An emerging way to protect privacy is to replace true data by synthetic data. Medical records of artificial patients, for example, could retain meaningful statistical information while preserving privacy of the true patients. But what is synthetic data, and what is privacy? How do we define these concepts mathematically? Is it possible to make synthetic data that is both useful and private? I will tie these questions to a simple-looking problem in probability theory: how much information about a random vector X is lost when we take conditional expectation of X with respect to some sigma-algebra? This talk is based on a series of papers with March Boedihardjo and Thomas Strohmer.
Pratima Hebbar, Probability Seminar on October 21, 2021
David Aldous, Probability Seminar Sept 30, 2021 TITLE: Can one prove existence of an infectiousness threshold (for a pandemic) in very general models of disease spread? ABSTRACT: Intuitively, in any kind of disease transmission model with an infectiousness parameter, there should exist a critical value of the parameter separating a very likely from a very unlikely resulting pandemic. But even formulating a general conjecture is challenging. In the most simplistic model (SI) of transmission, one can prove this for an essentially arbitrary large weighted contact network. The proof for SI depends on a simple lemma concerning hitting times for increasing set-valued Markov processes. Can one extend to SIR or SIS models over similarly general networks, where the lemma is no longer applicable?
SEPC 2021 in honor of Elizabeth Meckes. Slides from the talks and more information are available <a href="https://services.math.duke.edu/~rtd/SEPC2021/SEPC2021.html">at this link (here).</a>
Description of some work with Elizabeth Meckes at SEPC 2021
There are a number of situations in which rescaled interacting particle systems have been shown to converge to a reaction diffusion equation (RDE) with a bistable reaction term. These RDEs have traveling wave solutions. When the speed of the wave is nonzero, block constructions have been used to prove the existence or nonexistence of nontrivial stationary distributions. Here, we follow the approach in a paper by Etheridge, Freeman, and Pennington to show that in a wide variety of examples when the RDE limit has a bistable reaction term and traveling waves have speed 0, one can run time faster and further rescale space to obtain convergence to motion by mean curvature. This opens up the possibility of proving that the sexual reproduction model with fast stirring has a discontinuous phase transition, and that in Region 2 of the phase diagram for the nonlinear voter model studied by Molofsky et al there were two nontrivial stationary distributions.
A key question in population biology is understanding the conditions under which the species of an ecosystem persist or go extinct. Theoretical and empirical studies have shown that persistence can be facilitated or negated by both biotic interactions and environmental fluctuations. We study the dynamics of n interacting species that live in a stochastic environment. Our models are described by n dimensional piecewise deterministic Markov processes. These are processes (X(t), r(t)) where the vector X denotes the density of the n species and r(t) is a finite state space process which keeps track of the environment. In any fixed environment the process follows the flow given by a system of ordinary differential equations. The randomness comes from the changes or switches in the environment, which happen at random times. We give sharp conditions under which the populations persist as well as conditions under which some populations go extinct exponentially fast. As an example we look at the competitive exclusion principle from ecology, which says in its simplest form that two species competing for one resource cannot coexist, and show how the random switching can facilitate coexistence.
Quasi-Stationary Distributions (QSDs) describe the long-time behaviour of killed Markov processes. The Fleming-Viot particle system provides a particle representation for the QSD of a Markov process killed upon contact with the boundary of its domain. Whereas previous work has dealt with killed Markov processes, we consider killed McKean-Vlasov processes. We show that the Fleming-Viot particle system with McKean-Vlasov dynamics provides a particle representation for the corresponding QSDs. Joint work with James Nolen.
Data lying in a high dimensional ambient space are commonly thought to have a much lower intrinsic dimension. In particular, the data may be concentrated near a lower-dimensional subspace or manifold. There is an immense literature focused on approximating the unknown subspace and the unknown density, and exploiting such approximations in clustering, data compression, and building of predictive models. Most of the literature relies on approximating subspaces and densities using a locally linear, and potentially multiscale, dictionary with Gaussian kernels. In this talk, we propose a simple and general alternative, which instead uses pieces of spheres, or spherelets, to locally approximate the unknown subspace. I will also introduce a curved kernel called the Fisher–Gaussian (FG) kernel which outperforms multivariate Gaussians in many cases. Theory is developed showing that spherelets can produce lower covering numbers and mean square errors for many manifolds, as well as the posterior consistency of the Dirichlet process mixture of the FG kernels. Time permitting, I will also talk about an ongoing project about stochastic differential geometry.
