Seminar 2021-11-12

Equivariant machine learning, structured like classical physics

Soledad Villar
Assistant Professor, Department of Applied Mathematics & Statistics

Date: Friday, November 12, 2021
Time: 11am–noon
Location: SUB I 3A
Live-stream: The talk will also be live-streamed via Zoom. For connection information, please contact

To attend this seminar in person, please RSVP by the time of the event!


There has been enormous progress in the last few years in designing conceivable (though not always practical) neural networks that respect the gauge symmetries – or coordinate freedom – of physical law. Some of these frameworks make use of irreducible representations, some make use of higher order tensor objects, and some apply symmetry-enforcing constraints. Different physical laws obey different combinations of fundamental symmetries, but a large fraction (possibly all) of classical physics is equivariant to translation, rotation, reflection (parity), boost (relativity), and permutations. Here we show that it is simple to parameterize universally approximating polynomial functions that are equivariant under these symmetries, or under the Euclidean, Lorentz, and Poincaré groups, at any dimensionality d. The key observation is that nonlinear O(d)-equivariant (and related-group-equivariant) functions can be expressed in terms of a lightweight collection of scalars – scalar products and scalar contractions of the scalar, vector, and tensor inputs. These results demonstrate theoretically that gauge-invariant deep learning models for classical physics with good scaling for large problems are feasible right now.