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# Cylinder Rolling on Another Rolling Cylinder

Kirk T. McDonald
Joseph Henry Laboratories, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544
(October 2, 2014; updated March 31, 2016)

1 Problem
Discuss the motion of a cylinder that rolls without slipping on another cylinder, when the
latter rolls without slipping on a horizontal plane. The cylinders have axial moments of
inertia Ii = ki mi ri2 where mi are the masses and ri are the radii of rolling.1

2 Solution
This problem was suggested by Bradley Klee. For the related case of one cylinder rolling
inside another, see [1].
When one cylinder is directly above the other, we deﬁne the line of contact of the lower
cylinder, 1, with the horizontal plane to be the z-axis, at x = y = 0. Then, the condition of
rolling without slipping for the lower cylinder is that when it has rolled (positive) distance
x1, the initial line of contact has rotated through angle φ1 = x1/r1 , clockwise with respect
to the vertical, as shown in the ﬁgure below. This rolling constraint can be written as
x 1 = r1 φ 1 . (1)

Meanwhile, if the upper cylinder, 2, rolls such that the line of centers (in the x-y plane)
makes angle θ (positive clockwise) to the vertical, then the initial point of contact of the
upper cylinder has rotated through angle φ2, measured counterclockwise from the line of
centers, such that for rolling without slipping the arc lengths are equal between the initial
1
One of the two dimensionless positive constants ki can be greater than 1 for a “cylinder” in the form
of a bobbin that rolls on a narrow cylinder or track.

1

points of contact of the two cylinders and the new point of contact. This second rolling
constraint can be written as
r1 r1 + r2 r1φ1 − rθ
r2 φ2 = r1 (φ1 − θ) , φ2 − θ = φ1 − θ= with r ≡ r1 + r2 . (2)
r2 r2 r2
where φ2 − θ is the angle of the initial point of contact of cylinder 2 to the vertical.
Of course, the center of cylinder 1 is at y1 = r1 , and so long as the two cylinders are
touching, their axes are separated by distance r = r1 + r2 . Altogether there are 4 constraints
on the 6 degree of freedom (of two-dimensional motion) of the system, such that there are
only two independent degrees of freedom, which we take to be the angles φ1 and θ.
Energy E = T + V is conserved, and since neither the kinetic energy T nor the potential
energy V (taken to be zero when θ = θ0 ),

V = −m2gr(cos θ 0 − cos θ), (3)

depend on coordinate φ1 there will be another conserved quantity, the canonical momentum

∂L ∂T
pφ1 = = . (4)
˙
∂ φ1 ∂ φ˙ 1

where L = T − V is the Lagrangian of the system. However, pφ1 is not a single angular
momentum.2
Since there are two conserved quantities and two degrees of freedom, there is no need to
evaluate Lagrange’s equations of motion to determine the motion, so long as the cylinders
remain in contact and roll without slipping.3
The kinetic energy of cylinder 1, whose axis is at (x1, r1 ), is

m1 x˙ 21 I1φ˙ 1 1 + k1 2
T1 = + = m1r12 φ˙ 1 , (5)
2 2 2
using the rolling constraint (1) and the expression I1 = k1 m1r12 for the moment of inertia I1
in terms of parameter k1 .
The kinetic energy of cylinder 2, whose axis is at (x2, y2), is, using I2 = k2 m2 r22 ,

m2 (x˙ 22 + y˙22 ) I2(φ˙ 2 − θ)
˙ 2 m2(x˙ 22 + y˙22 ) k2 m2r22 (φ˙ 2 − θ)
˙ 2
T2 = + = + , (6)
2 2 2 2
noting that the separation of kinetic energy into energy of the center-of-mass motion plus
energy of rotation about the center of mass requires the angular velocity to be measured
2
An example of a system in which there exists a constant of the motion involving angular velocity and
moments of inertia, but which is not a single angular momentum, has been given in [2]. See also [3].
3
For the implausible case of n cylinders, one on top of another, there are 3n degrees of freedom, n
constraints of touching, and n rolling constraints, leaving n indpendent degrees of freedom. Energy is
conserved, and if we take the n independent coordinates to be angle φ1 and the n − 1 angles θi,i+1 of the
lines of centers of adjacent cylinders, then the energy depends on the θi,i+1 but not φ1 . Hence, there is one
conserved canonical momentum. For n > 2 it is necessary to use some of Lagrangre’s equations of motion
to solve for the motion.

2

Px = (m1 + m2)x˙ 1 + m2r cos θ θ˙ = (m1 + m2)r1 φ˙ 1 + m2r cos θ θ. (8) r1 φ˙ 1 − rθ˙ φ˙ 2 − θ˙ = . (14) and that of cylinder 2 about its axis is. 1 ˙ (15) Hence. using the constraint (2). we have x2 = x1 + r sin θ. (7) y2 = r1 + r cos θ. the conserved canonical momentum (12) can be written as r1 pφ1 = r1 Px + L1 + L2 . y˙2 = ˙ −r sin θ θ. (19) (1 + k1 )m1 + (1 + k2 )m2 3 . (1)-(2). φ (18) 1 r1 m2 where A = . (16) r2 Equation (12) for the constant pφ1 can be rewritten as (cos θ − k2 )m2r Ar φ˙ 1 = ω 0 − θ˙ = ω 0 − ˙ (cos θ − k2 ) θ. L2 = k2 m2 r22 (φ˙ 2 − θ) ˙ = k2 m2r2 (r1 φ˙ − rθ). (12) ˙ ∂ φ1 The total horizontal momentum of the system is. Then. (17) [(1 + k1 )m1 + (1 + k2 )m2 ]r1 r1   ¨ = − Ar (cos θ − k2 ) ¨θ − sin θ θ˙ 2 .with respect to a ﬁxed direction in an inertial frame. recalling eqs. (11) 2 2 and the conserved canonical momentum is ∂T pφ1 = = [(1 + k1 )m1 + (1 + k2 )m2 ]r12φ˙ 1 + (cos θ − k2 )m2 r1 rθ˙ = constant. ˙ (13) while the angular momentum of the cylinder 1 about its axis is L1 = k1 m1 r12 φ˙ 1. (9) r2 and the kinetic energy of cylinder 2 can be written as m2 2 ˙ 2 2 T2 = [r1 φ1 + 2r1 r cos θ φ˙ 1 θ˙ + r2 θ˙ ] 2 k2 m2 2 ˙ 2 2 + [r1 φ1 − 2r1 rφ˙ 1 θ˙ + r2 θ˙ ] 2 1 + k2 2 1 + k2 2 = m2 r12 φ˙ 1 + (cos θ − k2 )m2r1 rφ˙ 1 θ˙ + m2r2 θ˙ . using the rolling constraint (1). (10) 2 2 The total kinetic energy T1 + T2 is (1 + k1 )m1 + (1 + k2 )m2 2 ˙ 2 1 + k2 2 T = r1 φ1 + (cos θ − k2 )m2 r1rφ˙ 1 θ˙ + m2r2 θ˙ . ˙ x˙ 2 = r1 φ˙ 1 + r cos θ θ.

