UK Nonlinear News, August 1997

The Fourth SIAM Conference on Applications of Dynamical Systems, Snowbird, Utah

By Kevin Campbell

The Fourth SIAM Conference on Applications of Dynamical Systems was a very large conference. The main themes of the conference were: experimental studies; undergraduate teaching; Hamiltonian systems and transport; mathematical biology; noise in dynamical systems; patterns; synchronisation; and applications in engineering, physics, biology, and manufacturing. According to the program there were over five hundred and fifty presentations, divided into eleven invited presentations, eighty eight seminar sessions and two poster sessions.

I did not attend them all.

Those that I attended mainly fell under the headings of undergraduate teaching, synchronisation, and the effects of noise in dynamical systems. All the invited presentations that I attended were good, and some were excellent. Probably the best of these was given by Leonid Bunimovich on how to optimise workers on "e;bucket brigade"e; production lines, where there are more processes than workers. His analysis was backed up by the fact that when the solution has been used in an industrial setting a real increase in productivity was noticed. The other invited speakers were: Robert Devaney on teaching undergraduates (which I missed due to problems with 'planes); Peter Constantin on turbulence; Frank Moss on stochastic resonance in biology; Charles Peskin on biomolecular motors; Charles Marcus on small electronics and quantum chaos; Richard Murray on control of Lagrangian systems; Yoshiki Kuramoto on spatio-temporal chaos; and David Levermore on the complex Ginzburg-Landau equations.

The contributed presentations were inevitably of a more variable quality, and there were usually seven or eight concurrent sessions which meant that sometimes I wanted to be in two places at once. The breadth of the conference meant that there was almost always something of interest, and I found it a great opportunity to meet people, many of whom I had only known previously through their publications.

On the downside, the sessions on teaching undergraduates tended to concentrate on the American academic system, and so many of the ideas would not fit easily within the British system, or addressed problems that I had not noticed within British universities. The range of food was also disappointing, and by the end of the week the resort was starting to feel slightly claustrophobic.

Overall, however, I greatly enjoyed the conference, and left feeling re-enthused about the subject. I also felt I'd gained useful insights into several new areas of mathematics, and came away with a long list of papers to find in the library.

Kevin Campbell ( kevin.campbell@ucl.ac.uk).


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