Least action principles for incompressible flows and geodesics between shapes
© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. As V. I. Arnold observed in the 1960s, the Euler equations of incompressible fluid flow correspond formally to geodesic equations in a group of volume-preserving diffeomorphisms. Working in an Eulerian framework, we study incompressible flows of shapes as critical paths for action (kinetic energy) along transport paths constrained to have characteristic-function densities. The formal geodesic equations for this problem are Euler equations for incompressible, inviscid potential flow of fluid with zero pressure and surface tension on the free boundary. The problem of minimizing this action exhibits an instability associated with microdroplet formation, with the following outcomes: any two shapes of equal volume can be approximately connected by an Euler spray—a countable superposition of ellipsoidal geodesics. The infimum of the action is the Wasserstein distance squared, and is almost never attained except in dimension 1. Every Wasserstein geodesic between bounded densities of compact support provides a solution of the (compressible) pressureless Euler system that is a weak limit of (incompressible) Euler sprays.
Liu, JG; Pego, RL; Slepčev, D
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