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Series: Research Horizons Seminar

A plasma is a gas of ionized particles. For a dilute plasma of very high temperature, the collisions can be ignored. Such situations occur, for example, in nuclear fusion devices and space plasmas. The Vlasov-Poisson and Vlasov-Maxwell equations are kinetic models for such collisionless plasmas. The Vlasov-Poisson equation is also used for galaxy evolution. I will describe some mathematical results on these models, including well-posedness and stability issues.

Series: Mathematical Biology Seminar

The evolution of sociality represented one of the major transition points in biological history. Highly social animals such as social insects dominate ecological communities because of their complex cooperative and helping behaviors. We are interested in understanding how evolutionary processes affect social systems and how sociality, in turn, affects the course of evolution. Our research focuses on understanding the social structure and mating biology of social insects. In addition, we are interested in the process of development in the context of sociality. We have found that some social insect females mate with multiple males, and that this behavior affects the structure of colonies. We have also found that colonies adjust their reproductive output in a coordinated and adaptive manner. Finally, we are investigating the molecular basis underlying the striking differences between queens and workers in highly social insects. Overall, our research provides insight into the function and evolutionary success of highly social organisms.

Series: PDE Seminar

A longstanding problem in the mathematical theory of elasticity is to predict theories of lower-dimensional objects (such as rods, plates or shells), subject to mechanical deformations, starting from the 3d nonlinear theory. For plates, a recent effort (in particular work by Friesecke, James and Muller) has lead to rigorous justification of a hierarchy of such theories (membrane, Kirchhoff, von Karman). For shells, despite extensive use of their ad-hoc generalizations present in the engineering applications, much less is known from the mathematical point of view. In this talk, I will discuss the limiting behaviour (using the notion of Gamma-limit) of the 3d nonlinear elasticity for thin shells around an arbitrary smooth 2d mid-surface S. We prove that the minimizers of the 3d elastic energy converge, after suitable rescaling, to minimizers of a hierarchy of shell models. The limiting functionals (which for plates yield respectively the von Karman, linear, or linearized Kirchhoff theories) are intrinsically linked with the geometry of S. They are defined on the space of infinitesimal isometries of S (which replaces the 'out-of-plane-displacements' of plates), and the space of finite strains (which replaces strains of the `in-plane-displacements'), thus clarifying the effects of rigidity of S on the derived theories. The different limiting theories correspond to different magnitudes of the applied forces, in terms of the shell thickness. This is joint work with M. G. Mora and R. Pakzad.

Series: CDSNS Colloquium

Consider the classical Newtonian three-body problem. Call motions oscillatory if as times tends to infinity limsup of maximal distance among the bodies is infinite, while liminf it finite. In the '50s Sitnitkov gave the first rigorous example of oscillatory motions for the so-called restricted three-body problem. Later in the '60s Alexeev extended this example to the three-body. A long-standing conjecture, probably going back to Kolmogorov, is that oscillatory motions have measure zero. We show that for the Sitnitkov example and for the so-called restricted planar circular three-body problem these motions have maximal Hausdorff dimension. This is a joint work with Anton Gorodetski.

Series: Geometry Topology Seminar

The hyperbolic volume and the colored Jones polynomial are two of the most powerful invariants in knot theory. In this talk we aim to extend these invariants to arbitrary graphs embedded in 3-space. This provides new tools for studying questions about graph embedding and it also sheds some new light on the volume conjecture. According to this conjecture, the Jones polynomial and the volume of a knot are intimately related. In some special cases we will prove that this still holds true in the case of graphs.

Series: Combinatorics Seminar

Let A be a set of n real numbers. A central problem in additive combinatorics, due to Erdos and Szemeredi, is that of showing that either the sumset A+A or the product set A.A, must have close to n^2 elements. G. Elekes, in a short and brilliant paper, showed that one can give quite good bounds for this problem by invoking the Szemeredi-Trotter incidence theorem (applied to the grid (A+A) x (A.A)). Perhaps motivated by this result, J. Solymosi posed the following problem (actually, Solymosi's original problem is slightly different from the formulation I am about to give). Show that for every real c > 0, there exists 0 < d < 1, such that the following holds for all grids A x B with |A| = |B| = n sufficiently large: If one has a family of n^c lines in general position (no three meet at a point, no two parallel), at least one of them must fail to be n^(1-d)-rich -- i.e. at least one of then meets in the grid in fewer than n^(1-d) points. In this talk I will discuss a closely related result that I and Evan Borenstein have proved, and will perhaps discuss how we think we can use it to polish off this conjecture of Solymosi.

Series: Stochastics Seminar

A common subsequence of two sequences X and Y is a sequence which is a subsequence of X as well as a subsequence of Y. A Longest Common Subsequence (LCS) of X and Y is a common subsequence with maximal length. Longest Common subsequences can be represented as alignments with gaps where the aligned letter pairs corresponds to the letters in the LCS. We consider two independent i.i.d. binary texts X and Y of length n. We show that the behavior of the the alignment corresponding to the LCS is very different depending on the number of colors. With 2-colors, long blocks tend to be aligned with no gaps, whilst for four or more colors the opposite is true. Let Ln denote the length of the LCS of X and Y. In general the order of the variance of Ln is not known. We explain how a biased affect of a finite pattern can influence the order of the fluctuation of Ln.

Series: Research Horizons Seminar

I will explain and prove a beautiful and useful theorem of Alon and Tarsi that uses multivariate polynomials to guarantee, under suitable hypotheses, the existence of a coloring of a graph. The proof method, sometimes called a Combinatorial Nullstellensatz, has other applications in graph theory, combinatorics and number theory.

Series: Mathematical Biology Seminar

In the ocean, coherent vortices account for a large portion of the ocean turbulent kinetic energy and their presence significantly affects the dynamics and the statistical properties of ocean flows, with important consequences on transport processes. Mesoscale vortices also affect the population dynamics of phyto- and zooplankton, and are associated with secondary currents responsible for localized vertical fluxes of nutrients. The fact that the nutrient fluxes have a fine spatial and temporal detail, generated by the eddy field, has important consequences on primary productivity and the horizontal velocity field induced by the eddies has been suggested to play an important role in determining plankton patchiness. Owing to their trapping properties, vortices can also act as shelters for temporarily less-favoured planktonic species. In this contribution, I will review some of the transport properties associated with coherent vortices and their impact on the dynamics of planktoni ecosystems, focusing on the simplified conceptual model provided by two-dimensional turbulence.

Series: PDE Seminar

Shear flow instability is a classical problem in hydrodynamics. In particular, it is important for understanding the transition from laminar to turbulent flow. First, I will describe some results on shear flow instability in the setting of inviscid flows in a rigid wall. Then the effects of a free surface (or water waves) and viscosity will be discussed.