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The Earth has a gravitational field that exerts a force on objects

both on it and around it
Saturday, 23 October 2010
9:05 AM

1.1 define Weight as the force on an object due to a gravitational field

1.2 explain that a change in gravitational potential energy is related to work done
To change the G.P.E. of an object a force must be applied through a distance, i.e. work
1.3 define gravitational potential energy as the work done to move an object from a very large
distance away to a point in a gravitational field
At r=infinity, E.P. = 0
To move an object away from the Earth we must do work on it. If after work is done, the
potential energy is 0, then near the Earth the Ep must be negative.
1.4 perform an investigation and gather information to determine a value for acceleration due to
gravity using pendulum motion or computer-assisted technology and identify reason for possible
variations from the value 9.8ms-2
Aim: To find the value of g by measuring the period of a pendulum of known length
Theory: oscillation (T) of a simple pendulum is given by:
1. Tie a mass to the end of a piece of string and attach to horizontal support
2. Measure the length of the pendulum
3. Set pendulum in motion and measure 10 oscillations (1 = back and forth)
4. Record results in a table like so:
Length (l) Time for 10 oscillations 10T (s)

Period T (s) g (ms-2)

















Average value for g is found to be 9.83 ms-2

Variations from expected is due to
Variations of local g
Experimental error
1.5 gather secondary information to predict the value of acceleration due to gravity on other

Mass ratio Radius ratio

































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2. Many factors have to be taken into account to achieve a

successful rocket launch, maintain a stable orbit and return to
Saturday, 23 October 2010
9:15 AM

2.1 describe the trajectory of an object undergoing projectile motion within the Earth's
gravitational field in terms of horizontal and vertical components
ay = -g
ax = 0

2.2 describe Galileo's analysis of projectile motion

Parabolic shape of the trajectory of a projectile
Showed that horizontal and vertical motion are independent and combine to produce
parabolic shape
2.3 explain the concept of escape velocity in terms of the:
Gravitational constant
Mass and radius of the planet

2.4 outline Newton's concept of escape velocity

Considered how a projectile could be launched horizontally from the top of a high mountain so
it would not fall to Earth
As launch velocity increases, distance object travels before hitting Earth would increase until
the object wouldn't hit the ground, and go into orbit
Curvature of Earth exactly matches curvature of projectile. Higher velocity = object escaping
Cannon fired horizontally cause an angle would lead to an ellipse therefore the object would
always crash into earth
2.5 identify why the term 'g forces' is used to explain the forces acting on an astronaut during
Because on the surface of the Earth, humans experience an acceleration of g.
Therefore, it is convenient to use multiples of this, as it is relatable to experience
(and because g forces mean gravity forces, which is the downwards force on the astronaut)
2.6 discuss the effect of the Earth's orbital motion and its rotational motion on the launch of a
When a rocket takes off it starts vertically and then becomes parallel to the Earth's surface.
Scientists take advantage of the easterly spin of the Earth to add to the velocity of the rocket
so as to launch it into orbit; therefore a rocket will turn east
Higher latitudes mean less contribution
2.7 analyse the changing acceleration of a rocket during launch in terms of the:
Law of Conservation of Momentum
The change in momentum of the system consisting of the rocket and its exhaust gases is zero.

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is relatively constant and so as the mass of the rocket decreases (as fuel is burnt),
the velocity of the rocket must increase to compensate
Forces experienced by astronauts
As fuel is consumed, mass of system decreases.
Acceleration is proportional to thrust and inversely proportional to mass, as mass decreases,
accel increases; so force on astronauts increases
2 stage rocket: fires first rocket (g-forces increase), stops and fires second stage. When it
stops, accel decreases again so as to manage the maximum g-force
2.8 analyse the forces involved in uniform circular motion for a range of objects
Velocity ==> vector ==> magnitude and direction; acceleration = change in velocity; uniform
circular motion = speed the same, direction changing therefore acceleration
Centripetal acceleration directed towards the centre of the circle:

If there is acceleration, there is a force (F=ma), therefore, centripetal force; towards the centre
of the string

