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Quantum uncertainty makes long-term predictions of the orbits of black hole triplets impossible

2020-04-08

three body problem, from livescience web site

Science News reports (based on a paper published by the Royal Astronomical Society) that new calculations show the prediction of the orbits of triplets of black holes is fundamentally impossible.  This is because the uncertainty principle limits the accuracy of positional determinations.  The orbits of three bodies are chaotic, that is they are highly sensitive to the initial positions of the bodies.  This makes their orbits impossible to determine very far into the future.  There are a few solutions to the equations representing these orbits, but they are far between.

New calculations show that predictions of these orbits are impossible to nail down with certainty, and the uncertainty only gets worse with time.  When the uncertainty principle is included in the calculations (the principle is actually a mathematical equation that tells you just how close you can get to accurate determination of speed and location of any one particle), the result is that, no matter how accurate your measurement of the initial positions of the three bodies, after a while your prediction of the orbits will be wrong.

“The Three Body Problem” is a famous science fiction trilogy, written by an author raised in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  The novel is deeply influenced by the culture of communist China.  It makes for fascinating reading.  You can spend quite a bit of time while you are in self-imposed isolation reading this trilogy, and you will gain much knowledge and understanding, both of science fiction and the psychology of people who live in China.  Since this is one of the two largest countries on Earth, I think that  understanding the psychology of its people is important.

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