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Physics 2D-Motion Problem Explanations

Greg Funchess

December 13, 2009

1 Free Fall with Horizontal Movement 1

2 Shooting a Projectile 2
2.1 Useful Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
2.2 How far does it go? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
2.3 How high does it go? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
2.4 Height and Distance at a given time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

3 Problems 4
3.1 Practice Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

4 Answers 5
4.1 Practice problem answers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

1 Free Fall with Horizontal Movement
These problems are usually about some pelican or eagle carrying a fish, then the bird
drops the fish and the question asks how far did the fish fall or the question tells you how
far the fish went and wants to know from how high did it fall.

The solution to this type of problem, like all physic problems, is to break the prob-
lem down into easier understandable problems. You want to find the horizontal distance
that something travels as it falls off of a table. To find the horizontal distance you are
given the speed that it is going but need to find the time that it travels at that speed.
Since distance is speed times time and you are given the speed (usually something like
a marble rolling at 1.5 m/s) you need to find the time that the object falls.
If you are given the height of the table or whatever it is falling from, then use the
equation for distance to find out time.
g 2
d= t (1)

t= (2)
with the calculated time (2) you can now find horizontal distance because the horizontal
distance is speed times time.

2 Shooting a Projectile
2.1 Useful Information
Here I will list the “formulas” that you need to know to solve these types of problems. It
is best however if you also read the explanation of the formula that way you understand
the formula with a “gut instinct” and then it’s not memorization and you also can answer
“concept questions”.
The first is to think of vectors as triangles. The velocity will have a magnitude and
an angle because velocity is a vector. To solve these projectile problems you will need
to separate the vectors into their vertical and horizontal components. Thinking of them
as a triangle with the longest side the magnitude of the velocity, it is easy to see that
the legs of the triangles, the horizontal and vertical components, are given by

Vhorizontal = V cos(θ) (3)

Vvertical = V sin(θ) (4)
there shouldn’t really be any need for memorization there, just know sohcahtoa.
The next important concept to understand is how to compute vertical velocity at a
given time. The vertical velocity can be thought of as the initial velocity minus the pull
of gravity. The pull of gravity is simply

P ullgravity = 9.8t (5)

make sure you firmly understand that. So now the vertical velocity at a given time can
be seen as
VverticalAtGivenT ime = VverticalInitial − P ullgravity (6)
Vvertical = Vvi − 9.8t (7)
Vvertical = V sin(θ) − 9.8t (8)
now you you should understand where the formula comes from and (hopefully) have a
“gut feeling” about this so even when you don’t study you still be able to think of it
and do well on the test.
All of these projectile equations generally need to know something with time. The
two important times are ttop and tair . These are pretty easy to figure out. Since the
projectile moves in a parabola, the total time, tair , is twice the time to the top of the
parabola, so
tair = 2ttop (9)

now the only thing to calculate is ttop .
To calculate ttop you must realize what happens at this point of the parabola.
The vertical velocity is 0. So from this it can be seen that

0 = Vvertical (10)

From the previous understanding of Vvertical we have

0 = V sin(θ) − 9.8ttop (11)

V sin(θ)
ttop = (12)
(again, no need to remember formulas, just learn how the formula is derived).

2.2 How far does it go?
Questions often ask how far does the object travel, horizontal distance. The way to solve
such problems is to take speed times time. The speed is the horizontal component of
velocity and the time is the total time the object spends in the air. So the total distance
is given by
Dtotal = Vhorizontal tair (13)
tair can be found from the methods of the previous section.

2.3 How high does it go?
Questions usually ask how high something goes. To solve these think of the problem
as total height = how high it would have been minus force of gravity. From that the
formula is
Heightmax = Vvert ttop − Distancef allen (14)
The fallen distance is give by the d = 21 (9.8)t2 formula. So the formula means, your
max height is how high the object would have gone minus how far the object has fallen,
because Vvert ∗ ttop is how high the object would have gone.

2.4 Height and Distance at a given time
The“hardest” type of 2D motion problems are the ones that ask for the height of the
projectile or the horizontal distance of the projectile at a given time.
The height of an object at a given time can be thought of as the height it would be
minus how far it fell. The height it would be is found by speed times time.

