Optimization and Control

In both engineered and evolved systems, a theme that often comes up is that of optimization – either through deliberate design or through natural selection operating on phenotypic variations. We have worked on a range of problems involving optimization and control in static and dynamic settings in both deterministic and stochastic contexts, e.g. strategies for the control of of posture in humans in sports such as slack-lining and tight-rope walking, possible control mechanisms involved in the evolution of gliding flight in animals, learning how to move (e.g. crawl, walk, swim),  the dynamics and control of intermittent flight and swimming, strategies for controlling protein misaggregation, optimal transport in active matter, the control of aging in complex networks and multi-cellular organisms etc. An interesting philosophical question that arises in these ventures is the difference between causality and purpose: optimization presumes a purpose but can yield causal dynamical laws (that can hide purpose); conversely causal dynamical laws can sometimes be derived from an optimization principle (that might take time to glean). Is there a primacy of one approach over another? How can one tell? When does it matter? We are beginning to think about these questions particularly in the context of behavior – see the section on Ethology and Cognition for more.

Related Publications

Optimal control of aging in complex networks E. Sun, T. Michaels, and L. Mahadevan, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 117, 20404-410, 2020. [ONLINE ARTICLE] [DOI] [View PDF] [Download PDF]
Intermittent locomotion as an optimal control strategy P. Paoletti and L. Mahadevan,  Proceedings of the Royal Society (A) , 470, 20130535, 2014. [View PDF] [Download PDF]
Optimal strategies for throwing accurately M. Venkadesan and L. Mahadevan,  Royal Society Open Science  , 4: 170136. 2017. [View PDF] [Download PDF]
Spatial control of irreversible protein aggregation
C. Weber, T.C. Michaels and L. Mahadevan, eLife 8:e42315, 2019. [DOI] [View PDF] [Download PDF]
Optimal strategies for inhibition of protein aggregation T.C. Michaels, C. Weber and L. Mahadevan, PNAS 116 (29) 14593-14598, 2019. [View PDF] [Download PDF]
Optimal control of plates using incompatible strains G.W. Jones and L. Mahadevan,  Nonlinearity  28, 3153–3174, 2015. [View PDF] [Download PDF]
The branch with the furthest reach Z. Wei, S. Mandre and L. Mahadevan,  Europhysics Letters , 97, 14005, 2012. [View PDF] [Download PDF]
Optimal switching between geocentric and egocentric strategies in navigation O. Peleg and L. Mahadevan  Royal Society Open Science  3: 160128, 2016. [View PDF] [Download PDF]
Balancing on tightropes and slacklines P. Paoletti and L. Mahadevan,  Journal of the Royal Society - Interface , 9, 2097-2108, 2012. [View PDF] [Download PDF]
Coordinated crawling via reinforcement learning. S. Mishra, W. van Rees, L. MahadevanRoyal Society-Interface, 17: 20200198,  2020. [DOI] [View PDF] [Download PDF]
Control of connectivity and rigidity in prismatic assemblies. P. T. Choi, S. Chen and L. Mahadevan, Proc. R. Soc. A 476: 20200485, 2020. [ONLINE ARTICLE] [DOI] [View PDF] [Download PDF]