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Ghosts of order on the frontier of chaos

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  • Mathematics
  • Physics

Abstract

What kinds of motion can occur in classical mechanics? We address this question by looking at the structures traced out by trajectories in phase space; the most orderly, completely integrable systems are characterized by phase trajectories confined to low-dimensional, invariant tori. The KAM theory examines what happens to the tori when an integrable system is subjected to a small perturbation and finds that, for small enough perturbations, most of them survive. The KAM theory is mute about the disrupted tori, but, for two-dimensional systems, Aubry and Mather discovered an astonishing picture: the broken tori are replaced by "cantori," tattered, Cantor-set remnants of the original invariant curves. We seek to extend Aubry and Mather's picture to higher dimensional systems and report two kinds of studies; both concern perturbations of a completely integrable, four-dimensional symplectic map. In the first study we compute some numerical approximations to Birkhoff periodic orbits; sequences of such orbits should approximate any higher dimensional analogs of the cantori. In the second study we prove converse KAM theorems; that is, we use a combination of analytic arguments and rigorous, machine-assisted computations to find perturbations so large that no KAM tori survive. We are able to show that the last few of our Birkhoff orbits exist in a regime where there are no tori.

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