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International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr.

Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

Gravitational Acceleration and Rotational Motion

Content of Lecture
1. The Scientific Methodology
2. The simple harmonic motion versus the rotational motion
3. Analysis concerning the circular pathway
4. Analysis concerning the simple pendulum
5. Derivation of an operational formula for determining the gravitational
acceleration using a simple pendulum
6. Experimental work (see the lab session) (LINK)
7. Remarks on the rotational movement

International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

The Scientific Method

Science is a way of acquiring knowledge. To do science, one must follow a specific universal
methodology. The central theme in this methodology is the testing of hypotheses. The overall goal
of science is to better understanding the Nature and our universe.

Various fields of study, like physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine have used science to
expand their knowledge base because science is neutral and unbiased in its operation. Learning and
making decisions about the environment also requires similar qualities. As a result, science has
become the dominant form of inquiry when studying the environment and its problems.
The broadest, most inclusive goal of science is to understand nature, or the match between
observed reality and some conceptual idea. Understanding encompasses all the other goals of
science, many of which are quite specialized. Explanation is perhaps the next most important goal
of science. Explanation consists of relating observed reality to a system of concepts, laws, or
empirically based generalizations. Explanation may also relate observed phenomena to a network
of causes, or link them hierarchically to lower-level mechanisms.
Another general goal of science is generalization, which may be considered in two ways.
First, generalization may be considered as the condensation of a body of empirical fact to a simple
statement. In the process of such condensation, it is likely that some detail must be omitted and the
phenomenon abstracted. Generalization may also involve isolating the phenomenon from other
aspects of the system of interest. This constitutes idealization. A second view of generalization is
the unification of apparently unrelated phenomena in the same abstract or ideal system of concepts.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), 17th century English philosopher, was the first individual to
suggest a universal methodology for science. He believed that scientific method required the
process of induction. Karl Popper later refuted this idea in the 20th century. Popper suggested that
science could only be done using a deductive methodology.

International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

1. Simple Harmonic Motion versus Rotational Motion

Looking at the movement of a small ball on a circular track, we observe that the projections
(on a wall) of this movement will follow a simple harmonic motion (similar to that of a ball fixed at
the end of a simple pendulum).
We can use this relationship in order to understand both of these motions and to drive a
formula for the second motion. We can also use the derived formula for the determination of the
gravitational acceleration (g).
Note that all derivations are based on the assumption that the simple pendulum makes small
angle (Z) shifts (which are recommended to be <15º).
In Figure 1, it is easy to recognize that the force acting on the ball (fixed to the end of the
fiber cord) and producing the simple harmonic motion is (- m g cos (90-Z) = - m g sin Z).
This force is a component perpendicular to the line of the string and related to the vertical
force (the weight m g) acting on the ball downward, since the component (m g cos z) acting on the
line of the cord outward is canceled by tension in the cord inward.
When the ball on the circular track makes a complete turn, the ball of the simple pendulum
will finish one oscillation (moving forth and back; passing by the middle point that acts as the rest
position before the start of the pendulum movement).
On each point on the circular pathway, the ball has a constant linear velocity V1 acting on
the tangent to circumference at that particular point (as shown on the Fig. 1). However, this is also
the velocity of rotation; it is constant in magnitude but it has a changing direction, (otherwise the
ball will not rotate) and this change in direction involves acceleration.

Figure 1a.The simple harmonic motion is related to rotational motion. Since cos 90°=Zero, V2
vanishes at θ = 90° at the maximum value of the displacement y.

International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

Figure 1b. The driving force (-mg sin Z) of the simple harmonic motion.

Analysis concerning the circular pathway

1. There could be a tangential linear acceleration a tangential acting on the same direction as V . 1

When it is present, it is related to αangular by (a tangential = αangular r). This means that V , in 1

general, is not constant. However, when the angular velocity ω is constant, V is also constant
(this it is the case in a steady moving centrifuge and at the tip of an airplane propeller, as
supposed in Fig. 1). In this last case, there is no a tangential term. In Fig. 1 and in the following
derivations, note that same symbol, a, is used for the acceleration of a simple harmonic motion.
DO NOT confuse it with and atangential.
2. In the case of non-constant angular velocity ω, the accelerations αcentripetal and αtangential have a
vector (=). This vector will vanish if ωis constant.
3. For a steady moving centrifuge there is only a centripetal acceleration αcentripetal = ω2 r.

Figure 2. Derivation of the angular centripetal acceleration α = ω2 r.

