Did you hear what's going round?

Research Horizons Seminar
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - 12:00
1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Skiles 255
School of Mathematics, Georgia Tech
The eigenvalues of the Laplacian are the squares of the frequencies of the normal modes of vibration, according to the wave equation. For this reason, Bers and Kac referred to the problem of determining the shape of a domain from the eigenvalue spectrum of the Laplacian as the question of whether one can "hear" the shape. It turns out that in general the answer is "no." Sometimes, however, one can, for instance in extremal cases where a domain, or a manifold, is round. There are many "isoperimetric" theorems that allow us to conclude that a domain, curve, or a manifold, is round, when enough information about the spectrum of the Laplacian or a similar operator is known. I'll describe a few of these theorems and show how to prove them by linking geometry with functional analysis.