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subjected only to the constant acceleration of gravity. Projectile motion occurs in many activities such as

bullet shot from guns, basketball thrown into hoops, bottles tossed into garbage cans and etc.

Galileo was the first person who accurately described projectile motion. Because of the drawings

of Niccolo Tartaglia, Galileo realized that a projectile followed a curved path which is called parabola

(Katz, 1998). Also, Galileo stated that a projectile was acted upon by two forces, vertical and horizontal.

The vertical force was from gravity, which pulled it to earth at 9.8 m/s.

The factors influencing trajectory or the flight path are projection angle, projection speed, relative

projection height. Projection angle is the direction of projection with respect to the horizontal trajectory

shape dependent on angle of projection in absence of air resistance. If angle is perfectly vertical,

trajectory also vertical while if angle oblique, trajectory is parabolic. If angle is horizontal, trajectory is

half parabola. Another factor is projection speed. Projection speed is the magnitude of projection velocity.

When projection angle and other factors constant, projection speed determines length of trajectory

(range). For vertical projectile, speed determines apex and for oblique projectile, speed determines height

of apex and horizontal range. Relative projection is the difference between projection height and landing

height. When projection speed is constant, greater relative projection height provides longer flight time

which increases horizontal displacement.

For a ball shot horizontally off a table with an initial speed, v o, the horizontal distance travelled

by the ball is given by x = vot, where t is the time the ball is in the air. Air friction is assumed to be

negligible. The vertical distance the ball drops in time t is given by y =

1 2

The initial velocity of the ball can be determined by measuring x and y. The time of flight of the ball can

be found using: t =

2y

g

x

t .

To predict the range, x, of a ball shot off with an initial velocity at an angle, , above the horizontal, first

predict the time of flight using the equation for the vertical motion: y = y0 + (v0 sin) t

1 2

where yo is the initial height of the ball and y is the position of the ball when it hits the floor. Then use x =

(v0 cos) t to find the range.

PROJECTILE RANGE VERSUS ANGLE

The range is the horizontal distance, x, between the muzzle of the Launcher and the place where the ball

hits, given by x = (v0cos)t, where v0 is the initial speed of the ball as it leaves the muzzle, is the angle

of inclination above horizontal, and t is the time of flight.

For the case in which the ball hits on a place that is at the same level as the level of the muzzle of the

launcher, the time of flight of the ball will be twice the time it takes the ball the reach the peak of its

trajectory. At the peak, the vertical velocity is zero so vy = 0 = v0 sin gtpeak. Therefore, solving for the

time gives that the total time of flight is t = 2tpeak =

vo sin

.

g

For the case in which the ball is shot off at an angle off a table onto the floor time of flight is found using

the equation for the vertical motion:

y = y0 + v0 sin t

1 2

where yo is the initial height of the ball and y is the position of the ball when it hits the floor.

PROJECTILE PATH

The range is the horizontal distance, x, between the muzzle of the Launcher and the place where the ball

hits, given by x = v0t, where vo is the initial speed of the ball as it leaves the muzzle and t is the time of

flight. If the ball is shot horizontally, the time of flight of the ball will be

t=

x

vo

y=

1 2

Substituting for t into the equation for y gives

y=

g

) 2

2

2 vo x

g

).

2

2 vo

Katz, Victor J. (1998), A History of Mathematics: An Introduction (2nd ed.), Reading: Addison Wesley

Longman

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