Chaos and the Solar System


Can the Chaos Theory be used to describe the movement of the planets?
See Also Extra Contest


In order to answer a Question the question has to be understood.
That is the problem of this question, the author does not understand the meaning of the word Chaos Theory. What is the precise definition of the Chaos Theory? To be more specific: the author does not know what the Chaos Theory predicts above and beyond what the other system theories (Newton's Law, General Relativity) already learn.

Processes can be described by differential equations. The solutions of those equations describe the behaviour of those processes for specific conditions. That is not the Chaos Theory.
Those processes can be complex. That is not the Chaos Theory.
The initial conditions of those differential equations are important. That is not the Chaos Theory.
The same is true for the parameters of those equations.
Those equations are based on observations, which are done in a certain time period. The more you predict the behaviour outside this period the larger the error. That is not the Chaos Theory.

Your author is very well aware that the behaviour of many astronomical objects is called chaotic. Just by calling something chaotic does not explain something. Old wordings like: complex, random, or difficult are still useful as well. Just by saying: "I don't know" is maybe the wisest answer.



It is the challenge of mankind to improve our understanding.
The Chaos Theory (as the name suggests) gives the impression that that is not possible.
The author does not agree with that.
That does not mean that there are no limits in our understanding i.e. in what we all can understand.


4/20/95: The attitude of the author is wrong. The answer of No indicates a lack of appreciation of what happens in a complex system like the solar system and will make any professional assume that the author is an amateur.

Last modified: 14 August 1996

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