A Topological View of Collective Behavior

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Meeting ID: 986 0544 8064
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Friday, February 12, 2021 - 15:30


Speaker Information
Chad Topaz
Williams College

Abstract or Additional Information

From nanoparticle assembly to synchronized neurons to locust swarms, collective behaviors abound anywhere in nature that objects or agents interact. Investigators modeling collective behavior face a variety of challenges involving data from simulation and/or experiment. These challenges include exploring large, complex data sets to understand and characterize the system, inferring the model parameters that most accurately reflect a given data set, and assessing the goodness-of-fit between experimental data sets and proposed models. Topological data analysis provides a lens through which these challenges may be addressed. In this talk, I introduce the core ideas of topological data analysis for newcomers to the field. I then highlight how these topological techniques can be applied to models arising from the study of groups displaying collective motion, such as bird flocks, fish schools, and insect swarms. The key approach is to characterize a system's dynamics via the time-evolution of topological invariants called Betti numbers, accounting for persistence of topological features across multiple scales.