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Nonlinear Oscillators at Our Fingertips

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Did you know that you have nonlinearity in your fingertips? We describe a simple experiment that almost anyone can do and that reveals the essential nonlinearity of the human neuromuscular system. We analyze a differential equations model of the oscillatory finger motions in the experiment as an introduction to the magical world of coupled nonlinear oscillators and phase transitions. This modeling exercise leads to reflections on the roles of mathematical modeling in advancing our understanding of coordinated movement and, more generally, of pattern formation in complex systems.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2007

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