UBC Undergraduate Research

Experimental analysis of the brachistochrone using a kinematical approximation method Liht, Enrique; Yang, Hans


The solution to the brachistochrone – the curve of fastest descent – for a spherical steel bearing sliding and rolling down a low-friction plastic track is determined from experimental data and numerical analysis. It is hypothesized that the curve of fastest descent will be closely correlated to the cycloid. Analysis involves a spreadsheet simulation of model curves where the times of descent are predicted by an approximation formula derived using basic kinematics. Results display a positive correlation between a model curve’s deviation from the cycloid and the time of descent.

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