The classical-mechanics tag has no usage guidance.

**88**

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### Dropping three bodies

Consider the usual three-body problem with Newtonian
$1/r^2$ force between masses. Let the three masses start off at rest,
and not collinear. Then they will become collinear a finite time ...

**61**

votes

**5**answers

17k views

### The “Dzhanibekov effect” - an exercise in mechanics or fiction? Explain mathematically a video from a space station

The question briefly:
Can one explain the "Dzhanibekov effect" (see youtube videos from space station or comments below) on the basis of the standard rigid body dynamics using Euler's equations? (Or ...

**46**

votes

**8**answers

7k views

### Fair but irregular polyhedral dice

I am interested in determining a collection of geometric conditions that will guarantee that a convex polyhedron
of $n$ faces is a fair die in the sense that, upon random rolling, it has an equal $1/n$...

**40**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Topple height of randomly stacked bricks

What is the expected height of a stack of unit-length bricks, each one
stacked on the previous with a uniformly random shift within $\pm \delta$?
The stack topples if the center of gravity of the top $...

**34**

votes

**3**answers

5k views

### On linear independence of exponentials

Problem.
Let $\{\lambda_n\}_{n\in\mathbb N}$ be a sequence of complex numbers . Let's call a family of exponential functions $\{\exp (\lambda_n s)\}_{n\in\mathbb N}$ $F$-independent (where $F$ is ...

**32**

votes

**6**answers

2k views

### Billiard dynamics under gravity

Has the dynamics of billiards in a polygon subject to gravity been
studied?
What I have in mind is something like this:
Still Snell's ...

**31**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Gently falling functions

I wonder if it is possible to characterize the class of
gently falling functions, which I would like to define
as follows.
Let $g(x)$ be a $C^2$ function defined on an interval
$R \subseteq \mathbb{R}$...

**30**

votes

**1**answer

3k views

### Geometric interpretation of the half-derivative?

For $f(x)=x$, the half-derivative of $f$ is
$$\frac{d^{\frac{1}{2}}}{dx^{\frac{1}{2}}} x = 2 \sqrt{\frac{x}{\pi}} \;.$$
Is there some geometric interpretation of (Q1) this specific derivative, and, (...

**30**

votes

**5**answers

4k views

### Differentiable functions with discontinuous derivatives

For years I've taught my honors calculus students about functions like (the continuous extension of) $x^2 \sin 1/x$, and for just as many years I've told them that they won't encounter functions like ...

**29**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Parabolic envelope of fireworks

The envelope of parabolic trajectories from a common launch point is itself a parabola.
In the U.S. this weekend many will have a chance to observe this fact directly, as the 4th of July is ...

**28**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### $\exists$ a shot in ideal pocket billiards?

Assume you have one shot with the cue ball in pocket billiards (a.k.a. pool), with
the game idealized in that no spin is placed on the cue ball in
the initial shot, all collisions between billiard ...

**26**

votes

**4**answers

1k views

### Stability of the Solar System

Is the Solar System stable?
You can see this Wikipedia page.
In May 2015 I was at the conference of Cedric Villani at Sharif university of technology with this title: "Of planets, stars and ...

**25**

votes

**1**answer

896 views

### Bouncing a ball down the stairs

In a nutshell, the question is whether it can be faster to bounce a ball down an infinite flight of stairs than to bounce it down a ramp with the same slope.
To be more specific: this is a $2$ ...

**24**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### Is symplectic reduction interesting from a physical point of view?

Do you think that symplectic reduction (Marsden Weinstein reduction) is interesting from a physical point of view? If so, why? Does it give you some new physical insights?
There are some possible ...

**21**

votes

**2**answers

922 views

### Billiard dynamics for multiple balls

I am interested to learn to what extent results on billiards
in polygons have been extended to multiple balls.
Assume the balls have equal radii and the same mass,
the same initial speed, and all
...

**20**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Classical mechanics motivation for poisson manifolds?

Suppose I want to understand classical mechanics.
Why should I be interested in arbitrary poisson manifolds and not just in symplectic ones?
What are examples of systems best described by non ...

**19**

votes

**1**answer

845 views

### Which convex bodies roll along closed geodesics?

An ellipsoid could be rolled (without slippage) on a horizontal plane so that its point
of contact traces out a closed geodesic on its surface:
...

