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In undergraduate calculus we learn to maximise or minimise functions of one variable, finding optimal points. The Calculus of Variations is concerned with finding optimal functions and the properties of these optimisers. Famous examples include surfaces of minimal area or the shortest or quickest paths between given points. In the classical indirect method, the optimisers are found as solutions of the Euler-Lagrange differential equations. In the modern direct method, one uses abstract means to find optimisers, which often yields existence results for solutions of differential equations.


Autumn 2017 (Monday, October 9 to Friday, December 15)


  • Fri 13:05 - 13:55


Undergraduate calculus


In this 10-lecture series, elements of both the classical and the modern theory are presented. A tentative plan is as follows: 1. Introduction. One-dimensional variational problems 2. Fundamental lemma, Euler-Lagrange equations 3. Convexity and existence and regularity issues 4. Second variations and necessary conditions for optimality 5. Variational problems with constraints 6. Problems involving multiple integrals 7. Direct method: coercivity and lower semicontinuity 8. Sobolev spaces 9. Weak convergence and compactness 10. The direct method for integral functionals and existence of solutions for some nonlinear PDEs


Matthias Kurzke (main contact)
Phone 0115 9514984
Yves van Gennip
Phone 0115 8466166


Photo of Blake Ashworth
Blake Ashworth
Photo of Brennen Fagan
Brennen Fagan
Photo of Dominic Foord
Dominic Foord
Photo of Thomas Honey
Thomas Honey
Photo of Elena Marensi
Elena Marensi
Photo of Adam Yorkston
Adam Yorkston
(East Anglia)


Calculus of VariationsJost and Li-Jost
Calculus of Variations I: The Lagrangian FormalismGiaquinta and Hildebrandt
Introduction to the Calculus of VariationsSagan
Calculus of VariationsGelfand and Fomin


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Recorded Lectures

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