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See how one factor affects the period of time a mass on the end of a spring takes to complete one whole oscillation.

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Introduction

Michael Deacon

Physics Coursework

Planning

Variables

The aim of these experiments will be to see how one factor affects the period of time a mass on the end of a spring takes to complete one whole oscillation.  One whole oscillation means the mass returning to its original position, be it the equilibrium or not.

I will look at the independent variables (variables which are not caused as a result of another variable).  The dependent variable in this case is time

  • Mass – the size of mass on the end of the spring.  Bigger mass may affect the time it takes
  • Length of spring – if the spring is longer, the mass would have further to travel and this will affect the time it takes to oscillate.
  • Tension of spring – the more tension in the spring may result in the mass oscillating faster as there would be more tension.  This would prevent the mass pulling the spring too far and thus mean the oscillating time would be shorter.
  • Gravity – the force of gravity would affect the mass, as if the gravity was less the mass would take longer to pull the spring down.  If the gravity were stronger, the mass would take longer to go back to the equilibrium.
  • Temperature – if the temperature changed, the spring would be more ductile and this could mean the spring would deform earlier than it would at room temperature.
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Middle

38.5

1000

42.5

1100

46

1200

49.5

1300

55*

* Beyond elastic limit (spring deformed)

As you can see an initial displacement of 10cm would take 1100 and above beyond the elastic limit, so I chose 10cm to give me a range of 100g – 1Kg, with 10cm of initial displacement.  The elastic limit is the amount of mass a spring can take before it deforms.  This will give me easy numbers to work with and enough information to draw a graph.

Prediction

I think that as I increase the mass on the end of the spring, the time for it to complete one oscillation will increase.  This is because of the equation F = ma, which states that the force is equal to mass times acceleration.  As I am keeping my initial displacement constant, all forces acting on the spring are constant.  This means as the force will stay the same in each

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Conclusion

Anomalous Results

We had just one anomalous result, and this was at 700g.  An anomalous result is one that doesn’t fit the pattern, or lie on the curve of best fit.  The most likely reason for this is a slight inaccuracy in measuring.  We can see on the graph that it is not far from where it should have been so no major error took place.  The majority of reasons are down to human error, such as inaccurate measuring or timing.  The spring itself could’ve been the reason if it is not quite the same as the others.  It could’ve been used more than the others, which could affect the timings.

Changes to the Experiment

If I were to re-do this experiment, I would make some changes to it.  One of these would be to use a more accurate way of measuring the distances and times.  This would eliminate many errors and inaccuracies, especially with the timing, which is all down to the judgment and reactions of the timer.

Further Experiments

In order to further investigate further there are many experiments I could do.  One I could do is see if ductility affected the time, by heating up springs to different temperatures and keeping forces and mass constant, making temperature the only independent variable.

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Response to the question

The candidate has carried out a well-planned experiment to measure how changing the mass of a spring oscillator affects the time of oscillation. They have produced a well-presented written report. However, they have failed to have explicitly answered the question ...

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Response to the question

The candidate has carried out a well-planned experiment to measure how changing the mass of a spring oscillator affects the time of oscillation. They have produced a well-presented written report. However, they have failed to have explicitly answered the question in the form of a clearly-stated conclusion, and instead gone off topic by discussing the kinetic energy of the oscillating mass, which has very little relevance to the original question.

Level of analysis

The candidate has used the results of the experiment to calculate the average speed and kinetic energy of the oscillating mass. They have also analysed the results to identify an outlier, and discussed a potential cause for the outlying value. They used the results of their preliminary experiment well, in order to chose the best range to test the spring over without exceeding its elastic limit. However, it may have been better to instead find the limit of proportionality in order to only test the springs while they obeyed Hooke's Law, as this will have affected their results. Despite this, they have still managed to pick a suitable range of masses, and justified their decision well.
When planning the experiment, they have shown evidence of attempting to reduce the uncertainties, although it would have been better to use the heading 'reducing uncertainties' rather than 'fair testing'. Also, within this section, they decided to use different springs for each experiment. It is usually best to use the same spring as each spring will have a slightly different stiffness, and is unlikely to be affected by previous use unless stretched beyond its elastic limit (which was found in the preliminary experiment).
The candidate has shown evidence of strong logical reasoning and scientific understanding, particularly in their detailed explanation of their hypothesis - in which they described Newton's second Law and how it can be used to predict that the acceleration would decrease as the mass increases. They then carried out the experiment to demonstrate this relationship.

Quality of writing

Their quality of written communication is very good, and the report is presented well, in a logical order, with suitable sub-headings, tables, and a formal tone. The use of bullet point is also good as it makes the report much easier to read and be marked. There are no noticeable grammatical or spelling errors. Occasionally they have said things such as "I have chosen to make mass the variable, as this is the easiest variable to use in this experiment." This is not I good idea as it suggests they are being lazy - it is much better not to mention why they chose this - the examiner will just assume you could only pick one variable and just happened to pick mass - you don't need a good excuse!
They could also gone into a little more depth in some sections, for example giving suggestions for better measuring equipment they would have preferred to use.
Despite these small errors, the report reads well and their quality of written communication is very good.


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Reviewed by dragonkeeper13 28/06/2012

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