Questions tagged [billiards]

Billiards are a class of dynamical systems in which a point particle moves uniformly in a domain $D\subset \mathbb{R}^d$ except for mirror-like reflections from the boundary. Varying $D$ leads to examples satisfying many ergodic properties. Billiards enhance visual explanations of dynamical concepts to students and the general public. There are many applications in physics and image processing. The free motion and/or reflection rule may be generalized.

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2-ball billiards in a circle

Consider a 2D circular billiards table with diameter 1m containing two balls with diameter 0.25m. Let each ball start with a speed of 1m/s. In general, this speed could change after the balls hit ...
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Examples of different levels of the ergodic hierachy (specifically: weakly mixing & merely ergodic)

I am interested in generalizing some aspects of the ergodic hierarchy (of classical dynamical systems) to quantum theory. However, while I understand the definitions of the different levels of the ...
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4 votes
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Pocket billiards with balls in general position

There were at least two earlier MO questions about ideal pocket billiards. (Ideal: frictionless, perfectly elastic collisions.) Perfectly centered break of a perfectly aligned pool ball rack. Does ...
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3 votes
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Illuminating a just-barely irrational polygon

As has been discussed earlier on MO,1,2 recently an impressive advance was proved concerning internally illuminating a mirrored polygon. Here is the result: Corollary 3. Let $P$ be a rational polygon....
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4 votes
1 answer
182 views

Maximal length of trajectories in billiard

Consider discrete rectangular billard on lattice with integer dimensions a*b and n balls with radius $\frac{\sqrt 2}{2}$ and ...
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3 votes
1 answer
70 views

Finding particular closed paths in geometric plane regions

Let $X_m$ denote a set of $m\geq 3$ lines in $\mathbb{R}^2$ that are not all parallel. Consider the problem of determining a closed path of $kn$ points in $X_m$ $k, n \in \mathbb{Z}^+$, such that the ...
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Is there a reversible fully polynomial-time approximation scheme for polygonal billiards?

Let $P \subset \mathbb{R}^2$ be a polygon with rational coordinates, and consider discrete billiards inside $P$, where a ball (of zero radius) moves by steps of fixed length on each step, in a ...
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7 votes
1 answer
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Why are we interested in operators that share a basis of eigenfunctions?

I hope this is an appropriate question for this forum. If not, I apologize. Before stating my question (which may be found at the end of this post), I will attempt to provide sufficient context. I ...
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30 votes
3 answers
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Why is the billiard problem for obtuse triangles so hard?

This is an incredibly naive question so this may be closed. Nevertheless, I have been reading about the problem asking if every obtuse triangle admits a periodic billiard path, which has been open ...
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Trapping lightrays under nonstandard reflections and/or paths

Almost every version of trapping lightrays with mirrors is either resolved---usually negatively---or open: "It is unknown whether one can construct a polygonal trap for a parallel beam of light": ...
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4 votes
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Types of triangles admitting periodic billiard orbits

It is an open problem in dynamical systems if every triangle has a periodic billiard orbit. So far it has been proven that equilateral triangles, isosceles triangles, right triangles, and obtuse ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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6-periodic billiards trajectory in acute triangle

We can construct a 3-periodic billiards trajectory in an acute triangle in a classical geometric way, say taking the altitudes. Is there a similar way to construct a 6-periodic billiards?
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1 answer
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Under which conditions do ellipsoids have a focal property?

Given an ellipsoid $E$, we consider the trajectories of light inside $E$ assuming that $\partial E$ would be a mirror. In other words, let a light trajectory be piecewise linear path $\gamma:[0,\infty)...
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42 votes
2 answers
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Can one "hear" the shape of a polygon via external reflections?

This question is a rough analog of Kac's "Can One Hear the Shape of a Drum?" A closer analog is the recent "Bounce Theorem" that says, roughly, the shape of a polygon is determined by its billiard-...
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Infinite number of points reflecting on the circle, must some two (or more) ever meet?

