# Centripetal Force

Physics 1020.90

Centripetal Forces
Lab Report: Due 2/23 Standards: Spreadsheet, Graphing, Results/Conclusion

In today’s lab, we will use simulated data (aka “fake data”) to enable us to use Excel to analyze that data and determine what variables the centripetal force may depend upon, and what the relationship may be. Remember that Centripetal Force is the force necessary to push-or-pull something in a circle – it changes the direction portion of the velocity vector, rather than the speed. It is not a “real” force, like the force of gravity, string tension, support force, or friction – the centripetal force is simply any one of these “real” forces that happen to currently be pushing something in a circle. Just about any force may act as a centripetal force. (Do not confuse this concept of “not real” with the fictitious centrifugal force, which in a non-accelerating reference frame is really just a manifestation of inertia. If something is moving in a circle, you must be able to identify the force that is causing the change in direction, acting as the centripetal force.) Here is our imaginary experimental set-up: Ftension on ball You have a tennis ball on a string, which passes through a length of PVC pipe. The string is then attached to a force sensor which measures the force of tension in the string. You will hold the PVC with one hand, and the force sensor in the other, and swing the ball around so that it travels in a smooth circle, in as nearly a horizontal plane as is possible. Because the tension must be the same in all parts of the string, we will assume that the force measured by the sensor is the same as the string tension which pulls the whirling ball in a circle.

Ftension on sensor

Force Sensor

What are the variables that may change in this scenario? We may change: the mass of the ball; the velocity of the ball; the radius of the circle in which the ball travels. These are the independent variables, the Force is the dependent (y-axis) variable. You will be given an Excel workbook which contains three worksheets (the little tabs at the bottom) filled with simulated data. Each worksheet represents data from a different subexperiment. Your job is to determine the relationship between the measured centripetal force

Centripetal Force

Physics 1020.90

and the independent variable…the use of charts is strongly encouraged. If your relationship appears linear (and you can justify that you do believe it’s linear), you’re done! If your relationship does not appear linear, you must first try to determine the actual relationship (is the independent variable squared? Square-root? Inverse?), and then manipulate the data to produce a linear graph (ask me when you get there if you don’t understand what this means!). Expected outcome of this lab: (I.e. What should you do for the lab report?) • • • • A chart with trendline for each of the data sets. You may put multiple data-sets (for one sub-experiment) on one chart, if this seems helpful (and you can figure out how). A chart for any manipulated data, showing a linear relationship between dependent and independent variables. A written analysis of what you believe to be the relationship between the dependent and each of the independent variables. A synthesis of the sub-experiments into one over-all formula for the Centripetal Force. Now, you can find this formula in your book…so your data had better justify your conclusion. It is better to come to an incorrect conclusion based on your data than it is to “fudge” your data! That said, you ought to be able to reach a pretty accurate conclusion.

Such a lab-report as described above may meet the following standards: • Spreadsheet: Can use a spreadsheet to manipulate data, including but not necessarily limited to: mathematical operations on columns of numbers; making graphs. I will need to be able to check your formulas. You can submit a spreadsheet to the D2L Dropbox, or print the formulas on the spreadsheet (I can show you how to do this!) Graphing: Can define independent and dependent variables in an experimental procedure. Can plot columns of data in Excel, and use trendlines to identify relationships (i.e. linear or quadratic) between variables. Can use measures of the “goodness” of a line fit to determine the correctness of a relationship. Results (description: The students can summarize the results of an experiment, and interpret the
findings of the data, explaining clearly why the data shows what they say it shows.)