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HT2010

First Year Physics: Prelims CP1


Classical Mechanics: Prof. G. Yassin
Problems V Lagrangian Dynamics
The problems are divided into two sections: (A) Standard and (B) Harder.
Section A - Standard Problems
Variational Principles
1. Fermats principle
A light beam is propagating in the x y plane in a media whose refraction
index n depends only on y.
(a) Use Fermats principle to show that the trajectory of the beam from
(x
0
, y
0
) to (x
1
, y
1
) may be obtained by minimizing the functional
S(y) = c
1

x1
x0
n(y)[(1 +y
2
)]
1
2
dx
where y

= dy/dx and c is the speed of light in vacuum.


(b) A light ray propagates from (x
0
, y
0
) to (x
1
, y
1
) by reection from
the surface of a at mirror located at in the plane y = 0 as shown in Fig 1.
Show that the angle of reection
r
is equal to the angle of incidence
i
2. The Brachistochrone Problem-Bernoullis solution
The Brachistochrone Problem was launched by Jean Bernoulli in 1696 and
may be stated as follows: A particle of mass m is descending under the
inuence of constant gravity in a vertical plane. Which path should the
particle follow in order too move from point A to point B in the shortest
possible time?
The solution suggested by Bernoulli recognises that the particle will
follow the path of a beam of light propagating in a dielectric media of
refractive index n(y), inversely proportional to the particle velocity. .
(a) Given that the optical path will be minimum if Snells law is satised
and that the index of refraction is inversely proportional to the free fall
velocity v =

2gy show that the path equation is given by


sin

2gy
=
1

2ga
,
where is the angle between the ray direction (tangent to the curve) and
the vertical direction.
(b) Eliminate to show that the above equation can be written as:
dy
dx
=

a y
y
1
2
(c) Use the substitution y = a sin
2

2
to nd that x() =
a
2
( sin ),
hence show that the equation of the path is a cycloid.
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Euler-Lagrange Equation
3. Atwoods machine
The three masses shown below move in a vertical plane under the inuence
of constant gravity and the tension in the inextensible strings. Assuming
that the pulleys are massless and that all friction forces can be neglected,
(a) write down the constraints equation that result from the xed length
of the strings, hence show that the motion of the three masses may be
described by two generalized coordinates.
(b) Use the E-L equation to nd the acceleration of each mass.
(c) Repeat (b) using Newton second law and compare the two methods.
Why does the upper pulley rotate despite the fact that the masses on either
side are equal?
4. Motion in two dimensions
Consider a particle of mass m moving in the x, y plane under the inuence
of the potential V (r) where r is the postion vector of the particle in an
inertial reference frame.
Construct the Lagrangian and the Hamiltonian of the particle in polar polar
coordinates r, , hence nd which quantities are constants of motion. Is this
consistent with what you expected from Newtonian mechanics?
5. The simple pendulum
Use E-L equation to calculate the period of oscillation of a simple pendulum
of length l and bob mass m in the small angle approximation. Assume now
that the pendulum support is accelerated in the vertical direction at a rate
a, nd the period of oscillation. For what value of a the pendulum does not
oscillate? Comment on this result.
6. A sliding block
A block of mass m slides on a frictionless inclined plane of mass M, which
itself rests on a horizontal frictionless surface.
(a) Choose the displacement of the inclined plane x and the displacement
of the block m s relative to the inclined plane as generalized coordinate and
nd the Lagrangian of the system.
(b) Write down the E-L equation for each coordinate and nd the ac-
celeration of the inclined plane. Compare this solution with the one you
obtained using Newton laws.
7. Rotating bead
A bead of mass m is constrained to slide on a frictionless wire which is
made to rotate about a vertical axis at an angular velocity . The wire is
tilted away from the vertical by an angle and the location of the bead is
measured by the coordinate r.
(a) Write down the equation of motion of the bead using the E-L equa-
tion. Test the integrity of your equation by taking extreme values of .
(b)Find the general solution assuming that at t = 0, r = r
0
, r = 0.
Based on this solution, show that for r
0
= gcos/
2
sin, the bead moves
in circular motion (as expected!). Describe the motion for r < r
0
and r > r
0
.
(c) Which of the following quantities is a constant of the bead motion:
angular momentum with respect to the origin, the Hamiltonian, total en-
ergy?
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8. Sliding on a sphere
A particle of mass m slides without friction down the surface of a hemisphere
of radius R.
(a) Construct the Lagrangian of the problem in terms of the polar co-
ordinates (r, ), in the range when the constraint r = R is valid. Find the
equation of motion.
(b) Allow the radius of the sphere to vary by an innitesimal amount
and write the equation of morion with r as a free variable. Include the
potential V (r) of the rection force applied by the hemisphere on the object.
Write the new Lagrangian and nd the reaction force for r = R. Compare
with the result derived from NII.
(c) Assuming that the particle is released from the top of the sphere from
rest, show that the particle leaves the surface at an angle cos
max
= 2/3.
9. A beed on a rotating hoop
A vertical circular hoop of radius R rotates about a vertical axis at an
angular velocity . A bead of mass m can slide on the hoop without friction
and is constrained to stay on the hoop. By taking the angle between the
radius line and the vertical, as a generalized coordinate,
(a) Find the Lagrangian and the equation of motion. Using the concept
of eective potential or otherwise, nd the three equilibrium positions of
the bead.
(b) Discuss the stabiliy of each equiibrium point and nd the frequency
of smal oscillations about the stable ones.
(b) Find the Hamiltonian and the total energy T+V. Is either of them
a constant of motion?
Section B - Harder Problems
10. 2-D spring
A particle of mass m is attached to the free end of a massless spring of
equilibrium length a and spring constant k. The other end of the spring
is pivoted to a frictionless horizontal surface and the particle is allowed to
move in 2-D under the inuence of the spring force which is assumed to
obey Hooks law.
(a) Write the E-L equations for the polar coordinate (r, ). Identify the
cyclic coordinates and the corresponding conserved quantities. Write down
the equation of motion in terms of the variable r.
(b) Write the total energy of the system (for a given angular momentum
J ) and analyse the motion using the concept of eective potential. Find
the radius for circular orbit and show that it is consistent with the value
obtained from Newton laws.
(c) Use Newton II in Cartesian coordinates to show that if the rest length
of the spring is negligible (a 0), the path of the particle is elliptical with r
measured from the centre of the ellipse. Use the expression for total energy
E to nd the major and the minor axes of the ellipse.
[Answer: a, b = r
0
/(

