Paradox of Nicolai and related effects

  • Alexander P. Seyranian
  • Alexei A. Mailybaev


The paper presents a general approach to the paradox of Nicolai and related effects analyzed as a singularity of the stability boundary. We study potential systems with arbitrary degrees of freedom and two coincident eigenfrequencies disturbed by small non-conservative positional and damping forces. The instability region is obtained in the form of a cone having a finite discontinuous increase in the general case when arbitrarily small damping is introduced. This is a new destabilization phenomenon, which is similar to well-known Ziegler’s paradox or the effect of the discontinuous increase of the combination resonance region due to addition of infinitesimal damping. It is shown that only for specific ratios of damping coefficients, the system is stabilized due to presence of small damping. Then, we consider the paradox of Nicolai: the instability of a uniform axisymmetric elastic column loaded by axial force and a tangential torque of arbitrarily small magnitude. We extend the results of Nicolai showing that the column is stabilized by general small geometric imperfections and internal and external damping forces. It is shown that the paradox of Nicolai is related to the conical singularity of the stability boundary which transforms to a hyperboloid with the addition of small dissipation. As a specific example of imperfections, we study the case when cross-section of the column is changed from a circular to elliptic form.

Mathematics Subject Classification (2000)

Primary 70J25 Secondary 15A18 


Stability Singularity Resonance Destabilization paradox Nonconservative force Damping 


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of MechanicsMoscow State UniversityMoscowRussia

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