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In this paper we establish an equivalence between an outer billiards system based on a convex polygon $P$ and an auxiliary system, which we call the pinwheel map, that is based on $P$ in a different way. The pinwheel map is akin to a first-return map of the outer billiards map. The virtue of our result is that most of the main questions about outer billiards can be formulated in terms of the pinwheel map, and the pinwheel map is simpler and seems more amenable to fruitful analysis.
We give a fairly complete analysis of outer billiards on the Penrose kite. Our analysis reveals that this $2$-dimensional dynamical system has a $3$-dimensional compactification, a certain polyhedron exchange map defined on the $3$-torus, and that this $3$-dimensional system admits a renormalization scheme. The two features allow us to make sharp statements concerning the distribution, large- and fine-scale geometry, and hidden algebraic symmetry, of the orbits. One concrete result is that the union of the unbounded orbits has Hausdorff dimension $1$. We establish many of the results with computer-aided proofs that involve only integer arithmetic.
The question of B.H. Neumann, which dates back to the 1950s, asks if there exists an outer billiards system with an unbounded orbit. We prove that outer billiards for the Penrose kite, the convex quadrilateral from the Penrose tiling, has an unbounded orbit. We also analyze some finer properties of the orbit structure, and in particular produce an uncountable family of unbounded orbits. Our methods relate outer billiards on the Penrose kite to polygon exchange maps, arithmetic dynamics, and self-similar tilings.
We prove that any sufficiently small perturbation of an isosceles triangle has a periodic billiard path. Our proof involves the analysis of certain infinite families of Fourier series that arise in connection with triangular billiards, and reveals some self-similarity phenomena in irrational triangular billiards. Our analysis illustrates the surprising fact that billiards on a triangle near a Veech triangle is extremely complicated even though billiards on a Veech triangle is well understood.
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