2.9 compare quantitatively low Earth and geo-stationary orbits

A geosynchronous orbit is one in which the satellite has a period the same as the earth
If it is in the equatorial plane, the satellite appears to stay above the same point on the Earth geo-stationary orbit
Geostationary orbit is about 35,800 km above the equator and have a period of 24 hours
Satellites in low earth orbit have a period of less than 24 hours
If the orbit is polar, that is, orbits in a plane perpendicular to the plane of the equator, then
the orbit's orientation is fixed and the earth rotates under the satellite.
For example, if T = 6 hours, one polar revolution will rotate the orbit 90 degrees to the west, as
the Earth rotates. In a couple of days the whole earth could be mapped
2.10 define the term orbital velocity and the quantitative and qualitative relationship between
orbital velocity, the gravitational constant, mass of the central body, mass of the satellite and the
radius of the orbit using Kepler's Law of Periods
Orbital Velocity: the period (T) of an object in circular motion is the time for one complete
revolution. Velocity = distance/time, and in T seconds, a satellite has orbited 2r. Therefore
Kepler's Law of Periods:

for T and solving for v, gives:

Thus the orbital velocity of a satellite depends on radius of the orbit, the mass of the planet
and G, and therefore is independent of the mass of the satellite.
Speed is inversely proportional to the square root of the radius
Smaller the radius, the faster the satellite must travel to stay in orbit at that radius
2.11 account for the orbital decay of satellites in low Earth orbit
Friction occurs between satellite and atmosphere
Loss of energy as heat
Object moves closer to Earth where atmosphere is thicker, cycle continues
As geostationary orbits are so far up, friction is negligible
2.12 discuss issues associated with safe re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere and landing on the
Earth's surface
Heat generated as spacecraft meets with Earth's atmosphere
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Heat generated as spacecraft meets with Earth's atmosphere

When a blunt end hits the atmosphere, it sets up a shockwave that carries away much of
the heat
Use of an ablation shield
Retarding forces which need to be kept in safe limits for humans
Radio blackout
2.13 identify that there is an optimum angle for safe re-entry for a manned spacecraft into the
Earth's atmosphere and the consequences of failing to achieve this angle
Optimum angle for re-entry for Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions was -6.2 1
Angle too shallow, spacecraft bounce of atmosphere back into space
Too steep, g-forces will be too great for the crew to survive, and temperatures will make
spacecraft burn up
2.15 perform a first-hand investigation, gather information and analyse data to calculate initial
and final velocity, maximum height reached, range and time of flight of a projectile for a range of
situations by using simulations, data loggers and computer analysis
Aim: To predict the landing point of a ball launched horizontally from a table top at any speed
Theory: The ball leaves the edge of the table top, its horizontal motion is given by:
and its
vertical motion is given by
Combining the two to eliminate (t) gives:

1. Set up an inclined plane so that a ball can roll down it, onto a table top and off the edge
2. Release the ball and time, using a data logger, the time it takes the ball to roll 1.0m along the
table, with the ball being caught each time (repeat 5 times releasing the ball from the same
3. Calculate the horizontal speed of the ball
4. Measure the table top height
5. Calculate the distance the ball would land
6. Place a Styrofoam cup at the calculated distance to test the results
Results example:
Time to roll 1.0m was recorded: 0.9 s; 1.0 s; 1.1 s; 1.0 s; 1.1 s. Average = 1.1 0.1 s. Horizontal
velocity of the ball = 1.0/1.1 = 0.9091 0.91 ms-1. Height of the table top = 0.86 m

2.16 identify data sources, gather, analyse and present information on the contribution of one of
the following to the development of space exploration: Tsiolkovsky, Oberth, Goddard, EsnaultPelterie, O'Neill or von Braun
Von Braun:
Developed V-2 guided missile used in attacks on London
Headed the team that put America's first satellite into space
Helped develop the Saturn V rocket that carried the first men to the moon
Responsible for the idea of the space station and space shuttle
Liquid fuel rockets

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3. The Solar System is held together by gravity

