Celestial chaos: The new logics of theory-testing in orbital dynamics


Authors
Isaac Wilhelm
Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Abstract
I explore how the nature, scope, and limits of the knowledge obtained in orbital dynamics has changed in recent years. Innovations in the design of spacecraft trajectories, as well as in astronomy, have led to new logics of theory-testing—that is, new research methodologies—in orbital dynamics. These methodologies—which combine resonance overlap theories, numerical experiments, and the implementation of space missions—were developed in response to the discovery of chaotic dynamical systems in our solar system. In the past few decades, they have replaced the methodology that dominated orbital research in the centuries following Newton's Principia. As a result, the kind of knowledge achieved by orbital research has changed: we can know how orbiting bodies in chaotic systems behave, but only over sufficiently short time scales; and we can reliably measure those temporal limitations, using Lyapunov time.
Keywords Chaotic dynamics  Newton
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Reprint years 2016, 2019
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsb.2018.10.005
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