Dynamical systems from the Big Bang to human society

Studies of temporally evolving systems form a central part of research in all Departments of the Faculty of Science, with research topics ranging from the Big Bang to modern cities. In mathematics time-evolving systems are described using the theory of dynamical systems. Dynamical systems are used in the modelling of physical, chemical, biological as well as of technological and societal phenomena. Specific strengths at Kumpula Campus are dynamical models of mathematical physics and biomathematics, such as non-equilibrium systems, ecological, evolutionary and epidemiological models, mathematical theory of dynamical systems and theory of fractals.

voutilainen_avaruus

 

The universe was born n the Big Bang and evolves in time at all scales from quantum phenomena to the global expansion. To describe this evolution requires versatile time-dependent mathematical, physical, and chemical models. The Faculty of Science emphasises investigations of the relationship between elementary particle physics and cosmology, e.g., by actively participating in research at the European nuclear research centre, CERN. Problems associated with the evolution of the solar system, stars, and the entire cosmos are being solved using the scientific space-borne observatories of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the large ground-based telescopes of the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

The mechanism, rates and the external conditions of chemical reactions or phase transitions are research objectives of fundamental importance, both for basic research and for applications. For example, the properties of materials utilized by humans are determined by the joint temporal effects of chemical bonds and molecular interactions. Focal research involves both computational and experimental work utilizing the excellent spectroscopic facilities on the Campus and international radiation infrastructures.

Earth is a dynamical planet and geological processes affect its structure as well as the conditions on its surface. Examples include the birth and motion of the continents, the topography of the surface, and the composition of the atmosphere. The distribution of elements in the crust and their isotopic ratios reflect the crustal evolution recorded in the geological history. Research in the Faculty concentrates on the history and dynamics of Earth’s crust, making successful use of techniques such as analysis of isotope ratios, trace elements, and seismic velocities.

The processes of life are also part of Earth’s dynamical system and interact with geological processes. The Faculty puts emphasis on processes that explain the dynamics of evolution and extinctions at geological time scales as well as on changing climate and vegetation during the last several millennia. This research is conducted within a multidisciplinary network including climate modelling, sedimentology, isotope geochemistry, ecology, phylogenetics, and evolutionary biology. Another research focus of the Faculty is mathematical modelling of evolution through natural selection, with emphasis on the interactions between ecology (population dynamics) and evolution (adaptive dynamics).

The basis of spatial systems is the location and distribution of phenomena, the spatial regularities of human activities, and the attitude of human beings to spaces and places. The structural development of society is currently experiencing rapid changes. A systems approach is used to investigate and model the components of dynamic change, including the interactive relationship between society and nature. Research topics include the areal differentiation of and environmental impacts of cities, land use and planning, origin and dispersal of innovations, and population phenomena such as migration and immigration. Research is focused mainly on the processes behind the phenomena, but the development of cities is also investigated using subjective experiences and emotions of individuals or as an arena for human social interaction.

The mathematical research of Dynamical systems is associated with the national Centre of Excellence on Analysis and Dynamics. It is also funded by an ERC Advanced Investigator Grant. In the field of Cosmology the Faculty has an Academy Professor. Research in urban development has received international funding, including an ERA-NET NORFACE grant.