I would like to display the positions of a collection of particles as a function of time (animated) and color code them based on their velocities. For example, consider 10 particles moving in a 2D harmonic oscillator:

velocity = Flatten[(Sqrt[x'[t]^2 + y'[t]^2] /. position)];
Num = 10;
position0 = 
  Table[{RandomReal[{-5, 5}], RandomReal[{-5, 5}]}, {i, 1, Num}];

ωx = 1; ωy = 1.07;
position = Table[
   NDSolve[{x''[t] == -ωx^2 x[t], x[0] == position0[[i, 1]], x'[0] == 0, 
     y''[t] == -ωy^2 y[t], y[0] == position0[[i, 2]], 
     y'[0] == 0}, {x, y}, {t, 0, 10}], {i, 1, Num}];
velocity = Flatten[(Sqrt[x'[t]^2 + y'[t]^2] /. position)];

I can then plot a single particle's trajectory colored by its velocity:

ParametricPlot[Evaluate[{x[t], y[t]} /. position[[2]]], {t, 0, 10},
 ColorFunction -> 
  Function[{x, y, t}, 
   ColorData[{"ThermometerColors", {0, 5}}][velocity[[2]]]], 
 ColorFunctionScaling -> False

Particle trajectory in harmonic well, colored by velocity

But what I would like to do is plot the points using ListPlot, and color code each point by its velocity as a function of time. I've started:

 ListPlot[Table[{x[t], y[t]} /. position[[i, 1]], {i, 1, Num}],
   PlotRange -> {{-5, 5}, {-5, 5}}, Joined -> True, 
   ColorFunction -> 
    Function[{i, x, y, t}, 
     ColorData[{"ThermometerColors", {0, 5}}][velocity]]], 
   ColorFunctionScaling -> False] /. Line -> Point,
 {t, 0, 10}, AnimationRunning -> False]

I get the animation right but the colors do not appear -- I'm sure I'm not addressing the ColorFunction correctly but I'm not sure how to get it to index by point rather than by one of the continuous variables (eg. x or y).

Point spread of 10 particles


1 Answer 1


I could not use your code, but since you are getting the animation right already, consider doing something similar to this answer: I'll use some random data and omit the t-dependence:

positions = RandomReal[{-4, 4}, {10, 2}];
velocities = RandomReal[{0, 5}, {10}];

Now use Point to get the colors right:

Graphics[MapThread[{ColorData[{"ThermometerColors", {0, 5}}][#1], Point[#2]} &, {velocities, positions}], Axes -> True]

Edit: I see that ListPlot might perform better than the above solution, so here is an alternative solution using ListPlot. The trick is to use Style for each point:

Let's first generate some random data (I do not claim that these values make any sense!):

startpositions = RandomReal[{-4, 4}, {10, 2}];
positions[t_] := Cos[t] Exp[-t/10] startpositions;
velocities[t_] := Abs[-(1/10) E^(-t/10) (Cos[t] + 10 Sin[t])] Norm /@ startpositions;

Now you can animate it as follows.

Table[Style[{positions[t][[i, 1]], positions[t][[i, 2]]}, 
ColorData[{"ThermometerColors", {0, 5}}][velocities[t][[i]]]], {i,
10}], PlotRange -> {{-5, 5}, {-5, 5}}], {t, 0, 10}]

Please note that I didn't pay any attention to the scaling of the color function (which assumes that the velocities are between 0 and 5).

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your response. I've seen the answer you mentioned and I suppose I should clarify that I'm hoping to avoid explicit use of the Graphics function and making a giant array of positions and velocities at different times. I'd like to be able to use ListPlot because I suspect it will be faster than telling Graphics to make each point individually (I could easily be wrong about that) and I would like to be able to evaluate the interpolation functions at time t to generate both the positions and velocities. $\endgroup$
    – SeanM
    Oct 18, 2017 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ I edited the answer and use ListPlot now, as it might really be faster than the previous suggestion. The t-dependence can be incorporated quite easily and you will adjust it for your case, of course. $\endgroup$
    – M. Stern
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:11

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