**17**

votes

**4**answers

1k views

### Non-chaotic bouncing-ball curves

I was surprised to learn from two
Mathematica Demos by
Enrique Zeleny that an elastic ball bouncing in a V or in a sinusoidal channel
exhibits choatic behavior:
(The Poincaré map ...

**16**

votes

**5**answers

1k views

### G-bundles in classical mechanics

The paper Geometry of the Prytz Planimeter described a mechanical instrument whose configuration space is an $S^1$-bundle with an $SU(1,1)$ action. That paper goes on to study the holonomies of ...

**16**

votes

**6**answers

7k views

### Angle Maximizing the Distance of a Projectile

It is well-known that to maximize the horizontal distance traveled by a projectile fired from the ground at a given speed, one should fire it at a $45^\circ$ angle. What's less-known, though not too ...

**15**

votes

**6**answers

2k views

### Catenary curve under non-uniform gravitational field

The catenary curve is the shape of a chain hanging between two equal-height poles under the influence of gravity. But the derivation of the (hyperbolic cosine) curve equation from the physics ...

**15**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Fastest Rolling Shape?

The following questions occurred to me.
This is not research mathematics, just idle curiosity.
Apologies if it is inappropriate.
Suppose you have a fixed volume V of maleable material,
perhaps clay....

**15**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### Hanging a ball with string

What is the shortest length of string that suffices to hang
a unit-radius ball $B$?
This question is related to an earlier MO question, but I think different.
Assume that the ball is ...

**14**

votes

**8**answers

2k views

### How can I conclude that I live in a solar system?

Well, this is an awkward question and I don't know if it is mathematical enough for MO (I'm sorry if not) but I'll try it: What observations in the coordinate system centered in my fixed position on ...

**14**

votes

**5**answers

2k views

### Can the equation of motion with friction be written as Euler-Lagrange equation, and does it have a quantum version?

My (non-expert) impression is that many physically important equations of motion can be obtained as Euler-Lagrange equations. For example in quantum fields theories and in quantum mechanics quantum ...

**13**

votes

**5**answers

2k views

### 2- and 3-body problems when gravity is not inverse-square

Suppose that gravity did not follow an inverse-square law, but was instead a central force diminishing
as $1/d^p$ for distance separation $d$ and some power $p$.
Two questions:
Presumably the 2-body ...

**13**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### On the non-rigorous calculations of the trajectories in the moon landings

In a paragraph written by a person emphasizing that rigour is not everything in mathematics (I wish I had written down the details), it was stated that the moon landings would have been impossible ...

**13**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### What is the role of contact geometry in the hamiltonian mechanics?

Let us assume someone is interested in the study of Hamiltonian mechanics.
What are good examples to illustrate him of the usefulness of contact geometry in this context?
On one hand the Hamiltonian ...

**12**

votes

**9**answers

2k views

### Newton equations, second order equation and (im)possible motions

I am am currently studying Newtonian mechanics from a conceptional and axiomatic point of view. Now, if I am not mistaken, one (but surely not all) statement of Newtons second law about nature is, ...

**12**

votes

**2**answers

3k views

### *The* open problem in General Relativity?

Q. Is there a single, clear mathematical question that has emerged as
the open problem in General Relativity?
I ask this on the ~100th anniversary of Einstein's (4-page!) 1915 paper,
"Die ...

**12**

votes

**2**answers

3k views

### Classical Limit of Quantum Mechanics

There is a well-known principle that one can recover classical mechanics from quantum mechanics in the limit as $\hbar$ goes to zero. I am looking for the strongest statement one can make concerning ...

**12**

votes

**1**answer

776 views

### Polygonal billards programs

I'm looking for software that will give billiard trajectories in arbitrary plane polygons. After much work I was able to produce this figure.
It was a good exercise, but at this point I wonder if ...

**11**

votes

**5**answers

1k views

### reference for Noether's theorem

What is a good reference for a geometric version of Noether's theorem about Lagrangians, symmetries and conserved currents?

**11**

votes

**5**answers

533 views

### To what extent does trajectory determine gravity sources?

Suppose one has in-hand an accurate time-space trajectory in $\mathbb{R}^3$ of a (small) body,
say an asteroid or satellite—effectively a point.
To what extent does this trajectory determine the ...