I just created a following problem. Suppose that we have an infinite number of points on the circle and that they at the same time start to travel (all with the same speed) from the point where they ...
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Trapping lightrays with segment mirrors

Q. Is it possible to trap all the light from one point source by a finite collection of two-sided disjoint segment mirrors? I posed this question in several forums before (e.g., here and in an ...
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3 votes
2 answers
175 views

A Really Simple Stochastic Dynamic Billiard

Consider the following stochastic dynamical system. Fix $a > 0$, $b > 0$, $c>0$ and $v > 0$, and let $\mathbf{r}(t)=(x(t),y(t),z(t))$ be the position at time $t$ of a point which moves ...
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39 votes
2 answers
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3D Billiards problem inside a torus

I have been trying to simulate the behavior of a light particle being reflected inside of a torus (essentially a 3D billiards problem). I have found that after a few thousand bounces, it converges on "...
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10 votes
1 answer
300 views

A question about billiards

This is a question in a rather well investigated subject of which I know very little and I have a hard time "translating" the general results available. Let me also say that I got interested in this ...
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8 votes
2 answers
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Current state of Straus's illumination problem

In George W. Tokarsky's Polygonal Rooms Not Illuminable from Every Point (1995) it is stated that the problem Is a polygonal region illuminable from at least one point in the region? was still ...
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9 votes
3 answers
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Existence of periodic orbits in rational billiards

Recently I've got interested in dynamical billiards. Some results in this field are obtained by elementary methods. For instance, see George W. Tokarsky's Polygonal Rooms Not Illuminable from Every ...
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10 votes
1 answer
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Periodic billiard paths in hyperbolic triangles

It is a theorem of Masur that all rational triangles in the Euclidean plane posses a periodic billiard path, one obeying the reflection law that the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. ...
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1 vote
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Boundedness of partial products for a divergent trig product

I am looking at a discrete dynamical system and I wish to show that it is bounded. I know that the displacement after $n$ iterations is given by the product $$\Delta_n=\prod_{k=0}^n \left(1+\frac{2\...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Complexity of recognizing equivalent translation surfaces

"A translation surface is a union of polygons with pairs of parallel edges identified by translation, up to cut and paste equivalence." I take that succinct (and not fully precise) definition from a ...
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6 votes
0 answers
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How much energy will be released in the explosion when one shoots a superelastic billiard ball into a collection of still superelastic billiard balls?

Consider the following scenario. Let $\alpha>1$. Suppose whenever two superelastic balls collide at speed $\gamma$ they bounce off each other at speed $\gamma\cdot\alpha$ (i.e. $\alpha$ is the ...
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2 votes
0 answers
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Mathematical Billiards: Set of starting points and velocities hitting boundary at time t

In the simplest setting $\Omega$ smooth compact and convex in $R^n$ with linear constant speed trajectories that is ($q_t=q_0+t\cdot v$ until the collision point). What is known about the structure ...
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5 votes
2 answers
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Are periodic billiard trajectories stable on a manifold with strictly convex boundary?

Let $(M,g)$ be a compact Riemannian manifold with strictly convex boundary. Let $\gamma:S^1\to M$ be a periodic billiard trajectory (geodesic in the interior and reflects specularly at the boundary). ...
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3 votes
0 answers
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Trapped Billiard trajectories on non-convex billiard tables

Let $\Omega$ be a domain in $\mathbb{R}^2$ with smooth boundary. A billiard trajectory is a continuous curve $c: \mathbb{R}\supseteq I \longrightarrow \overline{\Omega}$ such that $c(t) \in \partial ...
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20 votes
3 answers
951 views

Reflection of light from function graph

Let a positive convex decreasing differentiable function $f(x)$ be defined on $\mathbb{R}$ and $\lim_{x \to +\infty}f(x)=0.$ Let the point light source be placed at $ P(x_0,y_0)$ with $ y_0>0,\,...
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10 votes
3 answers
870 views

Which polygons have *simple* periodic billiard paths?

I know (or, rather, believe) that it remains unknown whether every polygon has a periodic billiard path. But Howard Masur proved in the 1980's that every rational polygon (vertex angles rational ...
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36 votes
11 answers
6k views

What "real life" problems can be solved using billiards?

Recently I gave an interview to local media where I explained some basic open problems in billiard dynamics. After a 45 min interview the reported asked me what "real life" problems can be ...
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50 votes
3 answers
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The view from inside of a mirrored tetrahedron

Suppose you were standing inside a regular tetrahedron $T$ whose internal face surfaces were perfect mirrors. Let's assume $T$'s height is $3{\times}$ yours, so that your eye is roughly at the ...
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9 votes
1 answer
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Billiard dynamics with angle of reflection a fraction of angle of incidence

Suppose that a billiard ball bouncing in a unit square (or a lightray reflecting in a mirrored square) has the property that the angle of reflection is a fraction of the angle of incidence, rather ...
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5 votes
1 answer
164 views

