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Sotiris Michos

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## Homework Statement

I would like to ask a question I was discussing the other day with a friend of mine. Suppose you have a point mass m, sliding on the friction-free curve [itex]y = e^{-x}[/itex] starting from position [itex]x(0) = 0[/itex] and [itex]y(0) = 1[/itex] with zero initial velocity. Can we find in closed-form the exact position [itex](x,y)[/itex] with respect to time?

**2. The attempt at a solution**

Going down the usual path, from conservation of energy I found that [itex]v = \sqrt{2g(1-y)}[/itex]. Assuming [itex]φ[/itex] is the angle between [itex]\vec{v}[/itex] and the downward vertical direction (the direction of negative ordinates), and using that [itex]\dot{x} = v \sin(φ)[/itex], [itex]\dot{y} = v \cos(φ)[/itex], [itex]φ = \tan^{-1}(e^{x})[/itex], I reached

[tex]\dot{x} = \sqrt{2g}\sqrt{\frac{e^{2x}-e^{x}}{e^{2x}+1}}[/tex]

[tex]\dot{y} = -y\sqrt{2g}\sqrt{\frac{1-y}{1+y^2}}[/tex]

From these two, I need to solve only one. Choosing the first, separating [itex]dx[/itex] and [itex]dy[/itex] and integrating, yields

[tex]\int_0^{x(t)}\sqrt{\frac{e^{2x} + 1}{e^{2x} - e^{x} }}dx = \sqrt{2g}t[/tex]

However, plugging the integral in the LHS in Mathematica doesn't compute anything, most likely meaning that this integral is not solvable in closed form, let alone invertible in closed-form.

Choosing now the second equation and doing the same yields:

[tex]\int_1^{y(t)}\sqrt{\frac{1+y^2}{1 - y}}\frac{dy}{y} = - \sqrt{2g}t[/tex]

Again, trying to compute the integral in the LHS, gives an assortment of complex elliptic integrals that are gain not invertible in some closed-form. Any thoughts about what can be done?

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