Skip to content
Health, Sports & Psychology

Reinventing the square wheel: Join the debate

Updated Wednesday 15th September 2010

Square wheels - odd looking indeed - but what would be the practical application for everyday life? See what Dr Ian Johnston thinks, and if you've got an idea, why not post a comment to get the debate started?

Jem glossed over a bit of the curve design. The chain method gave him "a" curve of the right height and period, but it also very elegantly gave him "the" curve - the right shape - as well. A chain hangs in a catenary curve (y = cosh x) and that's just the shape needed for a square wheel. I haven't seen a really elegant proof of that yet - can anyone come up with something short and convincing?

The skateboard makes a good small scale demonstration, and we'll see next week how the square-wheeled motorbike turned out (I've seen Jem since and he still has all his teeth), but is there any scope for using this in real life? Maybe for traffic control in towns? A suitably shaped roller could put the ridges in the road and then only buses would be allowed tyres of the right shape. Rumble strips on a grand scale!

Any other ideas? Could mean fitting the road to the wheel, or the wheel to the road - are there any regular and bumpy shaped things that need moving around? Square wheels look so daft that I really hope there's a use for them!

We'd like to hear what you think - join the online debate by posting your comments below.

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Sky notes: October Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: OU image library article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Sky notes: October

A guide to the what's happening in the night sky in October.

Article
Ethics Bites - About the podcast Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: photos.com article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Ethics Bites - About the podcast

Philosophy is often condemned for being divorced from reality – but that’s hardly an accusation that could be levelled at Ethics Bites – which tackles some of our most contentious moral issues.

Article
A reader's guide to Great Expectations Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

A reader's guide to Great Expectations

Charles Dickens' classic 1861 novel Great Expectations explores the social classes of the Georgian era.

Article
Evan Davis on... trade-offs Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Anatoli Styf | Dreamstime.com video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Evan Davis on... trade-offs

Evan Davis talks about trade-offs in the world of economics and business

Video
5 mins
Janette Rutterford on... email Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Ofloda | Dreamstime.com video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Janette Rutterford on... email

Janette reflects on business life before email

Video
5 mins
Introducing Richard Sennett Creative commons image Icon Ars Electronica under CC-BY-NC-ND licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Introducing Richard Sennett

The polymath Richard Sennett offers new ways of thinking about how society produces, consumes and the way we work now.

Article
OU on the BBC: Background Brief - How Bad Is Fat? The Story So Far Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

OU on the BBC: Background Brief - How Bad Is Fat? The Story So Far

There are known health issues associated with fat, but are all fats bad for you? Get the background brief

Article
Question time for healthcare services? Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Aleksandar Kamasi | Dreamstime.com article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Question time for healthcare services?

Former midwife Pam Foley asks questions about the effects a changing society has on the quality and provision of healthcare

Article
Day 18 - Waste not, want not Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Jupiter Images article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Day 18 - Waste not, want not

After the Big Day, do you wonder what happens to all the waste wrapping paper, packaging and food?

Article