Award for the most surprising/striking discovery – University of Copenhagen

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08 October 2014

Award for the most surprising/striking discovery


Erik A. Martens from the Dept. of Biomedical Sciences and Dept. of Mathematical Sciences has received the FOKOS award for the most surprising/striking discovery reported in 2013.

Erik A MartensErik started as assistant professor in the DSIN-network in October 2013, where he works on the project "Mathematical Modeling of Collective Behavior of Physiological Systems".

He received the FOKOS award for the results presented in the article "Chimera states in mechanical oscillator networks", published in PNAS 110 (2013) 10563. The price was awarded by the ’Friends of Research on Complex Systems’, an association within the Max Planck Society.

The study concerns the synchronization of coupled oscillators, a fascinating manifestation of self-organization that nature uses to orchestrate essential processes of life, such as the beating of the heart.

Although it was long thought that synchrony and disorder were mutually exclusive states for a network of identical oscillators, numerous theoretical studies in recent years have revealed the intriguing possibility of "chimera states", in which the symmetry of the oscillator population is broken into a synchronous part and an asynchronous part. The experiment carried out by Erik Martens' team demonstrated the first time that such states, previously only seen in mathematical models, also exist in mechanical oscillators (pendulums).

By introducing and analyzing a mechanical mathematical model the study establishes a link between abstract mathematical models and physical systems. Chimera states have also been reported in other experimental systems with (electro-)chemical and lasing oscillators. Their emergence has been demonstrated in mathematical models of neurons, and it has been suggested that such states could be related to various activation patterns that modulate function in the brain.

Further media presence regarding the publication:

1. Press release from Princeton University
Is there an invisible tug-of-war behind bad hearts and power outages?

Metronomer marcherer kun halvt i takt i nyt eksperiment

3. Physics today
A mechanical chemera