Physics Laboratory 2

Free-fall - The acceleration of gravity

Gravity is the force of nature we are most aware of.  One can argue that other forces, such as the electromagnetic force, which holds molecules together in solid objects, or nuclear forces, which determine the structure of atoms, are more important, but these forces are less obvious to us.  Near the surface of Earth the force of gravity on an object of mass m equals Fg = mg.  It is constant and points straight down.  If we can neglect other forces and the net force is approximately equal to Fg, then we have motion with constant acceleration g.

Open a Microsoft Word document to keep a log of your experimental procedures and your results.  This log will form the basis of your lab report.  Address the points highlighted in blue.  Answer all questions.


Hold a tennis ball at about your height and then let go.  Observe the motion of the ball.

Describe the motion as the ball is falling.


It does not take the ball a long time to reach the floor.  It is hard to get detailed information about its motion without using external measuring instruments.  In this experiment the instrument is a video camera.  You will analyze a video clip.  The clip shows a ball being dropped.  You will determine the position of the freely-falling ball as a function of time by stepping through the video clip frame-by-frame and by reading the time and the position coordinates of the ball off each frame.  You will construct a spreadsheet with columns for time and position and use this spreadsheet to find the velocity as a function of time.  The slope of a velocity versus time graph yields the acceleration of the ball.


To play the video clip or to step through it frame-by-frame click the "Begin" button.

Produce a graph of position versus time.  Label the axes.

Let us find the velocity of the ball as a function of time.  We find vy =  ∆y/∆t by dividing the difference in successive position by the difference in the times the ball was at those positions.

Produce a graph of velocity versus time. Label the axes.

For motion with constant acceleration we expect that y changes as a function of time as y = y0 + v0t + ½at2, where a is the acceleration. For an object accelerating at a constant rate g we have y = y0 + v0t + ½gt2, so y as a function of t is a polynomial of order 2 (a section of a parabola).  We can reduce numerical errors in finding the acceleration of the ball by fitting our position versus time data directly with a polynomial of order2.

Convert your log into a lab report.

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Laboratory 2 Report

Save your Word document (your name_lab2.docx), go to Canvas, Assignments, Lab 2, and submit your document.