Central Forces on an Airtable
- This kinesthetic activity is designed to help upper-division undergraduate students visualize graphs of the potential energy between two interacting bodies.
- 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.
- The whole class wrap-up discussion addresses the different graphs students generated and the canonical graphs used by professional physicists.
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.