Fluids and optimal transport: from Euler to Kantorovich

Yann Brenier
Mon, May 27, 2013
PIMS, University of British Columbia
2013 Niven Lecture

In 1757, Euler presented to the Berlin Academy of Sciences the basic equations of fluid mechanics. As pointed out by V.I. Arnold in 1966, the Euler equations for incompressible fluids have a very simple geometric interpretation that combines the concept of geodesics and the concept of volume preserving maps. The later concept is very simple and nothing but a continuous version of the discrete and more elementary concept of permutation. Conversely, the Euler equations have a natural discrete counterpart in terms of permutation and combinatorial optimization, which establishes a direct link with the mathematical theory of "optimal transport". This theory, that goes back to Monge 1781 and has been renewed by Kantorovich since 1942, is nowadays a flourishing field with many applications, in natural sciences, economics, differential geometry and analysis.