The multi-population replicator dynamics (RD) can be considered a dynamic approach to the study of multi-player games, where it was shown to be related to Cross-learning, as well as of systems of co-evolving populations. However, not all of its equilibria are Nash equilibria (NE) of the underlying game, and neither convergence to an NE nor convergence in general are guaranteed. Although interior equilibria are guaranteed to be NE, no interior equilibrium can be asymptotically stable in the multi-population RD, resulting, e.g., in cyclic orbits around a single interior NE. We report on our investigation of a new notion of equilibria of RD, called mutation limits, which is based on the inclusion of a naturally arising, simple form of mutation, but is invariant under the specific choice of mutation parameters. We prove the existence of such mutation limits for a large range of games, and consider an interesting subclass, that of attracting mutation limits. Attracting mutation limits are approximated by asymptotically stable equilibria of the (mutation-)perturbed RD, and hence, offer an approximate dynamic solution of the underlying game, especially if the original dynamic has no asymptotically stable equilibria. Therefore, the presence of mutation will indeed stabilise the system in certain cases and make attracting mutation limits near-attainable. Furthermore, the relevance of attracting mutation limits as a game theoretic equilibrium concept is emphasised by the relation of (mutation-)perturbed RD to the Q-learning algorithm in the context of multi-agent reinforcement learning. However, in contrast to the guaranteed existence of mutation limits, attracting mutation limits do not exist in all games, raising the question of their characterization.
I will talk about some models coming from Physics and Queueing Theory that give rise to singular reflected processes in their diffusion limit. Such diffusions are characterized by non-elliptic generators (which are not even hypoelliptic) in the interior, and ergodicity arises from non-trivial interactions between the diffusion, drift and reflection. I will introduce a regenerative process approach which identifies renewal times in diffusion paths and analyzes excursions between successive renewal times. This provides a detailed description of the stationary distribution even when closed form expressions are unavailable. Based on joint works with Chris Burdzy, Brendan Brown, Mauricio Duarte and Debankur Mukherjee.
Many applications can be modeled as a large system of homogeneous interacting particles on a graph in which the infinitesimal evolution of each particle depends on its own state and the empirical distribution of the states of neighboring particles. When the graph is a clique, it is well known that the dynamics of a typical particle converges in the limit, as the number of vertices goes to infinity, to a nonlinear Markov process, often referred to as the McKean-Vlasov or mean-field limit. In this talk, we focus on the complementary case of scaling limits of dynamics on certain sequences of sparse graphs, including regular trees and sparse Erdos-Renyi graphs, and obtain a novel characterization of the dynamics of the neighborhood of a typical particle.
It is anticipated that chaotic regimes (e.g., strange attractors) arise in a wide variety of dynamical systems, including those arising from the study of ensembles of gas particles and fluid mechanics. However, in most cases the problem of rigorously verifying asymptotic chaotic regimes is notoriously difficult. For volume-preserving systems (e.g., incompressible fluid flow or Hamiltonian systems), these issues are exemplified by coexistence phenomena: even in quite simple models which should be chaotic, e.g. the Chirikov standard map, completely opposite dynamical regimes (elliptic islands vs. hyperbolic sets) can be tangled together in phase space in a convoluted way. Recent developments have indicated, however, that verifying chaos is tractable for systems subjected to a small amount of noise— from the perspective of modeling, this is not so unnatural, as the real world is inherently noisy. In this talk, I will discuss two recent results: (1) a large positive Lyapunov exponent for (extremely small) random perturbations of the Chirikov standard map, and (2) a positive Lyapunov exponent for the Lagrangian flow corresponding to various incompressible stochastic fluids models, including stochastic 2D Navier-Stokes and 3D hyperviscous Navier-Stokes on the periodic box. The work in this talk is joint with Jacob Bedrossian, Samuel Punshon-Smith, Jinxin Xue and Lai-Sang Young.