Israeli team cracks Sir Isaac Newton’s unsolved three-body problem

A team of astrophysicists led by Dr. Nicholas Stone at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have solved the complexities of Sir Isaac Newton’s ‘three-body problem” using statistics.The notion for the three-body problem was formulated by Newton after he used the Laws of Motion to describe how the Earth orbits the Sun, assuming that this could help calculate what would happen if a third celestial body, like the Moon, was added into the equation. The calculations were, however, more difficult to solve than initially expected.Stone and Professor Nathan Leigh at Chile’s La Universidad de Concepción cited and worked off of research published over the past two centuries to arrive at their discovery. In particular, research revolving around concepts that would help determine the validity of the hypothesis that in unstable three-body systems, one of the three bodies will eventually be expelled from the pack, forming a “stable binary relationship” between the remaining two.Instead of “accepting the chaotic” nature of the system for what it is, the researchers used statistical analysis and computer-generated models of the Earth, Moon and Sun’s movements to solve the problem and found out after comparing and applying this method to the ‘Three Body’ Problem, their equations had a “high degree of accuracy,” according to Stone.The researchers note that their discovery does not “represent an exact” solution to Newton’s elusive problem, but it should assist physicists in visualizing the complex process.“Take three black holes that are orbiting one another. Their orbits will necessarily become unstable and even after one of them gets kicked out, we’re still very interested in the relationship between the surviving black holes,” explained Stone. “This ability to predict new orbits is critical to our understanding of how these—and any three-body problem survivors—will behave in a newly-stable situation.”

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Author: The Jerusalem Post