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4: Nonlinear Systems and Chaos

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Coexistance of laminar and turbulent flow.

    • 4.1: Introduction to Nonlinear Systems and Chaos
      Nonlinearity and chaos is a broad and active field and thus this chapter will focus only on a few examples that illustrate the general features of non-linear systems. Weak non-linearity is used to illustrate bifurcation and asymptotic attractor solutions for which the system evolves independent of the initial conditions. The common sinusoidally-driven linearly-damped plane pendulum illustrates several features characteristic of the evolution of a non-linear system from order to chaos.
    • 4.2: Weak Nonlinearity
      Most physical oscillators become non-linear with increase in amplitude of the oscillations. Consequences of non-linearity include breakdown of superposition, introduction of additional harmonics, and complicated chaotic motion that has great sensitivity to the initial conditions as illustrated in this chapter. Weak non-linearity is interesting since perturbation theory can be used to solve the non-linear equations of motion.
    • 4.3: Bifurcation and Point Attractors
      The complicated motion of non-linear systems makes it necessary to distinguish between transient and asymptotic behavior. The damped harmonic oscillator executes a transient spiral motion that asymptotically approaches the origin. The transient behavior depends on the initial conditions, whereas the asymptotic limit of the steady-state solution is a specific location, that is called a point attractor.
    • 4.4: Limit Cycles
      The limit cycle is unusual in that the periodic motion tends asymptotically to the limit-cycle attractor independent of whether the initial values are inside or outside the limit cycle. The balance of dissipative forces and driving forces often leads to limit-cycle attractors, especially in biological applications. Identification of limit-cycle attractors, as well as the trajectories of the motion towards these limit-cycle attractors, is more complicated than for point attractors.
    • 4.5: Harmonically-driven, linearly-damped, plane pendulum
      The harmonically-driven, linearly-damped, plane pendulum illustrates many of the phenomena exhibited by non-linear systems as they evolve from ordered to chaotic motion. It illustrates the remarkable fact that determinism does not imply either regular behavior or predictability. The well-known, harmonically-driven linearly-damped pendulum provides an ideal basis for an introduction to non-linear dynamics.
    • 4.6: Differentiation Between Ordered and Chaotic Motion
      The transition between ordered motion and chaotic motion depends sensitively on both the initial conditions and the model parameters. It is surprisingly difficult to unambiguously distinguish between complicated ordered motion and chaotic motion. Moreover, the motion can fluctuate between order and chaos in an erratic manner depending on the initial conditions.
    • 4.7: Wave Propagation for Non-linear Systems
      Nonlinear systems introduce intriguing new wave phenomena. For example, the group velocity can be a function of ω, that is, group velocity dispersion occurs which leads to the shape of the envelope of the wave packet being time dependent. As a consequence the group velocity in the wave packet is not well defined, and does not equal the signal velocity of the wave packet or the phase velocity of the wavelets.
    • 4.E: Nonlinear Systems and Chaos (Exercises)
    • 4.S: Nonlinear Systems and Chaos (Summary)
      The study of the dynamics of non-linear systems remains a vibrant and rapidly evolving field in classical mechanics as well as many other branches of science. This chapter has discussed examples of non-linear systems in classical mechanics. It was shown that the superposition principle is broken even for weak nonlinearity. It was shown that increased nonlinearity leads to bifurcation, point attractors, limit-cycle attractors, and sensitivity to initial conditions.

    This page titled 4: Nonlinear Systems and Chaos is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Douglas Cline via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.