Interesting Esoterica

Ponytail Motion

Article by Joseph B. Keller
  • Published in 2010
  • Added on
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A jogger's ponytail sways from side to side as the jogger runs, although her head does not move from side to side. The jogger's head just moves up and down, forcing the ponytail to do so also. We show in two ways that this vertical motion is unstable to lateral perturbations. First we treat the ponytail as a rigid pendulum, and then we treat it as a flexible string; in each case, it is hanging from a support which is moving up and down periodically, and we solve the linear equation for small lateral oscillation. The angular displacement of the pendulum and the amplitude of each mode of the string satisfy Hill's equation. This equation has solutions which grow exponentially in time when the natural frequency of the pendulum, or that of a mode of the string, is close to an integer multiple of half the frequency of oscillation of the support. Then the vertical motion is unstable, and the ponytail sways.

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BibTeX entry

@article{PonytailMotion,
	title = {Ponytail Motion},
	abstract = {A jogger's ponytail sways from side to side as the jogger runs, although her head does not move from side to side. The jogger's head just moves up and down, forcing the ponytail to do so also. We show in two ways that this vertical motion is unstable to lateral perturbations. First we treat the ponytail as a rigid pendulum, and then we treat it as a flexible string; in each case, it is hanging from a support which is moving up and down periodically, and we solve the linear equation for small lateral oscillation. The angular displacement of the pendulum and the amplitude of each mode of the string satisfy Hill's equation. This equation has solutions which grow exponentially in time when the natural frequency of the pendulum, or that of a mode of the string, is close to an integer multiple of half the frequency of oscillation of the support. Then the vertical motion is unstable, and the ponytail sways.},
	url = {http://epubs.siam.org/doi/abs/10.1137/090760477 http://epubs.siam.org/doi/pdf/10.1137/090760477},
	author = {Joseph B. Keller},
	comment = {},
	urldate = {2016-09-19},
	collections = {Easily explained,Basically physics},
	year = 2010
}