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to regard dsQ (df(·), w) as a 1-form on P , and then

•w = —P (ds2 (df(·), w)).

Because this expression depends linearly on w, we can simplify further by letting
a denote the Lie algebra of in¬nitesimal symmetries of Q, and then the map
w ’ w Λ is an element of a— — „¦n’1(P ). If we de¬ne an a— -valued 1-form on
P by
±(v) = ds2 (df(v), ·), v ∈ Tp P,

then our conservation laws read

d(—P ±) = 0 ∈ a— — „¦n (P ). (4.35)

The a— -valued (n ’ 1)-form —P ± may be formed for any map f : P ’ Q, and
it is closed if f is harmonic. In fact, if Q is locally homogeneous, meaning that
6 Thedivergence of a symmetric 2-form S is the 1-form div S = ei S(ei , ·), where is the
Levi-Civita covariant derivative and (ei ) is any orthonormal frame. Equation (4.34) is true of
any symmetric 2-form S and in¬nitesimal isometry v.

in¬nitesimal isometries span each tangent space Tq Q, then (4.35) is equivalent
to the harmonicity of f.
An important special case of this last phenomenon is when Q itself is a Lie
group G with bi-invariant metric ds2 . Examples are compact semisimple Lie
groups, such as O(N ) or SU (N ), with metric induced by the Killing form on
the Lie algebra g. Now a map f : P ’ G is uniquely determined up to left-
translation by the pullback f — • of the left-invariant g-valued Maurer-Cartan
1-form •. Using the metric to identify g ∼ g— , the conservation laws state that

if f is harmonic, then d(—P (f •)) = 0. Conversely, if P is simply connected,
then given a g-valued 1-form ± on P satisfying

d± + 1 [±, ±] = 0,
d(—P ±) = 0,

there is a harmonic map f : P ’ G with f — • = ±, uniquely determined up
to left-translation. This is the idea behind the gauge-theoretic reformulation
of certain harmonic map systems, for which remarkable results have been ob-
tained in the past decade.7 Quite generally, PDE systems that can be written
as systems of conservation laws have special properties; one typically exploits
such expressions to de¬ne weak solutions, derive integral identities, and prove
regularity theorems.

4.3 Higher-Order Conservation Laws
One sometimes encounters a conservation law for a PDE that involves higher-
order derivatives of the unknown function, but that cannot be expressed in terms
of derivatives of ¬rst-order conservation laws considered up to this point. An
example is the (1+1)-dimensional wave equation ’ztt +zxx = 0, for which (ztt +
ztx )dt+2ztt ztx dx is closed on solutions, but cannot be obtained by di¬erentiating
any conservation law on J 1(R2 , R). In this section, we introduce the geometric
framework in which such conservation laws may be found, and we propose a
version of Noether™s theorem appropriate to this setting. While other general
forms of Noether™s theorem have been stated and proved (e.g., see [Vin84] or
[Olv93]), it is not clear how they relate to that conjectured here.
We also discuss (independently from the preceding) the higher-order rela-
tionship between surfaces in Euclidean space with Gauss curvature K = ’1
and the sine-Gordon equation ztx = 2 sin(2z), in terms of exterior di¬erential

4.3.1 The In¬nite Prolongation
We begin by de¬ning the prolongation of an exterior di¬erential system (EDS).
When this is applied to the EDS associated to a PDE system, it gives the EDS
associated to the PDE system augmented by the ¬rst derivatives of the original
7 The literature on this subject is vast, but a good starting point is [Woo94].

equations. This construction then extends to that of the in¬nite prolongation,
an EDS on an in¬nite-dimensional manifold which includes information about
derivatives of all orders.
The general de¬nition of prolongation uses a construction introduced in §4.2,
in the discussion of multi-contact manifolds. Let X n+s be a manifold, and
Gn (T X) ’ X the bundle of tangent n-planes of X; points of Gn(T X) are of
the form (p, E), where p ∈ X and E ‚ Tp X is a vector subspace of dimension
n. As discussed previously, there is a canonical Pfa¬an system I ‚ T — Gn(T X)
of rank s, de¬ned at (p, E) by
I(p,E) = π— (E ⊥ ).