Saturday, 23 October 2010
9:32 AM

3.1 describe a gravitational field in the region surrounding a massive object in terms of its effects
on other masses in it
A field can be described as a way of explaining 'action at a distance'
Masses experience a force when placed in the gravitational field of another mass
3.2 define Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation:
Newton proposed that 'any two objects in the universe attract each other with a force which is
proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of their
separation' (see formula)
G is the universal gravitational constant G = 6.67 x 10-11 Nm2kg-2
3.3 discuss the importance of Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation in understanding and
calculating the motion of satellites
Orbital velocity is given by:
The force acting on a satellite in order to give it its changing velocity is given by
Combining these two equations with Newton's Law of Gravitation
Kepler's Law of Periods,
can be derived.
Kepler's Law of Periods applies to planets, comets and satellites, as well as spacecraft and
other orbiting things
Therefore, Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation is essential to understanding and calculating
the motion of satellites
3.4 identify that a slingshot effect can be provided by planets for space probes
Slingshot effect involves bringing a space probe closer to other planets to increase the probe's
As a probe passes a planet, its speed reduces as it interacts with the planet's gravitational field
The probe picks up angular momentum from the planet (which in turn the planet loses, under
the conservation of angular momentum but due to the size of the planet, this is negligible) in
much the same way as a collision functions
The velocities of the satellite and planet add together to give the satellite extra speed
3.5 present information and use available evidence to discuss the factors affecting the strength of
the gravitational force
The strength of a gravitational field (and hence the gravitational force) is proportional to the
mass creating the field and inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the
The field is uniform if the mass distribution is uniform
Variations in mass distributions such as the presence of or bodies, or oil and gas fields lead to
variations in the strength of the field

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4. Current and emerging understanding about time and space has

been dependant upon earlier models of the transmission of light
Saturday, 23 October 2010
9:35 AM

4.1 outline the features of the aether model for the transmission of light
Light as a wave; waves need a medium for transmission --> aether
Supposed to permeate all matter
Light was shown to be a transverse wave, and as transverse waves cant travel through liquids
or gases, it had to be a solid
But, if it were solid, the planets would have been brought to rest a long time ago due to
friction, so therefore, it had to have an extremely low density or else be a tenuous fluid (thin
Paradox overcome by suggestion that the aether acted somewhat like wax, which is rigid for
rapidly changing forces but is fluid under the action of continuous forces
Aether wind - as the earth was moving through the aether, it was thought that the speed of
light should change relative to the movement of light through the aether 'wind'
4.2 describe and evaluate the Michelson-Morley attempt to measure the relative velocity of the
Earth through the aether
Used the phenomenon of interference of light to measure minute changes in speed of light
Light sent from a source and split into two perpendicular beams by a half silvered mirror. The
two beams are sent back by two mirror and recombined in observers eye

Beam AM1 is going against the aether wind whilst AM2 is traveling with and then against. The
times to do this can be shown to be different and so should induce an interference pattern
between the beams
No interference pattern was noticed even when the apparatus was rotated through 90
degrees, and the experiment repeated at different altitudes and different times of the year
Therefore, the result was No motion of the Earth relative to the aether was detectable
4.3 discuss the role of the Michelson-Morley experiments in making determinations about
competing theories
Science progresses as a result of validation of hypotheses by experimentation
From a hypothesis, predictions are made as to what would happen if an experiment were to
be performed
If when the experiment was performed, the results are not in agreement with prediction, the
hypothesis is incorrect
A null result from the MM experiments showed that the hypothesis was incorrect
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A null result from the MM experiments showed that the hypothesis was incorrect
The MM experiment did however give evidence for Einstein's theory, which required no
aether to function
4.4 outline the nature of inertial frames of reference
An inertial frame of reference is one that is moving with constant velocity or is at rest; that is,
the Law of inertia holds
A non-inertial frame of reference is one that is accelerating. In such frames observers have to
postulate the existence of pseudo forces to maintain Newton's Laws
4.5 discuss the principle of relativity
"The laws of mechanics are the same for a body at rest and a body moving with constant
Therefore, no experiment can be done in an inertial frame of reference to determine whether
it is stationary or moving with constant velocity
Time regarded independent of spaced and a fixed frame of reference to which all motion
could be compared - Newtonian relativity
4.6 describe the significance of Einstein's assumption of the constancy of the speed of light
Constant speed of light (3x10^8m/s)
No need for an absolute frame of reference, therefore aether not needed
Comes to conclusions of length contraction, mass dilation and time dilation which are
unobservable at speeds other than significant fractions of the speed of light
4.7 identify that if c is constant then space and time become relative
Consider a spacecraft travelling at 0.5c and someone shines a light beam in the direction of
motion. Prior to Einstein these two speeds would have added together, so that the light beam
was said to be going 1.5c
If c is constant however, time and distance need to change to compensate. That is, space and
time become relative
4.8 discuss the concept that length standards are defined in terms of time in contrast to the
original metre standard
The metre was originally one ten millionth of the distance between the equator and the North
Pole this distance was marked on a platinum-iridium bar and copies were made
Following advances in accurate measurement of light wavelength this measure was changed
to one defined by the wavelength of the light emitted by krypton-86 when excited in a
discharge tube
Today, the metre is defined as 'the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a
This means that distance is defined in terms of time, and acknowledges the relativity of space
and time
4.9 explain qualitatively and quantitatively the consequence of special relativity in relation to:
The relativity of simultaneity
Two events A and B separated by a distance 'l' will be simultaneous if the observer at A
records event at A occurring at time t, and that from B occurring at time t + l/c (or
alternatively, the light arrives at the mid-point at the same time)
Assume a train travelling at relativistic speed with an observer in the carriage and an observer
standing on the side of the tracks
When the mid-point of the train is exactly lined up with the observer outside, two
lightning bolts hit the ends of the train
The observer on the track sees the light at the same time, and so perceives it
The observer inside however, sees the front flash first because the train 'catches up' to
the light, and the back flash has to travel faster
Therefore, the events are not necessarily simultaneous in all reference frames, in fact, in
most cases, they are not
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most cases, they are not