Similarly. 5 The case that m1 = m2 .4 For k2 < 1 (as for typical cylinders) and motion that starts with ω 0 = 0 and x1. say θ 0 with |θ0 | < π/2. ˙2 ¨θ = g/r − A(cos θ − k2 )θ sin θ = 1 + k2 − A(cos θ − k2 )(3 − 2 cos θ) g sin θ. the motion of the upper cylinder is a series of pairs of “hops. in which case φ2 = r1(ω 0 t − θ0 )/r2 according to the rolling constraint (2). Here. with cylinder 2 at ﬁxed angle θ0 . (20) r1 A particular solution is that θ is constant. although it started from rest. but only for a subset of the possible values for the other parameters of the system. during which bounces the point of contact of the cylinder comes to rest. The figure on p. 1 corresponds to k2 > 1. the two cylinders roll together. ˙ with the form E ˙2 g 2 θ = 0 = [1 + k2 − A(cos θ − k2 ) ] − (1 − cos θ). and with ω 0 = 0. while φ = ω 0t. velocities φ˙ 1 and θ) in which the system has positive x-momentum. x2 and y2 can also be obtained as a function of θ.” with or without net horizontal motion [4. 5]. For a bobbin-like cylinder with k2 > 1.1 Time Dependence Thus far. but the signs become the same when cos θ = k2 . From the rolling constraint (2) we now have (for motion starting from rest) r1 r1 Ar r1 φ2 = (φ1 − θ) = ω 0 − (sin θ − k2 θ) − θ. By diﬀerentiating the energy equation (22). for θ0 (t = 0) = 0. For k2 > 1 the sign of φ2 can be the same as that of θ.Equation (17) integrates to give.0 = φ1. the angular velocities φ˙ and θ˙ begin with opposite signs. (22) that θ˙ = 12(1 − cos θ)/a(17 + 4 cos θ − 4 cos2 θ).0 = θ0 = 0. r1 = r2 = a = r/2 and k1 = k2 = 1/2 is considered in ex.” making elastic bounces oﬀ the horizontal surface. after a small perturbation. the motion leads to angles φ1 and θ with opposite signs until sin θ = k2 θ after which the signs are the same (if the cylinders remain in contact). angles φ1 and φ2 have the same signs at small times. (21) r2 r2 r2 r2 For k2 < 1. It 2 follows from eq. we do not know the time dependence θ(t). The constant energy E = T + V can now be expressed as a function only of θ and θ. p. but this motion is unstable. (23) 1 + k2 − A(cos θ − k2 )2 [1 + k2 − A(cos θ − k2 )2 ]2 r 4 If the upper cylinder is a “supercylinder. and from these analytic expressions for x1 . Ar φ1 = ω 0 t − (sin θ − k2 θ). 33. we have obtained analytic expressions for angles φ1 and φ2 in terms of angle θ. from which the time dependence of all other quantities could be inferred. angles φ1 and θ (and angular ˙ always have the same signs. 4 .5 2. we obtain a second-order time-diﬀerential equation for θ. both opposite to that of θ. However. (22) m2 r 2 2 r for motion that starts from with θ = 0 = φ1 = φ2 . 492 of [6].

sec. we deduce these forces via Newton’s equations of motion. 5 .For the special case that the upper cylinder is a hollow shell.1 Forces at the Horizontal Surface The system of two cylinders. 2. so discussions of such examples usually consider a small. whose center of mass is at (m1 + m2)x1 + m2 r sin θ (m1 + m2 )r1 + m2r cos θ xcm = . Here. The method can be extended to include such forces by use of appropriate additional coordinates in the Lagrangian. θ  1).2 Constraint Forces The various forces on the two rolling cylinders are illustrated in the ﬁgure below. as well as the Appendix. 30 of [10]. (25) m1 + m2 m1 + m2 6 Lagrange’s method was devised to deduce the equations of motion of a system without consideration of constraint forces that do no work. for example. for which solutions are tabulated in. nonzero initial angle or angular velocity. 19 of [8]. Numerical methods must be used to deduce t(θ) via either eqs.6 2. (23) or (24). inﬁ- nite time is required to reach any ﬁnite value of θ if the system starts from rest. in sec. if the axis of the lower cylinder were subject to a periodic horizontal force in the x. and representing the eﬀects of constraints in terms with Lagrange multipliers. the system could exhibit stability at θ = 0. (k2 = 1.2. (24) 2r which is the (Mathieu) equation for an inverted pendulum (of length l = 2r). [9]. for example. See. as discussed. While θ(t) is a monotonic function for the present example. the equation of motion for small θ simpliﬁes to ¨θ ≈ g θ.4 of [7] and sec.(or y-) direction. Strictly. ycm = . for example. plus the knowledge of the motion obtained above via a variant of Lagrange’s method. 2. k2 = 1.

