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3c Free fall and motion graphs

Acceleration due to gravity, g; detailed experimental methods of measuring g are not required. Terminal speed.

We Are Learning To

Representation by graphical methods of uniform and non-uniform acceleration; interpretation of velocity-time and displacement-time graphs for uniform and nonuniform acceleration; significance of areas and gradients.

Recap gravity lots of demos!

On the Earth gravity pulls with a force of 10 Newtons for every kilogram (10 N/kg).

Weight (N) = mass (kg) x gravitational field strength (N/kg)

A bag of sugar has a mass of 1kg. The Earths gravity pulls it with a force of 10N

Galileo Galilei 1564 - 1642

On Earth a free-falling object has an acceleration of 9.8 ms-2


Galileo Tennis Balls

Note: Ask students what will happen when you drop two tennis balls. Both hit the floor as expected. Then pass the tennis balls to a student. One is heavier than the other. One tennis ball has been filled with water. This will challenge their thinking that heavier objects fall faster. Heavy tennis ball Normal tennis ball


air Self sealing needles

Galileo Orange and Grape

Note: Stand on a desk and ask students to observe which object hits the ground first, (1) two oranges (2) an orange and a grape. The orange and the grape should hit the ground at the same time. Misconception: heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects.

Galileo Paper

Note: get two pieces of paper, crumple up the one piece and then drop them both at the same time. The crumpled up paper hits the floor first even though its got the same mass as the other! Why?

Galileo Coin and Paper Trick

Note: Cut out a circular piece of paper slightly smaller than a real coin. Drop them both and the coin will hit the floor first (the air resistance on the coin takes longer to build up, so it reaches a higher terminal velocity). Then drop the coin and the paper coin together (paper coin above real coin), they both hit the ground at the same time. Why?

Coin and Paper explanation

Before they fall:
The coin has a larger weight, but they start accelerating at the same rate.

Shortly after drop:

The paper quickly reaches its terminal velocity The coin remains accelerating

Just before the hit the ground:

The air resistance on the coin has increased, but It is still accelerating!

Galileo Guinea and Feather

Note: Invert the tube containing the coin and feather (with air in first). Then use the vacuum pump to extract the air. Invert again and the feather falls at the same rate as the coin.

Free Fall Weighing Scales

Note: Put a 1 kg mass onto a analogue weighing scale and then jump off a table holding the scales. Choose a weight to give a significant deflection of the needle. Students observe the dial on the scale as you fall with it. The dial should move anti-clockwise throughout the fall.
Safety: Take care jumping off the table (do not allow a student to jump off the table). Make sure that the weight and pan is secured to the balance.

Free Fall - Pendulum

Note: Students are asked to predict what will happen to a swinging pendulum if it is allowed to freefall. Hold a pendulum at an angle and then jump off a table. Students observe the pendulum as it falls. The pendulum should be frozen as it falls. Safety: take care jumping off the table (do not allow a student to jump off the table).

Free Fall Noisy Toy

Note: The sound toy has a box inside that makes a noise in the tube as the box falls inside the tube. Stand on a table and jump off carefully as you invert the toy. Observe the noise of the toy as the teacher falls.
Safety: Take care jumping off the table (do not allow a student to jump off the table).

Free Fall Bottle With Hole

Note: Fill a bottle (with a small hole in the side) with water. Observe the stream of water coming out of the bottle as the bottle is dropped into a dustbin.




Practical finding the acceleration due to gravity

Student practical- finding the acc due to gravity g PHOTO

Light gate Light gate


Terminal Velocity
Note this can be skipped until Newtons Laws are covered it may be clearer then!


Terminal Velocity
Consider a skydiver:

1) At the start of his jump the air resistance is _______ so he _______ downwards. 2) As his speed increases his air resistance will _______ 3) Eventually the air resistance will be big enough to _______ the skydivers weight. At this point the forces are balanced so his speed becomes ________ - this is called TERMINAL VELOCITY

Terminal Velocity
Consider a skydiver:

4) When he opens his parachute the air resistance suddenly ________, causing him to start _____ ____.

5) Because he is slowing down his air resistance will _______ again until it balances his _________. The skydiver has now reached a new, lower ________ _______.

SUVAT problems

Object being thrown upwards (against gravity)

Object falling due to gravity

g=+ s=+ v=+



A coin was released at rest at the top of a well. It took 1.6 s to it the bottom of the well. Calculate: (i) the distance fallen by the coin v= u=0 s=? t = 1.6 a = -9.8 s = ut + at2 s = -12.5 m (- indicates 12.5 m downwards) v = u + at s = (u + v)t 2 s = ut + at2

v2 = u2 + 2as
(ii) its speed just before impact

v=? u=0 s= t = 1.6 a = -9.8

v = u + at
v = -15.7ms-1 (- indicates downward velocity)

Questions page 121

Motion Graphs

Consider a ball thrown directly upwards and caught when it returns. The ball rises to a maximum height of 2 metres
What would the following graphs look like?
1. Distance-time 2. Displacement-time 3. Velocity-time

Think about what the gradient of the line represents on each graph and what the area underneath the line represents on a velocity-time graph)

Difference between a distance-time graph and a displacement-time graph

Displacement-time graph for an object projected upwards

Maximum height



Distance-time graph for an object projected upwards

Maximum height



Difference between a speed-time graph and a velocity-time graph

Velocity-time graph for an object projected upwards