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68
votes
0answers
5k views

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 ...
53
votes
5answers
9k 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 ...
43
votes
8answers
5k 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 ...
39
votes
2answers
1k 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
3answers
4k 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 ...
31
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
28
votes
6answers
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 ...
28
votes
4answers
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 ...
27
votes
1answer
1k 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, ...
25
votes
5answers
1k 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 ...
22
votes
1answer
458 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 $2$ ...
21
votes
3answers
2k 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 direcly, as the 4th of July is ...
21
votes
2answers
822 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
5answers
2k 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 ...
19
votes
3answers
1k 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
1answer
754 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:           ...
16
votes
4answers
716 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 PoincarĂ© map ...
16
votes
6answers
3k 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
9answers
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 ...
15
votes
5answers
934 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 ...
15
votes
6answers
1k 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
2answers
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 ...
14
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
12
votes
9answers
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
5answers
1k 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
973 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 ...
12
votes
4answers
1k 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
1answer
691 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
5answers
502 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
4answers
888 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
2answers
2k 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
767 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 ...
10
votes
5answers
975 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?
10
votes
2answers
553 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 ...
10
votes
3answers
658 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
2answers
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
0answers
372 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 ...
9
votes
4answers
325 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
1answer
418 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
0answers
216 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
1answer
353 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
1answer
676 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 ...
8
votes
0answers
185 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
438 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
162 views

Well-definedness of single-particle smooth billiards flow

Single-particle billiards systems in a domain with corners, or multi-particle billiards in a domain with smooth boundary, can exhibit singularities in finite time. (The former phenomenon is well ...
7
votes
1answer
297 views

Generalizing a square wheel to a body rolling on a surface

A square wheel rolling on a catenary road maintains the wheel center at a fixed height, a well-known construction previously discussed on MO (e.g., "Generalizing square wheels rolling on inverted ...
7
votes
1answer
373 views

Two interacting bodies in an external field

Hope, MO is the right place for this question (if not so: where would you pose it?). Consider a two-body system in classical mechanics. As long as the interaction depends only on the distance of the ...
7
votes
1answer
715 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 $\hat g := \sqrt g$ ...
6
votes
1answer
438 views

Is there a sideways-walking rolling convex body?

Let $K$ be a solid, homogenous convex body in $\mathbb{R}^3$. Place $K$ on an inclined plane, and let it roll down the plane, under some reasonable assumptions of friction between $K$ and the plane, ...
6
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...