How does one determine a surface which is as flat as possible, such as those created by soap film surfaces? What does it mean to be as flat as possible? In this paper we address this question from two distinct points of view, one local and one global in nature. Continuing with this theme, we put a temporal twist on the question and ask how to evolve a surface so as to flatten it as efficiently as possible. This elementary discussion provides a platform to introduce a wide range of advanced topics in partial differential equations and helps students build geometric and analytic understanding of solutions of certain elliptic and parabolic partial differential equations.
© 2007 Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
J. Jacobsen. "As Flat As Possible," SIAM Review, Vol 49, no 3 (2007) pp. 491-507.
This article is also available from the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics at http://dx.doi.org/10.1137/060649495.