The boundary integral equation method is a popular method for solving elliptic PDEs with constant coefficients, and systems of such PDEs, in bounded and unbounded domains. An attraction of the method is that it reduces solution of the PDE in the domain to solution of a boundary integral equation on the boundary of the domain, reducing the dimensionality of the problem. Second kind integral equations, featuring the double-layer potential operator, have a long history in analysis and numerical analysis. They provided, through C. Neumann, the first existence proof to the Laplace Dirichlet problem in 3D, have been an important analysis tool for PDEs through the 20^{th} century, and are popular computationally because of their excellent conditioning and convergence properties for large classes of domains. A standard numerical method, in particular for boundary integral equations, is the Galerkin method, and the standard convergence analysis starts with a proof that the relevant operator is coercive, or a compact perturbation of a coercive operator, in the relevant function space. A long-standing open problem is whether this property holds for classical second kind boundary integral equations on general non-smooth domains. In this talk we give an overview of the various concepts and methods involved, reformulating the problem as a question about numerical ranges. We solve this open problem through counterexamples, presenting examples of 2D Lipschitz domains and 3D Lipschitz polyhedra for which coercivity does not hold. This is joint work with Prof Euan Spence, Bath.

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