3 body problem is a real puzzle

The 3 body puzzle on Netflix Credit: Netflix

In Netflix’s “3 Body Problem,” based on Liu Cixin’s sci-fi novels, the story revolves around a real scientific puzzle, that it is hard to know where planets, moons, and stars will go over time.

The story follows the “Oxford Five,” a group of people who studied under the same teacher. They’ve gone on to different jobs, like doing physics research or running snack food businesses. But their lives get mixed up when aliens, called Trisolarans, want to take over Earth.

But why do the aliens want Earth? Here’s where the three-body problem comes in.

In this case, “bodies” means planets and moons. The Trisolarans come from a solar system with three suns, making it unstable and not good for life. So, they want to move to our Solar System, which is more stable.

Newton’s Law

We can predict where our Solar System is going partly because of Newton’s Law of Gravitation. It helps us understand how big things, like Earth and the Sun, affect each other. But our Solar System is more complicated. It’s what we call an “n-body problem.” This means it’s hard to solve with regular maths, and it leads to chaos.

Here, chaos means that even tiny changes in how things start can lead to big changes later on. So, while Newton’s ideas give us a good guess about what might happen, the real world is more unpredictable because there are lots of things affecting each other.

In short, the Three-Body Problem is a tricky question that even Sir Isaac Newton couldn’t solve fully. It shows us that the universe is full of surprises, even when we think we’ve got it all figured out.

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Written by

Julian Phillips

Born in the UK, has lived in 9 countries, before finally coming to Spain in 2015. Currently living in Almeria and working out of the EWN office in Mojacar.