Why is it that we humans can't solve the three-body-problem? (calculate the positions of the 3 bodies in a dynamical system)

And why can computers do it?

My thoughts:

Computers do it in way smaller steps then us humans, and if we tried to replicate what the computer does, it would take ages.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ anything that computers do is done because a human has written out how to solve the problem in a bunch of tiny steps. The computer merely steps through those steps. $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2019 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ Related: physics.stackexchange.com/q/1235/2451 and links therein. $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic
    Jan 25, 2019 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ There has been recent discovery of new classes of solutions: sciencemag.org/news/2013/03/… $\endgroup$
    – JEB
    Jan 26, 2019 at 0:21

1 Answer 1


Computers can't.

You're right that they perform numerical integration way faster than we can, but, slower or faster, it's believed that neither people nor computers can solve the three-body problem. At least not in the sense of finding a closed-form, analytical solution.

These small-step calculations computers do produce only approximations to the solutions.

It's worth pointing out again, though, that the three-body problem is expected to be non-integrable. There's no proof yet.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.