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Mathematics Colloquium

All colloquia are on Fridays at 4:00 pm in Van Vleck B239, unless otherwise indicated.

Tentative schedule for Spring 2015

Fall 2014

date speaker title host(s)
September 12 Moon Duchin (Tufts University) Geometry and counting in the Heisenberg group Dymarz and WIMAW
September 19 Gregory G. Smith (Queen's University) Nonnegative sections and sums of squares Erman
September 26 Jack Xin (UC Irvine) G-equations and Front Motion in Fluid Flows Jin
October 3 Pham Huu Tiep (University of Arizona) Adequate subgroups Gurevich
October 10 Alejandro Adem (UBC) Topology of Commuting Matrices Yang
October 17 Roseanna Zia (Cornell University) A micro-mechanical study of coarsening and rheology of colloidal gels: Cage building, cage hopping, and Smoluchowski’s ratchet Spagnolie
October 24 Almut Burchard (Toronto) Symmetrization, sharp inequalities, and geometric stability for integral functionals Stovall
October 31 Bao Chau Ngo (University of Chicago)

Automorphic L-function, trace formula and geometry

November 7 Reserved for possible job interview
November 14 Reserved for possible job interview
November 21 Reserved for possible job interview
November 28 University holiday
December 5 Reserved for possible job interview
December 12 Reserved for possible job interview


September 12: Moon Duchin (Tufts University)

Geometry and counting in the Heisenberg group

The growth function of a finitely-generated group enumerates how many words can be spelled with each possible number of letters-- this should be thought of as a sort of volume growth in any geometric model of the group. A major theorem of Gromov tells us exactly which groups have growth in the polynomial range: those that are (virtually) nilpotent. But we can still wonder how regular the growth of a nilpotent group is: is it actually a polynomial? Or could it exhibit some transcendentality together with pretty slow growth?

I'll talk about some themes and techniques in the study of group growth and outline a geometry of numbers for nilpotent groups, including a recent result with M. Shapiro settling a long-standing question: the Heisenberg group -- the simplest non-abelian nilpotent group -- has rational growth in any generating set.

September 19: Gregory G. Smith (Queen's University)

Nonnegative sections and sums of squares

A polynomial with real coefficients is nonnegative if it takes on only nonnegative values. For example, any sum of squares is obviously nonnegative. For a homogeneous polynomial with respect to the standard grading, Hilbert famously characterized when the converse holds, that is when every nonnegative homogeneous polynomial is a sum of squares. After reviewing some history of this problem, we will examine this converse in more general settings such as global sections of a line bundles. This line of inquiry has unexpected connections to classical algebraic geometry and leads to new examples in which every nonnegative homogeneous polynomial is a sum of squares. This talk is based on joint work with Grigoriy Blekherman and Mauricio Velasco.

September 26: Jack Xin (UC Irvine)

G-equations and Front Motion in Fluid Flows

G-equations are level set Hamilton-Jacobi equations (HJE) for modeling flame fronts in turbulent combustion where a fundamental problem is to characterize the turbulent flame speeds s_T. The existence of s_T is connected with the homogenization of HJE, however classical theory does not apply due to the non-coercive and non-convex nature of the level set Hamiltonian. We shall illustrate the asymptotic properties of s_T from both Eulerian and Lagrangian perspectives in the case of two dimensional periodic incompressible flows, in particular cellular flows.

Analytical and numerical results demonstrate that G-equations capture well the enhancement, slow down and quenching phenomena observed in fluid experiments. We also comment on s_T in chaotic flows. This is joint work with Yifeng Yu and Yu-Yu Liu.

October 3: Pham Huu Tiep (Arizona)

Adequate subgroups

The notion of adequate subgroups was introduced by Thorne. It is a weakening of the notion of big subgroups used in generalizations of the Taylor-Wiles method for proving the automorphy of certain Galois representations. Using this idea, Thorne was able to strengthen many automorphy lifting theorems. It was shown recently by Guralnick, Herzig, Taylor, and Thorne that if the degree is small compared to the characteristic then all absolutely irreducible representations are adequate. We will discuss extensions of this result obtained recently in joint work with R. M. Guralnick and F. Herzig. In particular, we show that almost all absolutely irreducible representations in characteristic p of degree less than p are adequate. We will also address a question of Serre about indecomposable modules in characteristic p of dimension less than 2p-2.

