Impulse, Work, and Energy

Gravi Car

A falling weight propels a car forward.

What it shows:

Gravitational potential energy can be converted into mechanical kinetic energy.

gravi car

How it works:

A Gravicar is a vehicle powered by gravitational potential energy that it stores in a 2.5kg mass on a thread which is coupled...

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Toilet Paper

What it shows:

The speed with which you tug on a toilet roll determines whether a sheet breaks off, or the roll simply unravels.

How it works:

The force applied to the junction between the sheets of a toilet roll is proportional to the rate of change of momentum of your hand as you tug at the end. Thus a sharp tug (large ∆p) is sufficient to surpass the breaking stress of the perforated junction. A lesser tug however, below the breaking stress, will apply a torque to the roll itself; the ensuing rotation unravels the roll.

figure 1. Toilet roll...

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Karate Blow

The instructor breaks several boards with a swift blow of the hand.

What it shows:

The impulse momentum theorem is demonstrated in a most dramatic way by breaking several boards with the blow of your fist. You need not be a karate expert to show how the force of a well executed hammer-fist strike will easily break a stack of five to eight boards. The impulse is given by

impulse = F∆t = ∆mv

The point of the demonstration is: the greater the speed, the smaller ∆t will be and thus the greater the force.


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