UK Nonlinear News , July 1995.

MERCURY AND VENUS WILL SOON COLLIDE!

Steve Bishop

Dr. Steven R. Bishop
Centre for Nonlinear Dynamics and its Applications
Civil Engineering Building
University College London
Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT

Tel: +44-171-380-7729
Fax: +44-171-380-0986
email: s.bishop@ucl.ac.uk

Time is only relative but let us hope that this prediction will not come true. However, the recent work of Jacques Laskar on the chaotic nature of the solar system and the prediction that the orbit of Mercury will cross that of Venus in 5 billion years was one of the highlights of a recent week of talks on chaotic and nonlinear dynamics.

The meeting was organised by Professor Marko Robnik and promoted as a summer school under the title of "Let's face chaos through nonlinear dynamics". The meeting was held in Maribor, Slovenia, and ran for 2 weeks, though I was only able to attend the first week. I knew none of the speakers beforehand and had felt slightly aggrieved that this clashed with another conference, not far away in Trieste, which I would have dearly loved to attend. As it happened, however, the week threw up a series of bonuses for which I was thoroughly grateful.

It was a great pleasure to hear Laskar. Like Jack Wisdom - another leading researcher in the field of solar system dynamics - he is immensely committed to his work, speaking with passion and enthusiasm yet maintaining a pedagogic style which enabled all the audience to feel that they understood his work. Chaos in the solar system was an embracing topic but his research on frequency map analysis provided the mathematical backdrop.

Each day started with a talk by Professor Hermann Haken on Synergetics - the study of the interactions of subsystems which interact spontaneously forming spatial, temporal, spatio-temporal or functional structures. Haken's interests are interdisciplinary and his talks were stimulating, using examples ranging from physics over biology to the social sciences to indicate the basic concepts and various instabilities. His later talks concentrated on his recent research on the principles of brain function.

Other key speakers included:

Tassos Bountis who gave some nice introductory-through-to-research lectures on homoclinic orbits, Melnikov methods and horseshoe formations,
Tim Sauer who talked on nonlinear time series analysis,
Giovanni Gallavotti on statistical mechanics.

The discussion periods were lively, with some attention also focused on aspects of quantum chaos and, in particular, chaotic billiards - subjects of talks to follow in the second week.

Attendees came from Europe and beyond with many German and Italian researchers taking advantage of the charged environment to discuss and reformulate their own work.

The summer school coincided with a local festival offering daily jazz and theatre events, plus ample opportunity to sample local produce!

S.Bishop 24.7.96

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