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Investigating the factors that affect the velocity of an object moving in a circle.

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Saeed Mian Physics Coursework

Investigating the factors that affect the velocity of an object moving in a circle.

Preliminary Experiment


Our aim is to investigate the factors that affect the velocity of an object moving in a circle. In addition, our aim for the preliminary is to devise a suitable method to make our proper plan a more efficient and accurate method.

Background Information

Whenever an object moves in a circular path the object is accelerating because the velocity is constantly changing direction. All accelerations are caused by a net force acting on an object. In the case of an object moving in a circular path, the net force is a special force called the centripetal force, not centrifugal. Centripetal is Latin for "centre seeking". Therefore, a centripetal force is a centre seeking force that means that the force is always directed toward the centre of the circle. Without this force, an object will simply continue moving in straight-line motion.


The formula for centripetal force is where m represents the mass of the object v is the speed (magnitude of the velocity) and r is the radius from the centre of the circle to the object. A centripetal force ends up being a net force and a net force always causes acceleration in the direction of the net force. Therefore, if the force is centre seeking (centripetal)

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I predict that the larger the radius of the circle the faster the bung on the end of the string will turn. I also predict that the increase in speed of the turning bung will be directly proportional to the increase in size of the radius. Therefore, as the radius increases the velocity should decrease in direct proportion to our enlargement in radius.

I predict this because image12.png Where f = force, m = mass, v = velocity and r = radius Therefore, the velocity squared will be directly proportional to the radius.



For this experiment, firstly we set up the experiment as in the diagram. We measured the length of the wire from the end of the plastic tubing to the centre of mass of the bung. The weight at the bottom of the experiment was set to 100g. We used 30cms as the initial length and timed the time it took to do 20 rotations on a horizontal plane. We used a stopwatch to record the timing and relied on human reaction to make the results accurate. To make sure the rotations were counted correctly we lined it up with an object in the background so it would be easier to pick out and see the one full rotation.

Variable: Radius of the Orbit




Crocodile Clip



Stop Clock

Metre Ruler

Preliminary Results

Radius Of Circle (cms)

Time Taken To Complete 20 Rotations (s)













Preliminary Conclusion

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Further work that could be done to provide additional relevant evidence would be to continue the experiment past two repeats. In addition, different experiments can be done with more rotations and larger radii. With these extensions the plan would remain the same with the experiment set up in the same way. The same variables will be kept constant with only the radius of the orbit being changed.

Furthermore, we could also do further experiments to see how other factors such as varying the weight of the bung or object at the end of the fishing wire will affect the velocity of an object moving in a circle. This can be done with the same method again and controlling the same factors as well as the radius of the orbit and the only variable would be the weight at the end of the fishing wire. The experiment could be done more accurately by using more technology such as motion sensors and a data logger as stated above.

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