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Central Forces on an Airtable

Keywords: Classical Mechanics, Central Forces, Potential Energy, Airtable


Highlights of the activity

  1. This kinesthetic activity is designed to help upper-division undergraduate students visualize graphs of the potential energy between two interacting bodies.
  2. Students observe the motion of a puck tethered to the center of an air table and then generate a graph of the potential energy of the puck.
  3. The whole class wrap-up discussion addresses the different graphs students generated and the canonical graphs used by professional physicists.

Reasons to spend class time on the activity

This activity is a good way to get students started thinking about the potential energy of a system subject to central forces. In addition, this activity provides a good opportunity to review and apply what they have learned about the properties of central forces.


Instructor's Guide

Authors: Corinne Manogue
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