In mathematics, geometric measure theory (GMT) is the study of geometric properties of sets (typically in Euclidean space) through measure theory. It allows mathematicians to extend tools from differential geometry to a much larger class of surfaces that are not necessarily smooth.
Geometric measure theory was born out of the desire to solve Plateau's problem (named after Joseph Plateau) which asks if for every smooth closed curve in there exists a surface of least area among all surfaces whose boundary equals the given curve. Such surfaces mimic soap films.
The problem had remained open since it was posed in 1760 by Lagrange. It was solved independently in the 1930s by Jesse Douglas and Tibor Radó under certain topological restrictions. In 1960 Herbert Federer and Wendell Fleming used the theory of currents with which they were able to solve the orientable Plateau's problem analytically without topological restrictions, thus sparking geometric measure theory. Later Jean Taylor after Fred Almgren proved Plateau's laws for the kind of singularities that can occur in these more general soap films and soap bubbles clusters.
The following objects are central in geometric measure theory:
- Rectifiable sets (or Radon measures), which are sets with the least possible regularity required to admit approximate tangent spaces.
- Currents, a generalization of the concept of oriented manifolds, possibly with boundary.
- Flat chains, an alternative generalization of the concept of manifolds, possibly with boundary.
- Caccioppoli sets (also known as sets of locally finite perimeter), a generalization of the concept of manifolds on which the Divergence theorem applies.
The following theorems and concepts are also central:
- The area formula, which generalizes the concept of change of variables in integration.
- The coarea formula, which generalizes and adapts Fubini's theorem to geometric measure theory.
- The isoperimetric inequality, which states that the smallest possible circumference for a given area is that of a round circle.
- Flat convergence, which generalizes the concept of manifold convergence.
can be proved on a single page and quickly yields the classical isoperimetric inequality. The Brunn–Minkowski inequality also leads to Anderson's theorem in statistics. The proof of the Brunn–Minkowski inequality predates modern measure theory; the development of measure theory and Lebesgue integration allowed connections to be made between geometry and analysis, to the extent that in an integral form of the Brunn–Minkowski inequality known as the Prékopa–Leindler inequality the geometry seems almost entirely absent.
- Federer, Herbert; Fleming, Wendell H. (1960), "Normal and integral currents", Annals of Mathematics, II, 72 (4): 458–520, doi:10.2307/1970227, JSTOR 1970227, MR 0123260, Zbl 0187.31301. The first paper of Federer and Fleming illustrating their approach to the theory of perimeters based on the theory of currents.
- Federer, Herbert (1969), Geometric measure theory, series Die Grundlehren der mathematischen Wissenschaften, Band 153, New York: Springer-Verlag New York Inc., pp. xiv+676, ISBN 978-3-540-60656-7, MR 0257325
- Federer, H. (1978), "Colloquium lectures on geometric measure theory", Bull. Amer. Math. Soc., 84 (3): 291–338, doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1978-14462-0
- Fomenko, Anatoly T. (1990), Variational Principles in Topology (Multidimensional Minimal Surface Theory), Mathematics and its Applications (Book 42), Springer, Kluwer Academic Publishers, ISBN 978-0792302308
- Gardner, Richard J. (2002), "The Brunn-Minkowski inequality", Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.), 39 (3): 355–405 (electronic), doi:10.1090/S0273-0979-02-00941-2, ISSN 0273-0979, MR 1898210
- Mattila, Pertti (1999), Geometry of Sets and Measures in Euclidean Spaces, London: Cambridge University Press, p. 356, ISBN 978-0-521-65595-8
- Morgan, Frank (2009), Geometric measure theory: A beginner's guide (Fourth ed.), San Diego, California: Academic Press Inc., pp. viii+249, ISBN 978-0-12-374444-9, MR 2455580
- Taylor, Jean E. (1976), "The structure of singularities in soap-bubble-like and soap-film-like minimal surfaces", Annals of Mathematics, Second Series, 103 (3): 489–539, doi:10.2307/1970949, JSTOR 1970949, MR 0428181.
- O'Neil, T.C. (2001) , "Geometric measure theory", Encyclopedia of Mathematics, EMS Press