# Volume 300, Number 2, April 1987 - Richard Volume 300, Number 2, April 1987 A GENERAL THEORY OF...

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TRANSACTIONS OF THE AMERICAN MATHEMATICAL SOCIETY Volume 300, Number 2, April 1987

A GENERAL THEORY OF CANONICAL FORMS

RICHARD S. PALAIS AND CHUU-LIAN TERNG

ABSTRACT. If G is a compact Lie group and M a Riemannian G-manifold with principal orbits of codimension k then a section or canonical form for M is a closed, smooth k-dimensional submanifold of M which meets all orbits of M orthogonally. We discuss some of the remarkable properties of G-manifolds that admit sections, develop methods for constructing sections, and consider several applications.

O. Introduction. Let G be a compact Lie group acting isometrically on a Riemannian manifold M. Then the image S of a small ball in the normal plane v{Gx)x under the exponential map is a smooth, local Gx-slice, which in general cannot be extended to a global slice for M. A section E for M is defined to be a closed, smooth submanifold of M which meets every orbit of M orthogonally. A good example to keep in mind is perhaps the most important of all canonical form theorems; namely for M we take the Euclidean space of symmetric k x k matrices with inner product (A, B) = tr(AB), and for G the orthogonal group O{k) acting on M by conjugation. Then the space E of diagonal matrices is a section. Moreover the symmetric group Sk acts on E by permuting the diagonal entries and the orbit spaces M/G and E/Sk are isomorphic as stratified sets. Quite generally it is good intuition to think of a section E as representing a "canonical form" for elements of M; hence our title. Riemannian G-manifolds which admit sections are definitely the exception rather than the rule and they have many remarkable properties. The existence of sections for M has important consequences for the invariant function theory, submanifold geometry, and G-invariant variational problems associated to M. While we do not know of earlier papers treating sections in generality, we have found several which treat important special cases. In particular when we showed G. Schwarz an early version of our results he pointed out to us a preprint of an important paper [Da2] by J. Dadok in which a detailed study is made (including a complete classification theorem) of orthogonal representations of compact con- nected Lie groups which admits sections (Dadok calls these polar representations). Later still we discovered two very interesting and much earlier papers by L. Conlon [Col, Co2] in which he considers Riemannian G-manifolds which admit fiat, to- tally geodesic sections. This includes the case of polar representations, and Conlon came close to conjecturing Dadok's classification result. We will discuss in more detail later the results in these papers and how they relate to our own. We would like to thank Dadok for a number of helpful comments. It is clear not only that he

Received by the editors March 4, 1986. 1980 Mathematics Subject Classification (1985 Revision). Primary 57S15. The first author was supported in part by NSF Grant No. MCS-8102696 and MSRI. The second author was supported in part by NSF Grant No. DMS-8301928.

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@1987 American Mathematical Society 0002-9947/87 $1.00 + $.25 per page

772 R. S. PALAIS AND CHUU-LIAN TERNG

had also discovered many of the facts reported here, but in some cases he probably knew them before we did.

One important application of sections is to invariant theory. We describe a well- known class of examples: if a compact Lie group G acts on its Lie algebra g (Killing form as the inner product) by the adjoint action, then a maximal abelian sub algebra T is a section, the Weyl group W of G acts on T, and giG ~ T IW. Moreover the restriction map from the ring of G-invariant polynomials on g to the ring of W-invariant polynomials on T is an isomorphism; this is the Chevalley restriction theorem. These properties of the adjoint action can be generalized to arbitrary G-manifolds which admit sections. Namely if E is a section of a Riemannian G- manifold M, then there exists a finite group W acting on E such that for each 0" in E, En GO" = WO" (so in particular WO" ~ GO" is a bijection EIW ~ MIG); and the Coo version of the Chevalley restriction theorem holds. This reduces the theory of G-invariant functions on M to the simpler invariant theory of T under a finite group.

