Graphical Analysis of Linear Motion

State Standard: Motion and Forces
1. Newton’s laws predict the motion of most objects. As a basis for understanding this concept, students know:
a. how to solve problems involving constant speed and average speed.
b. when forces are balanced no acceleration occurs, and thus an object continues to move at a constant
speed or stays at rest and when there is an unbalanced force on an object it will accelerate
Newton!s "irst #aw$.
State Standard: Investigation and Experimentation
1. %cientific progress is made by asking meaningful &uestions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for
understanding this concept, and to address the content the other four strands, students should develop their own
&uestions and perform investigations. %tudents will:
a. select and use appropriate tools and technology such as computer'linked probes, spread sheets, and graphing
calculators$ to perform tests, collect data, analy(e relationships, and display data.
b. identify and communicate sources of unavoidable e)perimental error.
c. identify possible reasons for inconsistent results, such as sources of error or uncontrolled conditions.
d. formulate e)planations using logic and evidence.
Knowledge argets
• Ac&uire vocabulary and learn relationships of variables e)pressed in the e&uations for linear
• *now how to present data using significant figures and tolerances.
!easoning argets
• +se knowledge of linear motion to solve word problems.
• +nderstand the relationships of time, displacement, velocity and acceleration through graphs.
• ,ustify how an object is moving through the interpretation of e)perimental data.
S"ill argets
• -ollect e)perimental data within the tolerance of the measuring instruments.
• .raph and tabulate e)perimental data.
#rod$ct argets
• /ake graphs of e)perimental data graphing the dependent variable on the y a)is and the
independent variable on the ) a)is.
• +se knowledge, reasoning, and skills to create a formal laboratory report that includes the
following sections: 0itle page, Abstract, 1ntroduction, 2)perimental, 3esults and -onclusion.
0hrough out life you observe objects in motion relative to you. /otion is seldom
constant. 4bjects speed up and slow down which is a change in velocity. 5elocity has
two components, one for direction and one for its si(e or magnitude. A change in either
its direction or magnitude would represent acceleration. 1t re&uires a force to accelerate
an object. 6hen an object is pushed or pulled the velocity it has will change.
7ou will analy(e the motion of a laboratory cart through graphical analysis. 0he
data will be graphed in two ways. 0he first will be distance traveled versus time and the
other will be velocity versus time. 0hese graphs represent two different views of the
same data and motion. 0hese graph will allow you to see what the cart is doing as it rolls
across the counter.
%ac"gro$nd Information:
0he recording timer is used to measure small intervals of time. 0he motion of a
dynamics cart accelerating across a laboratory table can be analy(ed using the recording
tape from a timer. A timer uses a regularly vibrating clapper and carbon disk to make
dots on a recording tape. 0he dots are made at regular intervals so the distance between
the dots can be used to determine the distance traveled and the velocity of the cart at any
time during the motion.
1t is essential to determine the time for one interval of the timer for the velocity to
be calculated. 0he timer can be calibrated using a digital strobe. A flashing strobe can be
adjusted to coincide with the vibration of the timer and thus the recording timer will
appear to remain still. 0he reading on the strobe can then be used to determine the time
period for one vibration or the time it takes the timer to move through one cycle. A cycle
records a dot on the timer tape or the time it take for the timer to move up from the
previous dot and then move back down to place a second dot on the recording tape.
4nce the timer is calibrated or the time for one cycle has been determined it can
be used to measure time intervals for the travel of a dynamics cart. 0he record of the
distance and time taken to move that distance can be recorded using the timer and a tape
which is pulled through the timer by the dynamics cart. 0his permanent record of dots
shows how far the cart travels and the calibration of time per cycle shows the time it
takes to move the distance between the dots.
0he average speed of a cart can be determined at a mid point of many periods.
0he set of data for time, total distance traveled, and average speed or velocity at each
successive distance can be graphed to analy(e the motion of the cart. 1n the distance
versus time graph the instantaneous velocity of the cart can be determined using the slope
or tangent of the curve at a point.
4n the speed or velocity versus time graph the velocity can be determined at any point
directly off the graph and the acceleration can be found from the slope or tangent to the
a tangent to the curve is acceleration
velocity or
A method to determining the tangent and thus the slope of the curve is by using a
flat mirror. 0he mirror is placed along side the curve so there is continuity between the
curve and the mirror. 0his continuity must be smooth and then a line along the base of
the mirror represents the tangent to the curve at that point.
