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# Investigating Force and Energy

Introduction
All life depends upon energy which allows us to move and interact with our environment. Formally energy is
defined as the ability or capacity to do work. Most of the energy on the earth comes from the sun. The sun's rays are
needed so that plants can make food. Animals and human beings use the energy found in food to operate their bodies and
muscles. The sun's energy is also stored in coal, wood, and oil, which are burnt to do work.
All energy originates from four fundamental forces: strong nuclear forces, weak nuclear forces, gravitational forces,
and electromagnetic forces. We find that these fundamental forces act to produce common forms of energy in our
environment. These forms include: thermal, light, sound, mechanical, electrical, chemical, and nuclear.
People often confuse energy, force, work, and power. Force is a push or a pull on an object. Energy is the ability to
do work. Work and energy are measured in the same units. The amount of work is determined by the strength of the force
used to move an object and the distance the object moves. Power measures the rate at which work is done.
In this activity we will explore the various ways energy is transferred to an object that result in changing its motion.
This motion will be observed as a”race” between two marbles. The winner of the race did so because of possessing more
energy. Was greater energy transferred to the winning marble due to its mass, starting height, or diameter? In the
following activities we will answer these questions.
Objectives for this Unit
1. Given the following list of terms, identify each term's correct definition.
Conversely, given definitions identify their correct terms. Acceleration,
force, kinetic energy, mass, potential energy, kinetic energy
2. Identify or describe the four fundamental forces and the forms of energy
they produce.
3. Given the formula for Newton’s second law, f = m X a, describe how
acceleration depends upon the relationship between mass of the object and
the force applied
4. Identify or describe the two types of energy and given the formula for
potential energy P.E. = m x g x h, explain the formula.
5. Identify the affect of position/height on the energy of an object
6. Identify the affect of mass on the energy of an object
Materials
Inclined plane, ramp, Meter stick, Newton scale, Various Marbles:
Diameter (cm) Mass (g)
Mass (kg)
Description
1- 2.54
12.5
0.0125
Rubber Ball
1- 2.54
66.8
0.0668
Steel Ball
2 - 2.54
20.0
0.0200
Yellow Glass
2 - 1.50
0.51
0.0051
Blue Glass
Types of Energy
The various forms of energy can be exhibited as two types, potential and kinetic energy. Potential is the amount of
stored energy and kinetic is the dynamic or energy due to the motion of the object.
Potential energy is the energy stored by an object as a result of its position or the position of its parts. A rock on a
table, a bowl of cereal, a stick of dynamite, and a tank of gasoline are all examples of objects that have energy stored in
atoms or molecules. The rock has potential energy because of its height that can be released and converted to kinetic
energy and heat, if it is dropped.
Potential Energy = mass
Where:
P.E. =
m=
g=
h=

x

acceleration of gravity x height

or P.E. = m x g x h

potential energy is equal to force (force = mass x acceleration) multiplied by distance. The result is a
unit of measurement labeled newton-meters. 1 newton-meter is a unit called a joule.
the mass of the object being considered
The acceleration of gravity on planet Earth, 9.8 meters / second 2. (i.e. an object that is dropped will
accelerate at a rate of 9.8 m/sec2)
height in meters that the object falls.