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How does an increased surface area change the time taken for a mass to fall?

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How does an increased surface area change the time taken for a mass to fall?


The aim of this investigation is to find out how the change in surface area changes the time for a mass to fall at certain heights.

To do this, I am going to use a large cup cake as a mass with a large surface area and a small cup to be the mass with a small surface area. They are going to both be the same mass to make this a fair test. The cup cakes are dropped at given heights and the time period will be the tine taken for it to reach the ground from when it starts to fall. With this, we can look at the times to see what affects the change in surface area has with a given mass.

 In my preliminary experiment, I am going to determine what mass is going to used, the minimum and maximum heights at which the cup cakes are going to be dropped for both and create a graph of the range of results to approximately know what range of results I should come up with when I am actually doing the experiment.

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Terminal velocity is achieved by Newton’s 1st law: Balanced forces do not affect the movement of an object: it remains stationary. But in this case Newton also says if the object is already moving it continues to move at the same speed and in the same direction.


  • Two 100.00cm rulers
  • 2.00g of plasticene
  • A large cup cake
  • A small cup cake
  • A stop watch
  • A Balance (to measure mass of cup cakes for fair test to 2 d.p.)
  • Sellotape
  • Right angled set square


  • Get all apparatus as listed above
  • Using a right angled triangle to make sure the ruler is 900 to the ground, place one 100cm ruler up against the wall and attach it to the wall firmly using sellotape.
  • Using the right angled triangle again, firmly attach the other 100cm ruler on top of the other 100cm to the wall using sellotape. The right angled triangle is used to keep the rulers at right angles to the ground so no anomalous results appear due to the rulers not being straight.
  • Place the large cup cake on the balance. It will be lighter then 0.33g. To make it to 0.33g which I am going to use for both cup cakes, add a little bit of plasticene at a time until it reaches 0.33g
  • Do the same as above but with the smaller cup cake to make it a fair test with both cup cakes being the same mass at 0.33g.
  • Remember to find the mass of the cup cakes each time before it is dropped to make sure it is a fair test.
  • Starting from 50.00cm, drop each cup cake 3 times so an average time can be recorded. Use the stopwatch to time how long it takes the cup cake to reach the ground. When dropping the cup cake, make sure it is dropped at exactly 50.0cm each turn by using the right angled set square level to the height. Measure from the bottom of the cup cake. Start the timer when it starts dropping immediately and stop the timer as soon as the bottom of the cup cake reaches the bottom. Each cup cake must be dropped in the same way, with its bottom facing the floor. Make sure the cup cakes are dropped straight and that no winds are affecting the results or any obstacles i.e. the wall and windows open. Record all observations.
  • Repeat the above up to 240.00cm going up 10.00cm each time and recording all observations. Put all results into a results table.
  • Make sure it is a fair test.
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Some repeated values were a little bit off than the others but were not that dramatic. This is probably due to the reaction time of starting and stopping the stopwatch as stated above and could be improved. The range of readings may have also been improved by making more readings at the start when the cup cake is first released. This could give more detail and information how much more the smaller cup cake accelerates than the larger cup cake. There is no point in making range of readings more than 240.0.cm because from using scientific evidence, we know that terminal velocity will carry on until it reaches a halt on the ground. To improve data, more readings may have been taken. Instead of taking readings every 10.00cm, we could have taken readings every 5.00cm to produce more data so we could reinforce our conclusion.

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