Previous Colloquia

08/18/2015 11:04 am - 11:04 am

The  CMSA Colloquium will take place every Wednesday from 4:30-5:30pm in CMSA Building, 20 Garden Street, G10.

Spring 2020

Date Speaker Title/Abstract
1/29/2020 David Yang (Harvard)

Abstract: Data-intensive technologies such as AI may reshape the modern world. We propose that two features of data interact to shape innovation in data-intensive economies: first, states are key collectors and repositories of data; second, data is a non-rival input in innovation. We document the importance of state-collected data for innovation using comprehensive data on Chinese facial recognition AI firms and government contracts. Firms produce more commercial software and patents, particularly data-intensive ones, after receiving government public security contracts. Moreover, effects are largest when contracts provide more data. We then build a directed technical change model to study the state’s role in three applications: autocracies demanding AI for surveillance purposes, data-driven industrial policy, and data regulation due to privacy concerns. When the degree of non-rivalry is as strong as our empirical evidence suggests, the state’s collection and processing of data can shape the direction of innovation and growth of data-intensive economies.

2/5/2020 Scott Aaronson (UT Austin)


Title: Gentle Measurement of Quantum States and Differential Privacy

Abstract: I’ll discuss a recent connection between two seemingly unrelated problems: how to measure a collection of quantum states without damaging them too much (“gentle measurement”), and how to provide statistical data without leaking too much about individuals (“differential privacy,” an area of classical CS). This connection leads, among other things, to a new protocol for “shadow tomography”
of quantum states (that is, answering a large number of questions about a quantum state given few copies of it).

Based on joint work with Guy Rothblum (arXiv:1904.08747)

2/12/2020 Scott Kominers (Harvard) Title: A Compact, Logical Approach to Large-Market Analysis

Abstract: In game theory, we often use infinite models to represent “limit” settings, such as markets with a large number of agents or games with a long time horizon. Yet many game-theoretic models incorporate finiteness assumptions that, while introduced for simplicity, play a real role in the analysis. Here, we show how to extend key results from (finite) models of matching, games on graphs, and trading networks to infinite models by way of Logical Compactness, a core result from Propositional Logic. Using Compactness, we prove the existence of man-optimal stable matchings in infinite economies, as well as strategy-proofness of the man-optimal stable matching mechanism. We then use Compactness to eliminate the need for a finite start time in a dynamic matching model. Finally, we use Compactness to prove the existence of both Nash equilibria in infinite games on graphs and Walrasian equilibria in infinite trading networks.

2/19/2020 Peter Shor (MIT) Title: Quantum Money from Lattices

Abstract: Quantum money is  a cryptographic protocol for quantum computers. A quantum money protocol consists of a quantum state which can be created (by the mint) and verified (by anybody with a quantum computer who knows what the “serial number” of the money is), but which cannot be duplicated, even by somebody with a copy of the quantum state who knows the verification protocol. Several previous proposals have been made for quantum money protocols. We will discuss the history of quantum money and give a protocol which cannot be broken unless lattice cryptosystems are insecure.

2/26/2020 Daneil Wise (McGill) Title: The Cubical Route to Understanding Groups

Abstract: Cube complexes have come to play an increasingly central role within geometric group theory, as their connection to right-angled Artin groups provides a powerful combinatorial bridge between geometry and algebra. This talk will introduce nonpositively curved cube complexes, and then describe the developments that culminated in the resolution of the virtual Haken conjecture for 3-manifolds and simultaneously dramatically extended our understanding of many infinite groups.

4:45 – 5:45pm

Salil Vadhan (Harvard) Title: Derandomizing Algorithms via Spectral Graph Theory

Abstract: Randomization is a powerful tool for algorithms; it is often easier to design efficient algorithms if we allow the algorithms to “toss coins” and output a correct answer with high probability. However, a longstanding conjecture in theoretical computer science is that every randomized algorithm can be efficiently “derandomized” — converted into a deterministic algorithm (which always outputs the correct answer) with only a polynomial increase in running time and only a constant-factor increase in space (i.e. memory usage).

In this talk, I will describe an approach to proving the space (as opposed to time) version of this conjecture via spectral graph theory. Specifically, I will explain how randomized space-bounded algorithms are described by random walks on directed graphs, and techniques in algorithmic spectral graph theory (e.g. solving Laplacian systems) have yielded deterministic space-efficient algorithms for approximating the behavior of such random walks on undirected graphs and Eulerian directed graphs (where every vertex has the same in-degree as out-degree). If these algorithms can be extended to general directed graphs, then the aforementioned conjecture about derandomizing space-efficient algorithms will be resolved.



Jose Scheinkman


This colloquium will be rescheduled at a later date. 

Title: Menu Costs and the Volatility of Inflation

Abstract: We present a state-dependent equilibrium pricing model that generates inflation rate fluctuations from idiosyncratic shocks to the cost of price changes of individual firms.  A firm’s nominal price increase lowers other firms’ relative prices, thereby inducing further nominal price increases. We first study a mean-field limit where the equilibrium is characterized by a variational inequality and exhibits a constant rate of inflation. We use the limit model to show that in the presence of a large but finite number n of firms the snowball effect of repricing causes fluctuations to the aggregate price level  and these fluctuations converge to zero slowly as n grows. The fluctuations caused by this mechanism are larger when the density of firms at the repricing threshold is high, and the density at the threshold is high when the trend inflation level is high. However a calibration to US data shows that this mechanism is quantitatively important even at modest levels of trend inflation and  can account for the positive relationship between inflation level and volatility that has been observed empirically.


4:00 – 5:00pm

Daniel Forger (University of Michigan) This meeting will be taking place virtually on Zoom.

Title: Math, Music and the Mind; Mathematical analysis of the performed Trio Sonatas of J. S. Bach

Abstract: I will describe a collaborative project with the University of Michigan Organ Department to perfectly digitize many performances of difficult organ works (the Trio Sonatas by J.S. Bach) by students and faculty at many skill levels. We use these digitizations, and direct representations of the score to ask how music should encoded in the mind. Our results challenge the modern mathematical theory of music encoding, e.g., based on orbifolds, and reveal surprising new mathematical patterns in Bach’s music. We also discover ways in which biophysical limits of neuronal computation may limit performance.

Daniel Forger is the Robert W. and Lynn H. Browne Professor of Science, Professor of Mathematics and Research Professor of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics at the University of Michigan. He is also a visiting scholar at Harvard’s NSF-Simons Center and an Associate of the American Guild of Organists.

3/25/2020 Cancelled
4/1/2020 Mauricio Santillana (Harvard) This meeting will be taking place virtually on Zoom.

Title: Data-driven machine learning approaches to monitor and predict events in healthcare. From population-level disease outbreaks to patient-level monitoring

Abstract: I will describe data-driven machine learning methodologies that leverage Internet-based information from search engines, Twitter microblogs, crowd-sourced disease surveillance systems, electronic medical records, and weather information to successfully monitor and forecast disease outbreaks in multiple locations around the globe in near real-time. I will also present data-driven machine learning methodologies that leverage continuous-in-time information coming from bedside monitors in Intensive Care Units (ICU) to help improve patients’ health outcomes and reduce hospital costs.

4/8/2020 Juven Wang (CMSA) This meeting will be taking place virtually on Zoom.

Title: Quantum Matter Adventure to Fundamental Physics and Mathematics (Continued)

Abstract: In 1956, Parity violation in Weak Interactions is confirmed in particle physics. The maximal parity violation now is a Standard Model physics textbook statement, but it goes without any down-to-earth explanation for long. Why? We will see how the recent physics development in Quantum Matter may guide us to give an adventurous story and possibly a new elementary
explanation.  We will see how the topology and cobordism in mathematics may come into play of anomalies and non-perturbative interactions in
fundamental physics. Perhaps some of you (geometers,  string theorists, etc.) can team up with me to understand the “boundary conditions” of the Standard Model and Beyond

Lars Andersson (Max-Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics)
This meeting will be taking place virtually on Zoom.

Title: Stability of spacetimes with supersymmetric compactifications

Abstract: Spacetimes with compact directions, which have special holonomy such as Calabi-Yau spaces, play an important role in supergravity and string theory. In this talk I will discuss the global, non-linear stability for the vacuum Einstein equations on a spacetime which is a cartesian product of a high dimensional Minkowski space with a compact Ricci flat internal space with special holonomy. I will start by giving a brief overview of related stability problems which have received a lot of attention recently, including the black hole stability problem. This is based on joint work with Pieter Blue, Zoe Wyatt and Shing-Tung Yau.