Unfoldings of trajectories on the Veech triangle $V_4$

Let $V_4$ be the isosceles triangle with base angle $\pi/8$. $V_4$ is a Veech triangle, so the dynamics of billiards on it are very well understood. Above is the unfolding of $V_4$, with edge ...
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7 votes
4 answers
604 views

Existence of nonergodic polygonal billiard

Let $P$ be a polygon in the plane. One can define the billiard flow on the unit tangent bundle of $P$, just following the trajectories of the billiard at speed one. A standard conjecture is that a ...
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8 votes
1 answer
600 views

Raphael Douady's thesis: Applications du théorème des tores invariants

Raphael Douady's thesis, Applications du théorème des tores invariants, has been cited in numerous papers by many experts. According Wikipedia, he proves of the equivalence of KAM ...
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95 votes
2 answers
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Perfectly centered break of a perfectly aligned pool ball rack

Imagine the beginning of a game of pool, you have 16 balls, 15 of them in a triangle <| and 1 of them being the cue ball off to the left of that triangle. Imagine that the rack (the 15 balls in a ...
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7 votes
2 answers
243 views

Well-definedness of single-particle smooth billiards flow

Single-particle billiards systems in a domain with corners, or multi-particle billiards in a domain with smooth boundary, can exhibit singularities in finite time. (The former phenomenon is well known;...
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12 votes
3 answers
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A special tessellation

Let $P$ be a convex $n$-gon. Suppose that we have an infinite number of $P$s, and that each of them is colored either red or blue. Here, let us consider the following operations : Operation 1 : Place ...
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7 votes
0 answers
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square-tiled surfaces and the Euler phi function

In Billiards in Rectangles with Barriers, Eskin-Masur-Schmoll count the number of primitive square-tiled surfaces with two cone points with angle $4\pi$ for one cone point with angle $6\pi$: (See also)...
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3 votes
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Reference for standard lemmas in polygonal billiards

I'm trying to track down references for a couple of well-known results in the theory of polygonal billiards for a paper I'm working on. Recall that periodic trajectories on a polygonal table occur in ...
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1 vote
1 answer
241 views

Computing saddle connections in flat structures

Background: A polygonal billiards table $P$ with rational angles gives rise to a flat structure $S(P)$ in a standard way, described here. Curves of constant argument on $S(P)$ which start and end at a ...
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32 votes
5 answers
1k views

Can every $\mathbb{Z}^2$ disk be pinball-reached?

Let every point of $\mathbb{Z}^2$ be surrounded by a mirrored disk of radius $r < \frac{1}{2}$, except leave the origin $(0,0)$ unoccupied by a disk. Q. Is it the case that every disk can be hit ...
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4 votes
0 answers
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Do identical orbit tiles imply identical combinatorial types?

Given a periodic trajectory on a triangle, we can associate to this trajectory a sequence of integers $1,2$ and $3$ by labeling the edges of the triangle and taking the sequence of edges the ...
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2 votes
2 answers
441 views

Reference question: Poncelet theorem

A very famous theorem of Poncelet states that for an elliptic billiard all $n$-periodic trajectories are tangent to some ellipse. As far as I know, Poncelet proved this theorem while sitting in ...
10 votes
1 answer
429 views

Does the $n$-gonal billiards conjecture follow from the $m$-gonal conjecture when $m>n$?

For $n\ge 3$, define the $n$-gonal billiards conjecture as the statement All convex $n$-gons admit periodic billiard trajectories. To the best of my knowledge this question remains open for all $n$...
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25 votes
4 answers
1k views

Pinball on the infinite plane

Imagine pinball on the infinite plane, with every lattice point $\mathbb{Z}^2$ a point pin. The ball has radius $r < \frac{1}{2}$. It starts just touching the origin pin, and shoots off at angle $\...
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30 votes
3 answers
3k views

Optic fibers after Joseph O'Rourke

Let $\gamma\colon[a,b]\to \mathbb R^3$ be a smooth curve with curvature $< 1$. Consider a tube, formed by one parameter family of unit circles with center at $\gamma(t)$ in the plane orthogonal to $...
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3 votes
0 answers
256 views

Polygon illumination with perturbed reflections

Here is a variation on the classical polygon illumination problem. For $c \geq 0$ we say that a mirror has reflection index $c$ if whenever a ray hits the mirror with angle of incidence $\alpha$ then ...
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38 votes
6 answers
3k views

Billiard dynamics under gravity

Has the dynamics of billiards in a polygon subject to gravity been studied? What I have in mind is something like this:            Still Snell's Law ...
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