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Kari Astala, Steffen Rohde, Eero Saksman and I have (finally!) uploaded to the arXiv our preprint “Homogenization of iterated singular integrals with applications to random quasiconformal maps“. This project started (and was largely completed) over a decade ago, but for various reasons it was not finalised until very recently. The motivation for this project was to study the behaviour of “random” quasiconformal maps. Recall that a (smooth) quasiconformal map is a homeomorphism that obeys the Beltrami equation

for some*Beltrami coefficient*; this can be viewed as a deformation of the Cauchy-Riemann equation . Assuming that is asymptotic to at infinity, one can (formally, at least) solve for in terms of using the

*Beurling transform*by the Neumann series We looked at the question of the asymptotic behaviour of if is a random field that oscillates at some fine spatial scale . A simple model to keep in mind is where are independent random signs and is a bump function. For models such as these, we show that a homogenisation occurs in the limit ; each multilinear expression converges weakly in probability (and almost surely, if we restrict to a lacunary sequence) to a deterministic limit, and the associated quasiconformal map similarly converges weakly in probability (or almost surely). (Results of this latter type were also recently obtained by Ivrii and Markovic by a more geometric method which is simpler, but is applied to a narrower class of Beltrami coefficients.) In the specific case (1), the limiting quasiconformal map is just the identity map , but if for instance replaces the by non-symmetric random variables then one can have significantly more complicated limits. The convergence theorem for multilinear expressions such as is not specific to the Beurling transform ; any other translation and dilation invariant singular integral can be used here.

The random expression (2) is somewhat reminiscent of a moment of a random matrix, and one can start computing it analogously. For instance, if one has a decomposition such as (1), then (2) expands out as a sum

The random fluctuations of this sum can be treated by a routine second moment estimate, and the main task is to show that the expected value becomes asymptotically independent of .If all the were distinct then one could use independence to factor the expectation to get

which is a relatively straightforward expression to calculate (particularly in the model (1), where all the expectations here in fact vanish). The main difficulty is that there are a number of configurations in (3) in which various of the collide with each other, preventing one from easily factoring the expression. A typical problematic contribution for instance would be a sum of the form This is an example of what we call a*non-split*sum. This can be compared with the

*split sum*If we ignore the constraint in the latter sum, then it splits into where and and one can hope to treat this sum by an induction hypothesis. (To actually deal with constraints such as requires an inclusion-exclusion argument that creates some notational headaches but is ultimately manageable.) As the name suggests, the non-split configurations such as (4) cannot be factored in this fashion, and are the most difficult to handle. A direct computation using the triangle inequality (and a certain amount of combinatorics and induction) reveals that these sums are somewhat localised, in that dyadic portions such as exhibit power decay in (when measured in suitable function space norms), basically because of the large number of times one has to transition back and forth between and . Thus, morally at least, the dominant contribution to a non-split sum such as (4) comes from the local portion when . From the translation and dilation invariance of this type of expression then simplifies to something like (plus negligible errors) for some reasonably decaying function , and this can be shown to converge to a weak limit as .

In principle all of these limits are computable, but the combinatorics is remarkably complicated, and while there is certainly some algebraic structure to the calculations, it does not seem to be easily describable in terms of an existing framework (e.g., that of free probability).

This set of notes discusses aspects of one of the oldest questions in Fourier analysis, namely the nature of convergence of Fourier series.

If is an absolutely integrable function, its Fourier coefficients are defined by the formula

If is smooth, then the Fourier coefficients are absolutely summable, and we have the Fourier inversion formula where the series here is uniformly convergent. In particular, if we define the partial summation operators then converges uniformly to when is smooth.What if is not smooth, but merely lies in an class for some ? The Fourier coefficients remain well-defined, as do the partial summation operators . The question of convergence in norm is relatively easy to settle:

Exercise 1

- (i) If and , show that converges in norm to . (
Hint:first use the boundedness of the Hilbert transform to show that is bounded in uniformly in .)- (ii) If or , show that there exists such that the sequence is unbounded in (so in particular it certainly does not converge in norm to . (
Hint:first show that is not bounded in uniformly in , then apply the uniform boundedness principle in the contrapositive.)

