You are on page 1of 5



r 18, 2009
I. Purpose: The purpose of this lab is to demonstrate centripetal motion,
particularly when an object is spinning at a horizontal level, with no gravitational
forces acting on it. The equation to find centripetal force, Fc = m * ac, is used to
find the mass of the object being spun, as all other aspects of the equation are
either measured or worked out through the experiment.
II. Lab Set-Up: A length of black string is strung through a thin glass tube and a
stopper of unknown mass is attached to one end of the string. On the opposite
end, a 5g hanger is attached to the thread, and 40g of weights is attached to
the hanger. A piece of tape is taped to the string between the end of the glass
tube and the hanger, which will help to keep the radius of the stopper’s path at
a constant, 0.195m. After each run, 20g will be added to the hanging weight each
time. The same person will spin for each trial, and the same person will time for
each trial.
Radius = 0.195m

Stopper; mass

Glass tube

Additional weights

Hanging weight (hanger + weights)

III. Safety Concerns: Flying objects – The person spinning the stopper could spin
it too fast or lose control of it and the stopper could hit them in the face.
Therefore, the person spinning the stopper wore protective goggles to protect
their eyes.
IV. Procedure:
 First, we needed to set up the apparatus as shown above, with 45g of
hanging weight initially.
 Then, the spinner will slowly start spinning the stopper until the tape is at
the bottom of the glass tube, but not yet touching it. At this point, the
stopper is traveling in a horizontal path, and the person who is timing will
start the timer and stop it after ten revolutions. The trial will be repeated
two more times, and the average time will be calculated.
 Then, 20g of weights will be added to the hanging weight.
 Repeat steps 2-3 until there are five sets of data collected (5 different
hanging weights).
V. Data:
Mass # of Time Time/r Spee Speed 2 Forc A c Mass of
(Kg) revolutio (sec ev d 2 2 2
(m /s ) e (N) (m/s stopper
) (m/s) ) (Kg)
.045 10 5.94 .594 2.06 4.25 .441 21.79 .0201
.065 10 5.09 .509 2.41 5.79 .637 29.68 .0214
.085 10 4.58 .458 2.67 7.15 .833 36.66 .0227
.105 10 4.23 .423 2.90 8.38 1.02 42.98 .0239
.125 10 3.89 .389 3.15 9.91 1.22 50.82 .0240
Radius = .195 m Circumference= 1.2246 m
VI. Calculations:
 Time per revolution = time / # rev
5.94 sec / 10 rev = .594 sec/rev
 Speed =[ (#rev) (circumference)] / time
[(10 rev) (1.2246 m)] / 5.94 sec = 2.06 m/s
 Force = (masshanging) (accelerationgravity)
(.045 Kg) (9.8 m/s) = .441 N
 Ac = speed2 / radius
(4.25 m2/s2) / 0.195 m = 21.79 m/s2
 Massstopper = Force / Ac
.441 N / 21.79 m/s2 = .0201 Kg
VII. Graphs:
Force (N)

Force (N)
Speed (m/s) Speed2 (m/s2)
VIII.Conclusion & Questions:
 What was the average mass of the stopper?
○ The average mass of the stopper was 22.42 g. The actual mass
of the stopper was 21.1 g. The percent error was 6.26%.
 Why can we set the centripetal force on the stopper equal to the
gravitational force of the hanging mass?
○ Both the centripetal force on the stopper and the gravitational
force of the hanging mass are net forces. Both of these forces
acting on each other help to keep the string in a state of
equilibrium, as the position of the tape does not move throughout
the ten revolutions that are timed. Therefore, the centripetal
force and force of gravity must be equal to each other.
 From your graphs, does your lab support the equation, Fc = m (V2 / r)?
Justify your answer.
○ Yes, the lab data supports the equation, Fc = m (V2 / r), because in
both graphs, the force increases proportionally with the speed or
 Sources of error: A source of error would occur in data collection,
because when timing each run, the timer approximates 10 revolutions.
The timer has to make a visual mark to mark the passage of one
revolution; the placement may not be exact each time. Also, there is a
reaction time that is needed between when the timer perceives that 10
revolutions have passed and when he stopped the stopwatch. Therefore
the timing may be off by a small percent, and we may not have spun the
stopper for exactly 10 revolutions.
 To remedy this problem, it would have been better to have drawn a
specific symbol that the stopper must pass on each revolution, and use
this as a marker. When it comes to timing, the timer should anticipate
when the stopper is approaching the tenth revolution so that he may
stop the stopwatch at a more precise time.
 By setting the gravitational force of the hanging mass equal to the
centripetal force of the stopper, we were able to demonstrate that the
centripetal force equation is true. Because the force and speed
increased at a proportional rate, the force and centripetal acceleration
increased at the same rate, and therefore, the calculated mass of the
stopper remained within a relatively close range over each run.
Therefore, we learned about to the centripetal force is calculated and
how we can tie it in with other forces.