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Concept# Brachistochrone curve

Summary

In physics and mathematics, a brachistochrone curve (), or curve of fastest descent, is the one lying on the plane between a point A and a lower point B, where B is not directly below A, on which a bead slides frictionlessly under the influence of a uniform gravitational field to a given end point in the shortest time. The problem was posed by Johann Bernoulli in 1696.
The brachistochrone curve is the same shape as the tautochrone curve; both are cycloids. However, the portion of the cycloid used for each of the two varies. More specifically, the brachistochrone can use up to a complete rotation of the cycloid (at the limit when A and B are at the same level), but always starts at a cusp. In contrast, the tautochrone problem can use only up to the first half rotation, and always ends at the horizontal. The problem can be solved using tools from the calculus of variations and optimal control.
The curve is independent of both the mass of the test body and the local strength of gravity. Only a parameter is chosen so that the curve fits the starting point A and the ending point B. If the body is given an initial velocity at A, or if friction is taken into account, then the curve that minimizes time differs from the tautochrone curve.
Johann Bernoulli posed the problem of the brachistochrone to the readers of Acta Eruditorum in June, 1696. He said:
I, Johann Bernoulli, address the most brilliant mathematicians in the world. Nothing is more attractive to intelligent people than an honest, challenging problem, whose possible solution will bestow fame and remain as a lasting monument. Following the example set by Pascal, Fermat, etc., I hope to gain the gratitude of the whole scientific community by placing before the finest mathematicians of our time a problem which will test their methods and the strength of their intellect. If someone communicates to me the solution of the proposed problem, I shall publicly declare him worthy of praise
Bernoulli wrote the problem statement as:
Quote
|text=Given two points A and B in a vertical plane, what is the curve traced out by a point acted on only by gravity, which starts at A and reaches B in the shortest time.

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