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Inverted Pendulum vs Mothra

July 19, 2010
So I’m in Control Theory and one of the common problems given to undergraduates is the “inverted pendulum” problem. I guess the practical use behind it is maybe trying to launch a rocket at a certain angle by controlling the platform the rocket’s on. Or in very simple terms, it’s like balancing a broom on the palm of your hand and physically moving your body in order to keep it upright. Here are the equations in case you wanted to go build your own controls robot.
Balancing a broom by moving your whole body has got to be the stupidest way to balance a broom. Certainly we are evolved and can use our opposable thumbs or ducktape or something. So mostly it’s just a useful example for understanding systems of equations for a physical controls problem. But people are stupid. And in real life, we do a lot of dumb things like try to balance something top heavy by wandering with our feet. How many times do we accommodate some unwieldy project by changing all the parameters and requirements surrounding the project rather than directly changing what the project is or what its goals might be? If you are like me this week and swamped with tasks and ignorant people asking you to jump through hoop it can definitely feel like you are balancing a broom on your hand. Sometimes it feels like you’ve got brooms in both hands. Then your boss or his boss (illustrated, accurately, by Mothra here) shows up and starts shooting giant lasers at your project. And you’re like, wtf? It was hard enough keeping these projects upright without you sabotaging them.
So even strange examples given to undergrads that seem unlikely in a real physical world seem to have some place in the corporate world(which as we know, is its own system of equations attempting to model the real, the physical, world). Here’s a cool video of someone’s inverted pendulum robot:

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 22, 2010 1:16 am

    Loved this post! I clearly remember my physics professor balancing, in the palm of his hand, one of the huge rulers profs loved to use at the blackboard back then. The idea of the pendulum being a project and the box on wheels being the boss of the boss of the project manager is fantastic.

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