# “The three-body problem”, the real scientific enigma on which the successful Netflix series is based

An unsolved scientific problem gives the title to the hit Netflix series, which portrays a utopian China and humanity's first contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence.

Game of Thrones show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss together with Alexander Woo, screenwriter of True Blood, set out to **adapt a complex piece of Chinese science fiction**: Liu Cixin's trilogy of science fiction novels entitled "The Memory of the Earth's Past" and whose first book is, precisely, "The three-body problem."

**Together they have given television form to this attractive mix of enigmatic virtual reality games**, strange worlds, exotic cults, shadowy billionaires and tormented scientists, all set in a utopian revolutionary China of the 1960s.

Liu establishes as the protagonist of the plot one of the most complex questions that** involves both physics and astronomy** and that, after several centuries, still has no solution: the problem of the three bodies.

## What is the three-body problem about?

**To enrich his science fiction work, **Liu uses concepts and foundations such as artificial intelligence (AI), astrophysics, quantum mechanics, chaos theory and nanotechnology to establish the three-body problem as the central element of the plot.

Almost at the **beginning of the series**, the problem that gives its title to the Netflix adaptation is presented: it is that it is necessary to predict the movements of a planet that orbits more than one star. And here known factors come into play, such as** gravity,** and others not so much, such as **the unpredictability of complex systems such as the star system** around which the planet in question orbits.

It is that **thanks to the discovery of some fundamental principles of the universe** and the establishment of a couple of laws that govern bodies, such as Newton's laws and Kepler's laws, **a physicist can determine the positions of two bodies in space through equations**, since whether in the past or in the future.

**But in the universe, gravitational connections are not limited to just two bodies. **In our solar system, a star is related to at least eight planets. Although in size the influence of the planets is minimal, if a small change occurs in the initial conditions of any of these bodies, this apparent stability can be broken and **trigger chaotic movements**, something similar to what is explained by the butterfly effect, or chaos theory.

## Chaos that is not explained by chaos theory

**It is common to find systems with two or three suns. **In the case of two bodies that gravitationally attract each other, such as the two suns of a binary system, both suns rotate around each other in a regular and orderly manner.

But if instead of two suns, there were three,** their movements can be chaotic, unpredictable.** As unpredictable as those of the planets that orbit them. Below is a simulation of the three body problem

So **if a body with considerable mass enters a balanced system,** it breaks this balance, causing the situation to** tend towards chaos, **assuming an extremely complex scenario, with infinite variables that cannot be predicted as a whole. The field of astrophysics recognises this problem as the three-body problem.

**Although the three-body problem can be related to chaos theory, they do not imply the same thing. **The first is a conception that only applies to celestial mechanics through gravitational interactions, while chaos theory is used for nonlinear dynamic systems, such as the atmosphere.