The chessboard buckle pattern in the solution of the linearized Donnell equations for buckling of a thin, cylindrical shell under axial compression is so sensitive to uncertainties in shell dimensions that the number of circumferential waves and the aspect ratio of the buckles is indeterminate. This problem is treated statistically. Shell dimensions are treated as random variables with probability distributions dependent on nominal values and manufacturing tolerances. Distributions for aspect ratio and number of circumferential waves are found by a Monte-Carlo technique. It is found that the linear theory does contain a mechanism for distinguishing among buckle modes. There is always a preferred buckle mode. For thin shells and attainable manufacturing tolerances, the aspect ratio of the preferred mode is closer to one than that of any other possible mode, and the corresponding number of buckles is large.

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