4/22/2020 William Minicozzi (MIT) This meeting will be taking place virtually on Zoom.

Title: Mean curvature flow in high codimension

Abstract: I will talk about joint work with Toby Colding on higher codimension mean curvature flow.  Some of the ideas come from function theory on manifolds with Ricci curvature bounds.

4/29/2020 Gerhard Huisken (Tübingen University / MFO) This meeting will be taking place virtually on Zoom.

Title: Mean curvature flow of mean-convex embedded 2-surfaces in 3-manifolds

Abstract: The lecture describes joint work with Simon Brendle on the deformation of embedded surfaces with positive mean curvature in Riemannian 3-manifolds in direction of their mean curvature vector. It is described how to find long-time solutions of this flow, possibly including singularities that are overcome by surgery, leading to a comprehensive description of embedded mean-convex surfaces and the regions they bound in a 3-manifold. The flow can be used to sweep out the region between space-like infinity and the outermost horizon in asymptotically flat 3-manifolds arising in General Relativity. (Joint with Simon Brendle.)

5/6/2020 Lydia Bieri (UMich) This meeting will be taking place virtually on Zoom.

Title: Energy, Mass and Radiation in General Spacetimes

Abstract: In Mathematical General Relativity (GR) the Einstein equations describe the laws of the universe. Isolated gravitating systems such as binary stars, black holes or galaxies can be described in GR by asymptotically flat (AF) solutions of these equations. These are solutions that look like flat Minkowski space outside of spatially compact regions. There are well-defined notions for energy and mass for such systems. The energy-matter content as well as the dynamics of such a system dictate the decay rates at which the solution tends to the flat one at infinity. Interesting questions occur for very general AF systems of slow decay. We are also interested in spacetimes with pure radiation. In this talk, I will review what is known for these systems. Then we will concentrate on spacetimes with pure radiation. In particular, we will compare the situations of incoming radiation and outgoing radiation under various circumstances and what we can read off from future null infinity.

5/13/2020 Mikhail Lukin (Harvard)


This meeting will be taking place virtually on Zoom.

Title: Exploring New Frontiers of Quantum Science with Programmable Atom Arrays

Abstract: We will discuss recent work at a new scientific interface between  many-body physics and quantum information science. Specifically, we will  describe the advances involving programmable, coherent manipulation of quantum many-body systems using atom arrays excited into Rydberg states. Within this system we performed quantum simulations of one dimensional spin models, discovered a new type of non-equilibrium quantum dynamics associated with the so-called many body scars and created large-scale entangled states. We will also describe the most recent developments that now allow the control over 200 atoms in two-dimensional arrays.   Ongoing efforts  to study exotic many-body phenomena and to realize and test quantum optimization algorithms within such systems will be discussed.

5/20/2020 This meeting will be taking place virtually on Zoom.

Fall 2019

Date Speaker Title/Abstract
9/18/2019 Bill Helton (UC San Diego) Title:  A taste of noncommutative convex algebraic geometry

Abstract: The last decade has seen the development of a substantial noncommutative (in a free algebra) real and complex algebraic geometry. The aim of the subject is to develop a systematic theory of equations and inequalities for (noncommutative) polynomials or rational functions of matrix variables. Such issues occur in linear systems engineering problems, in free probability (random matrices), and in quantum information theory. In many ways the noncommutative (NC) theory is much cleaner than classical (real) algebraic geometry. For example,

◦ A NC polynomial, whose value is positive semidefinite whenever you plug matrices into it, is a sum of squares of NC polynomials.

◦ A convex NC semialgebraic set has a linear matrix inequality representation.

◦ The natural Nullstellensatz are falling into place.

The goal of the talk is to give a taste of a few basic results and some idea of how these noncommutative problems occur in engineering. The subject is just beginning and so is accessible without much background. Much of the work is joint with Igor Klep who is also visiting CMSA for the Fall of 2019.

9/25/2019 Pavel Etingof (MIT)


Title: Double affine Hecke algebras

Abstract: Double affine Hecke algebras (DAHAs) were introduced by I. Cherednik in the early 1990s to prove Macdonald’s conjectures. A DAHA is the quotient of the group algebra of the elliptic braid group attached to a root system by Hecke relations. DAHAs and their degenerations are now central objects of representation theory. They also have numerous connections to many other fields — integrable systems, quantum groups, knot theory, algebraic geometry, combinatorics, and others. In my talk, I will discuss the basic properties of double affine Hecke algebras and touch upon some applications.

10/2/2019 Spiro Karigiannis (University of Waterloo) Title: Cohomologies on almost complex manifolds and their applications

Abstract: We define three cohomologies on an almost complex manifold (M, J), defined using the Nijenhuis-Lie derivations induced from the almost complex structure J and its Nijenhuis tensor N, regarded as vector-valued forms on M. One of these can be applied to distinguish non-isomorphic non-integrable almost complex structures on M. Another one, the J-cohomology, is familiar in the integrable case but we extend its definition and applicability to the case of non-integrable almost complex structures. The J-cohomology encodes whether a complex manifold satisfies the “del-delbar-lemma”, and more generally in the non-integrable case the J-cohomology encodes whether (M, J) satisfies a generalization of this lemma. We also mention some other potential cohomologies on almost complex manifolds, related to an interesting question involving the Nijenhuis tensor. This is joint work with Ki Fung Chan and Chi Cheuk Tsang.

10/9/2019 Hans Lindblad (Johns Hopkins University) Title:  Global Existence and Scattering for Einstein’s equations and related equations satisfying the weak null condition


Abstract: Einstein’s equations in harmonic or wave coordinates are a system of nonlinear wave equations for a Lorentzian metric, that in addition  satisfy the preserved wave coordinate condition.


Christodoulou-Klainerman proved global existence for Einstein vacuum equations for small asymptotically flat initial data. Their proof avoids using coordinates since it was believed the metric in harmonic coordinates would blow up for large times.

John had noticed that solutions to some nonlinear wave equations blow up for small data, whereas  lainerman came up with the ‘null condition’, that guaranteed global existence for small data. However Einstein’s equations do not satisfy the null condition.

Hormander introduced a simplified asymptotic system by neglecting angular derivatives which we expect decay faster due to the rotational invariance, and used it to study blowup. I showed that the asymptotic system corresponding to the quasilinear part of Einstein’s equations does not blow up and gave an example of a nonlinear equation of this form that has global solutions even though it does not satisfy the null condition.

Together with Rodnianski we introduced the ‘weak null condition’ requiring that the corresponding asymptotic system have global solutions and we showed that Einstein’s equations in wave coordinates satisfy the weak null condition and we proved global existence for this system. Our method reduced the proof to afraction and has now been used to prove global existence also with matter fields.

Recently I derived precise asymptotics for the metric which involves logarithmic corrections to the radiation field of solutions of linear wave equations. We are further imposing these asymptotics at infinity and solve the equationsbackwards to obtain global solutions with given data at infinity.

10/16/2019 Aram Harrow (MIT)


Title: Monogamy of entanglement and convex geometry

Abstract: The SoS (sum of squares) hierarchy is a flexible algorithm that can be used to optimize polynomials and to test whether a quantum state is entangled or separable. (Remarkably, these two problems are nearly isomorphic.) These questions lie at the boundary of P, NP and the unique games conjecture, but it is in general open how well the SoS algorithm performs. I will discuss how ideas from quantum information (the “monogamy” property of entanglement) can be used to understand this algorithm. Then I will describe an alternate algorithm that relies on apparently different tools from convex geometry that achieves similar performance. This is an example of a series of remarkable parallels between SoS algorithms and simpler algorithms that exhaustively search over carefully chosen sets. Finally, I will describe known limitations on SoS algorithms for these problems.

10/23/2019 No talk
10/30/2019 Nima Arkani-Hamed (IAS)


Title: Spacetime, Quantum Mechanics and Positive Geometry at Infinity
11/6/2019 Kevin Costello (Perimeter Institute)


Title: A unified perspective on integrability


Abstract: Two dimensional integrable field theories, and the integrable PDEs which are their classical limits, play an important role in mathematics and physics.   I will describe a geometric construction of integrable field theories which yields (essentially) all known integrable theories as well as many new ones. Billiard dynamical systems will play a surprising role. Based on work (partly in progress) with Gaiotto, Lee, Yamazaki, Witten, and Wu.

