Communications in Mathematical Physics

, Volume 69, Issue 1, pp 19–30

The principle of symmetric criticality

  • Richard S. Palais

DOI: 10.1007/BF01941322

Cite this article as:
Palais, R.S. Commun.Math. Phys. (1979) 69: 19. doi:10.1007/BF01941322


It is frequently explicitly or implicitly assumed that if a variational principle is invariant under some symmetry groupG, then to test whether a symmetric field configuration ϕ is an extremal, it suffices to check the vanishing of the first variation of the action corresponding to variations ϕ + δϕ that are also symmetric. We show by example that this is not valid in complete generality (and in certain cases its meaning may not even be clear), and on the other hand prove some theorems which validate its use under fairly general circumstances (in particular ifG is a group of Riemannian isometries, or if it is compact, or with some restrictions if it is semi-simple).

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard S. Palais
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MathematicsBrandeis UniversityWalthamUSA

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