The classic brachistrochrone problem is standard material in intermediate mechanics. Many variations exist including some accessible to introductory students. While a quantitative solution isn’t feasible in introductory classes, qualitative discussions can be very beneficial since kinematics, Newton’s laws, energy conservation, and motion along curved trajectories all play a role. In this work, we describe an activity focusing on a qualitative understanding of the brachistochrone and examine the performance of freshmen, juniors, and graduate students. The activity can be downloaded at https://w3.physics.arizona.edu/undergrad/teaching-resources.
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PAPERS| November 01 2021
The Brachistochrone: An Excellent Problem for All Levels of Physics Students
Phys. Teach. 59, 606–609 (2021)
John A. Milsom; The Brachistochrone: An Excellent Problem for All Levels of Physics Students. Phys. Teach. 1 November 2021; 59 (8): 606–609. https://doi.org/10.1119/5.0021274
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