Epicycles in the Hyperbolic Sky
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Consider a swiveling arm on an oriented complete riemannian surface composed of three geodesic intervals, attached one to another in a chain. Each interval of the arm rotates with constant angular velocity around its extremity contributing to a common motion of the arm. Does the extremity of such a chain have an asymptotic velocity? This question for the motion in the euclidian plane, formulated by J.-L. Lagrange, was solved by P. Hartman, E. R. Van Kampen, A. Wintner. We generalize their result to motions on any complete orientable surface of non-zero (and even non-constant) curvature. In particular, we give the answer to Lagrange’s question for the movement of a swiveling arm on the hyperbolic plane. The question we study here can be seen as a dream about celestial mechanics on any riemannian surface: how many turns around the Sun a satellite of a planet in the geliocentric epicycle model would make in 1 billion years?
KeywordsErgodic theory Lagrange problem Swivelling arms
I am grateful to Anatoly Stepin for sharing with me the question about the asymptotic angular velocity of a swiveling arm on the hyperbolic plane when I was a student at Moscow State University. I thank Étienne Ghys for very fruitful discussions that helped me change the approach of this question and drastically simplify the arguments. I also thank Bruno Sevennec as well as the anonymous referee for pertinent questions and remarks that helped me improve the text. The principal part of this work was accomplished when I was a graduate student at the UMPA laboratory at École Normale Supérieure de Lyon. I thank my reporters, François Beguin and Alain Chenciner, for their comments. During the period of the work on this project, I was supported by the LABEX MILYON (ANR-10-LABX-0070) of Université de Lyon, within the program “Investissements d’Avenir” (ANR-11-IDEX-0007) operated by the French National Research Agency (ANR) as well as by a personal grant l’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science 2016.
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