|Residence||Victoria, B.C., Canada|
|Institutions||University of Victoria|
Education and career
He graduated with a Diploma in Mathematics from the University of Bucharest in 1983. Between 1983 and 1988 he worked as a math teacher in Mediaş. In 1989 he obtained his doctoral degree at the University of Heidelberg in Germany with a thesis in celestial mechanics. After a visiting position at the University of Dortmund, he immigrated to Canada, where he became a post-doctoral fellow at Centre de Recherches Mathématiques (CRM) in Montreal. Since 1991, he has been a professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, where he was the director of the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) between 1999 and 2003. He also held short-term visiting positions at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (1993), University of Bucharest, Romania (1998), University of Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil (1999), and The Bernoulli Institute (at EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland (2004). He was invited to speak and lecture all over the world.
Diacu's research is focused on qualitative aspects of the n-body problem of celestial mechanics. In the early 1990s he proposed the study of Manev's gravitational law, given by a small perturbation of Newton's law, in the general context of (what he called) quasihomogeneous potentials. In several papers, written alone or in collaboration, he showed that Manev's law, which provides a classical explanation of the perihelion advance of Mercury, is a bordering case between two large classes of attraction laws. Several experts followed this research direction, in which more than 100 papers have been published to this day.
Diacu's more recent research interest regards the n-body problem in spaces of constant curvature. For the case n=2, this problem was independently proposed by Bolyai and Lobachevsky, the founders of hyperbolic geometry. But though many papers were written on this subject, the equations of motion for any number, n, of bodies were obtained only in 2008. These equations provided him with a new criterion for determining the geometrical nature of the physical space. More specifically, he showed that celestial orbits depend on the curvature of the space. For instance, the Lagrangian orbits (when three bodies are at the vertices of a rotating equilateral triangle) can have bodies of any mass in the Euclidean (flat) space, but the masses must be equal if the space has negative or positive curvature. Since Lagrangian orbits of non-equal masses exist in our solar system (Sun, Jupiter, and the Trojan asteroids), we can conclude that, if assumed to have constant curvature, the physical space is Euclidean for distances comparable to those of our solar system.
Apart from his mathematics research, Florin Diacu is also an author of several successful books. He wrote a monograph about celestial mechanics and a textbook of differential equations. Lately he became interested in conveying complex scientific and scholarly ideas to the general public. His most successful books in this sense are:
- Celestial Encounters: The Origins of Chaos and Stability, co-authored with Philip Holmes, Princeton University Press (1996), (ISBN 0-691-00545-1). It won the Best Academic Book Award" of 1997. and was translated into Chinese, Greek, Hungarian, Japanese, Romanian, and Russian. This book is a history of ideas tracing the birth and development of chaos theory.
- The Lost Millennium: History's Timetables Under Siege, Knopf Canada (2005) (ISBN 0-676-97657-3), is a treatment of the problems of historical chronology. The author discusses how historical events were dated and presents the objections brought to the traditional approach by scientists like Isaac Newton and mathematicians such as Anatoly Fomenko. A modified Romanian version appeared in 2009.
- Megadisasters: The Science of Predicting the Next Catastrophe, Princeton University Press (2009) (ISBN 0-691-13350-6) and Oxford University Press (2009) (ISBN 978-0-19-923778-4), traces the history of the scientific efforts made to predict and minimize the damage resulting from major catastrophes, such as tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, rapid climate change, hurricanes, collisions with asteroids or comets, stock-market crashes, and pandemics. This book also won "Best Academic Book Award" of 2011. From the citation: "[Florin] Diacu (Univ. of Victoria, Canada) is a mathematician who uses his professional and outstanding literary skills to provide a remarkable analysis of the 'science' of prediction. His chapter topics range from tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and cosmic impacts to financial crashes and pandemics. Perhaps the most remarkable chapter deals with climate change. All these subjects are highly germane to the present world society awash with levels of communication hardly envisaged 10 or 20 years ago. Diacu's great depth of historical knowledge, penetrating insights, and familiarity with the associated literature has led to an erudite yet easily readable approach that retains critical scientific impact. In an age where the news media and large sections of society seem to feast on dire predictions and the threat of many 'imminent' disasters, Megadisasters should be required reading for all intelligent human beings. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries."
The students at the University of Victoria signed a petition against the differential equations textbook this professor had written.
- F. Diacu, Near-Collision Dynamics for Particle Systems with Quasihomogeneous Potentials, J. Differential Equations, 128, 58-77, 1996.
- J. Delgado, F. Diacu, E.A. Lacomba, A. Mingarelli, V. Mioc, E. Perez-Chavela, C. Stoica, The Global Flow of the Manev Problem, J. Math. Phys. 37 (6), 2748-2761, 1996.
- F. Diacu, V. Mioc, and C. Stoica, Phase-space structure and regularization of Manev-type problems, Nonlinear Anal. 41(2000), 1029-1055.
- F. Diacu, E. Perez-Chavela and M. Santoprete, The n-body problem in spaces of constant curvature, arXiv:0807.1747 (2008), 54 p
- F. Diacu, On the singularities of the curved n-body problem, arXiv:0812.3333 (2008), 20 p., and Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. (to appear).
- F. Diacu, E. Perez-Chavela and M. Santoprete, Saari's Conjecture of the N-Body Problem in the Collinear Case, Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 357,10 (2005), 4215-4223.
- F. Diacu, T. Fujiwara, E. Perez-Chavela, and M. Santoprete, Saari's Homographic Conjecture of the Three-Body Problem, Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 360, 12 (2008), 6447-6473.