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Mark Kac introduced what is now called 'the Kac Walk' with the aim of investigating the spatially homogeneous Boltzmann equation by probabilistic means. Much recent work, discussed below, on Kac's program has run in the other direction: using recent results on the Boltzmann equation, or its one-dimensional analog, the non-linear Kac-Boltzmann equation, to prove results for the Kac Walk. Here we investigate new functional inequalities for the Kac Walk pertaining to entropy production, and introduce a new form of 'chaoticity'. We then show how these entropy production inequalities imply entropy production inequalities for the Kac-Boltzmann equation. This results validate Kac's program for proving results on the non-linear Boltzmann equation via analysis of the Kac Walk, and they constitute a partial solution to the 'Almost' Cercignani Conjecture on the sphere.

We study hypocoercivity for a class of linearized BGK models for continuous phase spaces. We develop methods for constructing entropy functionals that enable us to prove exponential relaxation to equilibrium with explicit and physically meaningful rates. In fact, we not only estimate the exponential rate, but also the second time scale governing the time one must wait before one begins to see the exponential relaxation in the $L^1$ distance. This waiting time phenomenon, with a long plateau before the exponential decay "kicks in" when starting from initial data that is well-concentrated in phase space, is familiar from work of Aldous and Diaconis on Markov chains, but is new in our continuous phase space setting. Our strategies are based on the entropy and spectral methods, and we introduce a new "index of hypocoercivity" that is relevant to models of our type involving jump processes and not only diffusion. At the heart of our method is a decomposition technique that allows us to adapt Lyapunov's direct method to our continuous phase space setting in order to construct our entropy functionals. These are used to obtain precise information on linearized BGK models. Finally, we also prove local asymptotic stability of a nonlinear BGK model.

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