All colloquia are on Fridays at 4:00 pm in Van Vleck B239, unless otherwise indicated.
The calendar for spring 2019 can be found here.
Sep 12: Gunther Uhlmann (Univ. of Washington)
Harry Potter's Cloak via Transformation Optics
Can we make objects invisible? This has been a subject of human fascination for millennia in Greek mythology, movies, science fiction, etc. including the legend of Perseus versus Medusa and the more recent Star Trek and Harry Potter. In the last fifteen years or so there have been several scientific proposals to achieve invisibility. We will introduce in a non-technical fashion one of them, the so-called "traansformation optics" in a non-technical fashion n the so-called that has received the most attention in the scientific literature.
Sep 14: Gunther Uhlmann (Univ. of Washington)
Journey to the Center of the Earth
We will consider the inverse problem of determining the sound speed or index of refraction of a medium by measuring the travel times of waves going through the medium. This problem arises in global seismology in an attempt to determine the inner structure of the Earth by measuring travel times of earthquakes. It has also several applications in optics and medical imaging among others.
The problem can be recast as a geometric problem: Can one determine the Riemannian metric of a Riemannian manifold with boundary by measuring the distance function between boundary points? This is the boundary rigidity problem. We will also consider the problem of determining the metric from the scattering relation, the so-called lens rigidity problem. The linearization of these problems involve the integration of a tensor along geodesics, similar to the X-ray transform.
We will also describe some recent results, join with Plamen Stefanov and Andras Vasy, on the partial data case, where you are making measurements on a subset of the boundary. No previous knowledge of Riemannian geometry will be assumed.
Sep 21: Andrew Stuart (Caltech)
The Legacy of Rudolph Kalman
In 1960 Rudolph Kalman published what is arguably the first paper to develop a systematic, principled approach to the use of data to improve the predictive capability of mathematical models. As our ability to gather data grows at an enormous rate, the importance of this work continues to grow too. The lecture will describe this paper, and developments that have stemmed from it, revolutionizing fields such space-craft control, weather prediction, oceanography and oil recovery, and with potential for use in new fields such as medical imaging and artificial intelligence. Some mathematical details will be also provided, but limited to simple concepts such as optimization, and iteration; the talk is designed to be broadly accessible to anyone with an interest in quantitative science.
Sep 28: Gautam Iyer (CMU)
Stirring and Mixing
Mixing is something one encounters often in everyday life (e.g. stirring cream into coffee). I will talk about two mathematical aspects of mixing that arise in the context of fluid dynamics:
1. How efficiently can stirring "mix"?
2. What is the interaction between diffusion and mixing.
Both these aspects are rich in open problems whose resolution involves tools from various different areas. I present a brief survey of existing results, and talk about a few open problems.
Oct 5: Eyal Subag (Penn State)
Symmetries of the hydrogen atom and algebraic families
The hydrogen atom system is one of the most thoroughly studied examples of a quantum mechanical system. It can be fully solved, and the main reason why is its (hidden) symmetry. In this talk I shall explain how the symmetries of the Schrödinger equation for the hydrogen atom, both visible and hidden, give rise to an example in the recently developed theory of algebraic families of Harish-Chandra modules. I will show how the algebraic structure of these symmetries completely determines the spectrum of the Schrödinger operator and sheds new light on the quantum nature of the system. No prior knowledge on quantum mechanics or representation theory will be assumed.
Oct 12: Andrei Caldararu (Madison)
Mirror symmetry and derived categories
Mirror symmetry is a remarkable phenomenon, first discovered in physics. It relates two seemingly disparate areas of mathematics, symplectic and algebraic geometry. Its initial formulation was rather narrow, as a technique for computing enumerative invariants (so-called Gromov-Witten invariants) of symplectic varieties by solving certain differential equations describing the variation of Hodge structure of “mirror" varieties. Over the past 25 years this narrow view has expanded considerably, largely due to insights of M. Kontsevich who introduced techniques from derived categories into the subject. Nowadays mirror symmetry encompasses wide areas of mathematics, touching on subjects like birational geometry, number theory, homological algebra, etc.
In my talk I shall survey some of the recent developments in mirror symmetry, and I will explain how my work fits in the general picture. In particular I will describe an example of derived equivalent but not birational Calabi-Yau three folds (joint work with Lev Borisov); and a recent computation of a categorical Gromov-Witten invariant of positive genus (work with my former student Junwu Tu).
