Velocity Space and the Geometry of Planetary Orbits
Author(s)Abelson, Harold; diSessa, Andrea; Rudolph, Lee
MetadataShow full item record
We develop a theory of orbits for the inverse-square central force law which differs considerably from the usual deductive approach. In particular, we make no explicit use of calculus. By beginning with qualitative aspects of solutions, we are led to a number of geometrically realizable physical invariants of the orbits. Consequently most of our theorems rely only on simple geometrical relationships. Despite its simplicity, our planetary geometry is powerful enough to treat a wide range of perturbations with relative ease. Furthermore, without introducing any more machinery, we obtain full quantitative results. The paper concludes with sugestions for further research into the geometry of planetary orbits.