Sunday, March 08, 2015
The 'T' in the Fermi-Pasta-Ulam(-Tsingou) Problem
Today is International Women's Day, and today some venues (e.g., IFLS) are posting articles with the theme 'women you should have heard of' (#womenyoushouldhaveheardof), and I would like to contribute one who was intimately involved in introducing (and conducting subsequent studies of) one of my favorite mathematics/physics problems. The lady in question is Mary Tsingou, and the problem is the Fermi-Pasta-Ulam(-Tsingou) problem. Seven years ago, Thierry Dauxois wrote an opinion piece in Physics Today about the decades of omission of credit that Tsingou had experience. To quote his abstract, "The computations for the first-ever numerical experiment were performed by a young woman named Mary Tsingou. After decades of omission, it is time to recognize her contribution." If you look at the original technical report, you'll notice typed text that indicates that the report was "written by" Fermi, Pasta, and Ulam but that "Work done by" credits Fermi, Pasta, Ulam, and Tsingou. Dauxois's paper discusses Mary Tsingou's contribution to the original technical report and advocates renaming the problem as the "FPUT" problem. Tsingou also worked on the FPU(T) problem later---e.g., on "superecurrences" that occur in very long-time calculations. For more information about the FPU(T) problem, see the Scholarpedia article devoted to it, a Scholarpedia article devoted to its mathematical aspects, and an expository article that I coauthored.