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date: 18 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article discusses the history and modern theory of Painlevé transcendents, with particular emphasis on the Riemann–Hilbert method. In random matrix theory (RMT), the Painlevé equations describe either the eigenvalue distribution functions in the classical ensembles for finite N or the universal eigenvalue distribution functions in the large N limit. This article examines the latter. It first considers the main features of the Riemann–Hilbert method in the theory of Painlevé equations using the second Painlevé equation as a case study before analysing the two most celebrated universal distribution functions of RMT in terms of the Painlevé transcendents using the theory of integrable Fredholm operators as well as the Riemann–Hilbert technique: the sine kernel and the Airy kernel determinants.

Keywords: Painlevé transcendent, Riemann–Hilbert method, random matrix theory (RMT), Painlevé equation, integrable Fredholm operator, sine kernel, Airy kernel

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