Regular regimes of the harmonic three-mass system

Ori Saporta Katz, Efi Efrati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The symmetric harmonic three-mass system with finite rest lengths, despite its apparent simplicity, displays a wide array of interesting dynamics for different energy values. At low energy the system shows regular behavior that produces a deformation-induced rotation with a constant averaged angular velocity. As the energy is increased this behavior makes way to a chaotic regime with rotational behavior statistically resembling Levy walks and random walks. At high enough energies, where the rest lengths become negligible, the chaotic signature vanishes and the system returns to regularity, with a single dominant frequency. The transition to and from chaos, as well as the anomalous power-law statistics measured for the angular displacement of the harmonic three-mass system are largely governed by the structure of regular solutions of this mixed Hamiltonian system. Thus, a deeper understating of the system's irregular behavior requires mapping out its regular solutions. In this work we provide a comprehensive analysis of the system's regular regimes of motion, using perturbative methods to derive analytical expressions of the system as almost-integrable in its low- and high-energy extremes. The compatibility of this description with the full system is shown numerically. In the low-energy regime, the Birkhoff normal form method is utilized to circumvent the low-order 1:1 resonance of the system, and the conditions for Kolmogorov-Arnold-Moser theory are shown to hold. The integrable approximations provide the back-bone structure around which the behavior of the full nonlinear system is organized and provide a pathway to understanding the origin of the power-law statistics measured in the system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number032211
Number of pages12
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number3
StatePublished - 16 Mar 2020


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