(26) in view of the relation (18). the friction force F1 at the horizontal surface can also be determined from the angular acceleration of cylinder 1. (22) and (23) we obtain F1 and N1 as functions of angle θ. (29) such that ¨ + k2 m2r¨θ. Then.3 Normal Force between the Cylinders The normal force N12 = −N21 of cylinder 2 on cylinder 1 can be determined two ways.2. so the equation of motion of the center of mass are   2 F1 = (m1 + m2 )¨ x1 + m2 r cos θ ¨θ − sin θ θ˙ xcm = (m1 + m2)¨   ¨ + m2r cos θ ¨θ − sin θ θ˙ 2 . (28) r2 2 2 1 Then. and hence the force of friction is zero at the line of contact between the cylinder and plane. (18). F1 = −(k1m1 + k2 m2)r1 φ (30) 1 This is consistent with eq. eq. using the torque equation ¨ = −k1 m1r2 φ (F1 + F12)r1 = (F1 − F21)r1 = −I1φ ¨ 1 1 1. ˆ + [N1 − (m1 + m2)g] y is subject to the external force F1 x ˆ . can be determined from the angular acceleration of cylinder 2. = (m1 + m2 )r1φ (26) 1   2 ycm = (m1 + m2)g − m2r sin θ ¨θ + cos θ θ˙ . 2. which implies that N12 cos θ = N1 − m1 g + F12 sin θ     2 ¨ − r¨θ) sin θ = m2 g − r sin θ ¨θ + cos θ θ˙ + k2 (r1φ 1 (31) 6 . (26). using a torque equation and the rolling constraint (2). on cylinder 2). and the force of friction F1. using eqs. N1 = (m1 + m2 )g + (m1 + m2 )¨ (27) using the rolling constraint (1). by consideration of the x. These nonzero frictional forces imply that linear momentum Px and angular momenta L1 and L2 are not conserved in this example.2. 2.or y-components of the forces on cylinder 1 (or equivalently. The vertical force components on cylinder 1 sum to zero. F21 = −F12 on cylinder 2 due to cylinder 1. such that the x-momentum of the system is not constant (as in the ﬁgure above). I2 ¨ F21 = (φ − ¨θ) = k2 m2 r2(φ ¨ − ¨θ) = k2 m2 (r1 φ ¨ − r¨θ).2 Friction between the Cylinders The force of friction. A single cylinder that rolls without slipping on a horizontal plane has constant horizontal speed. In the present example the horizontal speeds of the two cylinder are not constant. although there is a conserved quantity (16). due to the plane is not zero.

(33) When N12 goes to zero.3 Angle of Separation The above analysis holds only so long as the two cylinders remain in contact. 2. (37) rθ˙ s = ˆr · geﬀ = g cos θs + r1 sin θs φ 1 s using eq. which implies that N12 sin θ = F1 − m1 x¨1 − F12 cos θ     2 ¨ ¨ ˙ ¨ ¨ = m2 r1 φ1 + r cos θ θ − sin θ θ − k2 (r1 φ1 − rθ) cos θ . Likewise. the cylinders separate. separation occurs at angle θ s where7   2 ¨ = g cos θs − rA sin θs (cos θs − k2 ) ¨θs − sin θs θ˙ 2 . of the cylinders equals the instantaneous radial acceleration. (34). i.e. 7 2 When the lower cylinder is ﬁxed. and eq. geﬀ = g. we go to the accelerated frame of the lower cylinder. Even for the special case of identical cylinders.. (26) and (28). and the normal force N12 between the cylinders is nonzero. 2 rθ˙ . (35) Cylinder 2 loses contact with cylinder 1 when the component of geﬀ along the line of centers. r1 = r2 = r/2 and k1 = k2 . such that 2 cos θ s = . etc. Separation 2 occurs when r θ˙ s = g cos θs . 2 N12 = N12 cos2 θ + N12 sin2 θ = g cos θ + r1 sin θ φ˙ 1 − r θ˙ . This conﬁrms eq. k2 = 1/2 and cos θ s = 4/7. 7 . (32) using eqs. (34) For a method that does not use the forces to ﬁnd the angle θs at which the cylinders separate. (27) and (28). m1 = m2. ˆr = −(sin θ. the expression (37) remains intricate. Then. That is. for a solid sphere k2 = 2/5 and cos θs = 10/17. in which there appears to be an eﬀective acceleration due to “gravity” of geﬀ = −¨ ˆ −gy ¨ x ˆ = −r1 φ x1 x 1ˆ −gy ˆ. cos θ).using eqs. for motion that starts with θ = 0 = φ1 = φ2 . The energy expression 2 (22) simpliﬁes to (1 + k2 )r θ˙ /2 = g(1 − cos θ). (36) 3 + k2 In the limit that the upper cylinder is a line/point. when 2 r θ˙ = g cos θ + r1 sin θ φ˙ 1. (37) reduces to r θ˙ s = g cos θ s . k2 → 0 and cos θ s → 2/3. The horizontal force components on cylinder 1 sum to m1x¨1 . as in the well known “freshman physics” problem of a bug sliding oﬀ a log. For a solid cylinder. (18).

