Past Colloquia

2 December 2016
Steve Simon

In two dimensional topological phases of matter, processes depend on gross topology rather than detailed geometry. Thinking in 2+1 dimensions, the space-time histories of particles can be interpreted as knots or links, and the amplitude for certain processes becomes a topological invariant of that link. While sounding rather exotic, we believe that such phases of matter not only exist, but have actually been observed (or could be soon observed) in experiments. These phases of matter could provide a uniquely practical route to building a quantum computer. Experimental systems of relevance include Fractional Quantum Hall Effects, Exotic superconductors such as Strontium Ruthenate, Superfluid Helium, Semiconductor-Superconductor-Spin-Orbit systems including Quantum Wires. The physics of these systems, and how they might be used for quantum computation will be discussed.

20 June 2016
Jacob Lurie (Hardy Lecture Tour)

Let X be a complex algebraic variety containing a point x. One of the central ideas of deformation theory is that the local structure of X near the point x can be encoded by a differential graded Lie algebra. In this talk, Jacob Lurie will explain this idea and discuss some generalizations to more exotic contexts.

17 June 2016
David Vogan

One of the big ideas in linear algebra is {\em eigenvalues}. Most matrices become in some basis {\em diagonal} matrices; so a lot of information about the matrix (which is specified by $n^2$ matrix entries) is encoded by by just $n$ eigenvalues. The fact that lots of different matrices can have the same eigenvalues reflects the fact that matrix multiplication is not commutative.

I'll look at how to make these vague statements (``lots of different matrices...") more precise; how to extend them from matrices to abstract symmetry groups; and how to relate abstract symmetry groups to matrices.

3 June 2016
Bernd Sturmfels

Eigenvectors of square matrices are central to linear algebra. Eigenvectors of tensors are a natural generalization. The spectral theory of tensors was pioneered by Lim and Qi around 2005. It has numerous applications, and ties in closely with optimization and dynamical systems.  We present an introduction that emphasizes algebraic and geometric aspects

12 February 2016
Isabelle Gallagher

The question of deriving Fluid Mechanics equations from deterministic
systems of interacting particles obeying Newton's laws, in the limit
when the number of particles goes to infinity, is a longstanding open
problem suggested by Hilbert in his 6th problem. In this talk we shall
present a few attempts in this program, by explaining how to derive some
linear models such as the Heat, acoustic and Stokes-Fourier equations.
This corresponds to joint works with Thierry Bodineau and Laure Saint

29 January 2016
Mark Newman

Most networks and graphs encountered in empirical studies, including internet and web graphs, social networks, and biological and ecological networks, are very sparse.  Standard spectral and linear algebra methods can fail badly when applied to such networks and a fundamentally different approach is needed.  Message passing methods, such as belief propagation, offer a promising solution for these problems.  In this talk I will introduce some simple models of sparse networks and illustrate how message passing can form the basis for a wide range of calculations of their structure.  I will also show how message passing can be applied to real-world data to calculate fundamental properties such as percolation thresholds, graph spectra, and community structure, and how the fixed-point structure of the message passing equations has a deep connection with structural phase transitions in networks.

20 November 2015
Felix Otto
Heterogeneous media, like a sediment, are often naturally described in statistical terms.  How to extract their effective behaviour on large scales, like the permeability in Darcy's law, from the statistical specifications?  A practioners numerical approach is to sample the medium according to these specifications and to determine the permeability in the Cartesian directions by imposing simple boundary conditions.  What is the error made in terms of the size of this "representative volume element''?  Our interest in what is called  "stochastic homogenization'' grew out of this error analysis.


In the course of developing such an error analysis, connections with the classical regularity theory for elliptic operators have emerged. It turns out that the randomness, in conjunction with statistical homogeneity, of the coefficient field (which can be seen as a Riemannian metric) generates large-scale regularity of harmonic functions (w.r.t. the corresponding Laplace-Beltrami operator).  This is embodied by a hierarchy of Liouville properties:
   Almost surely, the space of harmonic functions of given but arbitrary growth rate has the same dimension as in the flat (i. e. Euclidean) case.


  Classical examples show that from a deterministic point of view, the Liouville property fails already for a small growth rate:


  There are (smooth) coefficient fields, which correspond to the geometry of a cone at infinity, that allow for sublinearly growing but non-constant harmonic functions.
19 June 2015
Gunnar Carlsson

There has been a great deal of attention paid to "Big Data" over the last few years.  However, often as not, the problem with the analysis of data is not as much the size as the complexity of the data.  Even very small data sets can exhibit substantial complexity.  There is therefore a need for methods for representing complex data sets, beyond the usual linear or even polynomial models.  The mathematical notion of shape, encoded in a metric, provides a very useful way to represent complex data sets.  On the other hand, Topology is the mathematical sub discipline which concerns itself with studying shape, in all dimensions.  In recent years, methods from topology have been adapted to the study of data sets, i.e. finite metric spaces.  In this talk, we will discuss what has been
done in this direction and what the future might hold, with numerous examples.

22 May 2015
Andre Henriques

I will review Bott's classical periodicity result about topological K-theory (with period 2 in the case of complex K-theory, and period 8 in the case of real K-theory), and provide an easy sketch of proof, based on the algebraic periodicity of Clifford algebras. I will then introduce the `higher real K-theory' of Hopkins and Miller, also known as TMF. I'll discuss its periodicity (with period 576), and present a conjecture about a corresponding algebraic periodicity of `higher Clifford algebras'. Finally, applications to physics will be discussed.