Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Maths at work: balancing a wobbly table

I would call this a beautiful scientific result (with immediate practical applications!). If the ground does not raise by more than about 35 degrees between any two points and if the legs of the table are at least half as long as its diagonals, a rectangular table that wobbles initially can always be balanced. Just turn the table, no matter in which direction, roughly around its center, and you must find a balancing position (...and stop trying to balance it by sticking folded napkins under its legs). I just love the proof (PDF file); if you're not a friend of the maths in there, just read section 5.

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