and the angle θ of the line of centers between the two cylinders. (40). cos θ). (39) ∂ x˙ 1 which is just the total horizontal momentum. which we take to be x1. Cylinder 2 loses contact with cylinder 1 when the component of geﬀ along the line of centers. The total kinetic energy can be obtained from eq. φ1 and φ2 are held ﬁxed with either no friction anywhere or rolling without slipping where rolling is possible. We only consider systems that start from rest with cylinder 2 directly above cylinder 1.and y-axes. (3) and the kinetic energy T by a variant of eq. Variants include the three cases in which it is assumed instead that there is no friction at one or both lines of contact. of the cylinders equals the instantaneous radial acceleration. we again go to the accelerated frame of the lower cylinder. and the angular momentum about the x. 2 rθ˙ . in which there appears to be an eﬀective acceleration due to “gravity. (42) m1 + m2 8 This example includes other conserved/zero generalized momenta such as the z-component of the linear momentum. the coordinate of the center of the lower cylinder. ˆr = −(sin θ. In all cases the potential energy v is given by eq. (39) to eliminate x˙ 1 from the kinetic energy. (11).”   m2 r 2 geﬀ = −¨ ˆ −gy x1 x ˆ= cos θ ¨θ − sin θ θ˙ xˆ −gy ˆ. 3. (41) m1 + m2 where θ˙ and θ¨ can be deduced in terms of θ from eq. 8 . we obtain the total energy as 2 E m1 + m2 sin2 θ θ˙ g 2 =0= − (1 − cos θ). separation occurs at angle θ s where   2 m2 r sin θs 2 rθ˙ s = ˆr · geﬀ = g cos θs − cos θs ¨θs − sin θs θ˙ s . so to speak). and replacing factors of r1 φ˙ 1 by x˙ 1 (undoing the rolling constraint (1). That is.1 No Friction Anywhere In the case of no friction anywhere. for motion starting from rest with φ1 = φ2 = θ = 0. we consider only the ﬁrst of these examples. and the conserved total horizontal momentum is always zero. The system has two degrees of freedom. (11) by setting k1 and k2 to zero. ∂T px1 = = (m1 + m2)x˙ 1 + m2r cos θ θ˙ = Px = 0. m1 + m2 2 m2 2 ˙ 2 T = x˙ 1 + m2r cos θ x˙ 1θ˙ + r θ .3 Variants Thus far we have assumed that both cylinders roll without slipping. Energy is conserved.8 Using eq. and the cases where either one or two of the coordinates x1. Here. (38) 2 2 The conserved canonical momentum is. the cylinders do not rotate. (40) m2 r m1 + m2 2 r To ﬁnd the angle θs at which the cylinders separate.

492 of [6] for k1 = k2 = 1/2. we again go to the accelerated frame of the lower cylinder. and the conserved total horizontal momentum is always zero. Energy is conserved. (47) m2 r 2 m1 + m2 k1 m1 + k2 m2 2 r To ﬁnd the angle θs at which the cylinders separate. 121 of [12]. (40) and (42) combine to give m2 cos θ2s = (m1 + m2)(3 cos θs − 2). (11) by replacing factors of r1 φ˙ 1 not associated with k1 or k2 by x˙ 1 (again undoing the rolling constraint). in which there appears to be an eﬀective acceleration due to “gravity.After considerable eﬀort. both cylinders rotate. (48) m1 + m2 where θ˙ and ¨θ can be deduced in terms of θ from eq. which we take to be x1 . 3. When the lower cylinder is ﬁxed. 9 This case is considered in ex. p. (45) ∂ x˙ 1 which is the total horizontal momentum (for motion starting from rest with φ1 = φ2 = θ = 0). we can set k2 = 0 and the result (36) again becomes cos θ s = 2/3 as for a point mass sliding on a cylinder/sphere. we obtain the total energy as9   2 E m2 cos2 θ k22 m2 ˙ θ g = 0 = 1 + k2 − − − (1 − cos θ). (45)-(46) to eliminate x˙ 1 and φ˙ 1 from the kinetic energy. 6. (46) ∂ φ˙ 1 r2 Using eqs. ∂T px1 = = (m1 + m2)x˙ 1 + m2r cos θ θ˙ = Px = 0. (43) as noted in ex. (44) 2 2 2 There are now two the conserved canonical momenta. being torqued by the friction along the line of contact of the cylinders. 32. The total kinetic energy can be obtained from eq. where eq. p. 9 . φ1 and θ. and ∂T r1 pφ1 = = (k1 m1 + k2 m2)r12 φ˙ 1 − k2 m2r1 r θ˙ = L1 + L2 = 0. one can verify that eqs.”   m2 r 2 geﬀ = −¨ ˆ −gy x1 x ˆ= cos θ ¨θ − sin θ θ˙ xˆ −gy ˆ. m1 + m2 2 k1 m1 + k2 m2 2 ˙ 2 1 + k2 2 T = x˙ 1 + r1 φ1 + m2r cos θ x˙ 1 θ˙ − k2 m2r1 r φ˙ 1 θ˙ + m2r2 θ˙ .2 No Friction at the Horizontal Plane In the case of no friction at the horizontal plane. The system has three degrees of freedom. but rolling without slipping of cylinder 2 on cylinder 1. (47) takes the form 2 (3m1 + 2m2 sin2 θ)θ˙ = 4(m1 + m2 )g(1 − cos θ)/r. (47).