October 10: Alejandro Adem (UBC)

Topology of Commuting Matrices

In this talk we will describe basic topological properties of the space of commuting unitary matrices. In particular we will show that they can be assembled to form a space which classifies commutativity for vector bundles and which has very interesting homotopy-theoretic properties.

October 17: Roseanna Zia (Cornell)

A micro-mechanical study of coarsening and rheology of colloidal gels: Cage building, cage hopping, and Smoluchowski’s ratchet

Reconfigurable soft solids such as viscoelastic gels have emerged in the past decade as a promising material in numerous applications ranging from engineered tissue to drug delivery to injectable sensors. These include colloidal gels, which microscopically comprise a scaffoldlike network of interconnected particles embedded in a solvent. Network bonds can be permanent or reversible, depending on the nature and strength of interparticle attractions. When attractions are on the order of just a few kT, bonds easily rupture and reform. On a macroscopic scale, bond reversibility allows a gel to transition from solidlike behavior during storage, to liquidlike behavior during flow (e.g., injection or shear), and back to solidlike behavior in situ. On a microscopic scale, thermal fluctuations of the solvent are occasionally strong enough to break colloidal bonds, temporarily allowing particles to migrate and exchange neighbors before rebonding to the network, leading to structural evolution over time. Prior studies of colloidal gels have examined evolution of length scales and dynamics such as decorrelation times. Left open were additional questions such as how the particle-rich regions are structured (liquidlike, glassy, crystalline), how restructuring takes place (via bulk diffusion, surface migration, coalescence of large structures), and the impact of the evolution on rheology. In this talk I discuss these themes as explored in our recent dynamic simulations. We find that the network strands comprise a glassy, immobile interior near random-close packing, enclosed by a liquidlike surface along which the diffusive migration of particles drives structural coarsening. We show that coarsening is a three-step process of cage forming, cage hopping, and cage arrest, where particles migrate to ever-deeper energy wells via “Smoluchowski’s ratchet.” Both elastic and viscous high-frequency moduli are found to scale with the square-root of the frequency, similar to the perfectly viscoelastic behavior of non-hydrodynamically interacting, purely repulsive dispersions. But here, the behavior is elastic over all frequencies, with a quantitative offset between elastic and viscous moduli, which owes its origin to the hindrance of diffusion by particle attractions. Propagation of this elasticity via the network gives rise to age-stiffening as the gel coarsens. This simple phenomenological model suggests a rescaling of the moduli on dominant network length scale that collapses moduli for all ages onto a single curve. We propose a Rouse-like theoretical model and, from it, derive an analytical expression that predicts the effects of structural aging on rheology whereby linear response can be determined at any age by measurement of dominant network length scale—or vice versa.

October 24: Almut Burchard (Toronto)

Symmetrization, sharp inequalities, and geometric stability for integral functionals

Many integral functionals are maximized (under appropriate constraints) by radially symmetric functions. For example, the Coulomb energy of a positive charge density --- the double integral of the Newton potential against the density --- increases under symmetrization. The physical reason is that the interaction energy between the charges grows as the typical distance between the charges shrinks. The energy increases strictly, unless the charge density is already radially decreasing about some point. Is this characterization of equality cases "stable"? In other words, must near-maximizers be close to maximizers?

Such stability questions have been well-studied for the isoperimetric inequality and other functionals that involve gradients since the 1990's; the first results in that direction are due to Bonnesen in the 1920's. For example, the excess perimeter of a set (as compared to a ball of the same volume) controls its difference from a suitable translate of that ball. Much less is known about convolutions and other multiple integrals that describe "non-local" interactions. In some cases, not even a complete list of maximizers is known. I will discuss very recent developments (due to M. Christ, Figalli, Jerison, and others), mention open problems, and present joint work with Greg Chambers on the Coulomb energy.

Past Colloquia

Spring 2014

Fall 2013

Spring 2013

Fall 2012