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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K00865X/1
Title: Singularities of Geometric Partial Differential Equations
Principal Investigator: Topping, Professor P
Other Investigators:
Dafermos, Professor M Neves, Dr A
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Nat Inst for Pure and App Mathematics University of Wisconsin Madison
University of Zurich
Department: Mathematics
Organisation: University of Warwick
Scheme: Programme Grants
Starts: 01 January 2013 Ends: 31 December 2018 Value (£): 1,551,044
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Algebra & Geometry Mathematical Analysis
Mathematical Physics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
18 Sep 2012 Mathematics Prioritisation Panel Meeting September 2012 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form


This proposal sits within a field of great scope, stretching from some of the most fundamental problems in physics, to current practical issues in engineering, to some of the most powerful modern techniques in topology and geometry. Although these topics are all very different, it has become apparent that many of the biggest future developments in each area will require overcoming key research challenges that are remarkably similar. It is these challenges that we will address in this proposed research.

At the heart of each of the topics above lie Geometric Partial Differential Equations (PDE). Each of these equations could be perhaps a law of physics, or an equation modelling an industrial process, or more abstractly, a rule under which a geometric object can be processed in order to improve it. Smooth solutions to Geometric PDE have been extremely successful in applications to pure and applied problems, but the equations are generally nonlinear, and it is therefore typical that singularities will occur in solutions. The next generation of applications, with extensive potential impact, require us to transform our understanding of these singularities that develop. We must understand when and why they occur, their structure and stability, and how they encode what the PDE is doing. We must analyse to what extent they break the classical theory of smooth solutions, and what effects this has. These are the main challenges of this proposal, and we have compiled a team to address them with complementary expertise in singularity analysis and experience of applying geometric PDE across subjects such as Mathematical Relativity, Geometric Flows and Minimal Surfaces.

In Mathematical Relativity, one sees singularities in solutions of the Einstein equations, first written down by Einstein in 1915 as the fundamental equations of the large-scale universe. Progress in the research challenges we propose will have potentially major impact in some of the most famous open problems in this field such as the Cosmic Censorship Conjectures, and the Black Hole Stability Problem.

We also find singularities in the field of Geometric Flows, by which we mean the evolution equations of `parabolic' type that are currently being so successful in applications to geometry, topology and engineering, and in modelling phenomena in physics and biology. The most famous application in recent years has been the resolution of the Poincaré conjecture, which was named by the journal `Science' as the scientific `Breakthrough of the year, 2006,' but is considered by many to be the greatest achievement of mathematics in the past 100 years. The research challenges we propose are central to future applications of these equations, whether we are using them to classify manifolds with a certain curvature condition, or manipulate an image from a medical scanner.

Intimately connected with these two subjects is the theory of Minimal Surfaces. These surfaces have been historically used to model soap films, but the general theory has developed into a powerful tool with applications to a wide range of subjects from black holes to topology. In this direction, we are particularly interested in applying progress on the research challenges of this proposal to unravel the connection between the existence of higher-index minimal surfaces and the singularities that occur in flows and variational problems that are designed to find them.

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Organisation Website: http://www.warwick.ac.uk