m1 = m2 . The total kinetic energy can be obtained from eq. but the total horizontal momentum is not. the two cylinder roll together as if they were a single rigid body – until they separate. which we take to be φ1 and angle θ. p. (49) m1 + m2 This has the same form as eq. for motion starting from rest with φ1 = φ2 = θ = 0. (52) ˙ ∂ φ1 Using eq. we again go to the accelerated frame of the lower cylinder. and the rolling constraint (2) to eliminate φ2 in favor of φ1 and θ. (46) becomes φ˙ 1 = θ. However. Suppose the two cylinders are identical. which holds for any angle at which the cylinders touch. in which there appears to be an eﬀective acceleration due to “gravity. (54) (1 + k1 )m1 + m2 10 An amusing special case has been noted in ex. (49) correctly. (42). The system has two degrees of freedom. ˙ such that φ = θ. (36). ∂T pφ1 = = [(1 + k1 )m1 + m2 ]r12φ˙ 1 + m2r1 r cos θ θ˙ = 0. ˆr = −(sin θ.10 When the lower cylinder is ﬁxed. If I evaluated eq. eq. (1 + k1 )m1 + m2 2 ˙ 2 m2 2 ˙ 2 T = r1 φ1 + m2r1 r cos θ φ˙ 1θ˙ + r θ . (52) to eliminate φ˙ 1 from the kinetic energy. but cylinder 1 rolls without slipping on the horizontal plane. separation occurs at angle θ s where   2 m2 r 2 rθ˙ s = ˆr · geﬀ = g cos θs − cos θs ¨θs − sin θs θ˙ s sin θs .3 No Friction between the Cylinders In the case of no friction between the cylinders. 2[(2 + k) cos θ s − 1] = cos θ s (1 − cos θs )2 (1 + cos θ s ). and we note that Routh’s k 2 equals our ka2 . 3. (53) m2 r 2 (1 + k1 )m1 + m2 2 r To ﬁnd the angle θs at which the cylinders separate. 2 rθ˙ . but since the energy expressions (40) and (47) are diﬀerent. (50) 10 . That is. Energy is conserved. this is just the energy relation (47). 2 Routh also claims that the cylinders separate at angle θ related by (k + 1 + sin2 θ)a θ˙ = 2g(1 − cos θ). and k1 = k2 = k . Cylinder 2 loses contact with cylinder 1 when the component of geﬀ along the line of centers. That is. (11) by setting k2 to zero. using the rolling constraint (1) to eliminate x1 from the energy. being torqued by the friction at the horizontal surface. r1 = r2 = a = r/2. Then.”   ¨1 x m2 r 2 geﬀ = −¨ ˆ−gy x1 x ˆ = −r1φ ˆ −gy ˆ= cos θ ¨θ − sin θ θ˙ xˆ −gy ˆ. 5. φ2 = φ1 − θ = 0. we again have cos θs = 2/(3 + k2 ) as in eq. (51) 2 2 and the conserved canonical momentum is. 121 of [12]. the value of θs will be diﬀerent. where a = r1 = r2 = r/2. and then 1 by the rolling constraint (2). cos θ). of the cylinders equals the instantaneous radial acceleration. only cylinder 1 rotates. we obtain the total energy as   2 E m2 cos2 θ ˙θ g = 0 = 1 − − (1 − cos θ).

in principle. a paper [11] was published claiming that this in not “well known to instructors and students of physics. the two cylinders touch one another (1 constraint). and the upper cylinder rolls without slipping on the lower cylinder (1 constraint). θ) = T + V is conserved. In Lagrange’s method. expressions for various forces can be deduced from Newton’s F = ma with the acceleration a being obtained from Lagrange’s equations (56). the spatial coordinates of the center of mass of a body. 11 Astonishingly. the lower cylinder rolls without slipping on the plane y = 0 (1 constraint). A Appendix: Constraint Forces via Lagrange Multipliers In general. these are the so-called constraint forces. which do no work (if no energy is dissipated). Lagrange’s method consists of computing the kinetic energy T and the potential energy V in terms of the independent coordinates (taken above to be φ1 and θ). we again have cos θs = 2/3 as in sec.From the Lagrangian L = T − V we can. there is no dissipation of energy in this problem. then ∂L/∂ q˙i is constant (as in eq. only two of these twelve coordinates are independent. In the present example. Given these constraints/conditions. no mention is made of forces. separation occurs at angle θs where   2 m2r sin θs 2 r θ˙ s = ˆr · geﬀ = g cos θ s − cos θs ¨θs − sin θs θ˙ s . and Lagrange’s equations (56) are not needed to determine the motion. it may be (as in the present example) that there are as many conserved quantities as independent coordinates. as there are ten constraints: the axes of the cylinders lie along the z-axis (4 constraints). 2 r θ˙ . (53). two rigid bodies.where θ˙ and ¨θ can be deduced in terms of θ from eq. (56) dt ∂ q˙i ∂qi If ∂L/∂qi = 0 (as for qi = φ1 in the present example). for a total of twelve coordinates. so the time derivative dE/dt = 0 provides one relation between φ1 and θ. of the cylinders equals the instantaneous radial acceleration. The total energy E(φ1 . and may be called a conserved quantity. cos θ). (12) for the present example). That is. Furthermore. If desired.11 Thus. deduce the equations of motion via Lagrange’s equations d ∂L ∂L = . (55) (1 + k1 )m1 + m2 When the lower cylinder is ﬁxed. Cylinder 2 loses contact with cylinder 1 when the component of geﬀ along the line of centers. the two angular directions of some ﬁxed body axis. and the angle of orientation of the body about this axis).” 11 . 3. such as the two cylinders of the present example. A subclass of the forces are those associated with the various constraints on the coordinates of the systems. are to be described by six coordinates per body (say. the centers of mass of the cylinders are at z = 0 (2 constraints). ˆr = −(sin θ. for examples like the present with no dissipation of energy and “simple” constraints on the coordinates.1. the lower cylinder lies on the plane y = 0 (1 constraint).

