Willmore conjecture

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In differential geometry, an area of mathematics, the Willmore conjecture is a lower bound on the Willmore energy of a torus. It is named after the English mathematician Tom Willmore, who conjectured it in 1965.[1] A proof by Fernando Codá Marques and André Neves was announced in 2012 and published in 2014.[2][3]

Willmore energy[edit]

Let v : M → R3 be a smooth immersion of a compact, orientable surface. Giving M the Riemannian metric induced by v, let H : M → R be the mean curvature (the arithmetic mean of the principal curvatures κ1 and κ2 at each point). In this notation, the Willmore energy W(M) of M is given by

It is not hard to prove that the Willmore energy satisfies W(M) ≥ 4π, with equality if and only if M is an embedded round sphere.

The conjecture[edit]

Calculation of W(M) for a few examples suggests that there should be a better bound than W(M) ≥ 4π for surfaces with genus g(M) > 0. In particular, calculation of W(M) for tori with various symmetries led Willmore to propose in 1965 the following conjecture, which now bears his name

For every smooth immersed torus M in R3, W(M) ≥ 2π2.

In 2012, Fernando Codá Marques and André Neves proved the conjecture using the Almgren–Pitts min-max theory of minimal surfaces.[2][3] Martin Schmidt claimed a proof in 2002,[4] but it was not accepted for publication in any peer-reviewed mathematical journal (although it did not contain a proof of the Willmore conjecture, he proved some other important conjectures in it). Prior to the proof of Marques and Neves, the Willmore conjecture had already been proved for many special cases, such as tube tori (by Willmore himself), and for tori of revolution (by Langer & Singer).


  1. ^ Willmore, Thomas J. (1965). "Note on embedded surfaces". An. Şti. Univ. "Al. I. Cuza" Iaşi Secţ. I a Mat. (N.S.). 11B: 493–496. 
  2. ^ a b Frank Morgan (2012) "Math Finds the Best Doughnut", The Huffington Post
  3. ^ a b Marques, Fernando C.; Neves, André (2014). "Min-max theory and the Willmore conjecture". Annals of Mathematics. 179: 683–782. arXiv:1202.6036Freely accessible. doi:10.4007/annals.2014.179.2.6. 
  4. ^ Schmidt, Martin U. (2002). "A proof of the Willmore conjecture". arXiv:math/0203224Freely accessible.