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Investigate the stability of blocks by placing them on to a board and raising it until they fall.

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Physics Coursework                                                                                   By Alex Ratcliffe


I am going to investigate the stability of blocks by placing them on to a board and raising it until they fall.

The evidence I will need to collect is: the height and centre of mass for each block and the angle at which they fall.

I will need to use five regular blocks, the board I will use to raise the blocks must be flat and level and likewise so must the surface I am working on.

I will use my scientific knowledge of center of mass to predict at what point the block will fall over. I will raise the board until the block falls over and then I will record the angle at which it falls. I will vary the height of the block each time, everything else should remain the same. I must make sure that the table and board are flat. I can do this using a level. I will need to take into account that the angle will vary each time due to human error. I will tip each block three times and the average out my results. This way the chance of a large human error is reduced and the results will be more accurate than just one single try. I predict that the tallest block will fall over at the acutest angle.

I will use the idea of centre of mass in this experiment.

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3rd attempt

Angle (◦)

































Analyzing Evidence

The evidence shows that the tallest block fell at the acutest angle and the shortest block fell at the largest angle.

The graph I have drawn (on graph paper) has a negative correlation. It shows how as the height is increased, the angle at which the block falls is decreased. My line of best fit is a smooth curve and links all the blocks together (there were no anomalies).

On the graph I have drawn up to my curved line from the height 4cm and from 8cm. I tried to discover if the height of the block was directly proportional to the angle at which the block tipped. Here are my results:-

4cm = 46.5º

8cm = 28.5º

If they had of been directly proportional to one another then I would have expected the angle to halve if the height was doubled. I doubled the height, but the angle did not halve. This means that the angle and the height are not directly proportional to one another or my results are wrong.

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        Further work I might be able to do might include:    

  • Measuring the mass of the block and measuring the density using the formula Density = Mass x Volume. I do not think this would affect the angle the block falls at because the centre of mass will be in the same place, regardless of its mass or density.  
  • Doing the experiment with a wider range of block heights. This should make the graph more accurate because the more data there is, the more accurate the line of best fit becomes.
  • Trying different block widths to try and prove that the block tips when its centre of mass is outside its base. Use a large range of widths, keeping the height the same.
  • Try the experiment more than three times and average out the results. The more times the experiment is tried, the more accurate it becomes.
  • Change the center of mass. Move it up to the top or to the bottom, keeping the height the same. This should make a considerable difference to the result.
  • Try more heights on the graph to try and find out if the angle and height are directly proportional. Try a wider range. E.g. 12cm and 24cm.

...read more.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Height and Weight of Pupils and other Mayfield High School investigations section.

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