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Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Sinai wins prestigious mathematics award

Northwestern University has awarded its Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics to Princeton professor Yakov Sinai. The award, which is given every two years and carries a stipend of $125,000, recognizes Sinai for his major contributions to the study of chaos.

Sinai's work deals with measuring complex systems that change over time, such as the weather and economic systems.

He was the first to develop a mathematical description of the complexity of changing, chaotic systems, creating an approach now called Kolmogorov-Sinai entropy. This work gives mathematicians a critical tool for solving the complex equations that describe such systems.

"There are precise solutions to these equations for very short periods of time," said Zhihong Jeff Xia, a professor of mathematics at Northwestern University and a member of the Nemmers selection committee. "But if you want to look at long-term behavior, like weather for the next five days to a week, then the system becomes very complicated. This is when we see something called chaos."

"Kolmogorov-Sinai entropy measures complexity, which is the first step. Then comes finding patterns. Even though a system is complex, there are always patterns -- you just need to look at it the right way. Sinai was the first one to recognize and study these patterns," said Xia.

Sinai received his Ph.D. from Moscow State University in 1960 and in 1971 became a senior researcher at the Landau Institute of Theoretical Physics. He joined the Princeton faculty in 1993. Sinai has received many other awards and honors including the 1997 Wolf Prize in mathematics and the 1992 Dirac Medal of the International Center for Theoretical Physics.

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601

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