Presentation #204.02 in the session “Evolution of Stellar Multiples”.
Chaos is present in most stellar dynamical systems and manifests itself through the exponential growth of small perturbations. A numerical consequence is that integrations of the N-body problem unavoidably magnify truncation and rounding errors to macroscopic scales. Hitherto, a quantitative relation between chaos in stellar dynamical systems and the level of irreversibility remained undetermined. In this work, we study chaotic three-body systems in free fall initially using the accurate and precise N-body code Brutus, which goes beyond standard double-precision arithmetic. We demonstrate that the fraction of irreversible solutions decreases as a power law with numerical accuracy. This can be derived from the distribution of amplification factors of small initial perturbations. Applying this result to systems consisting of three massive black holes with zero total angular momentum, we conclude that up to 5 per cent of such triples would require an accuracy of smaller than the Planck length in order to produce a time-reversible solution, thus rendering them fundamentally unpredictable.