1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Calculating Pisa Point of Failure

  1. Jul 22, 2009 #1
    This is not for a homework assignment, but rather a discussion I have to lead in an intro to physics class (not for credit). I've chosen to discuss the BASIC physics at play in the leaning tower of Pisa (torque, moment, etc.)

    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    With the given variables, how can I calculate the angle at which the leaning tower of Pisa no longer can hold itself up and thus falls over.

    Weight: 15,500 Tons
    Height: 60m
    Angle: 5.5 degrees
    Diameter of Foundation: 19.6

    It might help simplify the problem to imagine the tower on a giant tilted platform and, rather than the tower foundation sinking, the platform is being slowly raised so that the angle is increasing. The angle at which it falls is what I'm looking for.

    2. Relevant equations

    T=rf sinθ ??

    τ is the magnitude of the torque
    r is the length (or magnitude) of the lever arm vector
    f is the magnitude of the force
    θ is the angle between the force vector and the lever arm vector

    3. The attempt at a solution

    So I can plug into the equation above to get:

    T= (H)x(W)x(sin 5.5) = (60)x(15,500)x(.65) = 604,500???

    And this, pathetically, is where I'm stuck. I don't know what solution would indicate the "tipping point" of the tower or how to find it, exactly. If anyone could explain this to me (patiently, please, because I'm a total physics newb), that would be extremely helpful! I don't have a lot of time to put this together and I underestimated how difficult it would be for me.

    Thanks very kindly...
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2009 #2
    Bleh, I'm a bit of a give-away today.
    We'll start by defining the problem a bit better.
    We have a cylinder on an inclined plane, we can increase the angle of the incline above the horizon. You're looking for the angle [tex]\theta _c[/tex] where the tower tips over and falls.

    What would it mean for the tower to tip over? Around which point will there be a net moment, that is to say, around which point will there be a net angular acceleration?
    They mean the same thing, I just don't know what terms you're familiar with. What's your background, just so I know what terms I can use so we can communicate better.

    A critical question is, are you familiar with the concept of the center of mass of an object?

    I got mixed up a bit at first, so the first half of the spoiler is pretty much irrelevant. But the last paragraph is a dead give-away for the solution, only read it to confirm what you yourself think.

    The tipping point of an object, is when the surface normal force starts to exceed the base.
    The critical situation, then, is when the normal acts from the very edge, from the tipping point of the object.

    If you ignore any cohesion between the ground and the base of the tower, then all you need, is for there to be a net moment about the axis of rotation, which is, for a 2d tower leaning to the right, the bottom right corner of the base.

    Another way to approach the problem, is to demand that the force of gravity's line of action exceeds the base of the tower. This is by far the most elegant and intuitive solution. Are you familiar with the concept of the center of mass of an object?

    In my analysis I assumed that the tower has a flat base.

    The problem concerning a cylinder on an inclined plane is even cooler. You want the line of action of the gravitational force, acting from the center of gravity, to exceed the base. That means that there is a net moment around the same axis of rotation I referred to above. The critical situation is when the line of action of the force of gravity acting from the center of mass, intersects the point of the axis of rotation.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2009
  4. Jul 24, 2009 #3
    This is very helpful RoyalCat, thanks very much for your help! If possible, I'd like to go over a few things, if you don't mind, just to make 100% sure I know what I'm talking about!

    First, to answer your questions:

    The "net moment of angular acceleration" is precisely what I'm looking for and how I'd like to put it. What I'm curious is whether or not, with the data I have, I can calculate it and give at least a rough number as to when (what angle) that acceleration occurs.

    My background is in design, and I'm about to enter graduate school for architecture. The class I'm taking, which is more of a discussion based, non-graded "intro to structures" class, is what I'm doing this for. The goal of this project is not like normal homework assignments in which one must figure it out on his/her own and receive a grade; rather, the goal is only that I do a little teaching myself. If the assignment were graded, I think it would be on the students ability to explain a physical architectural condition by employing some of the fundamental concepts and terminology of physics. I'm getting a little more comfortable with some of the terminology, but I'm not quite there yet!

    Ok, so here's my specific response to what you've told me so far, thanks again!

    "The problem concerning a cylinder on an inclined plane is even cooler. You want the line of action of the gravitational force, acting from the center of gravity, to exceed the base. That means that there is a net moment around the same axis of rotation I referred to above. The critical situation is when the line of action of the force of gravity acting from the center of mass, intersects the point of the axis of rotation."


    The "line of action" is the direction from which the force (gravity) is being applied, right? So in this case the "line of action" is always vertical and in the downward direction? Would that make the "line of action" the same as the "center of mass"?

    Thus, as the tower begins to lean, the line of action moves horizontally (remaining perpendicular) in the direction of the lean. When the line of action falls directly on the edge of the base of the building, the building has equal weight on either side of the line of action (half working to tip the tower, half holding it down). But at the minuscule moment the line of action moves past the base, the net moment occurs, and down goes the monument.

    If I'm correct on my summary above, it may be enough information for me to do fairly well on my presentation, however if I can be a little more specific about how one would go about calculating this net moment with the information I have on the tower, that would only strengthen the presentation, I think.

    SO: let's say that the friction between the base of the cylinder and the ground is always static, thus there is no sort of "sliding" to account for. Also, the tower is leaning perfectly in only one direction (no other angles to account for).

    I wonder if you can tell me how I can mathematically represent the net moment. I'm wondering what the equation would be into which I could (for example) plug in an angle (for which the line of action is to the right of the base edge (say, 1 degree)), and my answer will be POSITIVE. Then I show the same equation with the angle at which the line of action is precisely at the edge of the base, and my answer would be (perhaps?) ZERO. And finally, I plug an angle into the equation that is very large (say 60 degrees) and my answer is NEGATIVE.

    I'm not sure if this makes ANY sense whatsoever or if this is the way you might go about it, but it would be great if I could sort of buttress my argument with some very basic calculations. Thus, I can explain the line of action in sort of an intuitive way, but also provide a little bit of supporting data that, well, explains my explanation.

    I'm not sure this is exactly the approach I should take, but I think it might give you an idea as to what I mean by mathematically explaining the net moment. I'm not sure how much work this would be to explain, but I appreciate any and all feedback you have! Thanks again so much! This is a wonderful forum!
     
  5. Jul 24, 2009 #4
    Also, to make this problem easier for people to help me with, let's say that the tower is just 7 meters in diameter (thus there is not base and the tower is a perfect cylinder)

    I accidentally had the diameter in feet before...

    Please help!
     
  6. Jul 24, 2009 #5
  7. Jul 25, 2009 #6
    Replies in bold. :)

    Diagrams:
    http://img190.imageshack.us/img190/787/guvna.jpg [Broken]

    Bleh, silly spelling mistake. It should read, "the object's moment of inertia"

    I'm am very uncertain, but I think that the differential equation describing the toppling of an object about its corner is of the form:
    [tex]\ddot \theta = k\sin{\theta}[/tex]

    But I'm just going by some definitions I know, I haven't studied angular acceleration in depth just yet.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Calculating Pisa Point of Failure
  1. Pisa tower (Replies: 2)

Loading...