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Michael Stillman: Kuramoto oscillators: dynamical systems meet algebraic geometry

Time: Wed 2023-11-15 15.15 - 17.00

Location: Albanova, FD5

Participating: Michael Stillman (Cornell)

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FD5, Albanova


14:15–15:00 Pre-colloquium  by Felix Rydell in FB54.

15:15–16:15 Colloquium lecture by Mike Stillman.
16:15–17:00 SMC social get together with refreshments.


Coupled oscillators appear in a large number of applications: e.g. in biological, chemical sciences, neuro science, power grids, and many more fields. They appear in nature: fireflies flashing in sync with each other is one fun situation.

In 1974, Yoshiki Kuramoto proposed a simple, yet surprisingly effective model for oscillators. We consider homogeneous Kuramoto systems (we will define these notions!). They are determined from a finite graph. In this talk, we describe some of what is known about long term behavior of such systems (do the oscillators self-synchronize? or are there other, "exotic" solutions?), and then relate these systems to systems of polynomial equations. We use algebra, computations in algebraic geometry, and algebraic geometry to study equilibrium solutions to these systems. We will see how computations using algebraic geometry and my computer algebra system Macaulay2 finds all graphs with at most 8 vertices (i.e. 8 oscillators) which have exotic solutions.

Note: we assume essentially NO dynamical systems nor algebraic geometry in this talk! This talk should be understandable to a general mathematical audience. The parts of the talk that are new represent joint work with Heather Harrington and Hal Schenck, and also Steve Strogatz and Alex Townsend.