A Path-Counting Analysis of Phase Shifts in Box-Ball Systems

Nicholas M. Ercolani, Jonathan Ramalheira-Tsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In this paper, we perform a detailed analysis of the phase shift phenomenon of the classical soliton cellular automaton known as the box-ball system, ultimately resulting in a statement and proof of a formula describing this phase shift. This phenomenon has been observed since the nineties, when the system was first introduced by Takahashi and Satsuma, but no explicit global description was made beyond its observation. By using the Gessel–Viennot–Lindström lemma and path-counting arguments, we present here a novel proof of the classical phase shift formula for the continuous-time Toda lattice, as discovered by Moser, and use this proof to derive a discrete-time Toda lattice analogue of the phase shift phenomenon. By carefully analysing the connection between the box-ball system and the discrete-time Toda lattice, through the mechanism of tropicalisation/dequantisation, we translate this discrete-time Toda lattice phase shift formula into our new formula for the box-ball system phase shift.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number063
JournalSymmetry, Integrability and Geometry: Methods and Applications (SIGMA)
StatePublished - 2022


  • Gessel–Viennot–Lind-ström lemma
  • box-ball system
  • soliton phase shifts
  • ultradiscretization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analysis
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Geometry and Topology


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