11/13/2019 Heather  Harrington (University of Oxford) Title:  Algebra, Geometry and Topology of ERK Enzyme Kinetics

Abstract: In this talk I will analyse ERK time course data by developing mathematical models of enzyme kinetics. I will present how we can use differential algebra and geometry for model identifiability and topological data analysis to study these the wild type dynamics of ERK and ERK mutants. This work is joint with Lewis Marsh, Emilie Dufresne, Helen Byrne and Stanislav Shvartsman.

11/20/2019 Xi Yin (Harvard)


Title: An Introduction to the Non-Perturbative Bootstrap

Abstract: I will discuss non-perturbative definitions of quantum field theories, some properties of correlation functions of local operators, and give a brief overview of some results and open questions concerning the conformal bootstrap



Madhu Sudan (Harvard)
Abstract: The task of manipulating randomness has been a subject of intense investigation in the theory of computer science. The classical definition of this task consider a single processor massaging random samples from an unknown source and trying to convert it into a sequence of uniform independent bits.

In this talk I will talk about a less studied setting where randomness is distributed among different players who would like to convert this randomness to others forms with relatively little communication. For instance players may be given access to a source of biased correlated bits, and their goal may be to get a common random bit out of this source. Even in the setting where the source is known this can lead to some interesting questions that have been explored since the 70s with striking constructions and some surprisingly hard questions. After giving some background, I will describe a recent work which explores the task of extracting common randomness from correlated sources with bounds on the number of rounds of interaction.

Based on joint works with Mitali Bafna (Harvard), Badih Ghazi (Google) and Noah Golowich (Harvard).

12/4/2019 Xiao-Gang Wen (MIT)
Title: Emergence of graviton-like excitations from a lattice model

Abstract: I will review some construction of lattice rotor model which give rise to emergent photons and graviton-like excitations. The appearance of vector-like charge and symmetric tensor field may be related to gapless fracton phases.


Date Speaker Title/Abstract
9/26/2018 Xiao-Gang Wen (MIT) Title: A classification of low dimensional topological orders and fully extended TQFTs

Abstract: In this talk, I will review the recent progress on classification of gapped phases of quantum matter (ie topological orders) in 1,2, and 3 spatial dimensions for boson systems. In 1-dimension, there is no non-trivial topological orders. In 2-dimensions, the topological orders are classified by modular tensor category theory. In 3-dimensions, the topological orders are classified by a simple class of braided fusion 2-categories. The classification of topological orders may correspond to a classification of fully extended unitary TQFTs.

10/03/2018 Richard Schoen (Stanford) Title: Perspectives on the scalar curvature

Abstract: This will be a general talk concerning the role that the scalar curvature plays in Riemannian geometry and general relativity. We will describe recent work on extending the known results to all dimensions, and other issues which are being actively studied.

10/10/2018 Justin Solomon (MIT) Title: Correspondence and Optimal Transport for Geometric Data Processing

Abstract: Correspondence problems involving matching of two or more geometric domains find application across disciplines, from machine learning to computer vision. A basic theoretical framework involving correspondence along geometric domains is optimal transport (OT). Dating back to early economic applications, the OT problem has received renewed interest thanks to its applicability to problems in machine learning, computer graphics, geometry, and other disciplines. The main barrier to wide adoption of OT as a modeling tool is the expense of optimization in OT problems. In this talk, I will summarize efforts in my group to make large-scale transport tractable over a variety of domains and in a variety of application scenarios, helping transition OT from theory to practice. In addition, I will show how OT can be used as a unit in algorithms for solving a variety of problems involving the processing of geometrically-structured data.

10/17/2018 Jeremy England (MIT) Title: Wisdom of the Jumble

Abstract: There are certain, specific behaviors that are particularly distinctive of life. For example, living things self-replicate, harvest energy from challenging environmental sources, and translate experiences of past and present into actions that accurately anticipate the predictable parts of their future. What all of these activities have in common from a physics standpoint is that they generally take place under conditions where the pronounced flow of heat sharpens the arrow of time. We have therefore sought to use thermodynamics to understand the emergence and persistence of life-like phenomena in a wide range of messy systems made of many interacting components.

In this talk I will discuss some of the recent insights we have gleaned from studying emergent fine-tuning in disordered collections of matter exposed to complexly patterned environments. I will also point towards future possible applications in the design of new, more life-like ways of computing that have the potential to either be cheaper or more powerful than existing means.

10/31/2018 Moon Duchin (Tufts) Title: Exploring the (massive) space of graph partitions

Abstract: The problem of electoral redistricting can be set up as a search of the space of partitions of a graph (representing the units of a state or other jurisdiction) subject to constraints (state and federal rules about the properties of districts).  I’ll survey the problem and some approaches to studying it, with an emphasis on the deep mathematical questions it raises, from combinatorial enumeration to discrete differential geometry to dynamics.

11/14/2018 Dusa McDuff (Columbia) Title: The virtual fundamental class in symplectic geometry

Abstract: Essential to many constructions and applications of symplectic  geometry is the ability to count J-holomorphic curves. The moduli spaces of such curves have well  understood compactifications, and if cut out transversally are oriented manifolds of dimension equal to the index of the problem, so  that they a fundamental class that can be used to count curves. In the general case, when the defining equation is not transverse, there  are various different approaches to constructing a representative for this class, We will discuss and compare different approaches to such a  construction e.g. using polyfolds or various kinds of finite dimensional reduction. Most of this is joint work with Katrin Wehrheim.

11/19/2018 Xiaoqin Wang (Johns Hopkins) Title: Computational Principles of Auditory Cortex

Abstract: Auditory cortex is located at the top of a hierarchical processing pathway in the brain that encodes acoustic information. This brain region is crucial for speech and music perception and vocal production. Auditory cortex has long been considered a difficult brain region to study and remained one of less understood sensory cortices. Studies have shown that neural computation in auditory cortex is highly nonlinear. In contrast to other sensory systems, the auditory system has a longer pathway between sensory receptors and the cerebral cortex. This unique organization reflects the needs of the auditory system to process time-varying and spectrally overlapping acoustic signals entering the ears from all spatial directions at any given time. Unlike visual or somatosensory cortices, auditory cortex must also process and differentiate sounds that are externally generated or self-produced (during speaking). Neural representations of acoustic information in auditory cortex are shaped by auditory feedback and vocal control signals during speaking. Our laboratory has developed a unique and highly vocal non-human primate model (the common marmoset) and quantitative tools to study neural mechanisms underlying audition and vocal communication.

11/28/2018 Robert Haslhofer (University of Toronto) Title: Recent progress on mean curvature flow

Abstract: A family of surfaces moves by mean curvature flow if the velocity at each point is given by the mean curvature vector. Mean curvature flow is the most natural evolution in extrinsic geometry and shares many features with Hamilton’s Ricci flow from intrinsic geometry. In the first half of the talk, I will give an overview of the well developed theory in the mean convex case, i.e. when the mean curvature vector everywhere on the surface points inwards. Mean convex mean curvature flow can be continued through all singularities either via surgery or as level set solution, with a precise structure theory for the singular set. In the second half of the talk, I will report on recent progress in the general case without any curvature assumptions. Namely, I will describe our solution of the mean convex neighborhood conjecture and the nonfattening conjecture, as well as a general classification result for all possible blowup limits near spherical or cylindrical singularities. In particular, assuming Ilmanen’s multiplicity one conjecture, we conclude that for embedded two-spheres the mean curvature flow through singularities is well-posed. This is joint work with Kyeongsu Choi and Or Hershkovits.

12/5/2018 Robert McCann (University of Toronto) Title: Displacement convexity of Boltzmann’s entropy characterizes positive energy in general relativity

Abstract: Einstein’s theory of gravity is based on assuming that the fluxes of a energy and momentum in a physical system are proportional to a certain variant of the Ricci curvature tensor on a smooth 3+1 dimensional spacetime. The fact that gravity is attractive rather than repulsive is encoded in the positivity properties which this tensor is assumed to satisfy. Hawking and Penrose (1971) used this positivity of energy to give conditions under which smooth spacetimes must develop singularities. By lifting fractional powers of the Lorentz distance between points on a globally hyperbolic spacetime to probability measures on spacetime events, we show that the strong energy condition of Hawking and Penrose is equivalent to convexity of the Boltzmann-Shannon entropy along the resulting geodesics of  probability measures. This new characterization of the strong energy condition on globally hyperbolic manifolds also makes sense in (non-smooth) metric measure settings, where it has the potential to provide a framework for developing a theory of gravity which admits certain singularities and can be continued beyond them. It provides a Lorentzian analog of Lott, Villani and Sturm’s metric-measure theory of lower Ricci bounds, and hints at new connections linking gravity to the second law of thermodynamics.

