Royal Society Foreign Member wins Abel Prize

26 March 2014

Professor Yakov Sinai has been awarded the 2014 Abel Prize for his fundamental contributions to dynamical systems, ergodic theory, and mathematical physics.

Sinai, who is based at the Mathematics Department of Princeton University was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 2009.

The Abel Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters for outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics.  It is worth 6,000,000 Norwegian Krone (£600,000).

Professor Terry Lyons FRS speaking about Sinai’s work said: “Sinai decisively blew away the distinction between deterministic and random behaviour for dynamical systems.  Such systems are found everywhere, in weather, the microwaves bouncing around in your microwave oven and even the economy.  Sinai analysed the behaviour of a simple constrained billiard ball bouncing off a boundary and showed how the system would in almost all cases converge to one of a small collection of ‘random steady states’ with only the coarsest dependence on the starting configuration. 

“As laymen, we appreciate that events, like the weather, can keep coming around ‘in circles’ never quite repeating themselves and instead exploring the possibilities unpredictably over time.  A remarkable counterintuitive consequence of the work is that even simple deterministic systems can exhibit this random stability; with probability and probability preserving maps, rather than the distant past giving the most useful description of the future state.”