"V)( "V). This completes the proof of the sublemma and, with it, that of Vainshteins lemma.

L. Conclusion of the proof of Theorem D

We have already seen that V must be constant on the boundary of each component of , and are left with the task of showing that each of these constants must be nonzero. At the beginning of the proof, we noted that if V satises the hypotheses of Theorem D, then it must be an eigeneld of the modied BiotSavart operator BS . Hence, as we saw earlier, it must also be an eigeneld of curl. Therefore V, since it is divergence-free, satises the hypotheses of Vainshteins lemma. is zero. Suppose that the constant value of V on the boundary of the component i of Apply Vainshteins lemma to that component to conclude that V must be identically zero throughout i . Since V has nonzero energy by hypothesis, there must be other components of where V does not vanish. Write where V does 1 2 , where 1 is the union of the components of not vanish, and 2 is the union of the components where V does vanish. We intend to replace by a scaled up version of 1 . To do this, delete 2 and multiply 1 by the factor k 1 so that vol k

1

k 3 vol

vol

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Cantarella et al.

1.

carry the vector eld V on 1 along with the expansion to give the vector eld kV on k a glance at the formulas for helicity and energy shows that H kV k 6H V while E kV k 5E V .

Then

Hence the ratio of helicity to energy has increased by the factor k 1, contrary to the hypothesis that the original vector eld V on maximized helicity for given energy and given volume of domain. It follows that V cannot vanish on any of the components of , and hence that on the boundary of each of these components, V must be a nonzero constant. Then each boundary component of , since it supports a nowhere-vanishing vector eld, must have Euler characteristic zero, and hence be a torus. , and so we are now nished with the We saw earlier that the orbits of V are geodesics on proof of Theorem D.

M. Optimal domains

The goal of the isoperimetric problem in the setting of this paper is to maximize helicity among all divergence-free vector elds of given energy, dened on and tangent to the boundary of all domains of given volume in three-space. Theorem E provides an upper bound for these helicities. Theorem D tells us some features of an optimal that is, helicity-maximizing domain, and of the helicity-maximizing vector eld on it. But how do we nd such a domain? Suppose we begin with the vector eld V which maximizes helicity for given nonzero energy on a round ball , the Woltjer spheromak eld described earlier and pictured in Fig. 2. We seek a volume-preserving deformation of which increases , guided by the inequality of Theorem C: V

2

2

average value of V 2 on

Then we imagine a volume-preserving deformation of whose initial velocity eld W has this preassigned normal component along the boundary. The deformation begins by dimpling inwards near the poles and bulging it outwards near the equator, making the ball look somewhat like an apple. We repeat this calculation at each stage of the deformation, trying to follow a path of steepest ascent for the largest eigenvalue of the modied BiotSavart operator. We believe that this procedure will continue to dimple the apple inwards at the poles and bulge it outwards at the equator, until it reaches roughly the shape pictured in Fig. 5, which then maximizes the largest eigenvalue of the modied BiotSavart operator among all domains of given volume. We think of this domain either as an extreme apple, in which the north and south poles have been pressed together, or as an extreme solid torus, in which the hole has been shrunk to a point. We also show in Fig. 5 the expected appearance of the helicity-maximizing vector eld.

5641

Comparison of this picture with those of the helicity maximizers on the at solid torus and on the round ball, given in Figs. 1 and 2, shows that we expect the common underlying pattern to persist even as the domain becomes singular. A computational search for this singular optimal domain and the helicity-maximizing vector eld on it is at present under way, guided by a discrete version of the evolution described above.

a

Electronic mail: cantarel@math.umass.edu Electronic mail: deturck@math.upenn.edu c Electronic mail: gluck@math.upenn.edu d Electronic mail: teytel@math.upenn.edu 1 L. Woltjer, A theorem on force-free magnetic elds, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 44, 489491 1958 . 2 H. K. Moffatt, The degree of knottedness of tangled vortex lines, J. Fluid Mech. 35, 117129 1969 . 3 C. F. Gauss, Integral formula for linking number, in Zur Mathematischen Theorie der Electrodynamische Wirkungen, Collected Works, Vol. 5 Koniglichen Gesellschaft des Wissenschaften, Gottingen, 1833 , 2nd ed. p. 605. 4 V. I. Arnold, The aymptotic Hopf invariant and its applications, Selecta Math. Sov. 5 4 , 327342 1986 in English ; Erevan 1974 in Russian . 5 M. A. Berger and G. B. Field, The topological properties of magnetic helicity, J. Fluid Mech. 147, 133148 1984 . 6 H. K. Moffatt and R. L. Ricca, Helicity and the Calugareanu invariant, Proc. R. Soc. London, Ser. A 439, 411429 1992 . 7 R. L. Ricca and H. K. Moffatt, The helicity of a knotted vortex lament,in Topological Aspects of the Dynamics of Fluids and Plasmas, edited by H. K. Moffatt Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, 1992 , pp. 225236. 8 J. Cantarella, D. DeTurck, and H. Gluck, Upper bounds for the writhing of knots and the helicity of vector elds, in Proc. of the Conference in Honor of the 70th Birthday of Joan Birman, edited by J. Gilman, X-S. Lin, and W. Menasco, AMS/IP Series on Advanced Mathematics International, 2000 . 9 J. Cantarella, D. DeTurck, and H. Gluck, Hodge decomposition of vector elds on bounded domains in 3-space, preprint, Univ. of Pennsylvania 1997 , to be submitted to Amer. Math. Monthly. 10 J. Cantarella, D. DeTurck, and H. Gluck, The Biot-Savart operator for application to knot theory, uid dynamics and plasma physics, preprint, Univ. of Pennsylvania 1997 , submitted to J. Math. Phys. 11 J. Cantarella, D. DeTurck, H. Gluck, and M. Teytel, Inuence of geometry and topology on helicity, in Magnetic Helicity in Space and Laboratory Plasmas, edited by M. Brown, R. Caneld, and A. Pevtsov, Geophysical Monograph Vol. 111 American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC, 1999 , pp. 1724. 12 J. Cantarella, D. DeTurck, and H. Gluck, The principal eigenvalue of the curl operator on the at torus, preprint, Univ. of Pennsylvania 1999 , to be submitted to J. Math. Phys. 13 J. Cantarella, D. DeTurck, H. Gluck, and M. Teytel, The spectrum of the curl operator on spherically symmetric domains, preprint, Univ. of Pennsylvania 1998 , to appear in Physics of Plasmas. 14 J. Cantarella, Topological structure of stable plasma ows, Ph.D. thesis, Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1999. 15 S. Lundquist, Magneto-hydrostatic elds, Ark. Fys. 2 35 , 361365 1951 . 16 L. Woltjer, The Crab Nebula, Bull. Astron. Inst. Netherlands 14, 3980 1958 . 17 H. Ockenden and J. Ockenden, Viscous Flow Cambridge U. P., Cambridge, 1995 . 18 F. Rellich, Perturbation Theory of Eigenvalue Problems Gordon and Breach Science, New York, 1969 . 19 S. I. Vainshtein, Force-free magnetic elds with constant alpha, in Topological Aspects of the Dynamics of Fluids and Plasmas, edited by H. K. Moffatt Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, 1992 , pp. 177193.

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