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ERIC Number: EJ831217
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Mar
Pages: 10
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0143-0807
Analogies between the Torque-Free Motion of a Rigid Body about a Fixed Point and Light Propagation in Anisotropic Media
Bellver-Cebreros, Consuelo; Rodriguez-Danta, Marcelo
European Journal of Physics, v30 n2 p285-294 Mar 2009
An apparently unnoticed analogy between the torque-free motion of a rotating rigid body about a fixed point and the propagation of light in anisotropic media is stated. First, a new plane construction for visualizing this torque-free motion is proposed. This method uses an intrinsic representation alternative to angular momentum and independent of the modulus of angular velocity [omega]. The equivalence between this plane construction and the well-known Poinsot's three-dimensional graphical procedure is also shown. From this equivalence, analogies have been found between the general plane wave equation (relation of dispersion) in anisotropic media and basic equations of torque-free motion of a rigid body about a fixed point. These analogies allow reciprocal transfer of results between optics and mechanics and, as an example, reinterpretation of the internal conical refraction phenomenon in biaxial media is carried out. This paper is intended as an interdisciplinary application of analogies for students and teachers in the context of intermediate physics courses at university level. (Contains 2 tables and 7 figures.)
Institute of Physics Publishing. The Public Ledger Building Suite 929, 150 South Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 215-627-0880; Fax: 215-627-0879; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: Students; Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A