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Investigation of the Factors Affecting the Rate at Which an Object Falls.

Extracts from this document...


Investigation of the Factors Affecting the

Rate at Which an Object Falls

Background knowledge

All objects, when no force is acting upon them, shall remain at the same steady speed, without accelerating or decelerating; so if an object is still, it shall not move and if it is moving then it shall continue moving so long as no force is acting upon them. This was explained by Newton’s first law. However it must also be noted that the meaning of “no force” may also be understood as “all forces acting upon a certain object balances each other out” so the object is in equilibrium.

    Liquids and gases are known as fluids. If an object passes through either of these two mediums there shall be a force acting in the opposite direction known as “friction”. One very important type of fluid friction is air resistance.

    If there was no force acting upon two falling objects (both having a different mass), other than gravity, they shall both fall with the same rate of acceleration regardless of their mass. This is explained by Newton’s second law which states force = mass x acceleration, so acceleration is equal to force/mass. Because the force (of gravity) is dependant upon the mass, all objects will have the same rate of acceleration. Consider the following:



          means “the force of gravity”.

...read more.




  1. One person stands and holds a metre ruler, whilst a second holds a single paper cup to the height of 1 metre (the top of the ruler).
  2. The latter drops the paper cup and a third who is watching starts the timer as soon as the paper cup is released and stops the timer when the paper cup reaches the ground.
  3. The one who times fills in the table of results.
  4. The previous 3 steps are repeated two more times.
  5. The previous 4 steps are repeated 5 more times but with varying numbers of paper cups (rather than “a single paper cup” as in procedure no. 1): 2,3,4,5 and 6 respectively.
  6. The previous 5 steps are repeated but rather than dropping the paper cup(s) from 1 metre (as in procedure no. 1), is dropped from 1.5 metres firstly and then 2 metres.


Safety isn’t really an issue in this investigation. However precaution should be taken when dealing with paper, ruler and electrical equipment (i.e. the stopwatch). The paper cups, accidentally may cause paper cuts. The ruler(s) may fall, if misused, and hurt someone. The stopwatch, if precautions aren’t taken, could harm someone slightly by giving them a small electric shock.

   In reality, these safety matters are very logical and would only occur very rarely or if done deliberately.  

Fair testing:

All factors (mentioned in the Background Knowledge)

...read more.


    Another error which may have occurred is the accuracy in timing. The heights were too small, thus to time accurately would be very difficult in such a low height (because the time is so less that it would be difficult to time using a stopwatch). To aid this problem more repetitions should be made (more than 3) so that a more accurate average could be calculated.

    In addition the paper cups may not have all been exactly the same in weight. To reduce this error the paper cups should be weighed and those paper cups which are not the same as the majority should be removed.

To improve this experiment, light gates could be used. This is a tool which starts timing as soon as an object passes a certain point and stops when it reaches the ground.

Further experiment may include:

  • Increasing the weight (the number of paper cups).
  • Increasing the heights (e.g. 2.5 metres, 3 metres, 3.5 metres etc.)
  • Experiment on surface area (e.g. by folding the paper cups or flattening them out.

Almost all the results in the practical fell within the curve of best fit. From the 18 different results only 2 of them were slightly out of the curve in the time graphs. They were as follows:

  • When 3 paper cups were dropped from 1 metre.
  • When 3 paper cups were dropped from 2 metres.

    As regards to my final results and findings, I am pleased by its accuracy and recommend this procedural method of executing further experiments of a similar nature.            

...read more.

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