Henri Poincare

Topics: Mathematics, Chaos theory, N-body problem Pages: 2 (558 words) Published: September 6, 2008
Web Quest, Henri Poincare
Henri Poincare is also known as the "Last Universalist," which refers to a man who is at ease in all branches of mathematics, both pure and applied. Poincare was a mathematical and scientific genius who was able to make many major contributions to such diverse fields as analysis, algebra, topology, astronomy, and theoretical physics. Poincare had many creative ideas and he was published extensively. Poincare entered a contest sponsored by the King of Sweden and was able to address the idea that the solar system, as modeled by Newton's equations, is dynamically stable. This idea of dynamical chaos addressed the question in a generalization of the three body problem, which was considered one of the most difficult problems in mathematical physics. The three body problem consists of nine simultaneous differential equations. The difficulty was in showing that a solution in terms of invariants converges. While Poincare did not succeed in giving a complete solution, his work was so impressive that he still won the prize. His work, though incomplete, was of such importance that it began a new era in the history of celestial mechanics (Argosy University, 2008).

Poincare was a visionary who described the Hallmark of Chaos, or the sensitive dependence on initial conditions that determine the final outcome. He explained that small differences in the initial conditions produce very great ones in the final phenomena. He was considered by many to be one of France's greatest theoretical scientists (Argosy University, 2008). While Newton believed cosmic motion was as reliable as the tick-tock of a clock, mathematicians and scientists like Henri Poincare discarded that idea through the development of the chaos theory. Chaotic systems are not truly random: Inexorable physical laws still apply. But in chaotic systems, such an enormous number of factors are involved that a tiny variation can lead to enormous, unpredictable changes down the road....
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