Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Davis

UC Davis Previously Published Works bannerUC Davis

Nonequilibrium statistical mechanics and optimal prediction of partially-observed complex systems


Only a subset of degrees of freedom are typically accessible or measurable in real-world systems. As a consequence, the proper setting for empirical modeling is that of partially-observed systems. Notably, data-driven models consistently outperform physics-based models for systems with few observable degrees of freedom; e.g. hydrological systems. Here, we provide an operator-theoretic explanation for this empirical success. To predict a partially-observed system’s future behavior with physics-based models, the missing degrees of freedom must be explicitly accounted for using data assimilation and model parametrization. Data-driven models, in contrast, employ delay-coordinate embeddings and their evolution under the Koopman operator to implicitly model the effects of the missing degrees of freedom. We describe in detail the statistical physics of partial observations underlying data-driven models using novel maximum entropy and maximum caliber measures. The resulting nonequilibrium Wiener projections applied to the Mori-Zwanzig formalism reveal how data-driven models may converge to the true dynamics of the observable degrees of freedom. Additionally, this framework shows how data-driven models infer the effects of unobserved degrees of freedom implicitly, in much the same way that physics models infer the effects explicitly. This provides a unified implicit-explicit modeling framework for predicting partially-observed systems, with hybrid physics-informed machine learning methods combining both implicit and explicit aspects.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View