What is the 3-body problem, and is it really unsolvable?

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A rocket launch. Our nearest stellar neighbor. A Netflix show. All of these things have something in common: They must contend with the “three-body problem.” But exactly what is this thorny physics conundrum?

The three-body problem describes a system containing three bodies that exert gravitational forces on one another. While it may sound simple, it’s a notoriously tricky problem and “the first real worry of Newton,” Billy Quarles, a planetary dynamicist at Valdosta State University in Georgia, told LiveScience.

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