Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I wonder how I can solve the Brachistochrone problem for 3 points? The matter starts from point A that is the highest point and it must pass from B and must finish with point C. (No any friction in the system) I wonder what the shortest time path for that problem?

Is it enough to use Johann Bernoulli's solution from A to B and then Use the solution from B to C?

Or do I need to follow a different way to solve the shortest time path problem for 3 points?

share|cite|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes, but one first has to generalize the classical 2-point Brachistochrone problem $A \to B$ where the initial speed $v_A$ traditionally is zero, to the case where the initial speed $v_A$ may be non-zero but fixed. The solution to this initial speed Brachistochrone problem (assuming no friction) is still a cycloid.

Now consider the 3-points Brachistochrone problem $A \to B\to C$ with initial speed $v_A$. The speed $v_B$ is given by energy conservation alone. Thus the two segments $A \to B$ and $B \to C$ are completely decoupled, and they can be optimized as two independent 2-point Brachistochrone problems with initial speeds $v_A$ and $v_B$, respectively, leading to two corresponding cycloids $A \to B$ and $B \to C$.

share|cite|improve this answer
what about y'? You would still need continuity there, this is not guaranteed with two patched together solutions. – tmac May 5 '12 at 22:13
Here I'm considering the idealized Brachistochrone problem where solution curves are allowed to be only piecewise smooth. Instantaneous change of velocity is provided by an idealized (infinitely big) normal force, which does no work. – Qmechanic May 6 '12 at 6:46

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.