Do numerical orbits of chaotic dynamical processes represent true orbits?

Stephen M. Hammel*, James A. Yorke, Celso Grebogi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Citations (Scopus)


Chaotic processes have the property that relatively small numerical errors tend to grow exponentially fast. In an iterated process, if errors double each iterate and numerical calculations have 50-bit (or 15-digit) accuracy, a true orbit through a point can be expected to have no correlation with a numerical orbit after 50 iterates. On the other hand, numerical studies often involve hundreds of thousands of iterates. One may therefore question the validity of such studies. A relevant result in this regard is that of Anosov and Bowen who showed that systems which are uniformly hyperbolic will have the shadowing property: a numerical (or noisy) orbit will stay close to (shadow) a true orbit for all time. Unfortunately, chaotic processes typically studied do not have the requisite uniform hyperbolicity, and the Anosov-Bowen result does not apply. We report rigorous results for nonhyperbolic systems: numerical orbits typically can be shadowed by true orbits for long time periods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-145
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Complexity
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1987


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