In a steady-moving centrifuge, despite the constant magnitude of V1, the change of direction
means that there is an angular acceleration (centripetal acceleration α).

International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

Since the track is circular, the force (= mass of the ball moving on the circumference
multiplied by the centripetal acceleration) acting on the ball should be pointing to the center of the
circle and perpendicular to the tangent V1.
Note that cos 90º = zero. Consequently, there is no component of this force in the direction of
the tangent. This means that the velocity V1 on the tangent is constant; only the direction of the
tangent is permanently changing. Otherwise, the ball will not follow the circular pathway, and
velocity on the tangent would be changing in both the direction and the magnitude (which is
contradictory to the supposed steady circular movement).

Analysis concerning the pendulum

The ball of the pendulum moves with a linear velocity V2. This velocity decreases to zero at
both ends of the track, and has a maximum value at the middle. Since this velocity changes in
magnitude, there is a deceleration a (= a negative acceleration) for the simple harmonic motion.
From Fig. 1, there is a relationship between the linear velocity of the simple harmonic motion
V2 and the linear velocity tangent to the circular pathway V1, This relationship is determined by
cos θ. V2 vanishes at θ = 90°.
V2 = V1 cos θ
In addition to the expression of the velocity on the circular pathway by a tangent linear
velocityV1, the circular motion can also be expressed by dividing the angular displacement (θrad)
on the circumference by time, t. The result is known as angular velocity, ω, (also known as the
radian velocity, since measured in radians/sec) which can be related to V1 as the following:
Angular velocity ω =
However, the angular displacement θrad =
Consequently, angular velocity ω = *
Multiply both sides by r
ωr =
ωr =
ωr = V1
So the relation V2 = V1 cos θ will now read V2 = ωr cos θ
Also, in the shadowed right-angle triangle inside the circle in Fig. 1,
cos θ = i.e. vertical = r cos θ
Howerver, vertical =
Consequently, V2 = ω
Furthermore, from Fig. 1, there is a relationship between the deceleration (a) of the simple
pendulum and the centripetal acceleration (α) governed by cos (90-θ) i.e. sin θ:
a = - α cos (90- θ) or a = - α sin θ
In Figure 2, the centripetal acceleration α can be related to the angular velocity ωthrough the
method known as the “closed triangle” as following (Fig. 2).

International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

In order to calculate the change in the linear velocity (V1) on the circular pathway (this is a
directional change, not a change in magnitude, remember!), when the angle γ is small (this is an
important condition and assumption, remember!), we have:
The arc AB ≈ the segment or the hypotenuse AB
And from the two similar triangles
= =
The segment AB is a distance. So it can be replaced by the product V ∆t. Consequently,
Multiply by V
∆V =
Divide by ∆t
∆V / ∆t =
α =
However, we have previously shown that:
ωr = V1 ,
α =
α = ω2 r

2. Derivation of an Operational Formula for Determining the

Gravitational Acceleration Using a Simple Pendulum
By changing the length (L) of the pendulum string, the square of the time of one oscillation
(t ) will proportionally change. A formula that is based on this relation can be found and used to
determine the gravitational acceleration (g).
From deriving the relationship of the circular movement to the simple harmonic motion, we
have already learned that the acceleration (a) of the simple harmonic motion is related to the
centripetal acceleration (α) by:
a = - α sin θº
In addition, we have previously shown that:
α = ω2 r
a = - ω2 r sin θº
a = - ω2 r
a = - ω2 y
However, we know that the force acting on the ball of simple pendulum is given by:
F = m * acceleration
= - m * g sin Z
Consequently, this negative acceleration (deceleration) of the pendulum is

Acceleration = - g sin Z
International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

Acceleration = - g
Comparing the relation a = - ω2 y with Acceleration = - g
It can be noticed that:
ω2 y = g or ω = i.e. ω=
and g = ω2 L
However, we already know that:
ω = and for a circle θrad = 2π
Consequently, for one turn on a circle (corresponding to one oscillation of a simple
ω =
This means that:
g = 4π2
It is obvious that this relation can be used to calculate g by one reading for L and t .

However, it is interesting to write this relation in the following “ready to plot” form:
t2 = *L
This is the form of a linear equation, where t is the dependent variable (to be plotted on the

ordinate. i.e. on the vertical Y-axis). This variable proportionally changes with the change of
pendulum length L (to be plotted on the abscissa. i.e. on the horizontal X-axis) as the independent
This linear relationship is the basis for plotting your set of observations (t in function of L).