The question of pointwise almost everywhere convergence turned out to be a significantly harder problem:

Theorem 2 (Pointwise almost everywhere convergence)

Note from Hölder’s inequality that contains for all , so Carleson’s theorem covers the case of Hunt’s theorem. We remark that the precise threshold near between Kolmogorov-type divergence results and Carleson-Hunt pointwise convergence results, in the category of Orlicz spaces, is still an active area of research; see this paper of Lie for further discussion.

Carleson’s theorem in particular was a surprisingly difficult result, lying just out of reach of classical methods (as we shall see later, the result is much easier if we smooth either the function or the summation method by a tiny bit). Nowadays we realise that the reason for this is that Carleson’s theorem essentially contains a *frequency modulation symmetry* in addition to the more familiar translation symmetry and dilation symmetry. This basically rules out the possibility of attacking Carleson’s theorem with tools such as Calderón-Zygmund theory or Littlewood-Paley theory, which respect the latter two symmetries but not the former. Instead, tools from “time-frequency analysis” that essentially respect all three symmetries should be employed. We will illustrate this by giving a relatively short proof of Carleson’s theorem due to Lacey and Thiele. (There are other proofs of Carleson’s theorem, including Carleson’s original proof, its modification by Hunt, and a later time-frequency proof by Fefferman; see Remark 18 below.)

In contrast to previous notes, in this set of notes we shall focus exclusively on Fourier analysis in the one-dimensional setting for simplicity of notation, although all of the results here have natural extensions to higher dimensions. Depending on the physical context, one can view the physical domain as representing either space or time; we will mostly think in terms of the former interpretation, even though the standard terminology of “time-frequency analysis”, which we will make more prominent use of in later notes, clearly originates from the latter.

In previous notes we have often performed various localisations in either physical space or Fourier space , for instance in order to take advantage of the uncertainty principle. One can formalise these operations in terms of the functional calculus of two basic operations on Schwartz functions , the *position operator* defined by

and the *momentum operator* , defined by

(The terminology comes from quantum mechanics, where it is customary to also insert a small constant on the right-hand side of (1) in accordance with de Broglie’s law. Such a normalisation is also used in several branches of mathematics, most notably semiclassical analysis and microlocal analysis, where it becomes profitable to consider the semiclassical limit , but we will not emphasise this perspective here.) The momentum operator can be viewed as the counterpart to the position operator, but in frequency space instead of physical space, since we have the standard identity

for any and . We observe that both operators are formally self-adjoint in the sense that

for all , where we use the Hermitian inner product

Clearly, for any polynomial of one real variable (with complex coefficients), the operator is given by the spatial multiplier operator

and similarly the operator is given by the Fourier multiplier operator

Inspired by this, if is any smooth function that obeys the derivative bounds

for all and (that is to say, all derivatives of grow at most polynomially), then we can define the spatial multiplier operator by the formula

one can easily verify from several applications of the Leibniz rule that maps Schwartz functions to Schwartz functions. We refer to as the *symbol* of this spatial multiplier operator. In a similar fashion, we define the Fourier multiplier operator associated to the symbol by the formula

For instance, any constant coefficient linear differential operators can be written in this notation as

however there are many Fourier multiplier operators that are not of this form, such as fractional derivative operators for non-integer values of , which is a Fourier multiplier operator with symbol . It is also very common to use spatial cutoffs and Fourier cutoffs for various bump functions to localise functions in either space or frequency; we have seen several examples of such cutoffs in action in previous notes (often in the higher dimensional setting ).