Preprint available at

12/12/2018 Zhiwei Yun (MIT) Title: Shtukas: what and why

Abstract: This talk is of expository nature. Drinfeld introduced the notion of Shtukas and the moduli space of them. I will review how Shtukas compare to more familiar objects in geometry, how they are used in the Langlands program, and what remains to be done about them.

1/30/2019 Richard Freeman (Harvard) Title:  Innovation in Cell Phones in the US and China: Who Improves Technology Faster?

Abstract:  Cell phones are the archetypical modern consumer innovation, spreading around the world at an incredible pace, extensively used for connecting people with the Internet and diverse apps.  Consumers report spending from 2-5 hours a day at their cell phones, with 44% of Americans saying “couldn’t go a day without their mobile devices.” Cell phone manufacturers introduce new models regularly, embodying additional features while other firms produce new applications that increase demand for the phones.  Using newly developed data on the prices, attributes, and sales of different models in the US and China, this paper estimates the magnitude of technological change in the phones in the 2000s. It explores the problems of analyzing a product with many interactive attributes in the standard hedonic price regression model and uses Principal Components Regression to reduce dimensionality.  The main finding is that technology improved the value of cell phones at comparable rates in the US and China, despite different market structures and different evaluations of some attributes and brands. The study concludes with a discussion of ways to evaluate the economic surplus created by the cell phones and their contribution to economic well-being.



Ulrich Mueller (Princeton) Title: Inference for the Mean

Abstract: Consider inference about the mean of a population with finite variance, based on an i.i.d. sample. The usual t-statistic yields correct inference in large samples, but heavy tails induce poor small sample behavior. This paper combines extreme value theory for the smallest and largest observations with a normal approximation for the t-statistic of a truncated sample to obtain more accurate inference. This alternative approximation is shown to provide a refinement over the standard normal approximation to the full sample t-statistic under more than two but less than three moments, while the bootstrap does not. Small sample simulations suggest substantial size improvements over the bootstrap.

2/13/2019 Christian Santangelo (UMass Amherst) Title: 4D printing with folding forms

Abstract: 4D printing is the name given to a set of advanced manufacturing techniques for designing flat materials that, upon application of a stimulus, fold and deform into a target three-dimensional shapes. The successful design of such structures requires an understanding of geometry as it applies to the mechanics of thin, elastic sheets. Thus, 4D printing provides a playground for both the development of new theoretical tools as well as old tools applied to new problems and experimental challenges in soft materials. I will describe our group’s efforts to understand and design structures that can fold from an initially flat sheet to target three-dimensional shapes. After reviewing the state-of-the-art in the theory of 4D printing, I will describe recent results on the folding and misfolding of flat structures and highlight the challenges remaining to be overcome.

2/20/2019 Michael Woodford (Columbia) Title: Optimally Imprecise Memory and Biased Forecasts

Abstract: We propose a model of optimal decision making subject to a memory constraint. The constraint is a limit on the complexity of memory measured using Shannon’s mutual information, as in models of rational inattention; the structure of the imprecise memory is optimized (for a given decision problem and noisy environment) subject to this constraint. We characterize the form of the optimally imprecise memory, and show that the model implies that both forecasts and actions will exhibit idiosyncratic random variation; that beliefs will fluctuate forever around the rational-expectations (perfect-memory) beliefs with a variance that does not fall to zero; and that more recent news will be given disproportionate weight. The model provides a simple explanation for a number of features of observed forecast bias in laboratory and field settings.

[authors: Rava Azeredo da Silveira (ENS) and Michael Woodford (Columbia)]



Ian Martin (LSE) Title: Sentiment and Speculation in a Market with Heterogeneous Beliefs

Abstract: We present a dynamic model featuring risk-averse investors with heterogeneous beliefs. Individual investors have stable beliefs and risk aversion, but agents who were correct in hindsight become relatively wealthy; their beliefs are overrepresented in market sentiment, so “the market” is bullish following good news and bearish following bad news. Extreme states are far more important than in a homogeneous economy. Investors understand that sentiment drives volatility up, and demand high risk premia in compensation. Moderate investors supply liquidity: they trade against market sentiment in the hope of capturing a variance risk premium created by the presence of extremists. [with Dimitris Papadimitriou]



Philippe Sosoe (Cornell) Title:  A sharp transition for Gibbs measures associated to the nonlinear Schrödinger equation

Abstract:  In 1987, Lebowitz, Rose and Speer (LRS) showed how to construct formally invariant measures for the nonlinear Schrödinger equation on the torus. This seminal contribution spurred a large amount of activity in the area of partial differential equations with random initial data. In this talk, I will explain LRS’s result, and discuss a sharp transition in the construction of the Gibbs-type invariant measures considered by these authors.  (Joint work with Tadahiro Oh and Leonardo Tolomeo)



Greg Galloway (University of Miami) Title:  On the geometry and topology of initial data sets in General Relativity

Abstract:  A theme of long standing interest (to the speaker!)  concerns the relationship between the topology of spacetime and the occurrence of singularities (causal geodesic incompleteness).  Many results concerning this center around the notion of topological censorship, which has to do with the idea that the region outside all black holes (and white holes) should be simple.  The aim of the results to be presented is to provide support for topological censorship at the pure initial data level, thereby circumventing difficult issues of global evolution. The proofs rely on the recently developed theory of marginally outer trapped surfaces,  which are natural spacetime analogues of minimal surfaces in Riemannian geometry. The talk will begin with a brief overview of general relativity and topological censorship. The talk is based primarily on joint work with various collaborators: Lars Andersson, Mattias Dahl, Michael Eichmair and Dan Pollack.

3/20/2019 Sonia Jaffe (Microsoft) Title:  Quality Externalities on Platforms:  The Case of Airbnb

Abstract:  We explore quality externalities on platforms:  when buyers have limited information, a seller’s quality affects whether her buyers return to the platform, thereby impacting other sellers’ future business.  We propose an intuitive measure of this externality, applicable across a range of platforms. Guest Return Propensity (GRP) is the aggregate propensity of a seller’s customers to return to the platform.  We validate this metric using Airbnb data: matching customers to listings with a one standard deviation higher GRP causes them to take 17% more subsequent trips. By directing buyers to higher-GRP sellers, platforms may be able to increase overall seller surplus.  (Joint work with Peter Coles, Steven Levitt, and Igor Popov.)



Tatyana Sharpee (Salk Institute for Biological Studies) Title: Hyperbolic geometry of the olfactory space.

Abstract: The sense of smell can be used to avoid poisons or estimate a food’s nutrition content because biochemical reactions create many by-products. Thus, the presence of certain bacteria in the food becomes associated with the emission of certain volatile compounds. This perspective suggests that it would be convenient for the nervous system encode odors based on statistics of their co-occurrence within natural mixtures rather than based on the chemical structure per se. I will discuss how this statistical perspective makes it possible to map odors to points in a hyperbolic space. Hyperbolic coordinates have a long but often underappreciated history of relevance to biology. For example, these coordinates approximate distance between species computed along dendograms, and more generally between points within hierarchical tree-like networks. We find that these coordinates, which were generated purely based on the statistics of odors in the natural environment, provide a contiguous map of human odor pleasantness. Further, a separate analysis of human perceptual descriptions of smells indicates that these also generate a three dimensional hyperbolic representation of odors. This match in geometries between natural odor statistics and human perception can help to minimize distortions that would otherwise arise when mapping odors to perception. We identify three axes in the perceptual space that are aligned with odor pleasantness, its molecular boiling point and acidity. Because the perceptual space is curved, one can predict odor pleasantness by knowing the coordinates along the molecular boiling point and acidity axes.



Sarah Moshary (Chicago Booth) Title:  Deregulation through Direct Democracy:  Lessons from Liquor

Abstract:  This paper examines the merits of state control versus private provision of spirits retail, using the 2012 deregulation of liquor sales in Washington state as an event study. We document effects along a number of dimensions: prices, product variety, convenience, substitution to other goods, state revenue, and consumption externalities. We estimate a demand system to evaluate the net effect of privatization on consumer welfare. Our findings suggest that deregulation harmed the median Washingtonian, even though residents voted in favor of deregulation by a 16% margin. Further, we find that vote shares for the deregulation initiative do not reflect welfare gains at the ZIP code level. We discuss implications of our findings for the efficacy of direct democracy as a policy tool.



