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Foundations of Computational Geometric Mechanics

Melvin Leok

In Partial Fulfilment of the
Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy

Control and Dynamical Systems,
California Institute of Technology, 2004

Advisor: Jerrold E. Marsden


Geometric mechanics involves the study of Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics using geometric and symmetry techniques. Computational algorithms obtained from a discrete Hamilton's principle yield a discrete analogue of Lagrangian mechanics, and they exhibit excellent structure-preserving properties that can be ascribed to their variational derivation.

We construct discrete analogues of the geometric and symmetry methods underlying geometric mechanics to enable the systematic development of computational geometric mechanics. In particular, we develop discrete theories of reduction by symmetry, exterior calculus, connections on principal bundles, as well as generalizations of variational integrators.

Discrete Routh reduction is developed for abelian symmetries, and extended to systems with constraints and forcing. Variational Runge-Kutta discretizations are considered in detail, including the extent to which symmetry reduction and discretization commute. In addition, we obtain the Reduced Symplectic Runge-Kutta algorithm, which is a discrete analogue of cotangent bundle reduction.

Discrete exterior calculus is modeled on a primal simplicial complex, and a dual circumcentric cell complex. Discrete notions of differential forms, exterior derivatives, Hodge stars, codifferentials, sharps, flats, wedge products, contraction, Lie derivative, and the Poincaré lemma are introduced, and their discrete properties are analyzed. In examples such as harmonic maps and electromagnetism, discretizations arising from discrete exterior calculus commute with taking variations in Hamilton's principle, which implies that directly discretizing these equations yield numerical schemes that have the structure-preserving properties associated with variational schemes.

Discrete connections on principal bundles are obtained by introducing the discrete Atiyah sequence, and considering splittings of the sequence. Equivalent representations of a discrete connection are considered, and an extension of the pair groupoid composition that takes into account the principal bundle structure is introduced. Discrete connections provide an intrinsic coordinatization of the reduced discrete space, and the necessary discrete geometry to develop more general discrete symmetry reduction techniques.

Generalized Galerkin variational integrators are obtained by discretizing the action integral through appropriate choices of finite-dimensional function space and numerical quadrature. Explicit expressions for Lie group, higher-order Euler-Poincaré, higher-order symplectic-energy-momentum, and pseudospectral variational integrators are presented, and extensions such as spatio-temporally adaptive and multiscale variational integrators are briefly described.

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