## Modeling gravity for multiple objects

A former student, JH, recently corresponded with me about some simulations he'd done of a gravitational system. This problem is connected with many problems in physics including molecular dynamics and n-body problems. It is also of particular interest to game … Continue reading

## Simulating collisions in two dimensions

We can study 2D collisions and the conservation of momentum via these Processing sketches. Colliding at right angles Colliding at any angle … Continue reading

## Circular motion

Constant acceleration We've studied motion in a straight line by watching Felix step from his gondola, 40 km above the earth. You can skip to about 2 minutes if you want to see the highlights. We've also studied motion in … Continue reading

## Parking lot physics

Physics is often best experienced with authentic situations. For example, consider this demonstration of classical mechanics: Here we can see, for example, Newton's first law: an object in motion tends to stay in motion (the truck), and an object at … Continue reading

## Escape from Pluto

On a routine research expedition to Pluto, you have an unpleasant encounter with aliens, and wish to leave. Your ship computer indicates you only have enough fuel to quickly accelerate to 1 km/sec. Then you will coast into space, slowing … Continue reading

## Binary circular orbits

We often study orbits where one mass is many times greater than the other mass. For example, the sun's mass is 333,000 times more than the earth's mass, and the earth's mass is 81 times more than the moon's mass. … Continue reading

## Magic mass balance

Continuing with my playground theme that I started with the merry-go-round, let's consider the seesaw. What determines whether it will be balanced? Archimedes sorted this out over 2000 years ago, using a scale and weights. Below is a virtual scale. … Continue reading

## Centripetal forces at play

This lab partially fulfills competency 6 of the FlexTech physics course. Pre-requisites are completion of Algebra 1 and Geometry, and physics competencies 1, 2, 3, and 4. At some point, you've probably experienced being spun around on some contraption like … Continue reading

## Super-elasticity and infinite series

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Physics problems are often greatly simplified for new students. We assume negligible friction and perfectly elastic collisions. In some problems, the assumption of negligible friction might be reasonable. But students have a harder time understanding what perfectly elastic looks like. … Continue reading

## Lab: Kinetic and potential energy of a mass and spring

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Because spring steel is so elastic, steel springs can be very efficient in conserving kinetic plus potential energy. In this Scratch-based lab, you will analyze the motion of a mass that is sliding on a frictionless surface towards a perfectly … Continue reading

## Impulse

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From Newton's First Law, we know that an object in motion will stay in motion, unless the object is subjected to an external force. In other words, an object's velocity is constant unless there it is accelerated by some external … Continue reading

## Momentum and collisions in one dimension

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When we speak of "laws" of physics, we are in fact talking about things that seem to always be true, but we cannot in fact claim that these laws dictate how nature works, because we have only limited observations of … Continue reading

## Project: Designing a Virtual Bridge

There are an abundance of simple, yet though-provoking problems involving Newton's Laws. Two of my favorites: If the earth is pulling me down with gravitational force, what is providing the equal and opposite force stipulated by Newton's Third Law? (Hint: … Continue reading

## Free-body diagrams

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Free-body diagrams provide a standard way of describing mechanics problems in a way that is understood across languages. It omits details about what the objects are, and focuses entirely on the external forces acting on the object. Here are rules … Continue reading

## Rocket Telemetry and Kinematics

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This project is based on two simulations of a rocket under identical gravitation, with identical mass and fuel. The difference in simulations are the length of burn time of the engine, and whether the flight takes place in vacuo (in … Continue reading