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Verify Newton’s Second Law Experimentally

♦ Recall that Newton’s Second Law states that the acceleration of a certain mass is
 
proportional to the net force exerted on it, or F = ma .
 
What does F = ma mean? We all know - it just makes sense
most of the time.
• It’s easier to push a little car out of a snow bank than a big
• A door will accelerate faster and slam harder if we give it a
big push instead of a little push.
• If you need to accelerate quickly, you throw off your heavy
book bag.
• The more friction, the more something slows down.

♥ Newton’s Second Law can be written as proportionality statements where one variable
is related to another.
An example of a proportionality Another example of a proportionality statement
statement could be something like 1
height ∝ age , which reads could be V ∝ , which reads “volume is
“height is proportional to age”. It inversely proportional to pressure”. As the
suggests that as age increases, so volume of a container of gas decreases, the
does height. pressure increases. This occurs in our chest
cavity when we exhale air from our lungs.

♣ Interpret the proportionality statements based on Newton’s Second Law.

  
  if F = ma …
if F = ma … if F = ma …
   1
then F ∝ m then F ∝ a then m ∝ 

statement in words

♠ We can prove Newton’s Second Law if we can show that
⇒ increasing the force on a certain mass increases its acceleration,
⇒ increasing the mass decreases the acceleration caused by a certain force, or
⇒ increasing the acceleration of a certain mass takes a larger force.

In any case, we need to be able to measure force, mass, and acceleration. Measuring force is
easy with a calibrated spring scale. Measuring mass is easy with a balance. How can we
determine an object’s acceleration?
Acceleration can be defined as the rate of
change of velocity - it talks about how
quickly an object‘s speed increases or

a( ∆t )
∆d = vi ∆t +
The equation in the box
deals with acceleration.

Let vi = 0 - that means

that the object begins at
rest and rearrange the
equation for acceleration,a.

⇒ So if we know the time it takes

an object to travel a certain
distance from rest, we can
determine its acceleration.

To Do List:
1. Choose one of the Newton’s Second Law proportionality statements to test. Write the
statement as a question. The proportionality statement will serve as the hypothesis.
2. Design and carry out an experiment to test your hypothesis.
a) Decide which variable depends on which based on your question.
b) Decide on a way to vary and measure the independent variable.
c) Decide on a way to measure the dependent variable.
d) Decide on a way to collect data. Make it so you can collect lots of data.
e) Record how you will conduct your experiment.
f) Conduct your experiment with multiple repetitions. Record observations.
g) Graph and analyze your observations. Assess your hypothesis.
3. Write a technical report following technical report format including an Introduction,
Methods, Results, and Discussion section.