Billiards being used outside the pool hall (Scientific Math paper)

daphish1

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
My daughter (who's a whole lot smarter than I am) sent me this article. Interesting to see billiards being used by mathematicians.

https://www.quantamagazine.org/new-shapes-solve-infinite-pool-table-problem-20170808/

Strike a billiard ball on a frictionless table with no pockets so that it never stops bouncing off the table walls. If you returned years later, what would you find? Would the ball have settled into some repeating orbit, like a planet circling the sun, or would it be continually tracing new paths in a ceaseless exploration of its felt-covered plane?

These kinds of questions occurred to mathematical minds centuries ago, in relation to the long-term trajectories of real objects in outer space, and for nearly that long they’ve seemed impossible to determine exactly. What will a bouncing ball be up to a billion years from now? It’s as hard to answer as it sounds.

More recently, though, mathematicians have achieved a succession of stunning breakthroughs. One of the latest results, yet to be published, describes a new category of what are known as “optimal” billiard tables — shapes whose particular angles make it possible to understand every billiard path that could occur within them. The newfound shapes are among a handful of optimal billiard tables ever discovered, and part of an even more select group of quadrilaterals with that property.
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hang-the-9

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Sounds more like lasers and mirrors than billiard balls.

Bob Jewett

AZB Osmium Member
Staff member
Gold Member
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This was discussed in another thread recently. From our point of view "billiards" is a very bad name for that very technical field of math. Look for Maryam Mirzakhani who was an expert in the field and who died very young last July. It turns out that one of my math professors (from many years ago) also worked in that field.

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KissedOut

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
This was discussed in another thread recently. From our point of view "billiards" is a very bad name for that very technical field of math. Look for Maryam Mirzakhani who was an expert in the field and who died very young last July. It turns out that one of my math professors (from many years ago) also worked in that field.

Yeah. Billiards is physics, not math.