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It is in this hyperbolic case that conservation laws have been most e¬ectively
used. Everything developed previously in this chapter for the Laplace operator
and Poisson equations on Riemannian manifolds has an analog for the wave
operator and wave equations on Lorentzian manifolds, which by de¬nition carry
a metric of signature (n, 1). Indeed, even the coordinate formulae for conserva-
tion laws that we derived in the preceding section are easily altered by a sign
change to give corresponding conservation laws for the wave equation. Our goal
in this section is to see how certain analytic conclusions can be drawn from
these conservation laws.
Before doing this, we will illustrate the usefulness of understanding the wave
operator geometrically, by presenting a result of Christodoulou asserting that
the Cauchy problem for the non-linear hyperbolic equation
z = z n’1 (3.68)

has solutions for all time, given su¬ciently small initial data.6 The proof exploits
conformal invariance of the equation in an interesting way, and this is what we
want to explain. Note that (3.68) is the hyperbolic analog of the maximally
symmetric non-linear Poisson equation ∆z = z n’2 considered previously; the
change in exponent re¬‚ects the fact that the number of independent variables is
now n+1, instead of n. This equation will be of special interest in our discussion
of conservation laws, as well.
The idea for proving the long-time existence result is to map Minkowski
space Ln+1, which is the domain for the unknown z in (3.68), to a bounded
domain, in such a way that the equation (3.68) corresponds to an equation
for which short-time existence of the Cauchy problem is already known. With
su¬ciently small initial data, the “short-time” will cover the bounded domain,
and back on Ln+1 we will have a global solution.
The domain to which we will map Ln+1 is actually part of a conformal com-
pacti¬cation of Minkowski space, analogous to the conformal compacti¬cation
of Euclidean space constructed in §3.1.1. This compacti¬cation is di¬eomorphic
to a product S 1 — S n , and topologically may be thought of as the result of
adding a point at spatial-in¬nity for each time, and a time-at-in¬nity for each
spatial point. Formally, one can begin with a vector space with inner-product
of signature (n + 1, 2), and consider the projectivized null-cone; it is a smooth,
real quadric hypersurface in Pn+2, which in certain homogeneous coordinates
is given by
2 2 2 2
ξ1 + ξ 2 = · 1 + · · · + · n ,
evidently di¬eomorphic to S 1 — S n . The (n + 1, 2)-inner-product induces a
Lorentz metric on this hypersurface, well-de¬ned up to scaling, and its conformal
isometry group has identity component SO o (n + 1, 2), which we will revisit in
considering conservation laws. What is important for us now is that among the
representative Lorentz metrics for this conformal structure one ¬nds

g = ’dT 2 + dS 2 ,

where T is a coordinate on S 1 , and dS 2 is the standard metric on S n . In
certain spherical coordinates (“usual” spherical coordinates applied to Rn, after
stereographic projection, this may be written

g = ’dT 2 + dR2 + (sin2 R) dZ 2,

where R ∈ [0, π], and dZ 2 is the standard metric on the unit (n ’ 1)-sphere.
Now we will conformally embed Minkowski space Ln+1 as a bounded domain
in the ¬nite part R — Rn of S 1 — S n , the latter having coordinates (T, R, Z).
The map •(t, r, z) = (T, R, Z) is given by
« « 
arctan(t + r) + arctan(t ’ r)
 R  =  arctan(t + r) ’ arctan(t ’ r)  ,
Z z
6 See [Chr86]; what is proved there is somewhat more general.

and one can easily check that
•— (’dT 2 + dR2 + (sin2 R) dZ 2) = „¦2 (’dt2 + dr2 + r2 dz 2),
where dZ 2 and dz 2 are both the standard metric on the unit (n ’ 1)-sphere; the
conformal factor is
1 1
„¦ = 2(1 + (t + r)2 )’ 2 (1 + (t ’ r)2 )’ 2 ,
and the right-hand side is a multiple of the ¬‚at Minkowski metric. The image
of • is the “diamond”
D = {(T, R, Z) : R ’ π < T < π ’ R, R ≥ 0}.
Note that the initial hyperplane {t = 0} corresponds to {T = 0}, and that with
¬xed (R, Z), as T ’ π ’ R, t ’ ∞. Consequently, the long-time Cauchy prob-
lem for the invariant wave equation (3.68) corresponds to a short-time Cauchy
problem on the bounded domain D for some other equation.
We can see what this other equation is without carrying out tedious calcula-
tions by considering the conformally invariant wave operator, an analog of the
conformal Laplacian discussed in §3.1.3. This is a di¬erential operator
n’1 n+3
: “(D 2(n+1) ) ’ “(D 2(n+1) )

between certain density line bundles over a manifold with Lorentz metric. With
a choice of Lorentz metric g representing the conformal class, u ∈ “(D 2(n+1) ) is
represented a function ug , and the density c u is represented by the function
( c u)g = g (ug ) + 4n Rg ug ,

where Rg is the scalar curvature and g is the wave operator associated to g.
We interpret our wave equation (3.68) as a condition on a density represented in
the ¬‚at (Minkowski) metric g0 by the function u0 , and the equation transformed
by the map • introduced above should express the same condition represented
in the new metric g. The representative functions are related by
n’1 n+3
ug = „¦ ’ = „¦’
u0 , ( c u)g ( c u)0 ,
2 2

so the condition (3.68) becomes
g (ug ) + R g ug = ( c u)g
= ( c u)0

„¦’ n’1
= u0

= ug .
The scalar curvature is just that of the round metric on the n-sphere, Rg =
n(n ’ 1), so letting u = u0, U = ug , the equation (3.68) is transformed into
(n’1)2 n+3
gU + U = U n’1 . (3.69)