Oct 19: Jeremy Teitelbaum (U Connecticut)
Lessons Learned and New Perspectives: From Dean and Provost to aspiring Data Scientist
After more than 10 years in administration, including 9 as Dean of Arts and Sciences and 1 as interim Provost at UConn, I have returned to my faculty position. I am spending a year as a visiting scientist at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine (JAX-GM) in Farmington, Connecticut, trying to get a grip on some of the mathematical problems of interest to researchers in cancer genomics. In this talk, I will offer some personal observations about being a mathematician and a high-level administrator, talk a bit about the research environment at an independent research institute like JAX-GM, outline a few problems that I've begun to learn about, and conclude with a discussion of how these experiences have shaped my view of graduate training in mathematics.
Oct 26: Douglas Ulmer (Arizona)
Rational numbers, rational functions, and rational points
One of the central concerns of arithmetic geometry is the study of solutions of systems of polynomial equations where the solutions are required to lie in a "small" field such as the rational numbers. I will explain the landscape of expectations and conjectures in this area, focusing on curves and their Jacobians over global fields (number fields and function fields), and then survey the progress made over the last decade in the function field case. The talk is intended to be accessible to a wide audience.
Nov 2: Ruixiang Zhang (Madison)
The Fourier extension operator
I will present an integral operator that originated in the study of the Euclidean Fourier transform and is closely related to many problems in PDE, spectral theory, analytic number theory, and combinatorics. I will then introduce some recent developments in harmonic analysis concerning this operator. I will mainly focus on various new ways to "induct on scales" that played an important role in the recent solution in all dimensions to Carleson's a.e. convergence problem on free Schrödinger solutions.
Nov 7: Luca Spolaor (MIT)
(Log)-Epiperimetric Inequality and the Regularity of Variational Problems
In this talk I will present a new method for studying the regularity of minimizers to variational problems. I will start by introducing the notion of blow-up, using as a model case the so-called Obstacle problem. Then I will state the (Log)-epiperimetric inequality and explain how it is used to prove uniqueness of the blow-up and regularity results for the solution near its singular set. I will then show the flexibility of this method by describing how it can be applied to other free-boundary problems and to (almost)-area minimizing currents. Finally I will describe some future applications of this method both in regularity theory and in other settings.
Nov 9: Anne Shiu (Texas A&M)
Dynamics of biochemical reaction systems
Reaction networks taken with mass-action kinetics arise in many settings, from epidemiology to population biology to systems of chemical reactions. This talk focuses on certain biological signaling networks, namely, phosphorylation networks, and their resulting dynamical systems. For many of these systems, the set of steady states admits a rational parametrization (that is, the set is the image of a map with rational-function coordinates). We describe how such a parametrization allows us to investigate the dynamics, including the emergence of bistability in a network underlying ERK regulation, and the capacity for oscillations in a mixed processive/distributive phosphorylation network.
Nov 19: Alexander Yom Din (Caltech)
From analysis to algebra to geometry - an example in representation theory of real groups
Representation theory of non-compact real groups, such as SL(2,R), is a fundamental discipline with uses in harmonic analysis, number theory, physics, and more. This theory is analytical in nature, but in the course of the 20th century it was algebraized and geometrized (the key contributions are by Harish-Chandra for the former and by Beilinson-Bernstein for the latter). Roughly and generally speaking, algebraization strips layers from the objects of study until we are left with a bare skeleton, amenable to symbolic manipulation. Geometrization, again very roughly, reveals how algebraic objects have secret lives over spaces - thus more amenable to human intuition. In this talk, I will try to motivate and present one example - the calculation of the Casselman-Jacquet module of a principal series representation (I will explain the terms in the talk).
Nov 20: Denis Hirschfeldt (University of Chicago)
Computability and Ramsey Theory
Computability theory can be seen as the study of the fine structure of definability. Much of its power relies on the deep connections between definability and computation. These connections can be seen in fundamental results such as Post's Theorem, which establishes a connection between the complexity of formulas needed to define a given set of natural numbers and its computability-theoretic strength. As has become increasingly clear, they can also be seen in the computability-theoretic analysis of objects whose definitions come from notions that arise naturally in combinatorics. The heuristic here is that computability-theoretically natural notions tend to be combinatorially natural, and vice-versa. I will discuss some results and open questions in the computability-theoretic analysis of combinatorial principles, in particular Ramsey-theoretic ones such as versions of Ramsey's Theorem for colorings of countably infinite sets, and versions of Hindman's Theorem, which states that for every coloring of the natural numbers with finitely many colors, there is an infinite set of numbers such that all nonempty sums of distinct elements of this set have the same color.
