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We will tell you the real reason for this physical phenomenon that caused the failure of Isaac Newton

We will tell you the real reason for this physical phenomenon that caused the failure of Isaac Newton

Netflix series teases
The Netflix series “The Three-Body Problem” raises some physics questions. (Image source: Netflix)

Spoiler alert!

This article discusses a central aspect of the plot of the novel series (The three suns) by Chinese writer Liu Cixin, or the Netflix series 3 Body problem Spoiled. Only read on if this is relevant to you.

Our solar system is a miracle for many reasons. We live in a stable idyll of a single, near-perfect star, protected by a distant giant Jupiter and accompanied by a relatively massive moon. The majority of planets find much less home conditions – for example, the habitat of aliens Trisolaris.

They live in a solar system made up of three stars, and are scientifically referred to as Trapezoidal. Tragedy: You are then a victim of the physical phenomenon that gives it its name Three-body problem.

We explain the background to the series' initial terms and history of the book and answer the following questions:

Relax with twos, mess with threes

Almost more than 300 years ago, Isaac Newton solved equations that still describe the rotation of two bodies such as the Earth and the Moon. They both revolve around the so-called barycenter. In the case of us and our satellite, this is located about 1,000 kilometers below the Earth's crust. So the Earth oscillates minimally and the Moon follows the path we know. So far, it's very simple – a two-body system.

Stars in pairs or as triples: Many star systems now perform a ballet of two stars at their center, orbiting around a gravitational center, gravitationally pulling each other together – peacefully and predictably. With three stars, chaos erupts.

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Three-part body systems are very difficult to understand mathematically. The forces work with each approach differently, depending on when, where and at what speed two or three team members meet – the different blocks further deepen the physical chaos.

To clarify that, we put it here The sand of the universe a. Anyone interested in astronomy and likes to perform physics-based experiments should take a look at this powerful simulation tool with a large Steam Workshop community.

The Three-Body Problem: Solve the Puzzle from the Netflix seriesThe Three-Body Problem: Solve the Puzzle from the Netflix series

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The Three-Body Problem: Solve the Puzzle from the Netflix series

Simulations like the one above and more complex simulations using supercomputers prove one thing: The astronomical trio doesn't last long — by galactic standards. As studies show, the ill-fated constellations will disintegrate within a maximum period of about 50 million years, because long-term stable orbits cannot be created.

In many cases the result is dramatic: One of the three bodies is discarded, while the remaining bodies arrange themselves into paired systems. Instead, two stars collide and form a larger star, which is then left with a typically smaller partner.

In the case of systems containing planets, these relatively small celestial bodies suffer a terrible fate before long. Having no chance of achieving stable orbits in the chaos at the centre, they are flung away and have since been traveling as lone planets without a sun.

Is the basic assumption of the series scientifically defensible?

No, because the system shown in the video above is not suitable. Strictly speaking, Alpha Centauri is not a trapezoidal system. So there is no three-body problem inside, because the third star is orbiting far outside.

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Additionally, the series and book are overly optimistic. Based on current knowledge, intelligent life could not have evolved so quickly; It may even take billions of years.

Do such systems actually exist?

Yes, as the study linked above shows, they exist, but they don't age. However, there are likely to be a huge amount of former trapezoidal systems throughout the Milky Way and beyond. Nowadays they are binary star systems.

Do solutions exist for this? Three-body problem?

But is this true when you claim the chain The three body problems are unsolvable? From a practical point of view – with regard to solar systems – they may not be wrong, but from a mathematical point of view this is not true. However, very specific conditions, such as equal masses, are needed to find solutions.

The graphic below shows you an example A handful of scientists have calculated configurations in which trapezoidal systems are stable. So there are solutions for that Three-body problem.

Will we ever find a very small and unstable sample or even a sometimes stable and old sample? Unconfirmed, it is theoretically possible, but perhaps very unlikely. For such a coincidence to occur and be visible to us, we would have to be very lucky. However, our homeland is already a stroke of luck of galactic proportions.

So: let's wait and enjoy our singing song – which one or two aliens are sure to be jealous of.