From the plot, you get the slope = =.

and its inverse
2 2
Note that if you multiply this inverse by 4π (=39.48) by, we get 4π .

This means that g can directly be calculated from the plot by the product 4π .

g = 4π2
This is the operational equation that we were looking-for!

3. Experimental Work
1. The needed equipment is fairly simple: a simple pendulum that you can arrange anywhere (by
fixing a string filament to a point on the top of metal bar fitted with a hanging block, and in the
lower end of the filament, fix a small copper or steel ball).
2. Use a stopwatch to record the time of 20 oscillations (one oscillation is the movement of the
pendulum ball from a start point forth, then back to the start point, this is equivalent to one
complete turn on the circumference of a circle, Fig. 1). Divide by 20 to get the time of one
3. Record the time readings. Start at short pendulum lengths. Then gradually increase the length.

International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

L time of time of T X Y
2 2
cm 20 oscillations 1 oscillation sec L T
120 42.0 2.10 4.41 120 4.41
110 40.0 2.00 4.00 110 4.00
100 39.0 1.95 3.80 100 3.80
90 38.0 1.90 3.61 90 3.61
80 36.0 1.80 3.24 80 3.24
70 33.8 1.69 2.86 70 2.86
60 30.9 1.55 2.39 60 2.39
50 28.5 1.43 2.03 50 2.03
40 25.5 1.28 1.63 40 1.63
30 22.5 1.13 1.27 30 1.27
20 18.9 0.95 0.90 20 0.90
15 15.3 0.76 0.58 15 0.58
10 14.0 0.70 0.49 10 0.49
5 11.0 0.55 0.30 5 0.30
0 0.0 0.00 0.00 0 0.00

4. Plot the relationship of L and T2 as shown on Figure 3. Calculate g using the practical

g = 4π2
m/sec2 = dimensionless term or rad2 * m/sec2

To calculate the time needed for a simple pendulum to move with oscillation time of one
second (the time of one oscillation = 1 second), the needed length, L, can be calculated by:

= = = 0.253 m = 25.3 cm
1. Experimental errors are unavoidable, however, be aware of recording observations quit
carefully and in well-organized manner. Otherwise, you will get false results (and poor
2. You must record units (or dimensions) for each term in any equation. No physical
quantity is acceptable if it is void of units (even dimensionless terms must be indicated
as such!).
3. Do not use too short (or too long!) filament lengths and do not let the ball move
through a great angle, nor to turn around itself while moving back and forth.

International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

g = gravitational acceleration
calculate slope on student data
5 gaphic, take its
T2 sec2 (ordinate)

inverse, this gives

general best fit
4 L/T to be
used in the zero intercept best
3 equation: fit
g = 4π L/T
2 2
Assistant data
short statistical fit

0 40 80 120
L, cm (abscissa)
Figure 3: Get the inverse of the slope, substitute in the equation. That is all !

ideal pendulum length, L= 30 - 100 cm


T2, deviation %


0 20 40 60 80 100 120

L = Length, cm
Figure 4. Too short and too long cords relatively give large errors.

International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein


m s-1
of simple 0.2

90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
Angle θ ƒof corresponding rotational motion

the force
component of
the simple
harmonic -0.01

- mg cos (90-Z)
= -0.02
- mg SIN Z

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Angle, Zƒ

Figure 5. Velocity and acceleration change during motion of the simple pendulum and the
corresponding rotational movement.

International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

4. Remarks on the rotational motion

 The reaction of the centripetal force is the centrifugation force.
 An angle in radians rad =. (Note that the circumference = 2 π r)

π expressed “in rad” = = = .

It is equal to 3.14 rad. Its equivalent in degrees is 180º.
 For a circle, the circle arc=2π r, so circle angle in rad = 2π= (2 * 3.14) rad = 6.28 rad.

Angle in rad = Angle in degrees *

= Angle in degrees *

= Angle in degrees * 0.0174

Angle in degrees = Angle in rad *

= Angle in rad *

= Angle in rad * 57.2968

One rad in degrees = 1 * = = 57.3º

example: 2 rad = 2* () = 2 * () = 2* (57.3º) = 114.6º

example: a circle is 360º (= 2 * π in rad * 57.3º = 2 * 3.14 * 57.3º = 360º)

example: 360º in rad = (360º * = 2 π = 2 * 3.1416 = 6.2832 rad)

2 π = (i.e. π is the ratio: )
π is the ratio:) i.e. π is the ratio )
in addition, π is the ratio between the angle 180º and the angle 1 rad
where rad should only be expressed as (180º / π), not in degrees.

example: for 180º, the equivalent in rad = 180º * =π = 3.14

example: for 60º, the equivalent in rad = 60º * = =

 Angular velocity: ω= angle in rad / time t in seconds for example

 Definition and calculation of π:

International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

Figure 6. Division en 90º/n angles.

