Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What are the cool things someone who likes PDE and functional analysis should know and learn about? What do you think are the fundamentals and the next steps? I was thinking it would be good to know how to show existence or even to know where to start to show existence of any non-linear PDE I come across.

For example, I only recently found about about how people can use the inverse theorem to prove existence of a non-linear PDE. This involved Frechet derivatives which I have never seen before. And I don't fully appreciate the link between normal derivative, Gateaux derivative and Frechet derivative. So I thought how many other things I have no idea about in PDEs.

And PDEs on surface are interesting (but I'm just learning differential geometry so a long wait till I look at that in detail) but it seems studied to death.

So anyway what do you think is interesting in this field? I am less interested in constructing solutions to PDEs and more into existence. PS: you can assume the basic knowledge (Lax-Milgram, linear elliptic and parabolic existence and uniqueness, etc..)

share|cite|improve this question
What's wrong with constructing solutions? – Peter Sheldrick Jun 20 '12 at 21:20
@PeterSheldrick Nothing wrong but I heard it's difficult to do that for a lot of PDEs and also I feel i should figure out existence proofs first before finding solutions. – Court Jun 20 '12 at 21:23
if it upsets you that constructing a solution is hard for some PDEs - doesn't it upset you that it is very, very hard to prove existence/uniqueness for some PDEs as well? To me if there isn't even a proof of uniqueness/existence then it shows how hard it is. – Peter Sheldrick Jun 20 '12 at 21:27
@PeterSheldrick But I think construction doesn't involve as much functional analysis concepts right? From what I know (which admittedly is little) there is a standard bag of tricks one can try to find a solution. – Court Jun 26 '12 at 15:03
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Perhaps you should study some more advanced analysis, since that's when Frechet derivatives come up. A good (and legally free) reference is Applied Analysis by John Hunter and Bruno Nachtergaele.

After that, perhaps Analysis by Elliott H. Lieb and Michael Loss? It's more advanced, so be sure you understand Hunter and Nachtergaele first.

For more intense partial differential equations, UC Davis' upper division PDE's courses are available online too (with homework and solutions) when Nordgren taught it. There is Math 118A: Partial Differential Equations and 118B.

There are probably more advanced (free) references out there, but these are the ones I use...

Addendum: For references on specifically functional analysis, perhaps you should be comfortable with Eidelman et al's Functional Analysis. An introduction (Graduate Studies in Mathematics 66; American Mathematical Society, Providence, RI, 2004); I've heard good things about J.B. Conway's Functional Analysis, although I have yet to read it...

share|cite|improve this answer
Thanks for the response! – Court Jul 3 '12 at 21:03

I think Besov spaces and their connection to wavelets/multiresolution analysis is an especially useful tool.

If you want to talk about PDE's in a modern context, you need to think carefully about the function spaces the solutions live in. A lot of people study function spaces just enough to get by - looking at Sobolev spaces, maybe Hölder spaces and stop there - but Besov spaces are more general and very useful for studying PDE's in nonsmooth domains or with rough coefficients. You can pose PDE's on domains that are a fractal, or things like that. I think they give a better intuitive picture of smoothness of functions, embeddings, trace theorems, etc than Sobolev spaces alone.

A great reference is, Hans Triebel, "Theory of Function Spaces II"

share|cite|improve this answer
Thanks for replying. I agree function spaces seem to be something one should be good at even though they are confusing. – Court Jul 3 '12 at 21:04

One nice idea along these lines is the Leray-Schauder Fixed Point approach to non-linear elliptic existence problems.

Roughly speaking, for example, if I would like to solve the quasilinear problem

$a_{ij}(x,u,Du)D_{ij}u + b(x,u,Du) = 0$

$u = \varphi$ on $\partial\Omega$,

say, I can set up a map which takes a function $v$ and sends it to the unique solution $u$ of the linear problem

$a_{ij}(x,v,Dv)D_{ij}u + b(x,v,Dv) = 0$

$u = \varphi$ on $\partial\Omega$.

Call this map $T$. Obviously I need to know existence for the linear problem. Then, by considering this as a map (not a linear map) between appropriate Banach spaces (for which I need some regularity for solutions of the linear problem) I can see that a solution to the quasilinear problem is precisely a fixed point of $T$.

Googling Leray-Schauder fixed point theorem seems to turn up a nice set of notes by Leon Simon on the subject. Also Chapter 11 of Gilbarg and Trudinger explains the method well.

The method is so-named because of the Leray-Schauder fixed point theorem - an abstract fixed point theorem (that is to say it is just about maps between Banach spaces and not specifically about PDE) which, under certain conditions gives a fixed point of $T$. The task of verifying the conditions under which the theorem is applicable is one of gaining apriori estimates for solutions of the quasilinear problem, so this approach is a good way to see the need for the apriori philosophy in (elliptic, at least) existence problems.

share|cite|improve this answer
Thanks for replying! G&T is a bit ugly a book I think but I will look. – Court Jul 3 '12 at 21:03

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.