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Department of Physics

Physics 8.01

A painter pulls on each rope with a constant force of magnitude F . The painter has mass

m1 and the platform has mass m2 .

a) Draw free body force diagrams for the plank and man. Is there something wrong

with this picture?

Solutions

a) Draw free body force diagrams for the plank and man. Is there something wrong

with this picture?

Solution: Since the pulleys are both massless and frictionless, the tension in each rope is

equal to the magnitude F of the force the painter applies to each. The platform exerts an

upward normal force on the painter; the magnitude of this force is denoted N . The

painter pulls the ropes downward, so the ropes exert an equal and opposite upward force

!

on the painter. There is also a gravitational force m1 g on the painter.

The ropes exert upward forces on the platform. The painter exerts a downward normal

force on the platform (this contact force is part of an action-reaction pair). The

!

gravitational force on the platform is downward and given by m2 g . The force diagram

on the platform is shown in the figure below.

If we consider just the pulley above the painters head, there is a nonzero horizontal force

to the left due to the tension in the rope. So the painter must actually pull the rope slightly

to the left to balance this force.

Solution: Let a1 denote the magnitude of the acceleration of the painter. Let a2 denote

the magnitude of the acceleration of the platform. The painter and the platform have the

same acceleration upwards; these two magnitudes are equal, and we denote the common

acceleration by the symbol a :

a1 = a2 ! a . (1)

Applying Newtons Second Law to the painter in the vertical direction yields

j : 2 F + N ! m g = m a. (2)

1 1

! !

Applying Newtons Second Law F2 = m2 a to the platform yields

j : 2F ! N ! m2 g = m2 a . (3)

By adding Equations (2) and (3), we can eliminate the normal force entirely with the

result

4F ! (m1 + m2 )g 4F

a= = !g (5)

m1 + m2 m1 + m2

Alternative Solution

We can also treat the painter and platform as a single system; then the internal forces do

not appear on the force diagram. The gravitational force acting on the system is

!

(m1 + m2 ) g . The four ropes each act on the platform with an equal upward vertical force.

The force diagram is shown below.

which can be solved for the acceleration yielding the result as given in Equation (5).

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