If the angle (90º) between two perpendicular radius radials is divided into a great number (n) of
small angles, the value of any of these small angles will be.
And taking the sinus, sin =
Nevertheless, since the angle is small, the opposite is approximately equal to the arc, and the
hypotenuse is a radius in the circle. Consequently,
sin =,
i.e. it is equal to the value of the small angle as expressed in rad

However, this is also (by definition) the value of any angle in rad.
This means that, in the case of small angle (up to 15º),

the value of the angle in rad = the sin of the angle

In brief: value of the small angle in rad = arc / radius

= opposite / hypotenuse
= sin
Multiplying by n, we get: n (sin)
Obviously, this can be expressed as =
But we already know that = π/ 2

So, n (sin) = π / 2
And π = 2 n (sin)
As n becomes a great number, the value of π will be numerically stable. That is why it is
expressed by the following limit (this is a definition of π):

π = 2 l im n ∝ (n sin )

The kinetic energy of a body moving on a circular pathway = ½ m V = m ω

2 2

(Where m r is the “moment of inertia” with respect to the rotation axis)

International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

The centripetal force F = m V / r = m ω r

2 2

 The periodic time t (the time needed to make a complete rotation)

i.e., the angular velocity, ω=
 If (n) is the number of rotations per minute (rpm),
The total angles (in rad) ωrad/min = 2π ∗ n
And, ωrad/sec = 2π ∗

 If we know the value of ωin rad/sec, we can calculate (n) by

n rev/sec ωin rad/sec * ()
In addition, dividing ωrad/sec by 60 you get ωin rad/min.

 Also, knowing n rpm and the distance r from the rotation axis we can calculate α (which is
the unique acceleration in a centrifuge with a constant ω, since the constant ωmakes the tangential
acceleration vanished) using the equation:
α = ω2 r where, ωrad/sec =2π ∗
If r = 0.20 m
(n rpm) = 6000
(n rps) = 6000/60 = 100
(The time of 1 revolution = 0.01 sec)
ω= (2 ∗ 3.14) ∗ () rps = 6.28 ∗ 100 rps = 628 rad/sec
ω2 = 394784 rad2/sec2
α = ω2 r = 394784 * 0.20 = 78957 m/sec2, (note that rad2 is usually dropped)
The centripetal acceleration can be calculated as “times” the gravitational acceleration (this is
called x g) g as following:
Divide the value of α by the value of g (which is about 10 m.sec-2). Here you get 7896 g.
(i.e. α is approximately 8000 times g).

Inverse Example:
In order to adjust α to 45 m.sec-2 (i.e. about 4.5 g), for a rotation axis, r, of 5 m,
ωwill be rad/sec = rad/sec, i.e. ωwill be 3 rad/sec.

So, the value of n rps can be calculated:

n rps = = rps = 0.477 rps,
n rpm = (0.477)*60 = 28 rpm.
International Agriculture Section - Course in Physics - by Dr. Mohamed Fahmy Hussein

By increasing r to 11.25 m, ωwill be 2 rad/sec, and n rpm = 19 rpm.

(To keep x g the same on a larger radius centrifuge, n rpm must be lowered. Inversely, to keep
x g the same on a smaller radius centrifuge, n rpm should be increased).
Note that the periodic time t in minutes is t =
And frequency f is the “inverse of the periodic time”, , and: f =

Note that the rigorous units of the angular velocity ωare rad.sec-1. However, rad is usually
omitted. Also in its relation to the angular acceleration α, which is α = ω r, the units for α are

rigorously m.rad2/sec2. However, rad2 is always omitted and we only retain m/sec2.

Retain the following formulae

αCentripetal = ω2 r
Angular velocity ω =
Angular displacement θrad =
For a circle θrad = 2π
For the simple pendulum ω = =
For 1 revolution on a circle (corresponding to 1 oscillation of simple pendulum)
ω =
For n revolutions on a circle (corresponding to n oscillations of pendulum) during I minute:
ωrad/min =
Where n is the number of revolutions per minute (rpm), and the denominator t is 1 min.
Hence: ωrad/sec = 2π ∗
ωrad/sec = 2π ∗ n rps
n rps =∗
To get, divide by 60
= m αCentripetal = m ω2 r = m