The idea behind
the chain we built. Other ideas for chains that pull-in are in the paper.
If one lets a tilted rod fall onto a table,
its other end speeds up on hitting (by 50%
for a uniform rod with small θ having plastic impact: VB+ =
(That's why things break on the 2nd bounce,
see the cover story in
the Wall Street Journal, Friday Dec 17, 1993).
Now if we attach something
to the end B of rod, that will speed up after A hits. This
is the basic idea we use for our chain. We make a chain whose links
are tilted rods arranged in a zig-zag pattern vertically. As each link hits at
one end its other end pulls down on the chain above.
Chain: we made the
chain with tilted
rods as its links.
Release mechanism that drops
the chain simulaneously.
High speed camera.
Phantom V7.1 camera at 2000 fps.
Making the Chain
We used two essentially identical chains made
of dowels tied together with Vectran. The weights of the two chains were 218g
(plus or minus 2 g).
an electromegnetic release was used. It didn't work well. The
magnetic field stayed on briefly even after turning off the current,
was hard to control between the two magnets.
Finally a mechanical release was devised and built as shown below:
1. Connect Zip-tie to the mechanism
so the posts A are held protruding..
2. Hang the chains from the release posts (A).
3. Cut the zip-tie (like pulling a trigger).
4. Spring retracts, releasing the chain and object.
This trigger releases
'simultaneously' within 2-3ms.
Video of trigger (25sec
@ 6006 fps in .mov format)
Results: Chain falls faster than
The chain on the table falls faster than the one in air. In the leftmost
release, the bottoms of the chains were 75cm
above the table.
In the rightmost frames the chain on the left has pulled ahead by about 6-7 cm.
The chain on the table (on left) falls faster than chain in air
To make sure the chains were essentially the same in behavior, the experiments
with the chains swapped. Again the chain on table ended up ahead by
@ 2000 fps in
(6.2MB) high (673
@ 2000 fps in
.mov format) Chains swapped.
Earlier on, we were hoping to be dramatic and drop an apple
simultaneously with the chain, hoping that the chain would win.
Later, whateve we dropped
with the chain (a bearing, a nut, a metal bar) we always called it an
- Air friction.
Drag is different
between a chain and, say, an apple. So we compared two identical chains.
contraction. When a chain is released the tension in the
chain drops nominally to zero. Because the chain always
has some elasticity, this drop to zero starts an
overall chain contraction that continues as the chain falls. This
elastic contraction pulls the top of the chain down, making it go
faster. Again, using identical chains made this effect the same in
This page was
updated on March 13, 2011