1 ) where r
0
= J
2
/mE and =

1 kJ
2
/mE
2
)]
11. The Brachistochrone Problem
A particle of mass m is constrained to slide without friction, in a vertical
plane, down a cycloidal surface which may be parameterized as:
x = a( sin), y = a(1 + cos ).
At t = 0 the partical was at rest at the origin A.
(a) Show that the equation of the surface describes the motion of a
particle on the rim of a rolling wheel.
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(b) Write down the Euler-Lagrange equation for the coordinates . By
making the substitution u = cos

2
, show that the coordinate of the particle
u executes simple harmonic oscillations with a period independent of the
amplitude.
(c) Compare the time that takes the particle to move from A to the
bottom of the cycloid B with the time that takes it to move from A
to B along a straight line. Discuss the link with the Brachistochrone
problem. [Answers: (b) T = 2(4a/g)
1
2
, (d) t
line
= (1 + 4/
2
)
1
2
)t
cyc
]
12. A Pendulum with accelerated support
A box of mass M can slide horizontally on a frictionless surface. A simple
pendulum of string length l and mass m, is suspended inside the block.
Denote the coordinate of the centre of mass of the box by x and the angle
that the pendulum makes with the vertical by . At t = 0 the pendulum
displacement is =
0
= 0
(a) Find the Lagrangian and the equation of motion for the generalized
coordinates x and . Which conservation law is obtained as a result of the
cyclic coordinate?
(b) Find the solutions for x and in the small angle approximation,
hence show that the pendulum and the box execute SHO about their centre
of mass at a frequency
=

M +m
M
1
2

g
l
1
2
13. Normal modes
Two equal masses m
1
= m
2
are connected by two massless springs of force
constants k
1
and k
2
as shown below. The system is placed on a horizontal
frictionless table and attached to the wall.
(a) Write the Lagrangian of the system using the coordinates x
1
and
x
2
that give the displacements of the masses m
1
and m
2
respectively from
their equilibrium positions. Use the E-L equations to nd the equation of
motion of each mass.
(b) Find the solutions in which the two masses execute simple harmonic
oscillations at the same frequency (normal modes). Verify your solutions by
considering the special cases k
1
k
2
and k
1
k
2
.

l
r
14. The Spherical Pendulum
Consider a spherical pendulum which consists of a mass m suspended by a
messless string of length l from the ceiling as show below.
(a) Write the Lagrangian of the system in terms of the polar coordinats
(, ). Write the Hamiltonian and show that H = T +V .
(b) Show that is a cyclic coordinate and nd the corresponding con-
served quantity. Hence show that the Hamiltonian may be written as
H =
1
2
ml
2

2
+V
eff
()
and nd an expression for V
eff
().
(c)Sketch V
eff
() and show that the pendulum can move steadily around
a circle with =
0
at an angular velocity given by:

2
=
g
l cos
0
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16. Kepler laws for two-body system.
Consider an isolated system of two stars of masses m
1
and m
2
and position
vectors r
1
and r
2
, moving under their mutual gravitation. Show that in the
centre of mass frame, the Lagrangian of the system is equal to that of a
single particle of mass =
m1m2
m1+m2
and position vector r = r
1
r
2
. Deduce
therefore that the procedure employed in Kepler problem may be used to
predict the motion of each star. Using the solution for a an object of mass
m orbiting a much heavier star of mass M m, derive expressions for the
radial equation, the eective potential and Kepler third law.
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