Maths determines whether you can actually go 360 degrees over a swing
It’s the stuff of playground legend, at a time when only the kids with the wild imagination spread the rumor that ‘a cool kid from year six’ managed to swing all the way over the top of the bar on a swing in the local park.
Indeed, it’s the ongoing urban myth deliberating whether anyone could actually have so much momentum that they would manage to sail 360 degrees over the top without stopping, mirror.co.uk wrote.
It’s something firmly-footed in the likes of ‘The Adventures of Inside Out Boy’. A Nickelodeon animation from the early 90s depicting a young boy who gained ‘incredible powers beyond any superhero’ because he swung over the bar on a swing and, you guessed it, turned inside out. Nightmare fuel if you ask us.
With references to this illusive playground goal splashed across our screens, it comes as no surprise that many of us were deeply fascinated by the possibility of swinging in a perfect circle. Some of us still are.
For generations, this mystery has been circulating but we’ve decided to finally uncover whether you can in fact complete a 360-degree arc.
The long and short of it is that you can actually swing 360 degrees on a swing...if there are a few specific elements in place.
If there are rigid poles in place of the traditional chains and the swing has a bearing that is able to go all the way round, then it’s possible to complete an arc of victory.
What is the reasoning then that such a maneuver can’t be executed on your every day, run of the mill swing that graces every playground?
According to Geoffrey Widdison – a chemical engineer and keen brainbox when it comes to answering questions on Quora - in order to understand this, you have to contemplate the basics of how a swing works.
Geoffrey said: “Your body wants to fall straight down, and it picks up speed as it does, but the chain won’t let you go straight down, it turns that downward motion into forward (or backward) motion.
“When you hit the lowest point of the swing, you have some forward momentum, which the chain then pulls into upward motion. When your momentum is exhausted, you fall back down, and the whole thing repeats.
“If you get to the point where the chain is horizontal, you’re at a theoretical maximum. If you go a little bit higher, then you’re going to fall straight down, and the chain is going to go slack.
“When you get to the point where the chain tightens again, your force will jerk against it, and a lot of the kinetic energy will be lost. If, however, you’re using rigid bars, then you can continue to reuse that energy on each swing, and eventually, if you’re good enough, get all the way around.”
So it seems like that childhood dream we all likely had of making a complete circle on the swing at the local park has gone – although mums everywhere will be sure to breathe a sigh of relief.