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I am currently teaching a class at the University of Chicago on hyperbolic groups, and I have just introduced the concept of $\delta$-hyperbolic (geodesic) metric spaces. A geodesic metrix space $(X,d_X)$ is $\delta$-hyperbolic if for any geodesic triangle $abc$, and any $p \in ab$ there is some $q \in ac \cup bc$ with $d_X(p,q)\le \delta$. The quintessential $\delta$-hyperbolic space is the hyperbolic plane, the unique (up to isometry) simply-connected complete Riemannian 2-manifold of constant curvature $-1$. It follows that any simply-connected complete Riemannian manifold of constant curvature $K<0$ is $\delta$-hyperbolic for some $\delta$ depending on $K$; roughly one can take $\delta \sim (-K)^{-1/2}$.

What gives this condition some power is the rich class of examples of spaces which are $\delta$-hyperbolic for some $\delta$. One very important class of examples are simply-connected complete Riemannian manifolds with upper curvature bounds. Such spaces enjoy a very strong comparison property with simply-connected spaces of constant curvature, and are therefore the prime examples of what are known as CAT(K) spaces.

Definition: A geodesic metric space $(X,d_X)$ is said to be $CAT(K)$, if the following holds. If $abc$ is a geodesic triangle in $X$, let $\bar{a}\bar{b}\bar{c}$ be a comparison triangle in a simply connected complete Riemannian manifold $Y$ of constant curvature $K$. Being a comparison triangle means just that the length of $\bar{a}\bar{b}$ is equal to the length of $ab$ and so on. For any $p \in bc$ there is a corresponding point $\bar{p}$ in the comparison edge $\bar{b}\bar{c}$ which is the same distance from $\bar{b}$ and $\bar{c}$ as $p$ is from $b$ and $c$ respectively. The $CAT(K)$ condition says, for all $abc$ as above, and all $p \in bc$, there is an inequality $d_X(a,p) \le d_Y(\bar{a},\bar{p})$.

The term CAT here (coined by Gromov) is an acronym for Cartan-Alexandrov-Toponogov, who all proved significant theorems in Riemannian comparison geometry. From the definition it follows immediately that any $CAT(K)$ space with $K<0$ is $\delta$-hyperbolic for some $\delta$ depending only on $K$. The point of this post is to give a short proof of the following fundamental fact:

CAT(K) Theorem: Let $M$ be a complete simply-connected Riemannian manifold with sectional curvature $\le K_0$ everywhere. Then $M$ with its induced Riemannian (path) metric is $CAT(K_0)$.