# Stability theory

In mathematics, **stability theory** addresses the stability of solutions of differential equations and of trajectories of dynamical systems under small perturbations of initial conditions. The heat equation, for example, is a stable partial differential equation because small perturbations of initial data lead to small variations in temperature at a later time as a result of the maximum principle. In partial differential equations one may measure the distances between functions using L^{p} norms or the sup norm, while in differential geometry one may measure the distance between spaces using the Gromov–Hausdorff distance.

In dynamical systems, an orbit is called *Lyapunov stable* if the forward orbit of any point is in a small enough neighborhood or it stays in a small (but perhaps, larger) neighborhood. Various criteria have been developed to prove stability or instability of an orbit. Under favorable circumstances, the question may be reduced to a well-studied problem involving eigenvalues of matrices. A more general method involves Lyapunov functions. In practice, any one of a number of different stability criteria are applied.