We now consider the 15 analyses based on temporarily relaxing various subsets of the constraints f1 . Then. . so there are 210 = 1024 diﬀerent possible variations of the analysis of the present problem. m d ∂L ∂L  ∂fj − = λj . . we consider as many as six coordinates. f2 . 91 of [14]. The remaining four constrains are: 1. φ2 . in which case the ﬁrst six constraints are automatically satisﬁed. eq. Any number of these can be ignored in an implementation of eq. θ used in the main body of this note. . f1 = x1 − r1 φ1 = 0. (60) where r is the distance in between the axes of the two cylinders. We can also deduce the constraint forces via a method in which more than the minimum number of coordinates are used. That the lower cylinder rolls without slipping on the plane y = 0. i = 1. but not explicity enforced initially. there are 10 constraint equations. Here. f3 = r − r1 − r2 = 0. n + m. f3 and f4 . m. (1). In the present example with 12 coordinates. That the lower cylinder touches the plane y = 0. j = 1. . 12 . In this method. .12 as a special case of a method for problems with nonholonomic constraints given by Ferrers [15]. (58) 2. and for which the m constraint equations fj (qi) = 0. we consider the n + m modiﬁed Lagrange equations. θ and r. 12 The term “holonomic” was introduced by Hertz on p. the minimum number n of independent coordinates is augmented with m additional coordinates. we consider the problem to be two dimensional. 4. 13] for holonomic constraints. eq. (57) dt ∂ q˙i ∂qi j=1 ∂qi where the λj are so-called Lagrange multipliers (which have the physical signiﬁcance of being the j constraint force if the dimensions of the constraint equation fj = 0 are chosen appropriately). See also [16]. (2). are known. That the two cylinders touch. (57). (59) 3. . y1 . x1. . so that the total set of coordinates is qi . That the upper cylinder rolls without slipping on the lower cylinder. (61) That is. of which only 2 are independent. as apparently ﬁrst proposed by Routh [12. . rather than the minimal set φ1. φ1 . f2 = r2 φ2 − r1 (φ1 − θ) = 0. f4 = y1 − r1 = 0.

A. (16) divided by r1 . (63) ∂ x˙ 1 which is the total horizontal momentum. − λ1 = = (k1 m1 + k2 m2)r1 φ 1 (70) r1 dt which is the force F1 found in eq. (64) r2 where L1 and L2 are the angular momenta. of the two cylinders about their axes. The derivatives of the constraint equation (58) are ∂f1 ∂f1 ∂f1 = 1. The Lagrangian L = T1 + T2 − V does not depend on x1 or φ1 . (66) dt ∂x1 dpφ1 ∂f1 = λ1 = −r1 λ1 . (13). φ1 and θ to describe the system. (66) and (67). we have that   d pφ pφ1 L1 L2 px1 + 1 = 0. ˙ (62) 2 1 2 2 and the potential energy is still given by eq. px1 + = Px + + = 0. then we need three coordinates. so it is useful to identify the canonical momenta ∂L px1 = = (m1 + m2)x˙ 1 + m2r cos θ θ˙ = Px . The force λ1 associated with the constraint f1 that the lower cylinder rolls without slipping on the plane y = 0 is related by 1 dpφ1 ¨ − k2 m2 r¨θ. eqs. (5). Constraints (59)-(61) are still enforced. (65) ∂x1 ∂φ1 ∂θ The extended Lagrange method for this case involves a single multiplier λ1 associated with the rolling constraint (58). x1 . of the system. eq. such that the three Lagrange equations are now dpx1 ∂f1 = λ1 = λ1 . which is eq. (67) dt ∂φ1 d ∂L ∂L ∂f1 − = λ1 = 0. so the kinetic energy of the lower cylinder is given by the ﬁrst form of eq. (3). and ∂L pφ1 = = (k1 m1 + k2 m2 )r12 φ˙ 1 − k2 m2r1 rθ˙ = k1 m1 r12 φ˙ 1 + r1 [k2 m2(r1 φ˙ 1 − k2 m2 rθ)] ˙ ˙ ∂ φ1 r1 = L1 + L2. 13 . while the kinetic energy of the upper cylinder becomes 2 m2 2 ˙ (1 + k2 )m2 2 ˙ 2 k2 m2 r12 φ˙ 1 T2 = x˙ + m2x˙ 1 r cos θ θ + r θ + − k2 m2 r1rφ˙ 1 θ. (68) ˙ dt ∂ θ ∂θ ∂θ Combining eqs. (30). = 0. (69) dt r1 r1 r1 r2 supposing that the system starts with x1 = φ1 = θ = 0. = −r1.1 Relax the Rolling Constraint on the Lower Cylinder If we imagine that the constraint (58) on the lower cylinder is relaxed. (14)-(15).

(74) ∂φ1 ∂φ2 ∂θ The extended Lagrange method for this case involves a single multiplier λ2 associated with the rolling constraint (59). as previously noted.2 Relax the Rolling Constraint on the Upper Cylinder If we imagine that the constraint (59) on the upper cylinder is relaxed. while the kinetic energy of the upper cylinder is given by     m2 2 ˙ 2 2 k2 m2r22 ˙ 2 2 T2 = r1 φ1 + 2r1 r cos θ φ˙ 1 θ˙ + r2 θ˙ + φ2 − 2φ˙ 2 θ˙ + θ˙ . so the kinetic energy of the lower cylinder is given by the second form of eq. (77) dt ∂ θ˙ ∂θ ∂θ Combining eqs.A. After we enforce the rolling constraint (59). The Lagrangian L = T1 + T2 − V does not depend on φ1 or φ2. so it is useful to identify the canonical momenta ∂L pφ1 = = [(1 + k1 )m1 + m2 ]r12φ˙ 1 + m2r1 r cos θ θ. we have that   d pφ1 pφ2 pφ1 pφ2 + = 0. (76) dt ∂φ2 d ∂L ∂L ∂f2 − = λ2 = r1 λ 2 . (28). (5). φ2 and θ to describe the system. F2 = λ 2 = = k2 m2r2 (φ 2 1 (79) r2 dt which was previously found as F21 in eq. (3). ˙ (72) ˙ ∂ φ1 and ∂L pφ2 = = k2 m2 r22 (φ˙ 2 − θ). = r2 . The force λ2 associated with the constraint f2 that the upper cylinder rolls without slipping on the lower cylinder is related by 1 dpφ2 ¨ − ¨θ) = k2 m2(r1 φ ¨ − r¨θ). (75) dt ∂φ1 dpφ2 ∂f2 = λ2 = r2 λ2 . then we need three coordinates. = r1 . φ1 . ˙ (73) ∂ φ˙ 2 The derivatives of the constraint equation (59) are ∂f2 ∂f2 ∂f2 = −r1 . 14 . (75) and (76). this becomes Px + L1 /r1 + L2 /r2 = 0. Constraints (58) and (60)-(61) are still enforced. such that the three Lagrange equations are now dpφ1 ∂f2 = λ2 = −r1 λ2 . (71) 2 2 and the potential energy is still given by eq. + =0 (78) dt r1 r2 r1 r2 supposing that the system starts with x1 = φ1 = θ = 0.

