Catching a connecting flight means running for your life (or at least your gate) in most cases, dodging and weaving through slow-moving families and golf carts stuffed with luggage. But if you find your own suitcase flailing and flipping about behind you while you jog through LAX, slowing down to let it stabilize is the wrong answer. You might want to consider moving just a little bit faster.
That’s what research from a recent Proceedings of the Royal Society journal found when scientists investigated the oscillations that usually occur when pulling something like a two-wheeled suitcase or trolley, oscillations that create instability and ultimately an overturned suitcase.
To simulate the rocking of a suitcase as its being pulled, the researchers built a simplified toy model representing a suitcase being pulled along a flat surface. Weights on either side of the model suitcase were moved, forcing the suitcase off-balance and providing the researchers an example of the forces both translational and rotational involved in its rocking oscillations.
They found that a two-wheeled suitcase will rock until it overturns or finds a steady oscillation cycle. The faster the suitcase’s velocity, the more likely it is it will overturn. The kicker comes in the report’s conclusion, where researchers find increasing your velocity during the suitcase’s moment of instability actually stabilizes the runaway luggage behind you.