Given local coordinates (xi, z ± ) on X, there are induced coordinates (xi , z ±, p±)
on Gn(T X), in terms of which I is generated by the 1-forms

θ± = dz ± ’ p± dxi. (4.36)

We let I ‚ „¦— (Gn(T X)) be the di¬erential ideal generated by I.
Now let (M, E) be an exterior di¬erential system; that is, M is a manifold of
dimension m+s and E ‚ „¦— (M ) is a di¬erential ideal for which we are interested
in m-dimensional integral manifolds. We then de¬ne the locus M (1) ‚ Gm (T M )
to consist of the integral elements of E ‚ „¦— (M ); that is, (p, E) ∈ M (1) if and
only if

(E — ) for all • ∈ E.
•E = 0 ∈
We will assume from now on that M (1) ’ Gm (T M ) is a smooth submanifold.
Then we de¬ne
E (1) = ι— I ‚ „¦— (M (1) )
as the restriction to M (1) of the multi-contact di¬erential ideal. This is the
same as the di¬erential ideal generated by the Pfa¬an system ι— I ‚ T — M (1),
and the ¬rst prolongation of (M, E) is de¬ned to be the exterior di¬erential
system (M (1), E (1)). Note that the ¬rst prolongation is always a Pfa¬an system.
Furthermore, if π : M (1) ’ M is the obvious projection map, and assuming
that E is a Pfa¬an system, then one can show that π — E ⊆ E (1) . However,
the projection π could be quite complicated, and need not even be surjective.
Finally, note that any integral manifold f : N ’ M of E lifts to an integral
manifold f (1) : N ’ M (1) of E (1), and that the transverse integral manifold of
E (1) is locally of this form.
Inductively, the kth prolongation (M (k) , E (k)) of (M, E) is the ¬rst prolonga-
tion of the (k ’ 1)st prolongation of (M, E). This gives rise to the prolongation
· · · ’ M (k) ’ M (k’1) ’ · · · ’ M (1) ’ M.
An integral manifold of (M, E) lifts to an integral manifold of each (M (k), E (k))
in this tower.
Two examples will help to clarify the construction. The ¬rst is the pro-
longation tower of the multi-contact system (Gn(T X), I) itself, and this will

give us more detailed information about the structure of the ideals E (k) for gen-
eral (M, E). The second is the prolongation tower of the EDS associated to a
¬rst-order PDE system, most of which we leave as an exercise.
Example 1. Consider the multi-contact ideal I on Gn(T X), over a manifold
X of dimension n + s with local coordinates (xi , z ±). We can see from the
coordinate expression (4.36) that its integral elements over the dense open subset
where i dxi = 0 are exactly the n-planes of the form

Ep± = {dz ± ’ p±dxi , dp± ’ p± dxj }⊥ ‚ T (Gn(T X)),
i i ij

for some constants p± = p± . These p± are local ¬ber coordinates for the pro-
ij ji ij
(1) (1)
longation (Gn (T X) , I ). Furthermore, with respect to the full coordinates
(xi , z ±, p±, p± ) for Gn(T X)(1) ‚ Gn(T Gn (T X)), the 1-jet graphs of integral
i ij
manifolds of I ‚ „¦— (Gn(T X)) satisfy

