# Robert Bryant : Convex billiards and non-holonomic systems

Given a closed, convex curve C in the plane, a billiard path on C is a polygon P inscribed in C such that, at each vertex v of P, the two edges of P incident with v make equal angles with the tangent line to C at v. (Intuitively, this is the path a billiard ball would follow on a frictionless pool table bounded by C.) For most convex curves C, there are only a finite number of triangular billiard paths on C, a finite number of quadrilateral billiard paths, and so on. Obviously, when C is a circle, there are infinitely many closed billiard n-gons inscribed in C, but, surprisingly, the same is true when C is an ellipse. (This is a famous theorem due to Chasles.) The interesting question is whether there are other convex curves, besides ellipses, for which there are infinitely many closed billiard n-gons for some n. In this talk, I'll discuss the above-mentioned phenomenon and show how it is related to the geometry of non-holonomic plane fields (which will be defined and described). This leads to some surprisingly beautiful geometry, which will require nothing beyond multivariable calculus from the audience.

**Category**: Graduate/Faculty Seminar**Duration**: 01:34:50**Date**: September 6, 2013 at 4:25 PM**Views**: 128-
**Tags:**seminar, Graduate/faculty Seminar

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