# Bifurcation theory

Bifurcation theory is the mathematical study of changes in the qualitative or topological structure of a given family, such as the integral curves of a family of vector fields, and the solutions of a family of differential equations. Most commonly applied to the mathematical study of dynamical systems, a bifurcation occurs when a small smooth change made to the parameter values (the bifurcation parameters) of a system causes a sudden 'qualitative' or topological change in its behaviour. Bifurcations occur in both continuous systems (described by ODEs, DDEs or PDEs) and discrete systems (described by maps). The name "bifurcation" was first introduced by Henri Poincaré in 1885 in the first paper in mathematics showing such a behavior. Henri Poincaré also later named various types of stationary points and classified them.

It is useful to divide bifurcations into two principal classes:

A local bifurcation occurs when a parameter change causes the stability of an equilibrium (or fixed point) to change. In continuous systems, this corresponds to the real part of an eigenvalue of an equilibrium passing through zero. In discrete systems (those described by maps rather than ODEs), this corresponds to a fixed point having a Floquet multiplier with modulus equal to one. In both cases, the equilibrium is non-hyperbolic at the bifurcation point. The topological changes in the phase portrait of the system can be confined to arbitrarily small neighbourhoods of the bifurcating fixed points by moving the bifurcation parameter close to the bifurcation point (hence 'local').

More technically, consider the continuous dynamical system described by the ODE

A local bifurcation occurs at ${\displaystyle (x_{0},\lambda _{0})}$ if the Jacobian matrix ${\displaystyle {\textrm {d}}f_{x_{0},\lambda _{0}}}$ has an eigenvalue with zero real part. If the eigenvalue is equal to zero, the bifurcation is a steady state bifurcation, but if the eigenvalue is non-zero but purely imaginary, this is a Hopf bifurcation.

For discrete dynamical systems, consider the system

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