Geek Challenge Results: Gravity Race Riddle

Geek Challenge Results: Gravity Race Riddle

Last month's Geek Challenge asked, "What is the quickest way to get from point A to point B?"

And they’re off!

Path A, the Line, starts with a commanding advantage, having the shortest distance to travel by taking a direct path to the endpoint. However, it is quickly passed by as its acceleration is just too slow.

Path B, the Cycloid, takes an early lead with a vertical drop to gain speed, then a rapid change of course toward the endpoint.

Paths C and D, the Circle and Parabola, drop down farther, gaining significant extra speed trying to overtake the Cycloid, but they come up just short.

The Gravity Race winner is B–Cycloid! It is closely followed by D–Parabola and C–Circle. A–Line finishes a distant fourth.

The winner of this month’s Geek Challenge is Adnaan Velji of DMC, who correctly picked Path B, and gave the name of the curve, the Brachistochrone Curve. Cycloid is the other acceptable Extra Credit answer for the name of the curve, as the two terms are interchangeable.

This problem is commonly discussed in Calculus books and has an interesting origin. Galileo contemplated this problem in 1638 but came up short of a solution. Johann Bernoulli (father of Daniel Bernoulli who gave us the Bernoulli Principal in fluid dynamics) solved it, but first published it as a challenge in 1696. One of the five geeks who took on Bernoulli’s problem was Sir Isaac Newton.

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