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Motion due to a Steady Force - Lab

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Timmy Bendiš – 10.11.2008 – 3mm

Motion due to a steady force


Verify Newton’s 2nd law of motion



mw - Mass of the weight

mt - Mass of the trolley (controlled, kept constant)

s - Distance (controlled, kept constant)


Δt - Time (measured)

a - Acceleration (calculated from measured time and distance)

F - Pulling Force (calculated from mass mw)

        Fair test:

We presume this test to be fair, because all variables of the system are kept constant, except mass of the weight that generates pulling force that we presume affects the acceleration of the trolley, which is what we want to measure.


- trolley

- 10 different weights (for 10 different trials)

- string (to make the trolley travel in a straight line and have the weights pull it down... the weights are tied to the string which is tied to the trolley.)

...read more.







Table 1. Mass of the weights and trolley travelling times

Data Processing

In Table 2, we processed the collected data from Table 1, using the following formulas :

Applied pulling force = mwx g

Measured acceleration  image00.png

Measured pulling force = image01.png

Uncertainty of measured acceleration (sample for trial #1):

image02.png Estimated reaction time is 0,2 seconds

Ideal acceleration (per Newton’s 2nd law)  image03.png


Applied pulling force (N)

Measured acceleration (ms-2)

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Sources of error

  1. It was difficult to precisely measure time. Our reaction time was large compared to the travelling time of the trolley. This contributed the most to the acceleration uncertainty.
  2. We measured time only once for each trial.
  3. We ignored the  friction, since we angled the table. But, we suspect that friction also contributed to the uncertainty of the results.


  1. Lengthen the trolley travelling time to reduce the relative time measurement error. For example, we could raise table and lenghten the string.
  2. Measure the time in each trial multiple times (three at the minimum).
  3. Eliminate some of the smaller weights from the measurement, to minimize effect of the friction force at lower speeds.
  4. Use smoother surface.
  5. Keep total mass constant. This means that we start with maximum Weight and move the mass from the Weight to the trolley for each trial. Then the lines in both graphs would be more linear.

...read more.

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