Finally, suppose given compactly supported initial data u(0, x) = u0 (x) and
ut (0, x) = u1(x) for (3.68). These correspond to initial data U0 (X) and U1(X)
for (3.69), supported in the ball of radius π. The standard result on local
existence implies that the latter Cauchy problem can be solved for all X, in
some time interval T ∈ [0, T0], with a lower-bound for T0 determined by the size
of the initial data. Therefore, with su¬ciently small initial data, we can arrange
T0 ≥ π, and translated back to the original coordinates, this corresponds to a
global solution of (3.68).

We now turn to more general wave equations (3.67), where conservation
laws have been most e¬ectively used.7 Equation (3.67) is the Euler-Lagrange
equation for the action functional

1 2
+ || z||2) + F (z) dy dt,
2 (’zt

where F (z) = f(z), and the gradient z is with respect to the “space” variables
y1 , . . . , yn .
Rather than redevelop the machinery of conformal geometry in the Lorentz
case, we work in the classical setting, on J 1 (Ln+1 , R) with coordinates t, y i , z, pa
(as usual, 1 ¤ i ¤ n, 0 ¤ a ¤ n), contact form θ = dz ’ p0 dt ’ pidyi , Lorentz
inner-product ds2 = ’dt2 + (dyi )2 , and Lagrangian

L(t, y, z, p) = 1 (’p2 + |pi|2) + F (z).

A normalized representative functional is then

Λ = L dt § dy + θ § (’p0 dy ’ pi dt § dy(i) ), (3.70)


dΛ = Π = θ § (dp0 § dy + dpi § dt § dy(i) + f(z)dt § dy).

This is the example discussed at the end of §1.3. As mentioned there, the in-
variance of the equation under time-translation gives an important conservation
law, and its uses will be our ¬rst topic below. In fact, there are conservation laws
associated to space-translations and Lorentz rotations, the latter generated by
ordinary spatial rotations bi yj ‚yj (bi + bj = 0) and Lorentz boosts y i ‚t + t ‚yi ;
‚ ‚ ‚
j j i
however, these seem to have been used less widely in the analysis of (3.67).
Especially interesting is the case of (3.68), which is preserved under a certain
action of the conformal Lorentz group SO 0 (n + 1, 2) on J 1 (Ln+1, R). In par-
ticular, there are extensions to J 1(Ln+1 , R) of the dilation and inversion vector
¬elds on Ln+1 , and these give rise to more conservation laws. We will consider
these after discussing uses of the time-translation conservation law for the more
general wave equations (3.67).
7 This material and much more may be found in [Str89].

3.5.1 Energy Density

The time-translation vector ¬eld ‚t on Ln+1 lifts to J 1 (Ln+1 , R) to a symmetry

of Λ having the same expression, V = ‚t . The Noether prescription gives
p2 ) + F (z) dy + p0 pi dt § dy(i) ,
•t = V Λ= (p +
20 i

as calculated in Section 1.3. The coe¬cient of dy here is the energy density
def 1 2
+ |pi|2) + F (z),
e= (p

and it appears whenever we integrate •t along a constant-time level surface
Rn = {t} — Rn . The energy function

e dy ≥ 0,
E(t) =

is constant by virtue of the equation (3.67), assuming su¬cient decay of z and
its derivatives in the space variables for the integral to make sense.
A more substantial application involves a region „¦ ‚ Ln+1 of the form

{||y|| < r0 ’ (t ’ t0 )},
t∈(t0 ,t1 )

a union of open balls in space, with initial radius r0 decreasing with speed 1.
The boundary ‚„¦ is T ’ B + K, where
• B = {t0 } — {||y|| ¤ r0} is the initial disc,
• T = {t1} — {||y|| ¤ r0 ’ (t1 ’ t0 )} is the ¬nal disc, and
• K = ∪t∈[t0 ,t1] {||y|| = r0 ’ (t ’ t0)} is part of a null cone.
The conservation of •t on ‚„¦ reads

0= •t = e dy + •t . (3.71)
T ’B
‚„¦ K

The term K •t describes the ¬‚ow of energy across part of the null cone; we will
compute the integrand more explicitly in terms of the area form dK induced
from an ambient Euclidean metric dt2 + (dyi )2 , with the goal of showing
that K •t ≥ 0. This area form is the contraction of the outward unit normal
yi ‚
√ (‚
with the ambient Euclidean volume form dt § dy, giving
+ ||y|| ‚y i )
2 ‚t

’ dt §
dK = √ (dy dy(i) )|K = 2 dy|K .

It is easy to calculate that the restriction to K of •t is
y i pi
• t |K = ’
√ (e p )dK.
||y|| 0

Separating the radial and tangential space derivatives
y i pi
def def
p2 ’ p 2 ,
pr = , p„ = r
we can rewrite this as


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