AMSI/ANZAMP AGR Symposium on probability in statistical mechanics: Limit shapes for random surfaces

17 January 2014, 10.00am AEDT

Speaker's Name:

Professor Rick Kenyon

Speaker's Institution:

Brown University (Providence, USA)

Title of Seminar:

Limit shapes for random surfaces

Host Institution:


Time and Date:

Friday 17 January 2014, 10.00am AEDT

Seminar Abstract:

I'll discuss the analytic solution to the limit shape problem for random domino tilings and "lozenge" tilings, and in particular try to explain how these limiting surfaces develop facets.

Speaker Bio:

Professor of Mathematics Richard Kenyon interests are statistical mechanics, probability and discrete conformal geometry. He's also managed to think and talk about the higher elements of mathematics in two languages: English and French, with a "Habilitation thesis" from the Universite Paris-Sud (Sur la dynamique, la combinatoire, and la statistique des pavages) and a Ph.D. from Princeton in mathematics. His work has taken him from Orsay, France, where he was the research director at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, to Redmond, Wash., where for four summers he was a visiting researcher in the Microsoft theory group.

Kenyon says he is driven "by the possibility of exploration and discovery. In the field of probability in particular, people have recently discovered many somewhat mysterious connections with physics and string theory. It's cool how mathematics is so useful to describe physical phenomena, and this is a prime example. Physics at atomic scales is really very simple, so simple that it becomes mathematics."

His prizes and awards have included the Clay foundation Senior Scholar, 2012, William R. Kenan Professorship, 2009, Prix Charles-Louis de Saulses de Freycinet from the French Academie des Sciences in 2002 and the Rollo Davidson prize in 2001. But what he's most proud of is "understanding the fluctuations of a certain model of random surfaces (called the dimer model). Basically it is a way to draw a ‘random' contour map or topographic map. You draw such a map and then ask questions such as how high, typically, is the highest mountain on this map. It turns out that this simple model has a certain property called ‘conformal invariance,' which was predicted by physicists in the 1970s but confirmed only recently."

Kenyon is full professor in the mathematics department at Brown University since 2007.

Seminar Convenor:

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AGR IT support:

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