Hupwards = Vvert t (15)

The height fallen needs to be calculated as well. Acceleration (g) and time are known
so the height fallen would be
Hf allen = (9.8)t2 (16)

So now the height at a given time is Height upward minus height fallen so it is
9.8 2
H = Vvert t − t (17)
The simpler part to this question asks how far horizontally will the projectile travel at
a given time. Since horizontal velocity is not affected by gravity, the distance calculation
here is straightforward, horizontal velocity times time.

D = (V cos θ)t (18)

3 Problems
This section will include some common problems of 2D motion problems.

3.1 Practice Problems
1. A marble is rolling on a table at a velocity of 2m/s. The table is 0.95m tall. When
the marble rolls off of the table, how far from the base of the table does the marble land?

2. You decide to roll another marble off the table but this time, since you are not
a robot, you don’t know how fast the marble is rolling. The table is still 0.95m tall and
you measure the marble’s distance from the base of the table to where it lands as 0.64m.
How fast did you roll the marble?

3. You just bought a cannon (you were also flagged as a suspicious person by the
FBI) that is advertised to be able to send a 1kg mass at a velocity of 100m/s. You want
to test this claim so you construct an experiment to do so. You decide to fire the cannon
at a 30◦ angle and measure how far the projectile goes. The projectile travels 901m.
Does the cannon shoot at least as far as advertised? There happens to be a redwood
tree half way between you and where the projectile lands, it stands 110m tall and is
protected by conservation laws so you can’t hit the redwood, will charged for breaking
conservation laws?

4 Answers
The above problems have been worked out here so that you may verify your thinking about
the problems correctly.

4.1 Practice problem answers
1. The problem is asking how far away the marble lands. The first step to solving this
problem is finding how long the marble falls. The distance that something falls is given
9.8 2
Df allen = t (19)
The marble fell off the 0.95m table so Df allen = 0.95. Which leads to

9.8 2
0.95 = t (20)
= t2 (21)
=t (22)
0.44 = t (23)
So it takes the marble 0.44 seconds to hit the ground, now to calculate how far it went,
use speed times time so
D = (0.44)V (24)
D = (0.44)2 (25)
D = 0.88 (26)
So the answer is 0.88 meters from the base of the table.

2. This is a more practical problem and is asking what is the velocity that you roll
the marble off at. It clearly gives you the distance and wants to find the speed. It also
gives you the time but less obviously as that needs to be calculated with free fall. You
know the time that the marble falls from the above question (use the same process) and
you know the distance. So the answer is easy to find.

D =Vt (27)

=V (28)
=V (29)
1.45 = V (30)

So the answer is 1.45 m/s.

3. This problem is a little more challenging but only because it has a vector. The
first step when thinking about vector problems is to break it down into it’s horizontal
and vertical components.
Vvertical = V sin θ (31)
Vvertical = (100) sin 30◦ = 50 (32)
Vhorizontal = V cos θ (33)

Vhorizontal = (100) cos 30 = 86.6 (34)
The next thing to think about is when does the vertical velocity equal the pull of gravity
(when they are equal then it will be the top of the curve).
50 = gttop (35)
= ttop (36)
5.10s = ttop (37)
Now double this to get the total time the projectile is in the air and then multiply the
total time by the horizontal velocity to see how far the projectile should go.
tair = 2(5.10) = 10.2 (38)
Distance = Vhorizontal tair (39)
Distance = (86.6)(10.2) = 883m (40)
The cannon’s advertisement suggests that the projectile should travel 883m, the projec-
tile travels further and so the advertisement is not making any false claims. The next
part of the question is asking if there is a redwood with height of 110m at the middle
of this projectile’s path, will the projectile hit the redwood. The cannon actually shoots
faster than advertised so to determine if the projectile will go over the redwood we need
to calculate the path of the actual projectile. This, however, isn’t always needed to
calculate because if the advertised velocity will go over the tree, then so will the faster
one. So calculate the time when the projectile would be when directly over the tree.
450.5 = Vhorizontal t (41)
=t (42)
5.2 = t (43)
next calculate the height at 5.2 seconds.
H = Vvert t − (9.8)t2 (44)
H = (50)(5.2) − (4.9)(5.2)2 (45)
H = 127.5 (46)
This height is higher than the redwood tree so the cannon safely travels over the redwood.