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NOTE

This manual describes the laboratory experiment used during the 1996 - 1997

academic year. Significant changes have been made since then, and the manual used

during the current academic year is in NOT available yet on the WEB. Hardcopies

can be purchased at the bookstore.

Acceleration of Gravity

Purpose

The purpose of this lab is to measure the constant acceleration g due to gravity near the

earth's surface by two different methods. The value of g at the University of Rochester is

9.8039 m/s2. You will do this by performing two different experiments:

Introduction

(2.1)

where G is Newton's gravitational constant, is the mass of the earth and r is the

distance to the center of the earth. Inasmuch as the radius of the earth is very large

compared to laboratory dimensions, an object near the surface of the earth, r is

approximately constant and equal to the radius of the earth, . Thus an object near the

surface of the earth will experience a nearly constant acceleration,

(2.2)

(There are instruments which are sensitive enough to measure the difference in g due to

the difference in Re of a few meteres. The experiments that you are going to do in this

laboratory, needless to say, are not that sensitive).

Constant Acceleration

You will consider the effects of constant acceleration g . It is useful to recall the result

due to any constant acceleration a . If the body, initially at rest, is subject to a constant

acceleration a , then its subsequent displacement s, is given by,

(2.3)

where t is the length of time over which the acceleration has been acting. By measuring

the displacement as a function of time elapsed after starting from rest, the acceleration

can be determined.

measurement of s and t.. In Experiment 2B, The Atwood Machine, the acceleration of

gravity is "slowed down" so that one measures a smaller acceleration a (presumably more

accurate). This acceleration is related to g by the equation given below (2.4).

Prelab Homework

The prelab homework must be done at home and handed to the lab TA before you start

the lab.

Questions

1. a) Using the known values of the mass of the earth and the radius of the earth.

Calculate the value of g.

2. Derive equation 2.3 for the distance that a body moves under an acceleration a. .

(2.4)

where M1 and M2 are the two masses, a is the acceleration of the masses and g is the

acceleration due to gravity.

While this may seem to be the most obvious method of measuring g, it was not practical

until the advent of modern electronic timers. The acceleration of gravity is measured by

allowing a steel ball to fall, after starting at rest, and then applying the equation for

accelerated motion. A free fall timer is used in this experiment.

Figure 2.1

Check List

2. Position the target pad directly under the ball release mechanism.

4. Now make a test run by clamping a ball into the release mechanism. Close the release

mechanism by pushing on the dowel pin as shown, and then tightening the thumbscrew to

lock the ball in place. Turn the timer on and press reset. Finally, turn the thumbscrew

counter-clockwise to release the ball which should then drop on the middle of the target

pad. The ball falls a distance measured from the bottom of the ball to the top of the plate.

For five different arbitrary distances (measured from the bottom of the ball in the ball

release to the top of the pad) measure five free fall times. Measure the distance each time

also(i.e. you make pairs of measurements of t and h.).

Atwood's machine is shown in the diagram Figure 2.2. The arrangement of the weights

minimizes the effects of random errors so this is a fairly accurate method for measuring

g. Since this experiment can be done without the use of electronic timers, it was one of

the original ways to measure g accurately. (Had accurate timers been available it is

doubtful that this method would have found favor. So, this method is mainly of historic

interest).

Ideally, the pulley would be firmly supported and frictionless. The cord connecting the

two masses would be unstretchable and massless. To the extent that the cord does not

stretch, the motion of the system is determined by the motion of either weight alone.(i.e.

The length of the cord is constant.) The acceleration due to gravity can be found from the

formula,

(2.5)

where M1 and M2 are the masses , and a is the acceleration of the masses. Because

g is constant, we see that a must be constant. The formula, ,

The experiment works best when the sum of the masses is large when compared to the

difference between the masses. As is shown in the diagram, start off with the heavier

mass (labeled M1) above the lighter mass. Practice letting M1 fall a few times before

starting to take real measurements.

Procedure for Experiment 2B

1) For one combination of M1 and M2, use a meterstick and a stopwatch to make four

measurements of the time it takes for a weight starting at rest to traverse a distance s(

again measure s everytime you measure t ), Keep in mind that the difference in masses

should be kept small (no more than 80g) while keeping the sum of the two masses large

(400g to 500g). It is best if the same person who starts and stops the timer also drops the

mass. The other person should measure the distance. You should have a table of t and s

pairs. Also record and .

2) Now change and and repeat the above procedure three more times, giving you a

total of four sets of measurements. Keep the sum of the two masses constant, while

changing the difference between the two masses by moving weights from one to the

other.

1) Calculate the average time and the uncertainty (i.e. the standard deviation of t ).

Also calculate and s . Do this for each sample of five measurements.

2) Plot including error bars, , (i.e. the standard deviation) on the y-axis versus the

square of including the error bars on the x-axis. (How is the standard deviation of the

square oft related to the standard deviation of t , (See Appendix, Error Analysis). Using a

ruler, find and draw the "best" straight line through the points. The slope is g/2.

3) Now calculate g from the data for each of the four distances and find average g +/-

[Delta]g. Compare this average and error to the value from the slope and to the accepted

value of g.

1) By how many standard deviations do your answers differ from the accepted value?

2) Does the plot intercept the origin, and if not, what are possible explanations for this?

2) From the data compute and for each of the four data sets. (See Appendix on

Propagation of Errors.)

3) Plot a vs. (M1 - M2)/(M1 + M2). Show the uncertainty in a but you may assume that

there is no uncertainty in or . Fit a line through the points making sure the fit line

passes close to the error bars of all the points. Although the line should pass through the

origin, do not force it to. The slope of the "best" line through these points is g .

1) How does the value of g from the slope compare to the accepted value?

3) Does your "best" straight line go through the origin? If not, what errors are indicated?

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