Inventiones mathematicae

, Volume 136, Issue 1, pp 9–74

Resonances, radiation damping and instabilitym in Hamiltonian nonlinear wave equations

  • A. Soffer
  • M. I. Weinstein

DOI: 10.1007/s002220050303

Cite this article as:
Soffer, A. & Weinstein, M. Invent math (1999) 136: 9. doi:10.1007/s002220050303


We consider a class of nonlinear Klein-Gordon equations which are Hamiltonian and are perturbations of linear dispersive equations. The unperturbed dynamical system has a bound state, a spatially localized and time periodic solution. We show that, for generic nonlinear Hamiltonian perturbations, all small amplitude solutions decay to zero as time tends to infinity at an anomalously slow rate. In particular, spatially localized and time-periodic solutions of the linear problem are destroyed by generic nonlinear Hamiltonian perturbations via slow radiation of energy to infinity. These solutions can therefore be thought of as metastable states. The main mechanism is a nonlinear resonant interaction of bound states (eigenfunctions) and radiation (continuous spectral modes), leading to energy transfer from the discrete to continuum modes. This is in contrast to the KAM theory in which appropriate nonresonance conditions imply the persistence of invariant tori. A hypothesis ensuring that such a resonance takes place is a nonlinear analogue of the Fermi golden rule, arising in the theory of resonances in quantum mechanics. The techniques used involve: (i) a time-dependent method developed by the authors for the treatment of the quantum resonance problem and perturbations of embedded eigenvalues, (ii) a generalization of the Hamiltonian normal form appropriate for infinite dimensional dispersive systems and (iii) ideas from scattering theory. The arguments are quite general and we expect them to apply to a large class of systems which can be viewed as the interaction of finite dimensional and infinite dimensional dispersive dynamical systems, or as a system of particles coupled to a field.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Soffer
    • 1
  • M. I. Weinstein
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Mathematics, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USAUS
  2. 2.Department of Mathematics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI USAUS

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