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On the dynamical theory of the rotation of the earth. II. The effect of precession on the motion of the liquid core

  • H. Bondi (a1) and R. A. Lyttleton (a1)


In an earlier paper of the same general title (1) the possibility that the core of the Earth, in view of its supposed liquid nature, does not partake of the rigid-body motion of the outer shell was discussed with particular reference to the secular diminution of the angular velocity. In addition to this small rate of change of the magnitude of the angular velocity vector of the shell there occur changes in its direction consisting of the precession and nutation, but all the rates of change therein involved are small. The secular retardation takes place with extreme slowness, the nutations involve deviations of the axis with small angular amplitudes, while the precession, though of large angular amplitude, is of very long period compared with the rotation period of the Earth. Accordingly, it may be supposed that the effects of these various changes in the angular velocity can be considered separately in their relation to the motion within the core, and it is the object of this paper to give an account of our investigation into what may be termed for brevity the precession problem. It should perhaps be stated at the outset that the work does not constitute a solution of the problem, which our studies have led us to believe is one of the utmost mathematical difficulty presenting features of an exceptional character in hydro-dynamic theory. After first obtaining the equations of steady motion applicable to the interior, and those applicable to the boundary layer, the solution of the latter equations has been obtained; but in respect of the former equations we have been able to carry the question of the interior motion only as far as showing that no motion representable everywhere by analytic functions and consistent with the boundary conditions is possible. The investigation strongly suggests that no steady-state motion of a permanent character is possible for the interior, though the precise nature of the motion that actually occurs poses a problem of special interest from a hydrodynamic standpoint, but it is one to which we are not able to arrive at any definite answer at present. Without making any progress with the problem thus produced, the paper nevertheless makes clear the inherent difficulties of the problem and also serves to emphasize the inadequacy of any simplified mode of attack assuming classical fluid and resembling, for example, Poincaré's method for the nutation problem adopted by Lamb (3). Thus despite its incompleteness it seemed worth while to publish some account of such progress with these highly interesting questions as we have been able to make.



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(1)Bondi, H. and Lyttleton, R. A.Proc. Camb. phil. Soc. 44 (1948), 345.
(2)Bullard, E. C.Proc. roy. Soc. A, 197 (1949), 437.
(3)Lamb, H.Hydrodynamics, 6th ed. (Cambridge, 1932), pp. 724 et seq.

On the dynamical theory of the rotation of the earth. II. The effect of precession on the motion of the liquid core

  • H. Bondi (a1) and R. A. Lyttleton (a1)


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