🪐From Netflix to Nebulas: Neil deGrasse Tyson Breaks Down the Three-Body Problem

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As a startup, we're all about evolution—constantly tweaking and fine tuning our content to ensure every email packs a punch of value right into your inbox. We're in the business of sharing not just good, but dope things that'll leave you better off for knowing them. And guess what? After rounds of testing and heaps of your invaluable feedback, we're thrilled to introduce The Pragmatic Playlist! 🎉

Love YouTube but overwhelmed by those 30-minute epics? We get it. That's why the Pragmatic Mr Peters himself has bravely ventured into the video jungle to bring you "The Pragmatic Playlist" – a curated list of 5 fascinating finds from the depths of YouTube, neatly summarized so you don't have to watch the whole thing. Save time, stay informed, and maybe even impress your friends with your newfound knowledge.

Courtesy of Youtube

Haven't caught the "3 Body Problem" series on Netflix yet? No worries, you’re not alone—our team hasn’t managed to squeeze it into our Netflix-n-Chill schedule either. But fear not! This week’s newsletter won’t spoil anything, primarily because you don’t need a Netflix subscription to grasp the cosmic conundrum of the three-body problem.

In this edition, we dive into “The Pragmatic Playlist”—our curated selection of must-watch YouTube content—and spotlight Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk. Joined by his comedic sidekick, Chuck Nice, Neil unravels the mysteries of the three-body problem and its implications for our solar system’s future. Ready for some out-of-this-world insights? Read on for our key takeaways.

Courtesy of BBC Stay At Night Magazine

Introduction to the Three-Body Problem

Acclaimed astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, has not watched the Netflix show 3 Body Problem…but then again he doesn’t have to in order to explain what it means. On his YouTube show StarTalk, he dives into the chaotic dance of the three-body problem with a flair and simplicity only he can deliver. Imagine the peaceful orbit of two giant suns, like in Star Wars—simple, serene, and straightforward. But throw in a third celestial body, and suddenly, it’s a cosmic mosh pit. Three bodies of similar mass trying to maintain a stable orbit is going to lead to a huge problem. This trio could end up with one body flung out into the void, two smacking into each other, or just some other unpredictable cosmic shenanigans. Predicting what happens next in such a system? Good luck! Even a tiny tweak in starting conditions can lead to wildly different endings—absolute chaos, as Neil would say.

Courtesy of International Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics

The Restricted Three-Body Problem

No one wants the problems that a three-body problem will bring, however, there’s something called a restricted three-body problem that doesn’t involve mathematical chaos. Picture two hefty stars with a tiny third body tagging along. As long as those big stars aren't too cozy, the little one can cruise in a stable orbit around both. Get them too close, though, and even this underdog faces a tug-of-war that could end in, you guessed it, chaos.

Courtesy of Bbc.co.uk.

Perturbation Theory

Jumping back a few centuries, Isaac Newton tossed the problem upward, hoping divine intervention might sort it out, as he hit a wall with his calculus. Newton realized he was stuck and decided to let go and let God. A century and some change later…enter Pierre-Simon Laplace, who strutted in with perturbation theory. He was able to demonstrate through perturbation theory that while Jupiter gently tugs at Earth, the overall system balances out—like cosmic scales that miraculously level themselves. Thanks to him, we realized our solar system isn’t about to go off the rails anytime soon.

Courtesy of Facebook/Gold Coast Astronomy

The Moon's True Orbit

Despite what we learned in elementary school, the Moon does not orbit the Earth. The Moon isn’t just circling the Earth as if tethered by a string. Nope, both the Earth and the Moon are dancing around their common center of gravity, called the barycenter, hidden a thousand miles beneath the Earth's surface. The location of the barycenter is why most people believe the Moon is orbiting Earth. 

Courtesy of Fightstate.com

Final Note

So, what’s the big picture here? Neil deGrasse Tyson throws us a curveball, suggesting that while the solar system seems stable now, give it a few million years, and the cosmic dance might get a bit out of step. But don’t sweat it; it’s not something our generation needs to worry about. Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, former wrestler, and 70’s style icon (see image above), likens his wrestling matches to physics problems—always looking for the tipping point and calculating forces. If physics was a sport, Neil would surely be in the Hall of Fame!

-The PMP Content Team

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