Pietro Veronesi (Chicago Booth) Title: Inequality Aversion, Populism, and the Backlash Against Globalization

Abstract: Motivated by the recent rise of populism in western democracies, we develop a model in which a populist backlash emerges endogenously in a growing economy. In the model, voters dislike inequality, especially the high consumption of “elites.” Economic growth exacerbates inequality due to heterogeneity in risk aversion. In response to rising inequality, rich-country voters optimally elect a populist promising to end globalization. Countries with more inequality, higher financial development, and current account deficits are more vulnerable to populism, both in the model and in the data. Evidence on who voted for Brexit and Trump in 2016 also supports the model.


Online Appendix

4/17/2019 Yi-Zhuang You (UCSD) Title: Machine Learning Physics: From Quantum Mechanics to Holographic Geometry

Abstract: Inspired by the “third wave” of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning has found rapid applications in various topics of physics research. Perhaps one of the most ambitious goals of machine learning physics is to develop novel approaches that ultimately allows AI to discover new concepts and governing equations of physics from experimental observations. In this talk, I will present our progress in applying machine learning technique to reveal the quantum wave function of Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) and the holographic geometry of conformal field theories. In the first part, we apply machine translation to learn the mapping between potential and density profiles of BEC and show how the concept of quantum wave function can emerge in the latent space of the translator and how the Schrodinger equation is formulated as a recurrent neural network. In the second part, we design a generative model to learn the field theory configuration of the XY model and show how the machine can identify the holographic bulk degrees of freedom and use them to probe the emergent holographic geometry.


[1] C. Wang, H. Zhai, Y.-Z. You. Uncover the Black Box of Machine Learning Applied to Quantum Problem by an Introspective Learning Architecture

[2] H.-Y. Hu, S.-H. Li, L. Wang, Y.-Z. You. Machine Learning Holographic Mapping by Neural Network Renormalization Group

[3] Y.-Z. You, Z. Yang, X.-L. Qi. Machine Learning Spatial Geometry from Entanglement Features

4/24/2019 Shengwu Li (Harvard)
Abstract: Consider an extensive-form mechanism, run by an auctioneer who communicates sequentially and privately with agents. Suppose the auctioneer can deviate from the rules provided that no single agent detects the deviation. A mechanism is credible if it is incentive-compatible for the auctioneer to follow the rules. We study the optimal auctions in which only winners pay, under symmetric independent private values. The first-price auction is the unique credible static mechanism. The ascending auction is the unique credible strategy-proof mechanism.
Date………… Speaker Title
02-09-2018 *Friday        Fan Chung


Sequences: random, structured or something in between

There are many fundamental problems concerning sequences that arise in many areas of mathematics and computation. Typical problems include finding or avoiding patterns;

testing or validating various `random-like’ behavior; analyzing or comparing different statistics, etc. In this talk, we will examine various notions of regularity or irregularity for sequences and mention numerous open problems.

02-14-2018 Zhengwei Liu

(Harvard Physics)

A new program on quantum subgroups

Abstract: Quantum subgroups have been studied since the 1980s. The A, D, E classification of subgroups of quantum SU(2) is a quantum analogue of the McKay correspondence. It turns out to be related to various areas in mathematics and physics. Inspired by the quantum McKay correspondence, we introduce a new program that our group at Harvard is developing.

02-21-2018 Don Rubin


Essential concepts of causal inference — a remarkable history

Abstract: I believe that a deep understanding of cause and effect, and how to estimate causal effects from data, complete with the associated mathematical notation and expressions, only evolved in the twentieth century. The crucial idea of randomized experiments was apparently first proposed in 1925 in the context of agricultural field trails but quickly moved to be applied also in studies of animal breeding and then in industrial manufacturing. The conceptual understanding seemed to be tied to ideas that were developing in quantum mechanics. The key ideas of randomized experiments evidently were not applied to studies of human beings until the 1950s, when such experiments began to be used in controlled medical trials, and then in social science — in education and economics. Humans are more complex than plants and animals, however, and with such trials came the attendant complexities of non-compliance with assigned treatment and the occurrence of “Hawthorne” and placebo effects. The formal application of the insights from earlier simpler experimental settings to more complex ones dealing with people, started in the 1970s and continue to this day, and include the bridging of classical mathematical ideas of experimentation, including fractional replication and geometrical formulations from the early twentieth century, with modern ideas that rely on powerful computing to implement aspects of design and analysis.

02-26-2018 *Monday Tom Hou


Computer-assisted analysis of singularity formation of a regularized 3D Euler equation

Abstract: Whether the 3D incompressible Euler equation can develop a singularity in finite time from smooth initial data is one of the most challenging problems in mathematical fluid dynamics. This question is closely related to the Clay Millennium Problem on 3D Navier-Stokes Equations. In a recent joint work with Dr. Guo Luo, we provided convincing numerical evidence that the 3D Euler equation develops finite time singularities. Inspired by this finding, we have recently developed an integrated analysis and computation strategy to analyze the finite time singularity of a regularized 3D Euler equation. We first transform the regularized 3D Euler equation into an equivalent dynamic rescaling formulation. We then study the stability of an approximate self-similar solution. By designing an appropriate functional space and decomposing the solution into a low frequency part and a high frequency part, we prove nonlinear stability of the dynamic rescaling equation around the approximate self-similar solution, which implies the existence of the finite time blow-up of the regularized 3D Euler equation. This is a joint work with Jiajie Chen, De Huang, and Dr. Pengfei Liu.

03-07-2018 Richard Kenyon


Harmonic functions and the chromatic polynomial

Abstract: When we solve the Dirichlet problem on a graph, we look for a harmonic function with fixed boundary values. Associated to such a harmonic function is the Dirichlet energy on each edge. One can reverse the problem, and ask if, for some choice of conductances on the edges, one can find a harmonic function attaining any given tuple of edge energies. We show how the number of solutions to this problem is related to the chromatic polynomial, and also discuss some geometric applications. This talk is based on joint work with Aaron Abrams and Wayne Lam.

03-28-2018 Andrea Montanari (Stanford) A Mean Field View of the Landscape of Two-Layers Neural Networks

Abstract: Multi-layer neural networks are among the most powerful models in machine learning and yet, the fundamental reasons for this success defy mathematical understanding. Learning a neural network requires to optimize a highly non-convex and high-dimensional objective (risk function), a problem which is usually attacked using stochastic gradient descent (SGD).  Does SGD converge to a global optimum of the risk or only to a local optimum? In the first case, does this happen because local minima are absent, or because SGD somehow avoids them? In the second, why do local minima reached by SGD have good generalization properties?

We consider a simple case, namely two-layers neural networks, and prove that –in a suitable scaling limit– the SGD dynamics is captured by a certain non-linear partial differential equation. We then consider several specific examples, and show how the asymptotic description can be used to prove convergence of SGD to network with nearly-ideal generalization error. This description allows to `average-out’ some of the complexities of the landscape of neural networks, and can be used to capture some important variants of SGD as well.
[Based on joint work with Song Mei and Phan-Minh Nguyen]

04-04-2018 Ramesh Narayan 


Black Holes and Naked Singularities

Abstract: Black Hole solutions in General Relativity contain Event Horizons and
Singularities. Astrophysicists have discovered two populations of
black hole candidates in the Universe: stellar-mass objects with
masses in the range 5 to 30 solar masses, and supermassive objects
with masses in the range million to several billion solar
masses. There is considerable evidence that these objects have Event
Horizons. It thus appears that astronomical black hole candidates are
true Black Holes. Direct evidence for Singularities is much harder to
obtain since, at least in the case of Black Holes, the Singularities
are hidden inside the Event Horizon. However, General Relativity also
permits Naked Singularities which are visible to external
observers. Toy Naked Singularity models have been constructed, and
some observational features of accretion flows in these spacetimes
have been worked out.