A second application is to the Riemannian geometry of submanifolds. The prin- cipal horizontal distribution ){ is a distribution defined on the set MO of G-regular points by ){(x) = v(Gx)x. Then it is easily seen that M admits sections if and only if){ is integrable and expx(v(Gx)x) is a closed, properly embedded submanifold of M (which is automatically totally geodesic). If v E v(Gx)x then v(gx) = dgx(v) defines a G-equivariant normal field on the principal orbit Gx, and we say v is 7r-parallel. Since Gx is a submanifold of M, there is an induced normal connection from the Riemannian connection of M, which defines another parallelism for v(Gx). In general these two parallelisms are different, and in fact they are the same if and only if ){ is integrable. In this case a principal orbit N = Gx as a submanifold of M has the following properties:

(1) v( N) is flat with trivial holonomy, (2) expy(v(N)y) is a totally geodesic submanifold of M for all y in N, (3) the principal curvatures of N along any parallel normal field are constant.

We note that the orbit foliation of M is determined by a single principal orbit, and is the same as the parallel foliation of N in M, i.e. {Nv Iv E v( N)x}, where Nv = {y + v(y)ly EM}. A submanifold N of a space form Rn satisfying (i)-(iii) is called isoparametric [T]. So it follows that if G acting on Rn admits sections then the principal orbits are isoparametric. Conversely we show that if N is isoparametric in Rn and is an orbit of a subgroup G of O(n) then N must be a principal G-orbit and the G-action on Rn admits sections. Then by Dadok's classification theorem of polar representation we conclude that every homogeneous isoparametric submanifold of Rn or sn is a principal orbit of the isotropy representation of some symmetric space Gd K. There are infinitely many isoparametric submanifolds of Euclidean spaces of co dimension two, which do not arise as an orbit of some polar representation [FKM, OT]. However there always exists a Weyl group for such submanifolds, and the parallel foliation gives an orbitlike foliation. Therefore the theory of isoparametric submanifolds can be generalized to arbitrary Riemannian manifolds (using (1)-(3) as definition), which can be thought of as a purely geometric analogue of the theory of Riemannian G-manifolds with sections.

The third application we have in mind is to the calculus of variations. We first recall the simple example of finding a harmonic function u on Rn. We must in

A GENERAL THEORY OF CANONICAL FORMS 773

principle solve a partial differential equation ~u = 0 in n-independent variables. However if we know that u is invariant under the group O(n) of rotations, then we can write u(x) = f(llxll) and reduce the problem to the easily solved ordinary differential equation 8j8r(rn - 18f j8r) = 0 on the half line A+. This is a classic example of a general and powerful method, called variously "reduction of variables" or the "cohomogeneity method" , for attacking a broad class of problems in geome- try and analysis (cf. [HHS, Hsl, Hs2, HL, PT]). In the general setting, we have as above a G-manifold Mn and would like to study some class (5 of G-invariant objects associated to M. Frequently one can set up a natural bijection between (5 and some set 6 of related objects attached to the orbit space M, so that if M has cohomogeneity k (i.e. dim(M) = k) we have effectively reduced a problem with n independent variables to a generally easier problem with only k independent vari- ables. A serious difficulty in applying this method comes from the existence of the set Ms of singular (i.e. lower dimensional) orbits. In general M is not a smooth manifold but only a stratified set. The principal stratum M - Ms (the set of prin- cipal orbits) is an open, dense, smooth k-dimensional manifold. Ms is the (finite) union of the other orbit types of M, each of which is by itself a smooth manifold of dimension less than k, but in general M has bad singularities along Ms , making it hard to study global analytical problems on M. The study of 6 usually leads to solving some partial differential equation on M - Ms together with complicated "boundary behavior" as we approach Ms. To circumvent the difficulties associated to the latter one can try to "resolve" the singularities along Ms , and an excellent way to do this is to choose (if one exists) a section E for M as above. Then the anal- ysis of 6 leads to solving a partial differential equation on the smooth k-manifold E (rather than on the singular k-manifold M) and the complicated boundary behav- ior along Ms is replaced by the generally more tractable problem of W -invariance. (For example in our example of harmonic functions on M = An with G = O(n), where M = Ill+ = [0,00) and Ms = {O}, we can take for E any line {relr E Fil} with e in sn-l and W = 12 (generated by re ----; -re), so that instead of solving 8j8r(rn - 1(8f j8r)) = 0 on R+ with certain boundary behavior at 0, we solve it on III but accept only even solutions).

It is not hard to see that our definitions and theorems concerning Riemannian G-manifolds with sections generalize easily if we drop the assumption that the Lie group G is compact and replace it with the weaker assumption that G acts prop- erly on M (which is equivalent to the condition that there exists a G-invariant Riemannian metric on M with G being a closed subgroup of Iso(M)). Because many variat

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