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Min-max for sweepouts by curves
Given a Riemannian metric on the 2-sphere, sweep the 2-sphere out by a continuous one-parameter family of closed curves starting and ending at point curves. Pull the sweepout tight by, in a continuous way, pulling each curve as tight as possible yet preserving the sweepout. We show the following useful property (see Theorem 1.9 below); cf. [CM1], [CM2], proposition 3.1 of [CD], proposition 3.1 of [Pi], and 12.5 of [Al]: Each curve in the tightened sweepout whose length is close to the length of the longest curve in the sweepout must itself be close to a closed geodesic. In particular, there are curves in the sweepout that are close to closed geodesics. Finding closed geodesics on the 2-sphere by using sweepouts goes back to Birkhoff in the 1920s. The above useful property is virtually always implicit in any sweepout construction of critical points for variational problems yet it is not always recorded since most authors are only interested in the existence of one critical point. Similar results holds for sweepouts by 2-spheres instead of circles; cf. \cite{CM2}. The ideas are essentially the same in the two cases, though technically easier for curves where there is no concentration of energy (i.e., ``bubbling''); cf. \cite{Jo}.
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