Semidirect Products and Reduction in Mechanics

Marsden, J. E., T. S. Ratiu, and A. Weinstein

Trans. Amer. Math. Soc., 281, 147-177


This paper shows how to reduce a Hamiltonian system on the cotangent bundle of a Lie group to a Hamiltonian system in the dual of the Lie algebra of a semidirect product. The procedure simplifies, unifies, and extends work of Greene, Guillemin, Holm, Holmes, Kupershmidt, Marsden, Morrison, Ratiu, Sternberg and others. The heavy top, compressible fluids, magnetohydrodynamics, elasticity, the Maxwell-Vlasov equations and multifluid plasmas are presented as examples. Starting with Lagrangian variables, our method explains in a direct way why semidirect products occur so frequently in examples. It also provides a framework for the systematic introduction of Clebsch, or canonical, variables.