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May 18, 2023 |
Prof. Rafael de la Llave is quoted in a Quanta article about research into the dynamics of the solar system. An excerpt from the article:
But research in the 18th century by mathematical giants like Pierre-Simon Laplace and Joseph-Louis Lagrange indicated that, precession aside, the size and shape of the ellipse are stable. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that this intuition started to shift, when Henri Poincaré found that even in a model with just three bodies (say, a star orbited by two planets), it’s impossible to compute exact solutions to Newton’s equations. “Celestial mechanics is a delicate thing,” said Rafael de la Llave, a mathematician at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Alter the initial conditions by a hair — for example, by shifting the assumed position of one planet by a mere meter, as Laskar and Gastineau did in their simulations — and over long timescales the system can look very different.
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