04-11-2018 Pablo Parrilo


Graph Structure in Polynomial Systems: Chordal Networks

Abstract: The sparsity structure of a system of polynomial equations or an optimization problem can be naturally described by a graph summarizing the interactions among the decision variables. It is natural to wonder whether the structure of this graph might help in computational algebraic geometry tasks (e.g., in solving the system). In this lecture we will provide a gentle introduction to this area, focused on the key notions of chordality and treewidth, which are of great importance in related areas such as numerical linear algebra, database theory, constraint satisfaction, and graphical models. In particular, we will discuss “chordal networks”, a novel representation of structured polynomial systems that provides a computationally convenient decomposition of a polynomial ideal into simpler (triangular) polynomial sets, while maintaining its underlying graphical structure. As we will illustrate through examples from different application domains, algorithms based on chordal networks can significantly outperform existing techniques. Based on joint work with Diego Cifuentes (MIT).

04-18-2018 Washington Taylor


On the fibration structure of known Calabi-Yau threefolds

Abstract: In recent years, there is increasing evidence from a variety of directions, including the physics of F-theory and new generalized CICY constructions, that a large fraction of known Calabi-Yau manifolds have a genus one or elliptic fibration. In this talk I will describe recent work with Yu-Chien Huang on a systematic analysis of the fibration structure of known toric hypersurface Calabi-Yau threefolds. Among other results, this analysis shows that every known Calabi-Yau threefold with either Hodge number exceeding 150 is genus one or elliptically fibered, and suggests that the fraction of Calabi-Yau threefolds that are not genus one or elliptically fibered decreases roughly exponentially with h_{11}. I will also make some comments on the connection with the structure of triple intersection numbers in Calabi-Yau threefolds.

04-25-2018  Xi Yin


How we can learn what we need to know about M-theory

Abstract: M-theory is a quantum theory of gravity that admits an eleven dimensional Minkowskian vacuum with super-Poincare symmetry and no dimensionless coupling constant. I will review what was known about M-theory based on its relation to superstring theories, then comment on a number of open questions, and discuss how they can be addressed from holographic dualities. I will outline a strategy for extracting the S-matrix of M-theory from correlation functions of dual superconformal field theories, and in particular use it to recover the 11D R^4 coupling of M-theory from ABJM theory.



Date Name Title/Abstract
01-25-17 Sam Gershman, Harvard Center for Brain Science, Department of Psychology


Title: Spectral graph theory of cognitive maps

Abstract: The concept of a “cognitive map” has played an important role in neuroscience and psychology. A cognitive map is a representation of the environment that supports navigation and decision making. A longstanding question concerns the precise computational nature of this map. I offer a new mathematical foundation for the cognitive map, based on ideas at the intersection of spectral graph theory and reinforcement learning. Empirical data from neural recordings and behavioral experiments supports this theory.

02-01-17 Sean Eddy, Harvard Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology


Title: Biological sequence homology searches: the future of deciphering the past 

Abstract: Computational recognition of distant common ancestry of biological sequences is a key to studying ancient events in molecular evolution.The better our sequence analysis methods are, the deeper in evolutionary time we can see. A major aim in the field is to improve the resolution of homology recognition methods by building increasingly realistic, complex, parameter-rich models. I will describe current and future research in homology search algorithms based on probabilistic inference methods, using hidden Markov models(HMMs) and stochastic context-free grammars (SCFGs). We make these methods available in the HMMER and Infernal software from my laboratory, in collaboration with database teams at the EuropeanBioinformatics Institute in the UK.

02-08-17 Matthew Headrick, Brandeis University


Title: Quantum entanglement, classical gravity, and convex programming: New connections

Abstract: In recent years, developments from the study of black holes and quantum gravity have revealed a surprising connection between quantum entanglement and classical general relativity. The theory of convex programming, applied in the differential-geometry setting, turns out to be useful for understanding what’s behind this correspondence. We will describe these developments, giving the necessary background in quantum information theory and convex programming along the way.

02-15-17 Masahito Yamazaki, IMPU

Masahito Yamazaki

 Title: Geometry of 3-manifolds and Complex Chern-Simons Theory

Abstract: The geometry of 3-manifolds has been a fascinating subject in mathematics. In this talk I discuss a “quantization” of 3-manifold geometry, in the language of complex Chern-Simons theory. This Chern-Simons theory in turn is related to the physics of 30dimensional supersymmetric field theories through the so-called 3d/3d correspondence, whose origin can be traced back to a mysterious theory on the M5-branes. Along the way I will also comment on the connection with a number of related topics, such as knot theory, hyperbolic geometry, quantum dilogarithm and cluster algebras.


02-22-17 Steven Rayan, University of Saskatchewan

Title: Higgs bundles and the Hitchin system

Abstract: I will give an informal introduction to the Hitchin system, an object lying at the crossroads of geometry and physics.  As a moduli space, the Hitchin system parametrizes semistable Higgs bundles on a Riemann surface up to equivalence.  From this point of view, the Hitchin map and spectral curves emerge.  We’ll use these to form an impression of what the moduli space “looks like”.  I will also outline the appearances of the Hitchin system in dynamics, hyperkaehler geometry, and mirror symmetry.


03-01-17 Jun Liu, Harvard University

Jun liu

Title: Expansion of biological pathways by integrative Genomics

Abstract: The number of publicly available gene expression datasets has been growing dramatically. Various methods had been proposed to predict gene co-expression by integrating the publicly available datasets. These methods assume that the genes in the query gene set are homogeneously correlated and consider no gene-specific correlation tendencies, no background intra-experimental correlations, and no quality variations of different experiments. We propose a two-step algorithm called CLIC (CLustering by Inferred Co-expression) based on a coherent Bayesian model to overcome these limitations. CLIC first employs a Bayesian partition model with feature selection to partition the gene set into disjoint co-expression modules (CEMs), simultaneously assigning posterior probability of selection to each dataset. In the second step, CLIC expands each CEM by scanning the whole reference genome for candidate genes that were not in the input gene set but co-expressed with the genes in this CEM. CLIC is capable of integrating over thousands of gene expression datasets to achieve much higher coexpression prediction accuracy compared to traditional co-expression methods. Application of CLIC to ~1000 annotated human pathways and ~6000 poorly characterized human genes reveals new components of some well-studied pathways and provides strong functional predictions for some poorly characterized genes. We validated the predicted association between protein C7orf55 and ATP synthase assembly using CRISPR knock-out assays.

Based on the joint work with Yang Li and the Vamsi Mootha lab.


03-08-17 Gabor Lippner, Northeastern University


Title: Evolution of cooperation in structured populations

Abstract: Understanding how the underlying structure affects the evolution of a population is a basic, but difficult, problem in the evolutionary dynamics.  Evolutionary game theory, in particular, models the interactions between individuals as games, where different traits correspond to different strategies.  It is one of the basic approaches to explain the emergence of cooperative behavior in Darwinian evolution.

In this talk I will present new results about the model where the population is represented by an interaction network.  We study the likelihood of a random mutation spreading through the entire population.  The main question is to understand how the network influences this likelihood.  After introducing the model, I will explain how the problem is connected to the study of meeting times of random walks on graphs, and based on this connection, outline a general method to analyze the model on general networks.
03-15-17  Spring Break: No session
03-22-17 Gunther Uhlmann, University of Washington


Abstract 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 applications in optics and medical imaging among others.
The problem can be recast as a geometric problem: Can one determine a 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, joint 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.
03-29-17 Leslie Greengard, Courant InstituteLeslie_Greengard Title: Inverse problems in acoustic scattering and cryo-electron microscopy

Abstract: A variety of problems in image reconstruction give rise to large-scale, nonlinear and non-convex optimization problems. We will show how recursive linearization combined with suitable fast solvers are bringing such problems within practical reach, with an emphasis on acoustic scattering and protein structure determination via cryo-electron microscopy.

NOTE: This talk will begin at 4:00pm

04-05-17 Gongjie Li, Harvard University


Title: Unveiling the Origin of Planetary Systems by Dynamical and Statistical Approaches

Abstract: The unexpected diversity of observed extrasolar planetary systems has posed new challenges to our classical understanding of planetary formation. A lot of these challenges can be addressed by a deeper understanding of the dynamics in planetary systems, which will also allow us to construct more accurate planetary formation theories consistent with observations. In this talk, I will first explain the origin of counter orbiting planets using a new dynamical mechanism I discovered, which also has wide implications in other astrophysical systems, such as the enhancement of tidal disruption rates near supermassive black hole binaries. In addition, I will discuss the architectural properties of circumbinary planetary systems from selection biases using statistical methods, and infer the origin of such systems.