**11**

votes

**3**answers

414 views

### Orthogonal mud cracks and Maxwell's reciprocal figures

Is there a succinct mathematical/physical explanation of why mud cracks
tend to meet orthogonally?
Wikipedia image in this ...

**11**

votes

**4**answers

907 views

### When sticks fall, will they weave?

Imagine $n$ $z$-vertical sticks uniformly spaced around a unit-radius circle in the $xy$-plane.
At $t{=}0$, each is randomly $\epsilon$-perturbed from the vertical, and they fall under
the influence ...

**11**

votes

**0**answers

431 views

### Functions approximated by rolling epicycle curves

Imagine a decreasing sequence of (positive) radii $r_1 > r_2 > r_3 > \cdots$
and a series of nested circles $C_1 \supset C_2 \supset C_3 \supset \cdots$
with these radii,
initially each ...

**10**

votes

**3**answers

724 views

### “Rolling Geodesics”: Designing a $k$-putt green

I am interested in what might be called rolling geodesics, paths
of physical particles confined to a surface in $\mathbb{R}^3$
under certain force conditions.
Here I will pose a specific (but ...

**10**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Surface equivalent of catenary curve

A catenary curve
is the shape taken by an idealized hanging chain or rope under the influence
of gravity. It has the equation $y= a \cosh (x/a)$.
My question is:
What is the shape taken by an ...

**10**

votes

**2**answers

727 views

### Floating polyhedra with fair equilibria

Is there a homogeneous convex polyhedron
which floats so that some subset (perhaps all) of its faces
is distinguished as "up" (above the water line)
in stable equilibrium, each face with equal ...

**9**

votes

**3**answers

335 views

### Surfaces that are 'everywhere accessible' to a randomly positioned Newtonian particle with an arbitrary velocity vector

Consider an idealized classical particle confined to a two-dimensional surface that is frictionless. The particle's initial position on the surface is randomly selected, a nonzero velocity vector is ...

**9**

votes

**1**answer

446 views

### Classical analogue of the Stone-von Neumann Theorem?

Let $U_s$, $V_t$ be a pair of continuous $n$-parameter groups ($n < \infty$) of unitary operators on a complex Hilbert space $\mathcal{H}$. The Stone-von Neumann Theorem establishes that any such ...

**9**

votes

**0**answers

291 views

### Periodic orbits of a spinning ball in a square

Periodic orbits of a billiard ball bouncing in a square have been well-studied.
I am seeking similar analysis of what is sometimes called a rough ball, one
whose high friction causes it to pick up ...

**8**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Classical Limit of Feynman Path Integral

I understand that in the limit that $\hbar$ goes to zero, the Feynman path integral is dominated by the classical path, and then using the stationary phase approximation we can derive an approximation ...

**8**

votes

**1**answer

995 views

### Oloid and sphericon: rolling develops entire surface

Wikipedia says that,
"The oloid is one of the only known objects, along with some members of the sphericon family, that while rolling, develops its entire surface."
Below are illustrations of ...

**8**

votes

**1**answer

690 views

### The rain hull and the rain ridge

Rain falls steadily on an island, a 2-manifold $M$, which you may
assume, as you prefer,
is: (a) smooth, or (b) a PL-manifold, or perhaps even
(c) a
triangulated irregular network (TIN).
After a time,...

**8**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### Calculating the geodesic equation for a particular set of phase-space coordinates

Let $g$ be a Riemannian metric on the $d$-dimensional flat space $\mathbb R^d$, and consider the usual Lagrangian $$L(x, \dot x) = \tfrac 1 2 g_{ij}(x) \dot x^i \dot x^j.$$ Let $\hat g := \sqrt g$ ...

**8**

votes

**0**answers

203 views

### Billiards with incompatible regions

An existing question asks whether "almost every" two-dimensional billiard possesses at least one orbit that is dense in its interior. My question is about the following set of strong counter-examples:...

**7**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Generalizing square wheels rolling on inverted catenaries

It is not uncommon to see in a science museum a bicycle with
square wheels that rides smoothly over a washboard-like
surface made from inverted catenary curves (e.g., at the Münich museum).
The ...

**7**

votes

**2**answers

473 views

### How quickly will billiard trajectories cluster?

Suppose you launch $n$ point-particles on
distinct reflecting nonperiodic billiard trajectories
inside a convex polygon. Assume they all have the same speed.
Define an $\epsilon$-cluster as a ...