The equivalence between mass and energy
When work is done on an object its kinetic energy is increased
As speed approaches c, work is still done but the amount of kinetic energy added is
This goes into E=mc2
Where m=
Length contraction
The length of a moving object appears to contract in the direction of motion relative to a
stationary observer with the following relationship: where lv is the moving length and l0 is the
stationary length

Time dilation
A moving frame of reference appears to go slower relative to a stationary observer with the
following relationship where tv is the 'moving' time and t0 is the 'stationary' time

Mass dilation
A moving objects mass is greater than when its stationary with the following relationship
where mv is the moving mass and m0 is the stationary mass

4.10 discuss the implications of mass increase, time dilation and length contraction for space
Time dilation and length contraction could theoretically allow exceptionally long space
journeys within reasonable periods of time, as judged by the travellers. However, relativity
also indicates that the cost of energy to do this would be prohibitive (mass dilation)
4.11 gather and process information to interpret the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment

9.2 Space Page 8

4.12 perform an investigation to help distinguish between non-inertial and inertial frames of
Aim: To distinguish between inertial and non-inertial frames of reference
1. Place a set of scales in a lift
2. Measure the weight of a person before they enter the lift (i.e. in a stationary frame of
3. Make measurement of the weight of the person when the lift is accelerating, at constant
speed and decelerating to rest
Theory: in all inertial frames of reference, the measured weight should be the same as there are no
external forces that don't cancel out, whereas in an accelerating frame, pseudo forces apply and so
the measured weight changes
4.13 analyse and interpret some of Einstein's thought experiments involving mirrors and trains
and discuss the relationship between thought and reality
Idea behind thought experiments is that the logic is sound even though the ideas cannot be
scientifically tested due to technical limitations
e.g. imagine himself on a train travelling at the speed of light while holding a mirror at arms
length in front of his face. Would he see his reflection in the mirror?
If yes, then an outside observer would see the light travelling at 2c, violating the
constancy of light
If no, then the light could not 'catch up' to the mirror and he could tell he was moving,
violating relativity
Such thought experiments assisted Einstein in his formulation of the special theory of relativity
4.14 analyse information to discuss the relationship between theory and the evidence supporting
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4.14 analyse information to discuss the relationship between theory and the evidence supporting
it, using Einstein's predictions based on relativity that were made many years before evidence was
available to support it
Many of Einstein's predictions were not able to be verified for years after he first postulated
Mostly this was due to the lack of appropriate technology
Nevertheless scientists came to accept Einstein's work and in time all his predictions were
experimentally corroborated
Mass dilation and mass-energy transformations:
In particle accelerators, designers need to account for the increasing mass of charged
particles as they are accelerated to higher and higher speeds to ensure they are
synchronised to continue to gain speed
Energy released in radioactive decay and nuclear reactors and explosions provides
irrefutable evidence for the conversion of mass into energy

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Saturday, 23 October 2010
10:15 AM

Potential Energy in a gravitational field

Relativity Equations

Force due to gravitational field (on Earth)

Projectile Motion Equations

Kepler's Third Law

Centripetal force

Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation

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