Past Colloquia

E.g., 2019-12-07
E.g., 2019-12-07
E.g., 2019-12-07
15 November 2019
16:00
Doug Arnold

Further Information: 

The Oxford Mathematics Colloquia are generously sponsored by Oxford University Press.

Abstract

The puzzling phenonenon of wave localization refers to unexpected confinement of waves triggered by disorder in the propagating medium. Localization arises in many physical and mathematical systems and has many important implications and applications. A particularly important case is the Schrödinger equation of quantum mechanics, for which the localization behavior is crucial to the electrical properties of materials. Mathematically it is tied to exponential decay of eigenfunctions of operators instead of their expected extension throughout the domain. Although localization has been studied by physicists and mathematicians for the better part of a century, many aspects remain mysterious. In particular, the sort of deterministic quantitative results needed to predict, control, and exploit localization have remained elusive. This talk will focus on major strides made in recent years based on the introduction of the landscape function and its partner, the effective potential. We will describe these developments from the viewpoint of a computational mathematician who sees the landscape theory as a completely unorthodox sort of a numerical method for computing spectra.

25 October 2019
16:00
David Gabai

Further Information: 

The Oxford Mathematics Colloquia are generously sponsored by Oxford University Press.

 

Abstract

We discuss a recent generalization of the classical 3-dimensional light bulb theorem to 4-dimensions. We connect this with fundamental questions about knotting of surfaces in 4-dimensional manifolds as well as new directions regarding knotting of 3-balls in 4-manifolds.

 

 

18 October 2019
16:00
Reidun Twarock

Further Information: 

The Oxford Mathematics Colloquia are generously sponsored by Oxford University Press.

Abstract

Viruses encapsulate their genetic material into protein containers that act akin to molecular Trojan horses, protecting viral genomes between rounds of infection and facilitating their release into the host cell environment. In the majority of viruses, including major human pathogens, these containers have icosahedral symmetry. Mathematical techniques from group, graph and tiling theory can therefore be used to better understand how viruses form, evolve and infect their hosts, and point the way to novel antiviral solutions.

In this talk, I will present an overarching theory of virus architecture, that contains the seminal Caspar Klug theory as a special case and solves long-standing open problems in structural virology. Combining insights into virus structure with a range of different mathematical modelling techniques, such as Gillespie algorithms, I will show how viral life cycles can be better understood through the lens of viral geometry. In particular, I will discuss a recent model for genome release from the viral capsid. I will also demonstrate the instrumental role of the Hamiltonian path concept in the discovery of a virus assembly mechanism that occurs in many human pathogens, such as Picornaviruses – a family that includes the common cold virus– and Hepatitis B and C virus. I will use multi-scale models of a viral infection and implicit fitness landscapes in order to demonstrate that therapeutic interventions directed against this mechanism have advantages over conventional forms of anti-viral therapy. The talk will finish with a discussion of how the new mathematical and mechanistic insights can be exploited in bio-nanotechnology for applications in vaccination and gene therapy.

17 October 2019
16:00
Elchanan Mossel

Further Information: 

This Colloquium is taking place in the Department of Statistics on St Giles'.

Abstract

There is a very simple algorithm for the inference of posteriors for probability models on trees. This algorithm, known as "Belief Propagation" is widely used in coding theory, in machine learning, in evolutionary inference, among many other areas. The talk will be devoted to the analysis of Belief Propagation in some of the simplest probability models. We will highlight the interplay between Belief Propagation, linear estimators (statistics), the Kesten-Stigum bound (probability) and Replica Symmetry Breaking (statistical physics). We will show how the analysis of Belief Propagation allowed proof phase transitions for phylogenetic reconstruction in evolutionary biology and developed optimal algorithms for inference of block models. Finally, we will discuss the computational complexity of this 'simple' algorithm.

14 June 2019
16:00
Abstract

The subject of $p$-adic cohomologies is over fifty years old. Many new developments have recently occurred. I will mostly limit myself to discussing some pertaining to the de Rham-Witt complex. After recalling the historical background and the basic results, I will give an overview of the new approach of Bhatt, Lurie and Mathew.

