David Jaz Myers
A (closed) dynamical system is a notion of how things can be, together with a notion of how they may change given how they are. The idea and mathematics of closed dynamical systems has proven incredibly useful in those sciences that can isolate their object of study from its environment. But many changing situations in the world cannot be meaningfully isolated from their environment – a cell will die if it is removed from everything beyond its walls. To study systems that interact with their environment, and to design such systems in a modular way, we need a robust theory of open dynamical systems.
In this extended abstract, we put forward a general definition of open dynamical system. We define two general sorts of morphisms between these systems: covariant morphisms which include trajectories, steady states, and periodic orbits; and contravariant morphisms which allow for plugging variables of some systems into parameters of other systems. We define an indexed double category of open dynamical systems indexed by their interface and use a double Grothendieck construction to construct a double category of open dynamical systems.
In our main theorem, we construct covariantly representable indexed double functors from the indexed double category of dynamical systems to an indexed double category of spans. This shows that all covariantly representable structures of dynamical systems — including trajectories, steady states, and periodic orbits — compose according to the laws of matrix arithmetic.
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