Sandpiles and system-spanning avalanches

Stochastics Seminar
Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 15:05
1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Skiles 005
Cornell University
A sandpile on a graph is an integer-valued function on the vertices. It evolves according to local moves called topplings. Some sandpiles stabilize after a finite number of topplings, while others topple forever. For any sandpile s_0 if we repeatedly add a grain of sand at an independent random vertex, we eventually reach a sandpile s_\tau that topples forever. Statistical physicists Poghosyan, Poghosyan, Priezzhev and Ruelle conjectured a precise value for the expected amount of sand in this "threshold state" s_\tau in the limit as s_0 goes to negative infinity. I will outline the proof of this conjecture in and explain the big-picture motivation, which is to give more predictive power to the theory of "self-organized criticality".