An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Scientists have worked out why suitcases tend to to rock violently from one wheel to the other until they overturn on the race through the airport. This most pressing of modern mysteries was taken on by physicists in Paris, who devised a scale model of a two-wheeled suitcase rolling on a treadmill and backed up their observations with a pile of equations and references to holonomic restraints, finite perturbations and the morphing of bifurcation diagrams. Fortunately for non-physicists, the findings can be reduced to simpler terms. For the suitcase to rock it had to hit a bump or be struck in some other manner; the faster the suitcase was being pulled, the more minor the bump needed to set it off. So far, so obvious. But Sylvain Courrech du Pont wanted to know more. Why did a rocking suitcase swerve and make such violent movements that it might eventually topple over? After more treadmill tests and more equations, the answer popped up: because a suitcase’s handle pulls from the middle and the wheels are at its sides, the suitcase swerves inwards whenever it tilts up on one wheel. If the rocking overcomes the dampening effect that happens when each wheel touches the ground again, the suitcase will keep on rocking or eventually flip over. In conclusion, the researchers discovered that “when a suitcase starts to rock out of control, the correct response is not to slow down but to pull it faster.” The scientists have published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.
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