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Fokker-Planck equations, Free Energy, and Markov Processes on Graphs

Fluid Mechanics, Hamiltonian Dynamics, and Numerical Aspects of Optimal Transportation October 14, 2013 - October 18, 2013

October 15, 2013 (11:00 AM PDT - 12:00 PM PDT)
Speaker(s): Haomin Zhou (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Location: MSRI: Simons Auditorium
Primary Mathematics Subject Classification No Primary AMS MSC
Secondary Mathematics Subject Classification No Secondary AMS MSC


Abstract The classical Fokker-Planck equation is a linear parabolic equation which describes the time evolution of probability density of a stochastic process defined on an Euclidean space. Corresponding to a stochastic process, there often exists a free energy functional which is defined on the space of probability distributions and is a linear combination of a potential and entropy. In recent years, it has been shown that the Fokker-Planck equation is the gradient flow of the free energy functional defined on the Riemannian manifold of probability distributions whose inner product is generated by a 2-Wasserstein distance. In this talk, we present results on similar matters for a free energy functional or Markov process defined on a graph with a finite number of vertices and edges. If $N\ge 2$ is the number of vertices of the graph, we show that the corresponding Fokker-Planck equation is a system of $N$ {\it nonlinear} ordinary differential equations defined on a Riemannian manifold of probability distributions. However, in contrast to stochastic processes defined on Euclidean spaces, the situation is more subtle for discrete spaces. We have different choices for inner products on the space of probability distributions resulting in different Fokker-Planck equations for the same process. It is shown that there is a strong connection but also substantial discrepancies between the systems of ordinary differential equations and the classical Fokker-Planck equation on Euclidean spaces. Furthermore, both systems of ordinary differential equations are gradient flows for the same free energy functional defined on the Riemannian manifolds of probability distributions with different metrics. Some examples will also be discussed. The work is jointly with Shui-Nee Chow (Georgia Tech), Wen Huang (USTC) and Yao Li (Courant Institute).
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