We observe that the maps and are ring homomorphisms, thus for instance

and

for any obeying the derivative bounds (2); also is formally adjoint to in the sense that

for , and similarly for and . One can interpret these facts as part of the functional calculus of the operators , which can be interpreted as densely defined self-adjoint operators on . However, in this set of notes we will not develop the spectral theory necessary in order to fully set out this functional calculus rigorously.

In the field of PDE and ODE, it is also very common to study *variable coefficient* linear differential operators

where the are now functions of the spatial variable obeying the derivative bounds (2). A simple example is the quantum harmonic oscillator Hamiltonian . One can rewrite this operator in our notation as

and so it is natural to interpret this operator as a combination of both the position operator and the momentum operator , where the *symbol* this operator is the function

Indeed, from the Fourier inversion formula

for any we have

and hence on multiplying by and summing we have

Inspired by this, we can introduce the *Kohn-Nirenberg quantisation* by defining the operator by the formula

whenever and is any smooth function obeying the derivative bounds

for all and (note carefully that the exponent in on the right-hand side is required to be uniform in ). This quantisation clearly generalises both the spatial multiplier operators and the Fourier multiplier operators defined earlier, which correspond to the cases when the symbol is a function of only or only respectively. Thus we have combined the physical space and the frequency space into a single domain, known as phase space . The term “time-frequency analysis” encompasses analysis based on decompositions and other manipulations of phase space, in much the same way that “Fourier analysis” encompasses analysis based on decompositions and other manipulations of frequency space. We remark that the Kohn-Nirenberg quantization is not the only choice of quantization one could use; see Remark 19 below.

In principle, the quantisations are potentially very useful for such tasks as inverting variable coefficient linear operators, or to localize a function simultaneously in physical and Fourier space. However, a fundamental difficulty arises: map from symbols to operators is now no longer a ring homomorphism, in particular

in general. Fundamentally, this is due to the fact that pointwise multiplication of symbols is a commutative operation, whereas the composition of operators such as and does not necessarily commute. This lack of commutativity can be measured by introducing the *commutator*

of two operators , and noting from the product rule that

(In the language of Lie groups and Lie algebras, this tells us that are (up to complex constants) the standard Lie algebra generators of the Heisenberg group.) From a quantum mechanical perspective, this lack of commutativity is the root cause of the uncertainty principle that prevents one from simultaneously localizing in both position and momentum past a certain point. Here is one basic way of formalising this principle:

Exercise 2 (Heisenberg uncertainty principle)For any and , show that(

Hint:evaluate the expression in two different ways and apply the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality.) Informally, this exercise asserts that the spatial uncertainty and the frequency uncertainty of a function obey the Heisenberg uncertainty relation .

Nevertheless, one still has the correspondence principle, which asserts that in certain regimes (which, with our choice of normalisations, corresponds to the high-frequency regime), quantum mechanics continues to behave like a commutative theory, and one can sometimes proceed as if the operators (and the various operators constructed from them) commute up to “lower order” errors. This can be formalised using the *pseudodifferential calculus*, which we give below the fold, in which we restrict the symbol to certain “symbol classes” of various orders (which then restricts to be pseudodifferential operators of various orders), and obtains approximate identities such as

where the error between the left and right-hand sides is of “lower order” and can in fact enjoys a useful asymptotic expansion. As a first approximation to this calculus, one can think of functions as having some sort of “phase space portrait” which somehow combines the physical space representation with its Fourier representation , and pseudodifferential operators behave approximately like “phase space multiplier operators” in this representation in the sense that

Unfortunately the uncertainty principle (or the non-commutativity of and ) prevents us from making these approximations perfectly precise, and it is not always clear how to even define a phase space portrait of a function precisely (although there are certain popular candidates for such a portrait, such as the FBI transform (also known as the Gabor transform in signal processing literature), or the Wigner quasiprobability distribution, each of which have some advantages and disadvantages). Nevertheless even if the concept of a phase space portrait is somewhat fuzzy, it is of great conceptual benefit both within mathematics and outside of it. For instance, the musical score one assigns a piece of music can be viewed as a phase space portrait of the sound waves generated by that music.

