Institute for Mathematical Sciences

Preprint ims95-3a

F. Lalonde and D. McDuff
Hofer's $L^{\infty}$-geometry: energy and stability of Hamiltonian flows, part I

Abstract: Consider the group $\Ham^c(M)$ of compactly supported Hamiltonian symplectomorphisms of the symplectic manifold $(M,\om)$ with the Hofer $L^{\infty}$-norm. A path in $\Ham^c(M)$ will be called a geodesic if all sufficiently short pieces of it are local minima for the Hofer length functional $\Ll$. In this paper, we give a necessary condition for a path $\ga$ to be a geodesic. We also develop a necessary condition for a geodesic to be stable, that is, a local minimum for $\Ll$. This condition is related to the existence of periodic orbits for the linearization of the path, and so extends Ustilovsky's work on the second variation formula. Using it, we construct a symplectomorphism of $S^2$ which cannot be reached from the identity by a shortest path. In later papers in this series, we will use holomorphic methods to prove the sufficiency of the condition given here for the characterisation of geodesics as well as the sufficiency of the condition for the stability of geodesics. We will also investigate conditions under which geodesics are absolutely length-minimizing.
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