7 June 2019
16:00
Michael Hintermueller
Abstract

Solidification processes of liquid metal alloys,  bubble dynamics (as in Taylor flows), pinch-offs of liquid-liquid jets, the formation of polymeric membranes, or the structure of high concentration photovoltaic cells are described by the dynamics of multiphase fluids. On the other hand, in applications such as mass spectrometry, lab-on-a-chip, and electro-fluidic displays, fluids on the micro-scale associated with a dielectric medium are of interest. Moreover, in many of these applications one is interested in influencing (or controlling) the underlying phenomenon in order to reach a desired goal. Examples for the latter could be the porosity structure of a polymeric membrane to achieve certain desired filtration properties of the membrane, or to optimize a microfluidic device for the transport of pharmaceutical agents.

A promising mathematical model for the behavior of multiphase flows associated with the applications mentioned above is given by a phase-field model of Cahn-Hilliard / Navier-Stokes (CHNS) type. Some strengths of phase field (or diffuse interface) approaches are due to their ability to overcome both, analytical difficulties of topological changes, such as, e.g., droplet break-ups or the coalescence of interfaces, and numerical challenges in capturing the interface dynamics between the fluid phases. Deep quenches in solidification processes of liquid alloys or rapid wall hardening in the formation of polymer membranes ask for non-smooth energies in connection with Cahn-Hilliard models. Analytically, this gives rise to a variational inequality coupled to the equations of hydrodynamics, thus yielding a non-smooth system (in the sense that the map associated with the underlying operator equation is not necessarily Frechet differentiable). In contrast to phase-field approaches,
one may consider sharp interface models. In view of this, our microfluidic applications alluded to above are formulated in terms of  sharp interface models and Hele-Shaw flows. In this context, we are particularly interested in applications of electrowetting on dielectric (EWOD) with contact line pinning. The latter phenomenon resembles friction, yields a variational inequality of the second kind, and – once again – it results in an overall nonsmooth mathematical model of the physical process.

   In both settings described above, optimal control problems are relevant in order to influence the underlying physical process to approach a desired system state.  The associated optimization problems are delicate as the respective constraints involve non-smooth structures which render the problems degenerate and prevent a direct application of sophisticated tools for the characterization of solutions. Such characterizations are, however, of paramount importance in the design of numerical solution schemes.

This talk addresses some of the analytical challenges associated with optimal control problems involving non-smooth structures, offers pathways to solutions, and it reports on numerical results for both problem classes introduced above.
 

16 November 2018
15:00
Alan Sokal
Abstract

A matrix M of real numbers is called totally positive if every minor of M is nonnegative. This somewhat bizarre concept from linear algebra has surprising connections with analysis - notably polynomials and entire functions with real zeros, and the classical moment problem and continued fractions - as well as combinatorics. I will explain briefly some of these connections, and then introduce a generalization: a matrix M of polynomials (in some set of indeterminates) will be called coefficientwise totally positive if every minor of M is a polynomial with nonnegative coefficients. Also, a sequence (an)n≥0  of real numbers (or polynomials) will be called (coefficientwise) Hankel-totally positive if the Hankel matrix H = (ai+j)i,j ≥= 0 associated to (an) is (coefficientwise) totally positive. It turns out that many sequences of polynomials arising in enumerative combinatorics are (empirically) coefficientwise Hankel-totally positive; in some cases this can be proven using continued fractions, while in other cases it remains a conjecture.

2 November 2018
16:00
Jon Keating
Abstract

The moments of characteristic polynomials play a central role in Random Matrix Theory.  They appear in many applications, ranging from quantum mechanics to number theory.  The mixed moments of the characteristic polynomials of random unitary matrices, i.e. the joint moments of the polynomials and their derivatives, can be expressed recursively in terms of combinatorial sums involving partitions. However, these combinatorial sums are not easy to compute, and so this does not give an effective method for calculating the mixed moments in general. I shall describe an alternative evaluation of the mixed moments, in terms of solutions of the Painlevé V differential equation, that facilitates their computation and asymptotic analysis.

12 October 2018
16:00
Abstract

Consider a network of agents connected by communication links, where each agent holds a real value. The gossip problem consists in estimating the average of the values diffused in the network in a distributed manner. Current techniques for gossiping are designed to deal with worst-case scenarios, which is irrelevant in applications to distributed statistical learning and denoising in sensor networks. We design second-order gossip methods tailor-made for the case where the real values are i.i.d. samples from the same distribution. In some regular network structures, we are able to prove optimality of our methods, and simulations suggest that they are efficient in a wide range of random networks. Our approach of gossip stems from a new acceleration framework using the family of orthogonal polynomials with respect to the spectral measure of the network graph (joint work with Raphaël Berthier, and Pierre Gaillard).

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