04-12-17 Shlomo Razamat, Israel Institute of Technology


Title: Complicated four-dimensional physics and simple mathematics

Abstract: We will discuss SCFTs in four dimensions obtained from compactifications of six dimensional models. We will discuss the relation of the partition functions, specifically the supersymmetric index,  of the SCFTs to certain special functions, and argue that the partition functions are expected to be naturally expressed in terms of eigenfunctions of generalizations of Ruijsenaars-Schneider models. We will discuss how the physics of the compactifications implies various precise mathematical identities involving the special functions, most of which are yet to be proven.


04-19-17 Cumrun Vafa, Harvard University


Title: String Swampland

Abstract: In this talk I review the idea behind identification of the string swampland. In particular I discuss the weak gravity conjecture as one such criterion and explain a no-go theorem for non-supersymmetric AdS/CFT holography.

04-27-17 Mehran Kardar, MIT


Title: Levitation by Casimir forces in and out of equilibrium

Abstract: Equilibrium fluctuation-induced forces are abundant in nature, ranging from quantum electrodynamic (QED) Casimir and van der Waals forces, to their thermal analogs in fluctuating soft matter. Repulsive Casimir forces have been proposed for a variety of shapes and materials. A generalization of Earnshaw’s theorem constrains the possibility of levitation by Casimir forces in equilibrium. The scattering formalism, which forms the basis of this proof, can be used to study fluctuation-induced forces for different materials, diverse geometries, both in and out of equilibrium. Conformal field theory methods suggest that critical (thermal) Casimir forces are not subject to a corresponding constraint.

Note: This talk will begin at 3:00pm

05-02-17 Simona Cocco, Laboratoire de Physique Statistique de l’ENS Title: Reverse modeling of protein sequence data: from graphical models to structural and functional predictions

Body: A fundamental yet largely open problem in biology and medicine is to understand the relationship between the amino-acid sequence of a protein and its structure and function. Protein databases such as Pfam, which collect, align, and classify protein sequences into families containing
similar (homologous) sequences are growing at a fast pace thanks to recent advances in sequencing technologies. What kind of information about the structure and function of proteins can be obtained from the statistical distribution of sequences in a protein family? To answer this question I will describe recent attempts to infer graphical models able to reproduce the low-order statistics of protein sequence data, in particular amino acid conservation and covariation. I will also review how those models
have led to substantial progress in protein structural and functional

Note:  This talk will begin at 4:00pm

05-03-17 Xue-Mei Li, University of Warwick Title: Perturbation to conservation law and stochastic averaging

Abstract: A deterministic or random system with a conservation law is often used to
approximate dynamics that are also subjected to smaller deterministic or random influences. Consider for example dynamical descriptions for Brownian motions and singular perturbed operators arising from rescaled Riemmannian metrics. In both cases the conservation laws, which are maps with values in a manifold, are used to separate the slow and fast variables. We discuss stochastic averaging and diffusion creation arising from these contexts. Our overarching question is to describe stochastic dynamics associated with the convergence of Riemannian manifolds and metric spaces.

Note: This talk will be held in the Science Center, Room 507

05-17-17 Kwok Wai Chan, Chinese University of Hong Kong Title: Scattering diagrams from asymptotic analysis on Maurer-Cartan equations

Abstract:  In 2005, a program was set forth by Fukaya aiming at investigating SYZ mirror symmetry by asymptotic analysis on Maurer-Cartan equations. In this talk, I will explain some results which implement part of Fukaya’s program. More precisely, I will show how semi-classical limits of Maurer-Cartan solutions give rise naturally to consistent scattering diagrams, which are known to encode Gromov-Witten data on the mirror side and have played an important role in the works of Kontsevich-Soibelman and Gross-Siebert on the reconstruction problem in mirror symmetry. This talk is based on joint work with Conan Leung and Ziming Ma, which was substantially supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Project No. CUHK14302015).

05-31-17 Peter Michor, University of Vienna

 Title: Geometry of shape spaces and diffeomorphism groups and some of their uses

Abstract: This talk is devoted to shape spaces, Riemannian metrics on them, their geodesics and distance functions, and some of their uses, mainly in computational anatomy. The simplest Riemannian metrics have vanishing geodesic distance, so one has to use, for example, higher order Sobolev metrics on shape spaces. These have curvature, which complicates statistics on these spaces.

Date Name Title

Bong Lian, Brandeis


Title: Riemann-Hilbert Problem and Period Integrals

Abstract: Period integrals of an algebraic manifolds are certain special functions that describe, among other things, deformations of the variety. They were originally studied by Euler, Gauss and Riemann, who were interested in analytic continuation of these objects. In this lecture, we will discuss a number of long-standing problems on period integrals in connection with mirror symmetry and Calabi-Yau geometry. We will see how the theory of D-modules have led us to solutions and insights into some of these problems.

09-14-16 Sze-Man Ngai, Georgia Southern Universityngai Title: The multifractal formalism and spectral asymptotics of self-similar measures with overlaps

Abstract: Self-similar measures form a fundamental class of fractal measures, and is much less understood if they have overlaps. The multifractal formalism, if valid, allows us to compute the Hausdorff dimension of the multifractal components of the measure through its Lq-spectrum.  The asymptotic behavior of the eigenvalue counting function for the associated  Laplacians is closely related to the multifractal structure of the measure. Throughout this talk, the infinite Bernoulli convolution associated with the golden ratio will be used as a basic example to describe some of the results.

09-21-16 Prof. L. Mahadevan, Harvard SEAS


Title: “Morphogenesis: Biology, Physics and Mathematics”

Abstract:  A century since the publication of Darcy Thompson’s classic “On growth and form,” his vision has finally begun to permeate into the fabric of modern biology.  Within this backdrop, I will discuss some simple questions inspired by the onset of form in biology wherein mathematical models and computations, in close connection with experiments allow us to begin unraveling the physical basis for morphogenesis in the context of examples such as tendrils, leaves, guts, and brains.  I will also try and indicate how these problems enrich their roots, creating new questions in mathematics, physics, and biology.

09-28-16 Hong Liu, MIT


Title: A new theory of fluctuating hydrodynamics

Despite its long and glorious history, hydrodynamics has so far been formulated mostly at the level of equations of motion, which is inadequate  for capturing  fluctuations.  In a fluid, however, fluctuations occur spontaneously and continuously, at both the quantum and statistical levels, the understanding of which is important for a wide variety of physical problems. Another unsatisfactory aspect of the current formulation of hydrodynamics is that the equations of motion are constrained by various phenomenological conditions on the solutions, which need to be imposed by hand. One of such constraints is the local second law of thermodynamics, which plays a crucial role, yet whose physical origin has been obscure.

We present a new theory of fluctuating hydrodynamics which incorporates fluctuations systematically and reproduces all the phenomenological constraints from an underlying Z_2 symmetry. In particular,  the local second law of thermodynamics is derived. The theory also predicts new constraints which can be considered as nonlinear generalizations of Onsager relations. When truncated to Gaussian noises, the theory recovers various nonlinear stochastic equations.

Curiously, to describe thermal fluctuations of a classical fluid consistently one needs to introduce anti-commuting variables and the theory exhibits an emergent supersymmetry.


Alexander LogunovTel-Aviv University


Title: Zeroes of harmonic functions and Laplace eigenfunctions

 Abs: Nadirashvili conjectured that for any non-constant harmonic function in R^3 its zero set has infinite area. This question was motivated by the Yau conjecture on zero sets of Laplace eigenfunctions. Both conjectures can be treated as an attempt to control the zero set of a solution of elliptic PDE in terms of growth of the solution. For holomorhpic functions such kind of control is possible only from one side: there is a plenty of holomorphic functions that have no zeros. While for a real-valued harmonic function on a plane the length of the zero set can be estimated (locally) from above and below by the frequency, which is a characteristic of growth of the harmonic function. We will discuss the notion of frequency, its properties and applications to zero sets in the higher dimensional case, where the understanding is far from being complete.

10-12-16  Conan Nai Chung Leung, CUHK


Title:  Coisotropic A-branes and their SYZ transform

Abstract: “Kapustin introduced coisotropic A-branes as the natural boundary condition for strings in A-model, generalizing Lagrangian branes and argued that they are indeed needed to for homological mirror symmetry. I will explain in the semiflat case that the Nahm transformation along SYZ fibration will transform fiberwise Yang-Mills holomorphic bundles to coisotropic A-branes. This explains SYZ mirror symmetry away from the large complex structure limit.”

