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Forces Lab

Newton's second law says that the net external force on a body is equal to the product of
the body’s mass times its acceleration:

Fnet = Ma. (1)

To explore this relation, we will look at the motion of a "half-Atwood's machine (if both
masses were hanging down from the pulley, this would be an Atwood’s machine):"




Drawing free body diagrams for each mass and using Newton’s second law, we can find
the acceleration of this system:

a= g (2)
M1 + M 2

In this experiment, you will use a "smart pulley" to measure the speed of the system after
the hanging mass is released. You will then find the acceleration from the slope of the
velocity-time curve. Mass M1 will be a cart with a force sensor riding on it, and M2 will
be a mass hanger with different masses on it. Thus, M2 will vary, while M1 will not.

Preliminary questions.
[You answered these already, but please write down your predictions again here.]

1. In this experiment, we will measure the speed (v) of the cart as a function of the time.
What should a graph of v vs. t look like?

2. Is the tension of the string in fig. 1 less than, equal to, or greater than M2g? Explain
your reasoning.

Open Data Studio, select Create Experiment, select the smart pulley and connect it to the
interface. You can spin the pulley with your hand to show how the speed is registered on
a velocity versus time graph. Select, in addition, the force sensor so you can measure the
tension in the string.

Start with no masses on the hanger, so the hanging mass is just the hanger itself, 50 (or
100) g. Attach the string to the force sensor, and “tare” the sensor. Pull the cart back
until the hanging mass is just below the pulley. Click the "start" button, and release the
cart. Be sure to stop the cart before it hits the pulley! Now click the stop button.

You should have a plot of v vs. t, and it should show that the cart had a constant
acceleration after you released it. How can you tell?

Measure the acceleration by taking the slope, and record it in the table below.

Is the force (the tension in the string) constant? If so, take its average and record this

Now add mass...say, 20 grams... to the hanger. Repeat the measurement to find the
acceleration and tension for this set of masses. Repeat like this until you have at least 6
sets of data. You may find it convenient to record your data in an Excel file, to facilitate
the plot that you will make later.

M2 a Tension


I. According to equation (2), the acceleration of this system should be proportional to the

r= (3)
M1 + M 2
Find the mass of the cart (including the force sensor) and add a fourth column to your
data table; write down the values of r in this column. Write down the mass m1 here:

Mcart = ____________

Use Excel (or pencil and paper) to plot the acceleration versus r. Fit the data with a
straight line and find its slope. According to equation (2), this slope should equal g.
Compare your experimental result to the accepted value.

II. Look at the values you measured for the tension in the string. Was your prediction in
preliminary question 2 correct?

If not, what is the correct answer?

Explain why this is so.