According to a standard, idealized analysis, the Moon would produce a 54 cm equilibrium tidal bulge in the Earth's oceans. This analysis omits many factors (beyond the scope of the simple idealized model) that dramatically influence the actual height and timing of the tides at different locations, but it is nevertheless an important foundation for more detailed studies. Here, we show that the standard analysis also omits another factor—the gravitational interaction of the tidal bulge with itself—which is entirely compatible with the simple, idealized equilibrium model and which produces a surprisingly non-trivial correction to the predicted size of the tidal bulge. Our analysis uses ideas and techniques that are familiar from electrostatics, and should thus be of interest to teachers and students of undergraduate E&M, Classical Mechanics (and/or other courses that cover the tides), and geophysics courses that cover the closely related topic of Earth's equatorial bulge.
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PAPERS| September 01 2017
The gravitational self-interaction of the Earth's tidal bulge
Travis Norsen, Mackenzie Dreese, Christopher West; The gravitational self-interaction of the Earth's tidal bulge. Am. J. Phys. 1 September 2017; 85 (9): 663–669. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.4985124
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