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The mean action time is the mean of a probability density function that can be interpreted as a critical time, which is a finite estimate of the time taken for the transient solution of a reaction-diffusion equation to effectively reach steady state. For high-variance distributions, the mean action time underapproximates the critical time since it neglects to account for the spread about the mean. We can improve our estimate of the critical time by calculating the higher moments of the probability density function, called the moments of action, which provide additional information regarding the spread about the mean. Existing methods for calculating the nth moment of action require the solution of n nonhomogeneous boundary value problems which can be difficult and tedious to solve exactly. Here we present a simplified approach using Laplace transforms which allows us to calculate the nth moment of action without solving this family of boundary value problems and also without solving for the transient solution of the underlying reaction-diffusion problem. We demonstrate the generality of our method by calculating exact expressions for the moments of action for three problems from the biophysics literature. While the first problem we consider can be solved using existing methods, the second problem, which is readily solved using our approach, is intractable using previous techniques. The third problem illustrates how the Laplace transform approach can be used to study coupled linear reaction-diffusion equations.

Original publication

DOI

10.1103/PhysRevE.88.054102

Type

Journal article

Journal

Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys

Publication Date

11/2013

Volume

88