Outer Billiards on Kites (AM-171)

Princeton University Press
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Outer billiards is a basic dynamical system defined relative to a convex shape in the plane. B. H. Neumann introduced this system in the 1950s, and J. Moser popularized it as a toy model for celestial mechanics. All along, the so-called Moser-Neumann question has been one of the central problems in the field. This question asks whether or not one can have an outer billiards system with an unbounded orbit. The Moser-Neumann question is an idealized version of the question of whether, because of small disturbances in its orbit, the Earth can break out of its orbit and fly away from the Sun. In Outer Billiards on Kites, Richard Schwartz presents his affirmative solution to the Moser-Neumann problem. He shows that an outer billiards system can have an unbounded orbit when defined relative to any irrational kite. A kite is a quadrilateral having a diagonal that is a line of bilateral symmetry. The kite is irrational if the other diagonal divides the quadrilateral into two triangles whose areas are not rationally related. In addition to solving the basic problem, Schwartz relates outer billiards on kites to such topics as Diophantine approximation, the modular group, self-similar sets, polytope exchange maps, profinite completions of the integers, and solenoids--connections that together allow for a fairly complete analysis of the dynamical system.
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About the author

Richard Evan Schwartz is professor of mathematics at Brown University and the author of Spherical CR Geometry and Dehn Surgery (Princeton).
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Princeton University Press
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Published on
Oct 5, 2009
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Best For
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Mathematics / Geometry / General
Mathematics / Topology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Mathematical billiards describe the motion of a mass point in a domain with elastic reflections off the boundary or, equivalently, the behavior of rays of light in a domain with ideally reflecting boundary. From the point of view of differential geometry, the billiard flow is the geodesic flow on a manifold with boundary. This book is devoted to billiards in their relation with differential geometry, classical mechanics, and geometrical optics. Topics covered include variational principles of billiard motion, symplectic geometry of rays of light and integral geometry, existence and nonexistence of caustics, optical properties of conics and quadrics and completely integrable billiards, periodic billiard trajectories, polygonal billiards, mechanisms of chaos in billiard dynamics, and the lesser-known subject of dual (or outer) billiards.The book is based on an advanced undergraduate topics course. Minimum prerequisites are the standard material covered in the first two years of college mathematics (the entire calculus sequence, linear algebra). However, readers should show some mathematical maturity and rely on their mathematical common sense. A unique feature of the book is the coverage of many diverse topics related to billiards, for example, evolutes and involutes of plane curves, the four-vertex theorem, a mathematical theory of rainbows, distribution of first digits in various sequences, Morse theory, the Poincare recurrence theorem, Hilbert's fourth problem, Poncelet porism, and many others. There are approximately 100 illustrations. The book is suitable for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers interested in ergodic theory and geometry.
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