Newton's Second Law, Gravity and Friction Forces

Cavendish Experiment

Calculation of gravitational constant, with accompanying apparatus model.

What it shows

The gravitational attraction between lead spheres. The data from the demonstration can also be used to calculate the universal gravitational constant G.

gravitational attraction

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Potential Well

Orbital motion simulated by ball rolling on wooden potential well.

What it shows:

Motion in a central potential is demonstrated by a ball rolling on a circular 1/r curved surface.

How it works:

The 1/r potential well simulates the gravitational potential surrounding a point mass; a ball bearing moving in this potential follows a parabolic or elliptical orbit depending upon its initial trajectory and velocity. As it loses energy due to friction, the orbit decays and the ball spirals towards the centre of the well. You could...

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Reversible (Kater's) Pendulum

A physical pendulum with two adjustable knife edges for an accurate determination of "g".

What It Shows

An important application of the pendulum is the determination of the value of the acceleration due to gravity. By adding a second knife-edge pivot and two adjustable masses to the physical pendulum described in the Physical Pendulum demo, the value of g can be determined to 0.2% precision.

How It Works

Using a simple pendulum, the value of g can be determined by...

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Feather and Dime

Falling in an evacuated tube at the same rate.

What it shows:

In the absence of air resistance all bodies, regardless of size or weight, fall with the same acceleration at the same point above the Earth. Here a feather and a dime (see Comments) fall under the influence of gravity in an environment where there is no air to mess things up.


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Falling Faster than 'g'

What it shows:

Allow a board to rotate under the force of gravity and the free end will accelerate at a rate greater than g. Relation between angular acceleration and linear acceleration seems to give free-fall paradox.

How it works:

If a board, held in a vertical position with one end resting on the table, is allowed to...

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Newton's Apple

Apple electronically released from platform; fall time given by special circuit and digital display.

What it shows:

This is a free-fall-from-rest experiment in which an apple (or any other object of comparable size) is dropped from the lecture hall ceiling into a catching bucket on the floor. By measuring the (1) distance and (2) duration of the fall, an accurate (± 0.022%) determination of the acceleration due to gravity can be made:


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Double Atwood's Machine

Prediction of motion of masses in a more complex pulley/mass assembly.

double atwoods machine

What it shows:  This compund Atwood's Machine demonstrates an old and interesting problem. The two small weights on the right side are not of equal mass — one is 100 g and the other...

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Atwood's Machine

Combinations of weights suspended over pulley to show that asymmetry causes acceleration.

atwood's machine

Image on the left, of a lightweight plastic pulley with balanced 50 g brass weights, and on the right, the pulley in motion as the unbalanced weights accelerate. 

Friction Blocks

Selection of blocks that slide down a variable-angle inclined plane to demonstrate the various aspects of friction.

What it shows:

There are actually three (or more) demonstrations under the wing of this title: (1) A block or box is placed on an adjustable inclined plane which can be raised until the block slides. The tangent of the angle then gives the coefficient of friction between the surfaces. (2) The difference between dynamic and static friction may be demonstrated. A large dial spring balance is used to determine the forces required to drag a box on...

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Shoot the Monkey

Monkey released from platform is shot by simultaneously fired cannon.

What it shows:

This is a demonstration of the independence of the horizontal and vertical components of velocity of a projectile. Often referred to as "the monkey and hunter," the problem is the following. A hunter (at ground level) aims a gun at a monkey hanging from a branch high in a tree. The monkey, being very intelligent, does not want to be shot. It knows that light travels faster than bullets and reasons that, if it lets go of the branch the instant it sees the flash of the gun,...

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Ball shot up from PASCO cart is caught by same; a puzzler to ponder if track is tilted and cart accelerates down (or decelerates up).