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Journal of Geometric Analysis


A new mathematical model of soap films is proposed, called the "covering space model." The two sides of a film are modelled as currents on different sheets of a covering space branching along the film boundary. Hence a film may be seen as the minimal cut separating one sheet of the covering space from the others. The film is thus the oriented boundary of one sheet, which represents the exterior of the film. As oriented boundaries, films may be calibrated with differential forms on the covering space, a version of the min-cut, max-flow duality of network theory. This model applies to unoriented films, films with singularities, films touching only part of a knotted curve, films that deformation retract to their boundaries, and other examples that have proved troublesome for previous soap film models.