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It's an experiment performed by Galileo

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Background

This experiment is similar to the one discussed by Galileo in

Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences. You will make

measurements of the motion of an object rolling down an incline.

From these measurements you should be able to decide for

yourself whether Galileo's definition of

acceleration was appropriate or not.

Galileo's definition of uniform acceleration

was 'equal increases in speed in equal times.'

He expressed his belief that the speed of

free-falling objects increases in proportion to the time of fallin other

words, they accelerate uniformly. Since free fall was much too rapid to

measure, he assumed the speed of a ball rolling down an incline

increased in the same way as an object in free fall did, only more slowly.

But even a ball rolling down a low incline still moved too fast to measure

the speed for different parts of the descent accurately. So Galileo worked

on the relationship: = 2 an expression in which speed differences

have been replaced by the total time t, and the total distance d. Both of these quantities can be

easily measured. If an object actually accelerated uniformly, the total distance should be directly

proportional to the square of the total time of the descent. The constant k would evaluate to onehalf the acceleration. Therefore, the equation for acceleration would be: =

2

2

If Galileo's original assumptions were true, this relationship would hold for both freely falling

objects and rolling balls. Since total distance and total time are not difficult to measure,

seventeenth-century scientists now had a hypothesis that they could test by experiment. And so

have you.

17th Century MethodThe Water Clock

The apparatus that you will use is shown in figure 1. It is similar to that described by Galileo in

the Dialogues. You will let the ball roll various distances down a channel and time the motion

with a water clock. You use a water clock to time this experiment, because that was the best

timing device available in Galileo's day. The way your water clock works is very simple. Since

the volume of water is proportional to the time of flow, you can measure time in milliliters of

water. Start and stop the flow with your finger over the upper end of the tube inside the funnel.

Experimental techniques to improve your results

Sanctioned physics method for releasing the ball: It is almost impossible to release the ball with

your finger without giving it a slight push or pull. Therefore, dam the ball up, with a ruler or

pencil, and release the ball by quickly moving this dam away from the ball down the incline.

Marking the end of the run: The end of the run is best marked by the sound of ball hitting a

stopping block.

The angle of the incline: Best results are found for very small angles of inclination (the top of the

channel raised less than 25 cm above the bottom). At greater inclinations, the ball tends to slide

as well as roll.

The Data and Graph

You should measure times of descent for several different distances (at least ten), keeping the

inclination of the track constant and using the same ball. Repeat each descent a few times (at

least three), and average your results.

A good way to test Galileo's hypothesis is to plot a graph to see if the two quantities are

proportional. Therefore, plot a graph of d vs t2 (using ml of water as the unit of time).

Also, Galileo felt that objects of different mass would still have the same acceleration. Test this

hypothesis as well by finding the acceleration of a ball with a different mass. (Warning: If you

used the grooves to keep the ball rolling straight you must test the different mass theory with a

ball that is about the same size as your first ball. We will get to why this is true later. For now,

just trust me.)

Q1. What do you conclude from the graph? Make sure that the equation for the line is clearly

printed on your graph.

Q2. From your graph determine the acceleration in cm/ml2.

Finding the Actual Acceleration

You performed this lab using the time units of Galileo, ml of water. You will now try to determine

the actual acceleration in cm/s2. You will first have to determine how long it takes for 1 ml to flow

from the water clock.

Q3. How many seconds is one ml of time for your water clock?

Q4. Use your value from Q2 and conversion from Q3 to calculate the acceleration in (cm/s2) for

your experiment. The actual value of the acceleration can be found with the following equation

5

(well see where this comes from in rotational motion): = 7 sin , where g = 980 cm/s2.

Q5. Find the value that the acceleration should be and determine the percent difference in your

value.

Lab Write-Up

Use the following format for this lab.

o Title of the lab

o Purpose: This should be in your words, not mine.

o Procedure: This should be the procedure that you followed. You should include

enough information here so someone with a small amount of physics knowledge

could follow it. (For example, you will need more than just determine how long it

takes for 1 ml to flow from the water clock. Give a method to do this.)

o Data Table: If you had to make any measurements, they should be included in

tabular form. (with uncertainty).

o Calculations and Results: Show the calculations that were made and clearly

mark the results, including the amount of variation. The amount of variation is

critical to your grade.

o Graphs: You may use excel for your graphs, but make sure it does not connect

the dots, you include a best-fit line and you print a large graph.

o Answers to all of the questions: You must include the question in your answer.

For example for Q2, dont write 1.5 seconds. Instead you could write, One ml

of water is the same as 1.5 seconds. Or you could write out the question and

then the answer.

o Source of uncertainty: If the reason you are citing a source of error isnt

obvious give a short explanation (short means a sentence, not a paragraph,

unless you need a paragraph).

o Conclusion: After having completed the lab what can you conclude? Dont just

restate the purpose.

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