Gravity Chaos

Drag or gently toss the spheres below and see what happens. Scroll down for explanations.

Understanding gravitation through direct manipulation

Apart from mere equation solving, few people can claim to have a deep understanding on how celestial bodies move under the influence of gravitation. Metaphorical explanations such as the "ever-falling moon" are useful but they fail at providing answers to most basic questions. Why these elliptic trajectories? What is really the importance of initial speed? Why and when an orbiting object accelerates and decelerates? Why are three-body orbits so rare?

It is no surprise that gravitational force challenges our basic intuition: we never experience it in our everyday life, other than through its impoverished, homogeneous and unidirectional incarnation. If we were given hyper-dense spheres to play with when we were kids, imagining an object orbiting around another one would certainly be as natural as figuring out a bouncing ball.

Although such toys might actually be difficult to build and manipulate, the Flash application above gives you the immediate opportunity to play with a simulation through a direct manipulation interface.

Using Gravity Chaos

Gravity Chaos is the Flash application above. Its interface should not need extensive explanation and you can just play with it aimlessly. You can also proceed in the three following steps:

A few more tips:

Source code

Download the flash project (.fla 1.3 MB). License info at the bottom right of this page.


Pierre Dragicevic (www)

License infoCreative Commons License