When the evolution map Φt (or the vector field it is derived from) depends on a parameter μ, the structure of the phase space will also depend on this parameter. Small changes may produce no qualitative changes in the phase space until a special value μ0 is reached. At this point the phase space changes qualitatively and the dynamical system is said to have gone through a bifurcation.

Bifurcation theory considers a structure in phase space (typically a fixed point, a periodic orbit, or an invariant torus) and studies its behavior as a function of the parameter μ. At the bifurcation point the structure may change its stability, split into new structures, or merge with other structures. By using Taylor series approximations of the maps and an understanding of the differences that may be eliminated by a change of coordinates, it is possible to catalog the bifurcations of dynamical systems.

The bifurcations of a hyperbolic fixed point x0 of a system family Fμ can be characterized by the eigenvalues of the first derivative of the system DFμ(x0) computed at the bifurcation point. For a map, the bifurcation will occur when there are eigenvalues of DFμ on the unit circle. For a flow, it will occur when there are eigenvalues on the imaginary axis. For more information, see the main article on Bifurcation theory.

Some bifurcations can lead to very complicated structures in phase space. For example, the Ruelle–Takens scenario describes how a periodic orbit bifurcates into a torus and the torus into a strange attractor. In another example, Feigenbaum period-doubling describes how a stable periodic orbit goes through a series of period-doubling bifurcations.

Bifurcation theory considers a structure in phase space (typically a fixed point, a periodic orbit, or an invariant torus) and studies its behavior as a function of the parameter μ. At the bifurcation point the structure may change its stability, split into new structures, or merge with other structures. By using Taylor series approximations of the maps and an understanding of the differences that may be eliminated by a change of coordinates, it is possible to catalog the bifurcations of dynamical systems.

The bifurcations of a hyperbolic fixed point x0 of a system family Fμ can be characterized by the eigenvalues of the first derivative of the system DFμ(x0) computed at the bifurcation point. For a map, the bifurcation will occur when there are eigenvalues of DFμ on the unit circle. For a flow, it will occur when there are eigenvalues on the imaginary axis. For more information, see the main article on Bifurcation theory.

Some bifurcations can lead to very complicated structures in phase space. For example, the Ruelle–Takens scenario describes how a periodic orbit bifurcates into a torus and the torus into a strange attractor. In another example, Feigenbaum period-doubling describes how a stable periodic orbit goes through a series of period-doubling bifurcations.

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