θ and r to describe the system. φ2. (86) dt ∂ θ˙ ∂θ ∂θ d ∂L ∂L ∂f3 − = λ3 = λ3 . (80) 2 2 while the potential energy should now be written as V = m2g(r cos θ − r1 − r2) (to be zero when cylinder 2 sits directly on top of cylinder 1). = 0. The Lagrangian L = T1 + T2 − V does not depend on φ1 or φ2. = 0. so the kinetic energy of the lower cylinder is given by the second form of eq. (82) ˙ ∂ φ2 The derivatives of the constraint equation (60) are ∂f3 ∂f3 ∂f3 ∂f3 = 0.(81) ˙ ∂ φ1 ∂L and pφ2 = = k2 m2r22 (φ˙ 2 − θ) ˙ = L2 . φ1 .3 Relax the Constraint that the Cylinders Touch If we imagine that the constraint (60) between the cylinders is relaxed. (87) dt ∂ r˙ ∂r ∂r The force λ3 associated with the constraint f3 that the upper cylinder touches the lower cylinder is related by   d ∂L ∂L ¨ + cos θ φ˙ θ˙ − m2 r1 cos θ θ˙ φ˙ + r θ˙ 2 + m2g cos θ λ3 = − = m2r1 sin θ φ 1 1 1 dt ∂ r˙ ∂r   ¨ − r θ˙ 2 + g cos θ . = m2 r1 sin θ φ (88) 1 15 . while the kinetic energy of the upper cylinder is given by     m2 2 ˙ 2 2 k2 m2r22 ˙ 2 2 T2 = r1 φ1 + 2r1 (r cos θ θ˙ + r˙ sin θ)φ˙ 1 + r2 θ˙ + r˙ 2 + φ2 − 2φ˙ 2θ˙ + θ˙ . (5). so it is useful to identify the canonical momenta ∂L pφ1 = = [(1 + k1 )m1 + m2 ]r12φ˙ 1 + m2r1 (r cos θ θ˙ + r˙ sin θ) = r1 Px + L1 + m2r1 r˙ sin θ. (83) ∂φ1 ∂φ2 ∂θ ∂r The extended Lagrange method for this case involves a single multiplier λ3 associated with the touching constraint (60). (85) dt ∂φ2 d ∂L ∂L ∂f3 − = λ3 = 0. such that the four Lagrange equations are dpφ1 ∂f3 = λ3 = 0.A. = 1. Constraints (58) and (61) are still enforced. (84) dt ∂φ1 dpφ2 ∂f3 = λ3 = 0. then we need four coordinates.

  2 F4 = N1 = (m1 + m2)g − m2r sin θ ¨θ + cos θ θ˙ = (m1 + m2)g + m2 y¨2. (93) dt ∂φ1 d ∂L ∂L ∂f4 − = λ4 = 0. = 0. (96) dt ∂ y˙ 1 ∂y1 This makes physical sense only after the constraint (61) is enforced. so the kinetic and potential energies of the system are given by eqs. which is now related by 2 r θ˙ s = g cos θ + r1 sin θs φ ¨ 1 (89)   2 = g cos θ − Ar sin θs (cos θs − k2 )¨θs − sin θs θ˙ s . 16 . (37). then we need three coordinates. (97) which was previously found as N1 in eq. y1 . at the angle θs of separation. φ1 and θ to describe the system. such that y¨1 = 0. (92) ∂φ1 ∂θ ∂y1 The extended Lagrange method for this case involves a single multiplier λ4 associated with the touching constraint (61). Constraints (58)-(60) are still enforced. as this expression makes physical sense only after constraint (60) is enforced. ΔV = (m1 + m2)g(y1 − r1). (17). (91) ∂ φ˙ 1 r2 The derivatives of the constraint equation (61) are ∂f4 ∂f4 ∂f4 = 0. A.4 Relax the Constraint that the Cylinder 1 Touches the Plane y=0 If we imagine that the constraint (61) is relaxed. A case of particular interest is when this force goes to zero. using eq. (27). such that the four Lagrange equations are dpφ1 ∂f3 = λ4 = 0. (95) dt ∂ y˙ 1 ∂y1 ∂r The force λ4 associated with the constraint f4 that the lower cylinder touches the plane y = 0 is related by   d ∂L ∂L ¨ ˙ 2 F4 = λ 4 = − = (m1 + m2)¨ y1 − m2 r sin θ θ + cos θ θ + (m1 + m2 )g. (94) dt ∂ θ˙ ∂θ ∂θ d ∂L ∂L ∂f4 − = λ4 = λ4 . (90) 2 The Lagrangian L = T1 + T2 − V does not depend on φ1 . This relation was previously found in eq. = 1. (11) and (3) with the additional terms m1 + m2 2 ˙ ΔT = y˙1 − m2 r sin θ y˙1θ.on setting r¨ = 0. and the constraint force is just the normal force upward on cylinder 1. so it is useful to identify the canonical momentum ∂L r1 pφ1 = = [(1 + k1 )m1 + (1 + k2 )m2]r12 φ˙ 1 + (cos θ − k2 )m2 r1rθ˙ = r1 Px + L1 + L2 .

