The restricted three-body problem and holomorphic curves


Course Description
In 1972 A. Weil asserted that “since class field theory pertains to the foundation of mathematics, every mathematician should be as familiar with it as with Galois theory”.

The restricted three-body problem describes the dynamics of a massless particle attracted by two masses. For example the massless particle could be the moon and the masses earth and sun, or a satellite attracted by the earth and moon, or a planet attracted by two stars in a double star system. Different from the two-body problem which is completely integrable the dynamics of the restricted three-body problem has chaotic behaviour.

A global surface of section reduces the complexity of the dynamics by one dimension. More than hundred years ago Birkhoff made a conjecture about the existence of a global surface of section for the restricted three-body problem. Although the question about existence of a global surface of section is a question about all orbits, holomorphic curves allow to reduce the Birkhoff conjecture to questions involving periodic orbits only.

In the lecture I explain the theory of holomorphic finite energy planes, what they imply for the Birkhoff conjecture, and what challenges remain to be done to prove the conjecture.