Thursday, August 28, 2008

The physics of slacking

Here's a physics problem that bugged me for the last twenty years. Two people have to carry a large object up a narrow staircase. (Twenty years ago, that was a tub full of firewood for the furnace on the second floor of our dacha. Today, it's a big screen TV for my grandma.) Whose job is more difficult: the person who goes first and holds the top end of the object, or the second person who carries the bottom end?

Experimental results are inconclusive. "Difficulty" is admittedly somewhat subjective. But there should be a good physical model that leads to the answer.


Blogger Lukich said...

It is harder on the top person, because of how they're forced to hold the object. It is always easier to hold a heavy object in front of you. Therefore, a person is either forced to walk backwards using an easier approach or walk properly oriented with a weaker grip. However, if the person is walking backwards, his legs are bending in the direction opposite to the direction of their movement, which is very inconvenient when you have a heavy object in front of you and ascending stairs behind. The person on the back doesn't have any of these problems. Of course, all this is true when people are carrying things up the stairs. When they go down, the situation is reverse.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It depends on which one starts laughing and drops their end first.

7:18 AM  

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