To complement the pseudodifferential calculus we have the basic *Calderón-Vaillancourt theorem*, which asserts that pseudodifferential operators of order zero are Calderón-Zygmund operators and thus bounded on for . The standard proof of this theorem is a classic application of one of the basic techniques in harmonic analysis, namely the exploitation of *almost orthogonality*; the proof we will give here will achieve this through the elegant device of the Cotlar-Stein lemma.

Pseudodifferential operators (especially when generalised to higher dimensions ) are a fundamental tool in the theory of linear PDE, as well as related fields such as semiclassical analysis, microlocal analysis, and geometric quantisation. There is an even wider class of operators that is also of interest, namely the Fourier integral operators, which roughly speaking not only approximately multiply the phase space portrait of a function by some multiplier , but also move the portrait around by a canonical transformation. However, the development of theory of these operators is beyond the scope of these notes; see for instance the texts of Hormander or Eskin.

This set of notes is only the briefest introduction to the theory of pseudodifferential operators. Many texts are available that cover the theory in more detail, for instance this text of Taylor.

The *square root cancellation heuristic*, briefly mentioned in the preceding set of notes, predicts that if a collection of complex numbers have phases that are sufficiently “independent” of each other, then

similarly, if are a collection of functions in a Lebesgue space that oscillate “independently” of each other, then we expect

We have already seen one instance in which this heuristic can be made precise, namely when the phases of are randomised by a random sign, so that Khintchine’s inequality (Lemma 4 from Notes 1) can be applied. There are other contexts in which a *square function estimate*

or a *reverse square function estimate*

(or both) are known or conjectured to hold. For instance, the useful *Littlewood-Paley inequality* implies (among other things) that for any , we have the reverse square function estimate

whenever the Fourier transforms of the are supported on disjoint annuli , and we also have the matching square function estimate

if there is some separation between the annuli (for instance if the are -separated). We recall the proofs of these facts below the fold. In the case, we of course have Pythagoras’ theorem, which tells us that if the are all orthogonal elements of , then

In particular, this identity holds if the have *disjoint Fourier supports* in the sense that their Fourier transforms are supported on disjoint sets. For , the technique of *bi-orthogonality* can also give square function and reverse square function estimates in some cases, as we shall also see below the fold.

In recent years, it has begun to be realised that in the regime , a variant of reverse square function estimates such as (1) is also useful, namely *decoupling estimates* such as

(actually in practice we often permit small losses such as on the right-hand side). An estimate such as (2) is weaker than (1) when (or equal when ), as can be seen by starting with the triangle inequality

and taking the square root of both side to conclude that

However, the flip side of this weakness is that (2) can be easier to prove. One key reason for this is the ability to *iterate* decoupling estimates such as (2), in a way that does not seem to be possible with reverse square function estimates such as (1). For instance, suppose that one has a decoupling inequality such as (2), and furthermore each can be split further into components for which one has the decoupling inequalities

Then by inserting these bounds back into (2) we see that we have the combined decoupling inequality

This iterative feature of decoupling inequalities means that such inequalities work well with the method of *induction on scales*, that we introduced in the previous set of notes.

In fact, decoupling estimates share many features in common with restriction theorems; in addition to induction on scales, there are several other techniques that first emerged in the restriction theory literature, such as wave packet decompositions, rescaling, and bilinear or multilinear reductions, that turned out to also be well suited to proving decoupling estimates. As with restriction, the *curvature* or *transversality* of the different Fourier supports of the will be crucial in obtaining non-trivial estimates.

Strikingly, in many important model cases, the optimal decoupling inequalities (except possibly for epsilon losses in the exponents) are now known. These estimates have in turn had a number of important applications, such as establishing certain discrete analogues of the restriction conjecture, or the first proof of the main conjecture for Vinogradov mean value theorems in analytic number theory.

