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Problem Class Week 3: Problem 3.

Blocks of wood of masses 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 kg are lined up on a SMOOTH table
as shown. A rightwards-pointing 12 Newton force is applied to the left-most
block. What force does the middle block exert on the rightmost one?

1 kg

2 kg

3 kg



Solution: All forces on the rightmost block are shown in black. In the
vertical direction the weight force W=3g is cancelled by the normal
reaction N exerted by the table, leaving a total vertical force of zero.
Since there is no friction, the only other force on the 3 kg block is the
contact force C as shown: C is a reaction force due to the presence of
the 2 kg block, and it is the force that we are asked to find.
Newton II gives this force as C = ma = 3a, where a is the acceleration
of the 3rd block.
So we can find C provided that we can find the acceleration a.
Now because the external rightwards-directed 12 N force is applied to
the leftmost block, all the blocks are pushed to the right together, so
they all experience a common acceleration a.
The only horizontal EXTERNAL force on the composite body (all
three blocks, total mass 6 kg) is the 12N force. (The force C shown is
an INTERNAL force. The INTERNAL forces of the composite body
cancel in action-reaction pairs.) Thus Newton II for the 3 blocks
together reads
F = Ma
12 = 6a
a = 2 m/s2
Then from above C = 3a = (3)(2) = 6 Newton

Problem Class Wk 3 : Problem 3.2

A Navy jet of mass 10,000 kg lands on an aircraft carrier and snags a cable to
slow it down. The cable is attached to a spring of stiffness constant 40,000 N/m.
If the spring stretches 25 m to stop the plane, what was the landing speed of the
25 m
v0 = ?

Just arrived


The potential energy of the spring is kx2 and the kinetic energy of the plane tied
to the spring is mv2 (mass & KE of spring are negligible).
As the plane is slowed down, its kinetic energy is converted to potential energy
of the stretched spring. The total energy is conserved (constant) during this
process, under the assumption of negligible friction.
Conservation of energy:
(KE + PE)before = (KE + PE)after
(mv2 + kx2)before = (mv2 + kx2)after
mv02 + k(0)2 = m(0)2 + k(25)2
v02 = (25)2k/m
v0 = 25(k/m)1/2 = 25(40000/10000)1/2 = (25)(2) = 50
Landing velocity is 50 m/s

Problem Class Week 3 : Prob 3.3

A simple model of an automobile suspension consists of a mass attached to a
spring. If the mass is 1900 kg and the stiffness constant is 26 kN/m,
(i) with what period will the car undergo simple harmonic motion?
This is a plug-in problem (see lec slide 70) :
T = 2(m/k)1/2 = 2(1900/26000)1/2 = 1.7 sec.
(ii) If the amplitude of the SHM is 5 cm, what is the max vertical speed of the car
(assuming shock absorbers disconnected so we have pure spring motion)?
Method 1: conservation of energy.
The energy mv2 + kx2 =E is constant during the motion. Both
mv and kx are never negative, so v is maximum when x2 is minimum = i,e, when x=0. By the same
reasoning, v is zero when x is a max - i.e. when x = A, the amplitude. (the same conclusions follow from
looking at the sketch of x vs t in simple harmonic motion below.)

|v| = vmax


(KE + PE)x=A = (KE + PE)x=0
m02 + kA2 = mvmax 2 + k02
(k/m)A2 = vmax 2
vmax = (k/m)1/2A
= (26000/1900)1/2(0.05)
= 0.18 m/s

Method 2: equation for displacement vs time in SHM

x = Acos(t+), v = -Asin(t+).
Max of this last expression is -A(-1) = A,
occuring when sin(t+) = -1. Since =(k/m) this gives
vmax = (k/m)1/2A same as in method 1 above,

Problem Class Week 3 : Problem 3.4

A railway carriage of mass 3 tonnes travelling at 3 m/s comes up behind a
carriage of mass 6 tonnes that is moving at 1 m/s in the same direction. They
couple together upon impact.
(a) What is the speed of the combined carriages straight after the collision?
3 m/s

3000 kg

1 m/s

6000 kg


9000 kg



(Reasoning: This is a rapid collision with strong internal impulsive forces, so for the brief duration of the collision we can ignore
external forces such as friction. Then total momentum is conserved,)
Total momentum before = total momentum after
(with p = mv in genera
(3000)(3) + (6000)(1) = (9000)V
V = (9+6)/9 = 5/3 = 1.66 m/sec

(b) If they are on a long level section of track, what is their velocity a long time after
the collision?
Answer: V = 0. Reasoning: During the brief collision, non-impulsive forces such as friction could be ignored compared with
impulsive internal forces. However over a longer time friction will certainly slow the carriages down and bring them to rest
Note that the answer in part (a) above is the velocity immediately after the coupling collision.