Nov 26: Vadim Gorin (MIT)
Macroscopic fluctuations through Schur generating functions
I will talk about a special class of large-dimensional stochastic systems with strong correlations. The main examples will be random tilings, non-colliding random walks, eigenvalues of random matrices, and measures governing decompositions of group representations into irreducible components.
It is believed that macroscopic fluctuations in such systems are universally described by log-correlated Gaussian fields. I will present an approach to handle this question based on the notion of the Schur generating function of a probability distribution, and explain how it leads to a rigorous confirmation of this belief in a variety of situations.
Nov 28: Gao Chen (IAS)
A Torelli type theorem
The length of a circle determines the shape of it. In this talk, we will discuss non-trivial generalizations of this fact for Riemann surfaces, hyperkähler 4-manifolds, Calabi-Yau threefolds and G_2, Spin(7) manifolds.
Nov 30: David Fisher (Indiana U.)
New Techniques for Zimmer's Conjecture
Lattices in higher rank simple Lie groups are known to be extremely rigid. Examples of this are Margulis' superrigidity theorem, which shows they have very few linear represenations, and Margulis' arithmeticity theorem, which shows they are all constructed via number theory. Motivated by these and other results, in 1983 Zimmer made a number of conjectures about actions of these groups on compact manifolds. After providing some history and motivation, I will discuss a recent result that makes dramatic progress on the conjecture in all cases and proves it in many of them. I will place some emphasis on surprising connections to other areas of mathematics that arise in the proof.
Dec 3: Bena Tshishiku (Harvard)
Surface bundles, monodromy, and arithmetic groups
Fiber bundles with fiber a surface arise in many areas including hyperbolic geometry, symplectic geometry, and algebraic geometry. Up to isomorphism, a surface bundle is completely determined by its monodromy representation, which is a homomorphism to a mapping class group. This allows one to use algebra to study the topology of surface bundles. Unfortunately, the monodromy representation is typically difficult to ``compute" (e.g. determine its image). In this talk, I will discuss some recent work toward computing monodromy groups for holomorphic surface bundles, including certain examples of Atiyah and Kodaira. This can be applied to the problem of counting the number of ways that certain 4-manifolds fiber over a surface. This is joint work with Nick Salter.
Dec 5: Subhabrata Sen (MIT and Microsoft Research New England)
Random graphs, Optimization, and Spin glasses
Combinatorial optimization problems are ubiquitous in diverse mathematical applications. The desire to understand their ``typical" behavior motivates a study of these problems on random instances. In spite of a long and rich history, many natural questions in this domain are still intractable to rigorous mathematical analysis. Graph cut problems such as Max-Cut and Min-bisection are canonical examples in this class. On the other hand, physicists study these questions using the non-rigorous ``replica" and ``cavity" methods, and predict complex, intriguing features. In this talk, I will describe some recent progress in our understanding of their typical properties on random graphs, obtained via connections to the theory of mean-field spin glasses. The new techniques are broadly applicable, and lead to novel algorithmic and statistical consequences.
Dec 10: Max Engelstein (MIT)
The role of Energy in Regularity
The calculus of variations asks us to minimize some energy and then describe the shape/properties of the minimizers. It is perhaps a surprising fact that minimizers to ``nice" energies are more regular than one, a priori, assumes. A useful tool for understanding this phenomenon is the Euler-Lagrange equation, which is a partial differential equation satisfied by the critical points of the energy.
However, as we teach our calculus students, not every critical point is a minimizer. In this talk we will discuss some techniques to distinguish the behavior of general critical points from that of minimizers. We will then outline how these techniques may be used to solve some central open problems in the field.
We will then turn the tables, and examine PDEs which look like they should be an Euler-Lagrange equation but for which there is no underlying energy. For some of these PDEs the solutions will regularize (as if there were an underlying energy) for others, pathological behavior can occur.