These notes only serve as a brief introduction to decoupling. A systematic exploration of this topic can be found in this recent text of Demeter.

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I was greatly saddened to learn that John Conway died yesterday from COVID-19, aged 82.

My own mathematical areas of expertise are somewhat far from Conway’s; I have played for instance with finite simple groups on occasion, but have not studied his work on moonshine and the monster group. But I have certainly encountered his results every so often in surprising contexts; most recently, when working on the Collatz conjecture, I looked into Conway’s wonderfully preposterous FRACTRAN language, which can encode any Turing machine as an iteration of a Collatz-type map, showing in particular that there are generalisations of the Collatz conjecture that are undecidable in axiomatic frameworks such as ZFC. [EDIT: also, my belief that the Navier-Stokes equations admit solutions that blow up in finite time is also highly influenced by the ability of Conway’s game of life to generate self-replicating “von Neumann machines“.]

I first met John as an incoming graduate student in Princeton in 1992; indeed, a talk he gave, on “Extreme proofs” (proofs that are in some sense “extreme points” in the “convex hull” of all proofs of a given result), may well have been the first research-level talk I ever attended, and one that set a high standard for all the subsequent talks I went to, with Conway’s ability to tease out deep and interesting mathematics from seemingly frivolous questions making a particular impact on me. (Some version of this talk eventually became this paper of Conway and Shipman many years later.)

Conway was fond of hanging out in the Princeton graduate lounge at the time of my studies there, often tinkering with some game or device, and often enlisting any nearby graduate students to assist him with some experiment or other. I have a vague memory of being drafted into holding various lengths of cloth with several other students in order to compute some element of a braid group; on another occasion he challenged me to a board game he recently invented (now known as “Phutball“) with Elwyn Berlekamp and Richard Guy (who, by sad coincidence, both also passed away in the last 12 months). I still remember being repeatedly obliterated in that game, which was a healthy and needed lesson in humility for me (and several of my fellow graduate students) at the time. I also recall Conway spending several weeks trying to construct a strange periscope-type device to try to help him visualize four-dimensional objects by giving his eyes vertical parallax in addition to the usual horizontal parallax, although he later told me that the only thing the device made him experience was a headache.

About ten years ago we ran into each other at some large mathematics conference, and lacking any other plans, we had a pleasant dinner together at the conference hotel. We talked a little bit of math, but mostly the conversation was philosophical. I regrettably do not remember precisely what we discussed, but it was very refreshing and stimulating to have an extremely frank and heartfelt interaction with someone with Conway’s level of insight and intellectual clarity.

Conway was arguably an extreme point in the convex hull of all mathematicians. He will very much be missed.

My student, Jaume de Dios, has set up a web site to collect upcoming mathematics seminars from any institution that are open online. (For instance, it has a talk that I will be giving in an hour.) There is a form for adding further talks to the site; please feel free to contribute (or make other suggestions) in order to make the seminar list more useful.

UPDATE: Here are some other lists of mathematical seminars online:

- Online seminars (curated by Ao Sun and Mingchen Xia at MIT)
- Algebraic Combinatorics Online Seminars (maybe using the same data set as the preceding link?)
- Online mathematics seminars (curated by Dan Isaksen at Wayne State University)
- Math seminars (run by Edgar Costa and David Roe at MIT)

Perhaps further links of this type could be added in the comments. It would perhaps make sense to somehow unify these lists into a single one that can be updated through crowdsourcing.

EDIT: See also IPAM’s advice page on running virtual seminars.

This set of notes focuses on the *restriction problem* in Fourier analysis. Introduced by Elias Stein in the 1970s, the restriction problem is a key model problem for understanding more general oscillatory integral operators, and which has turned out to be connected to many questions in geometric measure theory, harmonic analysis, combinatorics, number theory, and PDE. Only partial results on the problem are known, but these partial results have already proven to be very useful or influential in many applications.