This form is suggestive.A. The kinetic energy is now     m1 + m2 2 m1k2 r12 ˙ 2 k2 m2 r22 ˙ 2 2 m2 2 2 T = (x˙ 1 + y˙ 12) + φ1 + φ2 − 2φ˙ 2 θ˙ + θ˙ + r˙ + r2 θ˙ 2 2 2 2 +m2 r( ˙ ˙ x˙ 1 sin θ + y˙1 cos θ) + m2rθ(x˙ 1 cos θ − y˙1 sin θ). (98) and the potential energy is V = −m2gr(1 − cos θ) + (m1 + m2)g(y1 − r1). (101) ˙ ∂ φ1 ∂L pφ2 = = m2k2 r22 (φ˙ 2 − θ) ˙ = L2 . but its content is only understandable if one writes it out in detail. then we consider the six coordinates x1.5 Relax All Constraints If we imagine that all constraints (58)-(61) are relaxed. 17 . Then. We can combine eqs. px1 = = (m1 + m2 )x˙ 1 + m2 (r˙ sin θ + r cos θ θ) (100) ∂ x˙ 1 ∂L pφ1 = = m1k1 r12 φ˙ 1 = L1 . such that the six Lagrange equations are dpx1 ∂f1 ∂f2 ∂f3 ∂f4 = λ1 + λ2 + λ3 + λ4 = λ1 . (74). (83) and (92). (103) dt ∂x1 ∂x1 ∂x1 ∂x1 dpφ1 ∂f1 ∂f2 ∂f3 ∂f4 = λ1 + λ2 + λ3 + λ4 = −r1λ1 − r1 λ2 . (108) dt ∂ y˙ 1 ∂y1 ∂y1 ∂y1 ∂y1 ∂y1 using the derivatives (65). or φ2. (12). (99) The Lagrangian L = T − V does not depend on coordinates x1. (102) ∂ φ˙ 2 The extended Lagrange method for this case involves four multipliers λ1 -λ4 associated with the four constraints (58)-(61). (105) dt ∂φ2 ∂φ2 ∂φ2 ∂φ2 d ∂L ∂L ∂f1 ∂f2 ∂f3 ∂f4 − = λ1 + λ2 + λ3 + λ4 = r1 λ 2 . which integrates to (20). φ1. (104) dt ∂φ1 ∂φ1 ∂φ1 ∂φ1 dpφ2 ∂f1 ∂f2 ∂f3 ∂f4 = λ1 + λ2 + λ3 + λ4 = r2 λ2 . we have a description of the motion in terms of a single variable. φ1 . y1 . (107) dt ∂ r˙ ∂r ∂r ∂r ∂r ∂r d ∂L ∂L ∂f1 ∂f2 ∂f3 ∂f4 − = λ1 + λ2 + λ3 + λ4 = λ4 . as in eq. (109) dt r1 r2 dt r1 r2 r1 r2 for a system that starts with φ1 = φ2 = θ = 0. θ. (106) dt ∂ θ˙ ∂θ ∂θ ∂θ ∂θ ∂θ d ∂L ∂L ∂f1 ∂f2 ∂f3 ∂f4 − = λ1 + λ2 + λ3 + λ4 = λ3 . φ2 θ and r. Px + + = 0. so we identify the canonical momenta ∂L ˙ = Px . (103)-(105) to ﬁnd     d pφ pφ d L1 L2 L1 L2 px1 + 1 + 2 = Px + = 0.

  d ∂L ∂L 2 F4 = λ 4 = − y1 − m2 r sin θ ¨θ + cos θ θ˙ + (m1 + m2 )g. Thus. (107).   d ∂L ∂L ˙ − m2 x˙ 1 cos θ θ˙ + r θ˙ 2 + m2 g cos θ λ3 = − = m2(¨ x1 sin θ + x˙ 1 cos θ θ) dt ∂ r˙ ∂r   2 ˙ = m2 x¨1 sin θ − r θ + g cos θ . which can in principle be integrated to describe the motion in detail. 18 . The force λ4 associated with the constraint f4 that the lower cylinder touches the plane y = 0 is related by eq. energy is conserved. (112) on setting r¨ = 0 and y˙ 1 = 0. which is the force F1 found in eq. the method of relaxing constraints and adding Lagrange multipliers eventually recovers the description of the motion that was obtained more directly via the basic method of Lagrange.   2 F4 = N1 = (m1 + m2)g − m2r sin θ ¨θ + cos θ θ˙ = (m1 + m2)g + m2 y¨2. (104) and (106). (28).13 The force λ3 associated with the constraint f3 that the upper cylinder touches the lower cylinder is related by eq. = (m1 + m2)¨ (110) dt after setting r˙ = 0. and the constraint force is just the normal force upward on cylinder 1. 13 The forces F1 and F12 could also be determined via eqs. F2 = λ 2 = = k2 m2r2 (φ 2 1 (111) r2 dt which was previously found as F21 in eq. (103). (108). We return to the description of the motion. 14 This approach is called the principle of vis viva in sec. After enforcing the constraints (58)-(61). We now enforce the constraints.   dpx1 2 λ1 = x1 + m2 r cos θ ¨θ − r sin θ θ˙ . as this expression makes physical sense only after constraints (60)-(61) are enforced. and note that since the Lagrangian does not depend on time. and evaluate the multipliers.1. as discussed in sec. 2. such that y¨1 = 0. The force λ2 associated with the constraint f2 that the upper cylinder rolls without slipping on the lower cylinder is related by eq. The force λ1 associated with the constraint f1 that the lower cylinder rolls without slipping on the plane y = 0 is related by eq. (114) which was previously found as N1 in eq. and using the integral (20) of the conserved quantity (109). we arrive at the expression (22) for the (conserved) energy as a function of angle θ only. 1 dpφ2 ¨ − ¨θ) = k2 m2(r1 φ ¨ − r¨θ). which utilizes only the minimum number of independent coordinates (2 in this example). 141 of [12]. (113) = (m1 + m2)¨ dt ∂ y˙ 1 ∂y1 This makes physical sense only after the constraint (61) is enforced. The time derivative of this expression14 (as well as Lagrange’s equations) provides a second-order diﬀerential equation for θ. (105). (26). (27).

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