UHM Physics Department Colloquia - Previous Years

"Strange Nonchaotic Stars" by Dr. John F. Lindner (College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio)

While the brightness of stars like the sun is nearly constant, the brightness of other stars changes with time. Exploiting the unprecedented capabilities of the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, which stared at 150 000 stars for four years, I discuss recent evidence that certain stars dim and brighten in complex patterns with fractal features. Such stars pulsate at primary and secondary frequencies whose ratios are near the famous golden mean, the most irrational number. A nonlinear system driven by an irrational ratio of frequencies is generically attracted toward a "strange" behavior that is geometrically fractal without displaying the "butterfly effect" of chaos. Strange nonchaotic attractors have been observed in laboratory experiments and have been hypothesized to describe the electrochemical activity of the brain, but a bluish white star 16 000 light years from Earth in the constellation Lyra may manifest, in the scale-free distribution of its minor frequency components, the first strange nonchaotic attractor observed in the wild. The recognition of stellar strange nonchaotic dynamics may improve the classification of these stars and refine the physical modeling of their interiors.
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