- Use a Motion Detector to measure the speed of a ball down an incline.
- Determine if Galileo’s assumption of uniform acceleration is valid.
- Analyze the kinematics' graphs for a ball on an incline.
- Model uniformly accelerated motion with algebraic equations.
When Galileo introduced the concept of uniform acceleration, he defined it as equal increases in speed in equal intervals of time. This experiment is similar to the one discussed by Galileo in his book, Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences, in which he assumed that a ball rolling down an incline accelerates uniformly. Rather than using a water clock to measure time, as Galileo did, you will use a Motion Detector connected to a computer. This makes it possible to very accurately measure the motion of a ball rolling down an incline. From these measurements, you should be able to decide for yourself whether Galileo’s assumption was valid or not.
Galileo further argued in his book that balls of different sizes and weights would accelerate at the same rate down a given incline or when in free fall. This was contrary to the commonly held belief of the time that heavier objects fall at a greater rate than lighter objects.
Since speed was difficult for Galileo to measure, he used two quantities that were easier to measure: total distance traveled and elapsed time. However, using a Motion Detector it is possible to measure much smaller increments of time, and therefore calculate the speed at many points down the incline. The data you will be able to gather in one roll of a ball down an incline, is more than Galileo was able to acquire in many trials.
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