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Georgia Institute of Technology

Nonlinear Dynamics 1: Geometry of Chaos

Georgia Institute of Technology via Independent

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The theory developed here (that you will not find in any other course :) has much in common with (and complements) statistical mechanics and field theory courses; partition functions and transfer operators are applied to computation of observables and spectra of chaotic systems.

Nonlinear dynamics 1: Geometry of chaos (see syllabus)
  • Topology of flows - how to enumerate orbits, Smale horseshoes
  • Dynamics, quantitative - periodic orbits, local stability
  • Role of symmetries in dynamics
Nonlinear dynamics 2: Chaos rules (see syllabus)
  • Transfer operators - statistical distributions in dynamics
  • Spectroscopy of chaotic systems
  • Dynamical zeta functions
  • Dynamical theory of turbulence
The course, which covers the same material and the same exercises as the Georgia Tech course PHYS 7224, is in part an advanced seminar in nonlinear dynamics, aimed at PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and advanced undergraduates in physics, mathematics, chemistry and engineering.


Week 1: Flows and maps
    1. Trajectories

Read quickly all of Chapter 1 - do not worry if there are stretches that you do not understand yet. Study all of Chapter 2

  1. Flow visualized as an iterated mapping
    Discrete time dynamical systems arise naturally by recording the coordinates of the flow when a special event happens: the Poincare section method, key insight for much that is to follow.

Week 2: Linear stability
  1. There goes the neighborhood
    So far we have concentrated on description of the trajectory of a single initial point. Our next task is to define and determine the size of a neighborhood, and describe the local geometry of the neighborhood by studying the linearized flow. What matters are the expanding directions.
  2. Cycle stability
    If a flow is smooth, in a sufficiently small neighborhood it is essentially linear. Hence in this lecture, which might seem an embarrassment (what is a lecture on linear flows doing in a book on nonlinear dynamics?), offers a firm stepping stone on the way to understanding nonlinear flows. Linear charts are the key tool of differential geometry, general relativity, etc, so we are in good company.

Week 3: Linear stability
  1. Stability exponents are invariants of dynamics
    We prove that (1) Floquet multipliers are the same everywhere along a cycle, and (b) that they are invariant under any smooth coordinate transformation.
  2. Pinball wizard
    The dynamics that we have the best intuitive grasp on is the dynamics of billiards. For billiards, discrete time is altogether natural; a particle moving through a billiard suffers a sequence of instantaneous kicks, and executes simple motion in between.

Week 4: World in a mirror
  1. Discrete symmetries of dynamics
    What is a symmetry of laws of motion? The families of symmetry-related full state space cycles are replaced by fewer and often much shorter "relative" cycles, and the notion of a prime periodic orbit is replaced by the notion of a "relative" periodic orbit, the shortest segment that tiles the cycle under the action of the group. Discrete symmetries: a review of the theory of finite groups
  2. Discrete symmetry reduction of dynamics to a fundamental domain
    While everyone can visualize the fundamental domain for a 3-disk billiard, the simpler problem - symmetry reduction of 1d dynamics that is equivariant under a reflection, the most common symmetry in applications - seems to baffle everyone. So here is a step-by-step walk through to this simplest of all symmetry reductions.

Week 5: Relativity for cyclists
  1. Continuous symmetries of dynamics
    Symmetry reduction: If the symmetry is continuous, the interesting dynamics unfolds on a lower-dimensional "quotiented" system, with "ignorable" coordinates eliminated (but not forgotten). Hilbert's invariant polynomials. Cartan's moving frames.
  2. Got a continuous symmetry? Freedom and its challenges
    Whenever you have a continuous symmetry, you need to cut the orbit to pick out one representative for the whole family. For continuous spatial symmetries, this is achieved by slicing. And then there is dicing.

Week 6: Charting the state space
  1. Slice and dice
    Symmetry reduction is the identification of a unique point on a group orbit as the representative of this equivalence class. Thus, if the symmetry is continuous, the interesting dynamics unfolds on a lower-dimensional `quotiented', or `reduced' state space M/G. In the method of slices the symmetry reduction is achieved by cutting the group orbits with a set of hyperplanes, one for each continuous group parameter  Moving frames give us a great deal of freedom - we discuss how to choose a frame The most natural of all moving frames: the comoving frame, the frame for space cowboys.
  2. Qualitative dynamics, for pedestrians
    Qualitative properties of a flow partition the state space in a topologically invariant way.

Week 7: Stretch, fold, prune
  1. The spatial ordering of trajectories from the time ordered itineraries
    Qualitative dynamics: (1) temporal ordering, or itinerary with which a trajectory visits state space regions and (2) the spatial ordering between trajectory points, the key to determining the admissibility of an orbit with a prescribed itinerary. Kneading theory.
  2. Qualitative dynamics, for cyclists
    Dynamical partitioning of a plane. Stable/unstable invariant manifolds, and how they partition the state space in intrinsic, topologically invariant manner. Henon map is the simplest example.

Week 8: Fixed points, and how to get them
  1. Finding cycles
    Why nobody understands anybody? The bane of night fishing - plus how to find all possible orbits by (gasp!) thinking.
  2. Finding cycles; long cycles, continuous time cycles
    Multi-shooting; d-dimensional flows; continuous-time flows.

Taught by

Predrag Cvitanović


4.0 rating, based on 2 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Nonlinear Dynamics 1: Geometry of Chaos

  • Bob Brown
    Good helpful course for those interested in Chaos. Expect to be challenged but you will find the effort worthwhile and rewarding.

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