We work in a Euclidean space . Recall that is the space of -power integrable functions , quotiented out by almost everywhere equivalence, with the usual modifications when . If then the Fourier transform will be defined in this course by the formula

From the dominated convergence theorem we see that is a continuous function; from the Riemann-Lebesgue lemma we see that it goes to zero at infinity. Thus lies in the space of continuous functions that go to zero at infinity, which is a subspace of . Indeed, from the triangle inequality it is obvious that

If , then Plancherel’s theorem tells us that we have the identity

Because of this, there is a unique way to extend the Fourier transform from to , in such a way that it becomes a unitary map from to itself. By abuse of notation we continue to denote this extension of the Fourier transform by . Strictly speaking, this extension is no longer defined in a pointwise sense by the formula (1) (indeed, the integral on the RHS ceases to be absolutely integrable once leaves ; we will return to the (surprisingly difficult) question of whether pointwise convergence continues to hold (at least in an almost everywhere sense) later in this course, when we discuss Carleson’s theorem. On the other hand, the formula (1) remains valid in the sense of distributions, and in practice most of the identities and inequalities one can show about the Fourier transform of “nice” functions (e.g., functions in , or in the Schwartz class , or test function class ) can be extended to functions in “rough” function spaces such as by standard limiting arguments.

By (2), (3), and the Riesz-Thorin interpolation theorem, we also obtain the Hausdorff-Young inequality

for all and , where is the dual exponent to , defined by the usual formula . (One can improve this inequality by a constant factor, with the optimal constant worked out by Beckner, but the focus in these notes will not be on optimal constants.) As a consequence, the Fourier transform can also be uniquely extended as a continuous linear map from . (The situation with is much worse; see below the fold.)

The *restriction problem* asks, for a given exponent and a subset of , whether it is possible to meaningfully restrict the Fourier transform of a function to the set . If the set has positive Lebesgue measure, then the answer is yes, since lies in and therefore has a meaningful restriction to even though functions in are only defined up to sets of measure zero. But what if has measure zero? If , then is continuous and therefore can be meaningfully restricted to any set . At the other extreme, if and is an arbitrary function in , then by Plancherel’s theorem, is also an arbitrary function in , and thus has no well-defined restriction to any set of measure zero.

It was observed by Stein (as reported in the Ph.D. thesis of Charlie Fefferman) that for certain measure zero subsets of , such as the sphere , one can obtain meaningful restrictions of the Fourier transforms of functions for certain between and , thus demonstrating that the Fourier transform of such functions retains more structure than a typical element of :

Theorem 1 (Preliminary restriction theorem)If and , then one has the estimatefor all Schwartz functions , where denotes surface measure on the sphere . In particular, the restriction can be meaningfully defined by continuous linear extension to an element of .

*Proof:* Fix . We expand out

From (1) and Fubini’s theorem, the right-hand side may be expanded as

where the inverse Fourier transform of the measure is defined by the formula

In other words, we have the identity

using the Hermitian inner product . Since the sphere have bounded measure, we have from the triangle inequality that

Also, from the method of stationary phase (as covered in the previous class 247A), or Bessel function asymptotics, we have the decay

for any (note that the bound already follows from (6) unless ). We remark that the exponent here can be seen geometrically from the following considerations. For , the phase on the sphere is stationary at the two antipodal points of the sphere, and constant on the tangent hyperplanes to the sphere at these points. The wavelength of this phase is proportional to , so the phase would be approximately stationary on a cap formed by intersecting the sphere with a neighbourhood of the tangent hyperplane to one of the stationary points. As the sphere is tangent to second order at these points, this cap will have diameter in the directions of the -dimensional tangent space, so the cap will have surface measure , which leads to the prediction (7). We combine (6), (7) into the unified estimate

where the “Japanese bracket” is defined as . Since lies in precisely when , we conclude that

Applying Young’s convolution inequality, we conclude (after some arithmetic) that

whenever , and the claim now follows from (5) and Hölder’s inequality.