dz ± ’ p± dxi = 0, dp± ’ p± dxj = 0.
i i ij

It is these s + ns 1-forms that di¬erentially generate the prolonged Pfa¬an
system I (1). It is not di¬cult to verify that we have globally Gn(T X)(1) =
G2,n(X), the bundle of 2-jets of n-dimensional submanifolds of X, and that
I (1) ‚ „¦— (G2,n(X)) is the Pfa¬an system whose transverse integral manifolds
are 2-jet graphs of submanifolds of X.
More generally, let Gk = Gk,n(X) ’ X be the bundle of k-jets of n-
dimensional submanifolds of X. Because a 1-jet of a submanifold is the same
as a tangent plane, G1 = Gn (T X) is the original space whose prolongation
tower we are describing. Gk carries a canonical Pfa¬an system Ik ‚ „¦— (Gk ),
whose transverse integral manifolds are k-jet graphs f (k) : N ’ Gk of n-
dimensional submanifolds f : N ’ X. This is perhaps clearest in coordi-
nates. Letting (xi , z ±) be coordinates on X, Gk has induced local coordinates
(xi , z ±, p±, . . . , p±), |I| ¤ k, corresponding to the jet at (xi , z ±) of the subman-
i I
{(¯i, z ±) ∈ X : z ± = z ± + p± (¯i ’ xi ) + · · · + 1±
’ x)I }.
x¯ ¯ ix I! pI (¯

In terms of these coordinates, the degree-1 part Ik ‚ T — (Gk ) of the Pfa¬an
system Ik is generated by

θ± = dz ± ’ p± dxi,
θi = dp± ’ p± dxj ,
i ij
θI = dp± ’ p± dxj ,
|I| = k ’ 1.
I Ij

It is not hard to see that the transverse integral manifolds of this Ik are as
described above. The point here is that (Gk , Ik) is the ¬rst prolongation of
(Gk’1, Ik’1) for each k > 1, and is therefore the (k ’ 1)st prolongation of the
original (G1 , I1) = (Gn(T X), I).

For future reference, we note the structure equations

dθ± = ’θi § dxi,

dθi = ’θij § dxj ,
± ±

. (4.38)
dθI = ’θIj § dxj ,
± ±
|I| = k ’ 2,
± ± j
dθI = ’dpIj § dx , |I| = k ’ 1.

There is a tower

· · · ’ Gk ’ Gk’1 ’ · · · ’ G1 , (4.39)

and one can pull back to Gk any functions or di¬erential forms on Gk , with
k < k. Under these maps, our di¬erent uses of the coordinates p± and forms
θI are consistent, and we can also write

Ik ‚ I k ‚ T — G k , for k < k.

None of the Ik is an integrable Pfa¬an system. In fact, the ¬ltration on Gk

Ik ⊃ Ik’1 ⊃ · · · ⊃ I1 ⊃ 0

coincides with the derived ¬‚ag of Ik ‚ T — Gk,n (cf. Ch. II, §4 of [B+ 91]).
Example 2. Our second example of prolongation relates to a ¬rst-order PDE
system F a(xi , z ±(x), zxi (x)) = 0 for some unknown functions z ± (x). The equa-

tions F a(xi , z ±, p±) de¬ne a locus MF in the space J 1 (Rn , Rs) of 1-jets of maps
z : Rn ’ Rs , and we will assume that this locus is a smooth submanifold which
submersively surjects onto Rn. The restriction to MF ‚ J 1 (Rn, Rs) of the
multi-contact Pfa¬an system I1 = {dz ± ’ p± dxi} generates an EDS (MF , IF ).
Now, the set of integral elements for (MF , IF ) is a subset of the set of integral
elements for I1 in J 1(Rn , Rs); it consists of those integral elements of I1 which
are tangent to MF ‚ J 1(Rn , Rs). Just as in the preceding example, the inte-
gral elements of I1 may be identi¬ed with elements of the space J 2(Rn , Rs) of
2-jets of maps. The collection of 2-jets which correspond to integral elements of
(MF , IF ) are exactly the 2-jets satisfying the augmented PDE system

F a (xi, z ± (x), zxi (x)),
‚F a ‚F a ± ‚F a ±
0= + z i+ z i j.
‚z ± x ‚p± x x
‚xi j

Therefore, integral manifolds of the prolongation of the EDS associated to a
PDE system correspond to solutions of this augmented system. For this reason,
prolongation may generally be thought of as adjoining the derivatives of the
original equations.
It is important to note that as the ¬rst prolongation of arbitrary (M, E) is
embedded in the canonical multi-contact system (Gn(T M ), I), so can all higher
prolongations (M (k), E (k)) be embedded in the prolongations (Gk,n(M ), Ik ).

Among other things, this implies that E (k) is locally generated by forms like


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