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Enrico Massa and Enrico Pagani

Abstract

In variational calculus, the minimality of a given functional under arbitrary deformations with fixed end-points is established through an analysis of the so called second variation. In this paper, the argument is examined in the context of constrained variational calculus, assuming piecewise differentiable extremals, commonly referred to as extremaloids. The approach relies on the existence of a fully covariant representation of the second variation of the action functional, based on a family of local gauge transformations of the original Lagrangian and on a set of scalar attributes of the extremaloid, called the corners' strengths [16]. In dis- cussing the positivity of the second variation, a relevant role is played by the Jacobi fields, defined as infinitesimal generators of 1-parameter groups of diffeomorphisms preserving the extremaloids. Along a piecewise differentiable extremal, these fields are generally discontinuous across the corners. A thorough analysis of this point is presented. An alternative characterization of the Jacobi fields as solutions of a suitable accessory variational problem is established.