Ming the Mechanic:
Square Wheels

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Square Wheels2004-04-05 16:57
picture by Flemming Funch

From Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends. So, you didn't think a bicycle could have square wheels? Well, it all depends on the surface you're riding on.
Stan Wagon, a mathematician at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., has a bicycle with square wheels. It's a weird contraption, but he can ride it perfectly smoothly. His secret is the shape of the road over which the wheels roll.

A square wheel can roll smoothly, keeping the axle moving in a straight line and at a constant velocity, if it travels over evenly spaced bumps of just the right shape. This special shape is called an inverted catenary.

A catenary is the curve describing a rope or chain hanging loosely between two supports. At first glance, it looks like a parabola. In fact, it corresponds to the graph of a function called the hyperbolic cosine. Turning the curve upside down gives you an inverted catenary -- just like each bump of Wagon's road.
OK, so here's an idea: What about wheels that dynamically change shape quickly enough that they always fit whatever road surface you're going over, so that you can always have a smooth ride. And we might become less attached to smooth surfaces.

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5 Apr 2004 @ 17:29 by bushman : Hmm, lol.
Well the cops would probably ban morphing tires, it would render thier stop sticks useless, and people would take advantage and cut thru the park to get around a busy inersection, lol.  

5 Apr 2004 @ 20:41 by maxtobin : Oh dah
Thanks for this Flemming, now I have a sneak insight into the 'slightly unusual mind set' of some of the folk I met while in the area a while back when Alana and I got together. Must say that this shines some light on the twin cities mentality, could be the water is contaminated and has this effect. Hey I guess its done because it can be done and shows how smart this person is!! Is it not the function of a 'shock absorber' to smooth out the road bumps?  

6 Apr 2004 @ 03:59 by lugon @ : lateral square wheels
This is an old exercise/example from Edward de Bono: "po cars have square wheels". Just look at something you take for granted, "change" it in your mind, and see where it takes you (or where you can take it).

The resulting ideas are good or bad - you check that *later*. For example, many people would be tempted to react quickly to Flemming's suggestion on "wheels that dynamically change shape quickly enough that they always fit whatever road surface you're going over". But we can push it further and try to think of jelly-wheels, soft-balloon wheels, etc. What's the role of the wheels? Shock absortion, pushing the ground behind the car, maybe some other function like keeping the car safely above the ground. Soft-balloon wheels would have to have a somewhat sticky surface. If the wheel is soft wouldn't that be counterproductive? I mean, it would have to be soft near the ground, but not near the axis if this ... whatever.

It is true that some people are more prone to come up with "provocations", and some people are more naturally capable of doing the "movement" part. I've seen people (from a specific group) who considered themselves uncreative but who did in fact learn the trick. They may even be more ready to accept other people's creativity now, not sure about this.

Anyone can try it, individually or collectively, on anything we want. Not just engineering, but anything you find important or fun.  

6 Apr 2004 @ 05:39 by jstarrs : You're...
...beginning to sound like you're bored, Ming ;0)  

6 Apr 2004 @ 11:17 by ming : Bored
Heheh. Hey, if I ever feel bored, there are plenty of ways of getting myself unbored in an instant.  

6 Apr 2004 @ 11:43 by swanny : Shock Spring Assembly Buffer
There doing work with hydraulics in Calgary to help the lauch pads
at Nasa ...... I'm wondering if you could use round wheels but have
a hydraulic spring buffer system to sort of float on the wheels.....
I used to have a big ol Lincoln and that thing was like
a battleship on the highway...... vista crusier...... here we come
An air suspension spring hydraulic system like those hoverjets....


7 Apr 2004 @ 12:49 by T12@scientist.com @ : Why would we need wheels at all?
I don't understand why we are still traveling on roads (let alone continue this relentless pursuit of fossil fuels to provide propulsion and energy needs) quite frankly in consideration of the available technologies we have on a global scale, there is valid evidence to show that we have the means that would enable us to do without them entirely!

Ref: EKIP Russian Areospace craft in Saratov, Russia from Ekip-
Aviation. Currently, the plan is to test the aircraft in 2007 and
launch it into mass production in another five years. Although a
recent agreement between EKIP and the Naval Air System Command has
been signed, EKIP is still awaiting delivery of the funds.
See Moscow news article here...

*Ekip website:

BTW, I remember where I seen this design before!
Very similar to the modern version of Russia's EKIP design, this
model of the "Spindrift" sub-orbital craft was constructed for the
early 1960's television series "Land of the Giants" notice the
see more details here -

21 Feb 2013 @ 03:22 by asifsound @ : Musashikoganei Square Wheel
--- What about wheels that dynamically change shape ---

Such square wheel on the flat road.
Look at this.

17 Mar 2015 @ 04:34 by privatelyguidedtours @ : It is really a nice and useful piece of
It is really a nice and useful piece of information. I am glad that you shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.  

16 Apr 2015 @ 07:19 by http://www.midwestmarketingtesting.com @ : I would like to thank you for the effort
I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this post.  

23 Sep 2015 @ 16:34 by sky number @ : sky number
This one is good. keep up the good work!..  

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