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Chaos and Variable Stars:  Good News and Bad

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Charles A Whitney

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138


Received 7 April 1989




A computer program is used to illustrate several qualitative features of chaotic behavior in a non-linear third-order system: a) The properties of the system depend strongly on the values assigned to the adjustable parameters; b) In the chaotic domain, the trajectory of the system is very sensitive to the starting point, which is the bad news, as it means long-range prediction is impossible; c) Simple systems can display very complex behavior, which is the good news, as it implies that irregular variables may be explainable by simple physics.


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