Geometry and Billiards

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Serge Tabachnikov
American Mathematical Soc. - 176 pages
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Mathematical billiards describe the motion of a mass point in a domain with elastic reflections off the boundary or, equivalently, the behavior of rays of light in a domain with ideally reflecting boundary. From the point of view of differential geometry, the billiard flow is the geodesic flow on a manifold with boundary. This book is devoted to billiards in their relation with differential geometry, classical mechanics, and geometrical optics. Topics covered include variational principles of billiard motion, symplectic geometry of rays of light and integral geometry, existence and nonexistence of caustics, optical properties of conics and quadrics and completely integrable billiards, periodic billiard trajectories, polygonal billiards, mechanisms of chaos in billiard dynamics, and the lesser-known subject of dual (or outer) billiards. The book is based on an advanced undergraduate topics course. Minimum prerequisites are the standard material covered in the first two years of college mathematics (the entire calculus sequence, linear algebra). However, readers should show some mathematical maturity and rely on their mathematical common sense. A unique feature of the book is the coverage of many diverse topics related to billiards, for example, evolutes and involutes of plane curves, the four-vertex theorem, a mathematical theory of rainbows, distribution of first digits in various sequences, Morse theory, the Poincare recurrence theorem, Hilbert's fourth problem, Poncelet porism, and many others. There are approximately 100 illustrations. The book is suitable for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers interested in ergodic theory and geometry. This volume has been copublished with the Mathematics Advanced Study Semesters program at Penn State.

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