Remark 2By using the Hardy-Littlewood-Sobolev inequality in place of Young’s convolution inequality, one can also establish this result for .

Motivated by this result, given any Radon measure on and any exponents , we use to denote the claim that the *restriction estimate*

for all Schwartz functions ; if is a -dimensional submanifold of (possibly with boundary), we write for where is the -dimensional surface measure on . Thus, for instance, we trivially always have , while Theorem 1 asserts that holds whenever . We will not give a comprehensive survey of restriction theory in these notes, but instead focus on some model results that showcase some of the basic techniques in the field. (I have a more detailed survey on this topic from 2003, but it is somewhat out of date.)

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After some discussion with the applied math research groups here at UCLA (in particular the groups led by Andrea Bertozzi and Deanna Needell), one of the members of these groups, Chris Strohmeier, has produced a proposal for a Polymath project to crowdsource in a single repository (a) a collection of public data sets relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, (b) requests for such data sets, (c) requests for data cleaning of such sets, and (d) submissions of cleaned data sets. (The proposal can be viewed as a PDF, and is also available on Overleaf). As mentioned in the proposal, this database would be slightly different in focus than existing data sets such as the COVID-19 data sets hosted on Kaggle, with a focus on producing high quality cleaned data sets. (Another relevant data set that I am aware of is the SafeGraph aggregated foot traffic data, although this data set, while open, is not quite public as it requires a non-commercial agreement to execute. Feel free to mention further relevant data sets in the comments.)

This seems like a very interesting and timely proposal to me and I would like to open it up for discussion, for instance by proposing some seed requests for data and data cleaning and to discuss possible platforms that such a repository could be built on. In the spirit of “building the plane while flying it”, one could begin by creating a basic github repository as a prototype and use the comments in this blog post to handle requests, and then migrate to a more high quality platform once it becomes clear what direction this project might move in. (For instance one might eventually move beyond data cleaning to more sophisticated types of data analysis.)

UPDATE, Mar 25: a prototype page for such a clearinghouse is now up at this wiki page.

UPDATE, Mar 27: the data cleaning aspect of this project largely duplicates the existing efforts at the United against COVID-19 project, so we are redirecting requests of this type to that project (and specifically to their data discourse page). The polymath proposal will now refocus on crowdsourcing a list of public data sets relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the most recent MSRI board of trustees meeting on Mar 7 (conducted online, naturally), Nicolas Jewell (a Professor of Biostatistics and Statistics at Berkeley, also affiliated with the Berkeley School of Public Health and the London School of Health and Tropical Disease), gave a presentation on the current coronavirus epidemic entitled “2019-2020 Novel Coronavirus outbreak: mathematics of epidemics, and what it can and cannot tell us”. The presentation (updated with Mar 18 data), hosted by David Eisenbud (the director of MSRI), together with a question and answer session, is now on Youtube:

(I am on this board, but could not make it to this particular meeting; I caught up on the presentation later, and thought it would of interest to several readers of this blog.) While there is some mathematics in the presentation, it is relatively non-technical.

Just a short post to note that this year’s Abel prize has been awarded jointly to Hillel Furstenberg and Grigory Margulis for “for pioneering the use of methods from probability and dynamics in group theory, number theory and combinatorics”. I was not involved in the decision making process of the Abel committee this year, but I certainly feel that the contributions of both mathematicians are worthy of the prize. Certainly both mathematicians have influenced my own work (for instance, Furstenberg’s proof of Szemeredi’s theorem ended up being a key influence in my result with Ben Green that the primes contain arbitrarily long arithmetic progressions); see for instance these blog posts mentioning Furstenberg, and these blog posts mentioning Margulis.

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