Apparat$s: recording timer, timing tape, digital strobe, cart, ruler, 899 gram mass, pulley,
&ata 'ollection:
0he recording timer can be calibrated using the strobe. 0urn on the timer and then
adjust the strobe in a darken room until the timer appears to stop. 4nce the two are
synchroni(ed the value on the strobe can be noted. 0he timer will appear to stop when the
strobe flashes every third time it vibrates, every second, every time or other multiples. 1t is
important to find a one to one correspondence between the number of flashes and the number
of cycles or vibrations. 0o do this continue to raise the rate at which the strobe flashes until
the timer appears to stop again. 3ecord the higher value from the strobe. -ontinue this
process until the timer no longer stops. 0he final or largest number of flashes per minute
recorded is the value you should use for calibration since there should be a one to one
correspondence for this value. 0he other values should be half, a third, a fourth or other
fractions of the highest value. 3epeat this procedure si) time and then take the average for a
more precise value of time. 3ecord the top si) values. 0hese are flashes per minute and
must be divided by :9 seconds in a minute to determine the number of flashes per second and
finally the reciprocal of that value must be found to determine the seconds per period on the
After the timer is calibrated it may be used to measure distance and time for the
motion of the dynamics cart. Attach a 899 gram mass to the cart using a string and arrange
the mass over the side of the table placing the string into the pulley at the end of the table to
reduce friction. ;old the cart in place with a book so that it does not accelerate while the rest
of the apparatus is set up. Attach a timer tape to the bottom of the cart with tape. 0hread the
tape through the timer over the top of a carbon disk so that dots are tapped onto the tape as it
is pulled through the timer. /ake sure there is plenty of room between the pulley and the
cart so that the mass will hit the floor before the cart hits to pulley. %tart the timer and then
release the cart. -atch the cart prior to it hitting the pulley. 4n the underside of the tape will
be the dots corresponding to the motion of the cart.
9 1 8
-ircle the first dot and number it (ero. -ount over successive ten dots and circle
each. Number each successive circled dot with the ne)t higher integer. Now count back
three spaces and forward three spaces from the circle dots to measure the distance, d1, over
si) intervals surrounding the numbered dots. 3ecord the distance for the first dot as (ero as
the dot represents that the cart was at rest. Ne)t, record the distance for the si) intervals
surrounding each numbered dot in the table. <etermine the time for si) intervals by
multiplying the time per period, determined with the strobe, by si). <ivide each of the
distances by the time for the si) periods to determine the average velocity over that distance.
0his is the instantaneous velocity or speed at each numbered point. 3ecord that speed or
velocity in the table ne)t to the distance interval. /ake note that this distance is used to
determine the average speed or velocity and will not be used in the graph. Now the total
distance or d8 traveled will be determined for each successive numbered dot. 0he distance
from (ero to each dot must be measured and recorded since this is the total distance traveled
to reach each of the velocities at the numbered points. 0he distance d8 is used in the graph of
distance versus time. 0o determine the total time interval to reach each successive numbered
dot it is necessary to multiple the time per period by the total number of periods recorded
from (ero to that dot. "or dot number 1 the total time to reach that point is 19 periods times
the time per period. "or dot number 8 the total time is 89 times the time per period and for =
it is =9 times the time per period. 3ecord the time values in the table ne)t to the
corresponding distance to the dot.
&ata Analysis:
-reate two graphs: one with the distance traveled to the numbered points versus
the total time re&uired to reach each successive numbered point and the other velocity at
each point versus the time re&uired to reach that point. 0he slope of the first graph is the
velocity and the slope of the second graph is the acceleration. <escribe the motion of the
cart by analy(ing the graphs.
<etermine the slope of the distance versus time graph for three points using the
mirror and drawing a tangent at a point. 3emember the slope of a line or the tangent is
the change in y over the change in ). 3ecord the ) and y values for two points on each
tangent line and determine the slope or velocity for three points. 3ecord those values in a
second table.
4n the velocity versus time graph find the velocity values you determined from
the first graph and determine the acceleration of the cart at that time. 0o determine the
acceleration of the cart look at the y a)is of velocity and find the values corresponding to
the points. Ne)t move over to the graph at that point and draw the tangent at that point.
"ind the slope of the line at that point. 0his will be the acceleration. 3ecord that value in
the table ne)t to the velocity.
1. 6hat are the numbers of significant figures in the speed values>
8. 6hat is the limiting factor for this number of significant figures>
=. %peed was determined using a si) period interval. 6hat determines the si(e of the
interval used to find the speed>

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