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For my physics coursework I am going to investigate how certain variables effect the rate of decent on a card cone.

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Year 10 physics coursework


For my physics coursework I am going to investigate how certain variables effect the rate of decent on a card cone,






Card thickness




I will be using the diameter as a variable. I will time how long it takes the cone to reach the floor from when it reaches terminal velocity.

Equipment list

  • Card
  • Scissors
  • A pair of compasses
  • Pencil
  • Meter rule
  • String
  • Small Paper clips
  • Stopwatch


Diagram of experiment layout:

Preliminary method

-First of all I will find the terminal velocity for my cone, to do this I will drop the cone from the ceiling and watch for the cone to get to a steady speed, this will not be accurate at all as the terminal velocity will be an “eye estimate”.  

-Then I will hang a length string from the ceiling the same length as the terminal velocity so it is easily visible for timing purposes.

-I will cut the cone diameter to a specified size.

-The cone will be dropped from the ceiling, and the time will be recorded from the time it reaches terminal velocity to the time it reaches the floor.

-To keep the experiment fair I will take two results for each drop and find the average, I will keep the cone the same weight by using paperclips.

-The variable is the diameter I will use scissors to change this.

Preliminary experiment

In my preliminary experiment I used the diameters; 18cm, 16cm, 14cm and 12cm,

The weight of the preliminary cone was 5.7grams

...read more.


Newton's laws of motion

In physics, three laws that form the basis of Newtonian mechanics:

(1) Unless acted upon by an unbalanced force, a body at rest stays at rest, and a moving body

continues moving at the same speed in the same straight line.

(2) An unbalanced force applied to a body gives it an acceleration proportional to the force

(and in the direction of the force) and inversely proportional to the mass of the body.

(3) When a body A exerts a force on a body B, B exerts an equal and opposite force on A that is, to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Speed and distance

In order to understand movement and what causes it, we need to be able to describe it.

Speed is a measure of how fast something is moving. Speed is measured by dividing the distance travelled by the time taken to travel that distance. Hence speed is distance moved in unit time.

Speed is a scalar quantity in which the direction of travel is not important, only the rate of travel.

It is often useful to represent motion using a graph. Plotting distance against time in a distance-time graph enables one to calculate the total distance travelled. The gradient of the graph represents the speed at a particular point, the instantaneous speed. A straight line on the distance-time graph corresponds to a constant speed.

Velocity and acceleration

Velocity is the speed

...read more.


 This is because the cone with the smaller diameter will produce less air resistance (drag) but will have the same weight to make it drop therefore dropping through the air at a faster rate.  It produces less air resistance (drag) because more air passes smoothly over the smaller diameter cone and less air passes smoothly over the larger diameter cone.

So my experiment has been successful in providing some proof to support my prediction as all results show the pattern I predicted would occur.

Anomalous results: human error
I had no anomalous results, if I did they may be due to human error, one or two results may have been wrong because I misread them or wrote them down incorrectly. I would have clearly identified in them my results and would not have used them in the conclusion.

Extending the Investigation

Other variables
To extend on my investigation I could have used more variables and expanded on my results and got a more accurate average, resulting in a firmer conclusion.


I could use equipment that could time the decent or the cone, e.g: a multi-flash photograph that takes several photos over a period of time so that the speed could be worked out and time taken.

More repetitions

If I had done more drops for each diameter I would have gained a more accurate result as I would have a wider range of results improving accuracy.

...read more.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Forces and Motion section.

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