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Probability and Combinatorics

Tuesday, September 19, 2023 - 3:30pm

Daniel Slonim

University of Virginia


University of Pennsylvania


We introduce the model of random walks in random environments (RWRE), which are random Markov chains on the integer lattice. These random walks are well understood in the nearest-neighbor, one-dimensional case due to reversibility of almost every Markov chain. For example, directional transience and limiting speed can be characterized in terms of simple expectations involving the transition probabilities at a single site. The reversibility is lost, however, if we go up to higher dimensions or relax the nearest-neighbor assumption by allowing jumps, and therefore much less is known in these models. Despite this non-reversibility, certain special cases have proven to be more tractable. Random Walks in Dirichlet environments (RWDE), where the transition probability vectors are drawn according to a Dirichlet distribution, have been fruitfully studied in the nearest-neighbor, higher dimensional setting. We look at RWDE in one dimension with jumps and characterize when the walk is ballistic: that is, when it has non-zero limiting velocity. It turns out that in this model, there are two factors which can cause a directionally transient walk to have zero limiting speed: finite trapping and large-scale backtracking. Finite trapping involves finite subsets of the graph where the walk is liable to get trapped for a long time. It is a highly local phenomenon that depends heavily on the structure of the underlying graph. Large-scale backtracking is a more global and one-dimensional phenomenon. The two operate "independently" in the sense that either can occur with or without the other. Moreover, if neither factor on its own is enough to cause zero speed, then the walk is ballistic, so the two factors cannot conspire together to slow a walk down to zero speed if neither is sufficient to do so on its own. This appearance of two independent factors affecting ballisticity is a new feature not seen in any previously studied RWRE models.