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What is the problem of the 3 bodies on which the new Netflix series with Eiza González is based?

2024-03-28 23:03:26

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In 2006, Chinese engineer and writer Liu Cixin published a novel that soon became a bestseller: The three body problem (The 3 Body Problem, in English). This tells the story of a group of scientists who interact with a distant civilization.

In addition to the human drama contained in the story, Liu based his story on a well-known problem of orbital mechanics, that of the three bodies. This problem, raised since human beings began to understand the concept of gravity, questions how difficult it is to predict the movement of three bodies that belong to the same orbital system.

The three-body problem, the series that premiered on March 21 and is all the rage on Netflix (Photo: Netflix)

Now, the 3-body problem is back in fashion, with the premiere on Netflix of a series with the same title, based on Liu’s book.

“Isaac Newton knew that if you have a system involving two objects (a single planet orbiting a star, for example), then, with a little understanding of how gravity works, you can calculate how both will move,” he explained to the BBC astrophysicist and Oxford University professor Chris Lintott.

But If a third object is added to that system, like a moon, for example, the system becomes unpredictableLintott explained.

And why is it important? Once Isaac Newton unveiled laws of universal gravitation in 1687, what followed was an exploration of how those revolutionary ideas were applied to all fields of physics, including physics. astronomy.

According to Lintott, Newton’s laws were able to accurately predict, for example, the movement of the Earth around the Sun. The same thing happens with the movement of the Moon around the Earth.

The three-body problem, the series that premiered on March 21 and is all the rage on Netflix (Photo: Netflix)

But in other parts of the universe, there are orbital systems made up of more than two bodies. And this is where the problem begins. “By including a third object, what is generated is chaos”, he pointed Lintott, since it becomes “impossible to predict what the orbital motion of these three celestial bodies will be.” This problem is due to the law of energy conservation of the universe, which states that energy is neither created nor destroyed, explained astrophysicist Charles Horowitz on the Vox portal.

Horowitz noted that, because of this principle, once a planet enters the gravitational system of a star, it cannot “create” extra energy to escape its gravitational field. And it remains there stably until infinity.

“But what happens if another star arrives in this system: both stars can generate enough energy to expel the planet or celestial body they are orbiting,” Horowitz explained. “With these ingredients, how do we stabilize three gravitational objects or predict what their orbits might be?” he asked.

In the Netflix series, as in Liu’s book, The characters interact with a planet (San-Ti) that has a three-sun solar system that fluctuates between stable and chaotic eras. When San-Ti revolves around a sun, it is a stable era. But when another of the suns snatches the planet, it wanders in a gravitational field in which the three stars intervene, causing chaos.

In the infinity of the universe there are many regions – especially those where forming stars– where three-body systems are found. And because of this complexity, they become difficult to study. “In these types of areas, where there are also many galaxies, there are more three-body systems than non-three-body systems, which makes predictive analysis difficult,” Horowitz said.

The Sun, Earth and Moon make up a three-body system. “But As the Sun exerts a greater gravitational force on the Earth, and the Earth does the same on the Moon, a pair of two-body systems is created, with stable and predictable orbits.”explained physics professor Jonathan Blazek, in a Northeastern University article.

That “for now”Blazek added. The professor refers to the fact that although our solar system seems stable, “There is no guarantee that it will continue like this in the distant future.”because deep down it is a multibody system.”

The series, in which most of the characters are scientists (including Mexican actress Eiza González, who plays the role of nanotechnology expert Augustina “Auggie” Salazar) proposes how to deal from a practical point of view with the unknown of the three bodies.

In real life, the problem still has no answer. Scientists have obtained statistical predictions based on computer simulations. But, they are just that: possible scenarios of what a computer believes will happen under certain circumstances.

The three-body problem, the series that premiered on March 21 and is all the rage on Netflix (Photo: Netflix)

Solving the three-body problem could help us understand, for example, how the presence of a third object influences the formation and fusion of the black holesLinttot explained.

Blazek, for his part, noted that solving this problem may be key to better understanding the evolution of the universe. “We don’t know if in a few billion years the orbits will remain as they are today,” the professor said, adding: “It is very likely that there will be some instability that change the look of things in the solar system.”

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