The three-body problem

A famous problem in the field of classical mechanics is the three-body problem: what are the motions of three objects under the influence of gravity? For example, what is the motion of the Sun, Earth, and Moon system? It turns out that the three-body problem can’t be solved analytically except in special cases so has to be simulated. Here I present a glitch op-art piece based on the mechanics of the three-body problem.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 10.49.43 AM

This project uses a very simple simulator of motion (written in Processing) of three bodies moving on a torus. (I chose a torus so that the bodies wrap around from top to bottom and left to right instead of heading off to infinity.) Instead of showing the positions of the bodies, the three points are drawn as a triangle and the triangle is superimposed on the previous triangles to build an ever-developing image. Furthermore, the triangles are drawn as the difference in color between the new triangle and the background image, to give lots of very interesting glitchy optical effects as the bodies gravitate around each other, in a piece reminiscent of op-art.

Here is a video of a single run of the piece:

If you want to experiment with the piece you can download the code at: https://github.com/physicsdavid/threebody

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