10-19-16 Vaughan Jones, UC Berkeley


Title: Are the Thompson groups any good as a model for Diff(S^1)?

Abstract. The Thompson groups are by definition groups of piecewise linear
diffeomorphisms of the circle. A result of Ghys-Sergiescu says that a Thompson group can
be conjugated to a group of smooth diffeomorphisms. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that there is an important central extension of Diff(S^1) which requires a certain amount of smoothness for its definition. And Ghys-Sergiescu show that, no matter how the Thompson groups are embedded in Diff(S^1), the restriction of the central extension splits. Is it possible to obtain central extensions of the Thompson groups by any
procedure analogous to the constructions of the central extension of Diff(S^1)?
I will define all the players in this game, explain this question in detail,and present some failed attempts to answer it.


Henry Cohn, Microsoft


Sums of squares, correlation functions, and exceptional geometric structures

Some exceptional structures such as the icosahedron or E_8 root system have remarkable optimality properties in settings such as packing, energy minimization, or coding.  How can we understand and prove their optimality?  In this talk, I’ll interweave this story with two other developments in recent mathematics (without assuming familiarity with either): how semidefinite optimization and sums of squares have expanded the scope of optimization, and how representation theory has shed light on higher correlation functions for particle systems.


Christian Borgs, Microsoft


Title:  Graphon processes and limits of   sparse graph sequences

Abstract:  The theory of graph limits for dense graphs is by now well established, with graphons describing both the limit of a sequence of deterministic graphs, and a model for so-called exchangeable random graphs.   Here a graphon is a function defined over a “feature space’’ equipped with some probability measure, the measure describing the distribution of features for the nodes, and the graphon describing the probability that two nodes with given features form a connection.  While there are rich models of sparse random graphs based on graphons, they require an additional parameter, the edge density, whose dependence on the size of the graph has either to be postulated as an additional function, or considered as an empirical observed quantity not described by the model.  

In this talk I describe a new model, where the underlying probability space is replaced by a sigma-finite measure space, leading to both a new random model for exchangeable graphs, and a new notion of graph limits.  The new model naturally produces a graph valued stochastic process indexed by a continuous time parameter, a “graphon process”, and describes graphs which typically have degree distributions with long tails, as observed in large networks in real life.



Norden E. HuangNational Central University, (Taiwan)


Title: On Holo-Hilbert Spectral Analysis

Traditionally, spectral analysis is defined as transform the time domain data to frequency domain. It is achieved through integral transforms based on additive expansions of a priori determined basis, under linear and stationary assumptions. For nonlinear processes, the data can have both amplitude and frequency modulations generated by intra-wave and inter-wave interactions involving both additive and nonlinear multiplicative processes. Under such conditions, the additive expansion could not fully represent the physical processes resulting from multiplicative interactions. Unfortunately, all existing spectral analysis methods are based on additive expansions, based either on a priori or adaptive bases. While the adaptive Hilbert spectral analysis could accommodate the intra-wave nonlinearity, the inter-wave nonlinear multiplicative mechanisms that include cross-scale coupling and phase lock modulations are left untreated. To resolve the multiplicative processes, we propose a full informational spectral representation: The Holo-Hilbert Spectral Analysis (HHSA), which would accommodate all the processes: additive and multiplicative, intra-mode and inter-mode, stationary and non-stationary, linear and nonlinear interactions, through additional dimensions in the spectrum to account for both the variations in frequency and amplitude modulations (FM and AM) simultaneously. Applications to wave-turbulence interactions and other data will be presented to demonstrate the usefulness of this new spectral representation.

11-16-16 Tristan Collins, Harvard University



Title: Restricted volumes and finite time singularities of the Kahler-Ricci flow

Abstract:  I will discuss the relationship between restricted volumes, as defined algebraically or analytically, and the finite time singularities of the Kahler-Ricci flow.  This is joint work with Valentino Tosatti.

11-22-16 TUESDAY


Xiangfeng Gu, Stonybrook

Title: Differential Geometric Methods for Engineering Applications

Abstract: With the development of virtual reality and augmented reality, many challenging problems raised in engineering fields. Most of them are with geometric nature, and can be explored by modern geometric means. In this talk, we introduce our approaches to solve several such kind of problems: including geometric compression, shape classification, surface registration, cancer detection, facial expression tracking and so on, based on surface Ricci flow and optimal mass transportation.



Sharad Ramanathan, Harvard MCB & SEAS


Title: Finding co-ordinate systems to monitor the development of mammalian embryos

Valentino Tosatti, Northwestern

Title: Metric limits of hyperkahler manifolds

Abstract: I will discuss a proof of a conjecture of Kontsevich-Soibelman and Gross-Wilson about the behavior of unit-diameter Ricci-flat Kahler metrics on hyperkahler manifolds (fibered by holomorphic Lagrangian tori) near a large complex structure limit. The collapsed Gromov-Hausdorff limit is a special Kahler metric on a half-dimensional complex projective space, away from a singular set of Hausdorff codimension at least 2. The resulting picture is also compatible with the Strominger-Yau-Zaslow mirror symmetry. This is joint work with Yuguang Zhang.



Date Name Title
09-02-2015 Madhu Sudan Robust low-degree testing
09-09-2015 Mithat Unsal
What is QFT? Resurgent trans-series, Lefschetz thimbles, and new exact saddles
09-16-2015 Subir Sachdev Bekenstein-Hawking entropy and strange metals
09-23-2015 Felix Finster Linear hyperbolic equations in a rotating black hole geometry
09-30-2015 Leslie Valiant Holographic Algorithms
10-07-2015 Christopher Rogan Exploring the Frontier of Size and Energy with the Large Hadron Collider: sub-atomic particles, the Higgs Boson and beyond
10-14-2015 Boaz Barak, Harvard SEAS Convexity, Bayesianism, and the quest towards Optimal Algorithms
10-21-2015 Zhouping Xin Entropy and Uniqueness of Weak Solutions to The Multi-Dimensional Compressible Euler Systems
10-28-2015 Cristopher Moore Statistical inference, statistical physics, and the community detection problem
11-04-2015 Tom Hou Blowup or no blowup? The interplay between theory and computation in the study of 3D Euler equations
11-11-2015 Stan Osher, UCLA Overcoming the curse of dimensionality for certain Hamilton-Jacobi (HJ) equations arising in control theory and elsewhere
11-18-2015 Xiaole Shirley Liu Inference of transcriptional regulation in cancers
11-25-2015 Thanksgiving No seminar
12-02-2015 Scott Kominers Generalized Matching Market Design: Theory and Practice
12-09-2015 Matthew Holman Dynamical Chaos in Kepler Planetary Systems
01-27-2016 Conan Leung Some modern aspects of Morse theory 
02-03-2016 Camillo De Lellis From Nash to Onsager, funny coincidences across differential geometry and the theory of turbulence
02-10-2016 Chun Peng Wang
02-17-2016 Samuel Kou, Harvard Statistics Big data, Google and disease detection: the statistical story
02-24-2016 Dan Xie, Harvard CMSA Singularity theory and supersymmetric field theory
03-02-2016 Lydia Bieri Mathematical General Relativity
03-09-2016 Piotr Chrusciel The mathematics of gravitation
03-16-2016 Spring Break No Talk
03-23-2016 Richard Freeman, Harvard Economics Pulling Apart of Wages and Productivity: why “identical” workers have increasingly different pay and productivity.
03-30-2016 David Garfinkel, Oakland University Gravitational Wave Memory
04-04-2016 (Hall A, Science Center) Xianfeng David Gu, Stony Brook University A Discrete Variational Approach for Solving Monge-Ampere Equation
04-06-2016 Lars Hernquist, Harvard Next Generation Cosmological Simulations: Galaxy Assembly and Evolution
04-13-2016 Jun Zhang, Univ. of Michigan-Ann Arbor Kahler and Para-Kahler Structure in Information Geometry
04-20-2016 Sijue Wu, Univ. of Michigan On two dimensional gravity water waves with angled crests
04-27-2016 Paul Seidel, MIT Topological quantum field theory and the Gauss-Manin connection
05-04-2016 Hirosi Ooguri, Caltech String Theory And Its Applications in Mathematics and Physics
05-11-2016      (4pm – 5pm) Juerg Froehlich, ETH and IAS Implications of the Chiral Anomaly – From the Quantum Hall Effect to Topological Insulators and Out to Space