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This paper has been accepted for publication in SIAM Review. To download a preprint of this paper just click here.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. DMS-0807653 and DMS-1206131. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

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Graphical Krein Signature Theory and Evans-Krein Functions

Richard Kollár and Peter D. Miller
Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, Comenius University
Department of Mathematics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Two concepts, evidently very different in nature, have proved to be useful in analytical and numerical studies of spectral stability in nonlinear wave theory: (i) the Krein signature of an eigenvalue, a quantity usually defined in terms of the relative orientation of certain subspaces that is capable of detecting the structural instability of imaginary eigenvalues and hence their potential for moving into the right half-plane leading to dynamical instability under perturbation of the system, and (ii) the Evans function, an analytic function detecting the location of eigenvalues. One might expect these two concepts to be related, but unfortunately examples demonstrate that there is no way in general to deduce the Krein signature of an eigenvalue from the Evans function, for example by studying derivatives of the latter.

The purpose of this paper is to recall and popularize a simple graphical interpretation of the Krein signature well-known in the spectral theory of polynomial operator pencils. Once established, this interpretation avoids altogether the need to view the Krein signature in terms of root subspaces and their relation to indefinite quadratic forms. To demonstrate the utility of this graphical interpretation of the Krein signature, we use it to define a simple generalization of the Evans function — the Evans-Krein function — that allows the calculation of Krein signatures in a way that is easy to incorporate into existing Evans function evaluation codes at virtually no additional computational cost. The graphical interpretation of the Krein signature also enables us to give elegant proofs of index theorems for linearized Hamiltonians in the finite dimensional setting: a general result implying as a corollary the generalized Vakhitov-Kolokolov criterion (or Grillakis-Shatah-Strauss criterion) and a count of real eigenvalues for linearized Hamiltonian systems in canonical form. These applications demonstrate how the simple graphical nature of the Krein signature may be easily exploited.