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EPI Circular Motion: Centripetal Force David Blades

1. Experimental Introduction, Purpose and Hypothesis

1.1 Introduction: Centripetal force is the force that provides an object with its force to have
centripetal acceleration and hence the abillity for an object to travel in a circular motion.
Newton’s second law states that there must be an unbalanced force continuously acting on
an object that is accelerating. In this case the unbalanced force is acting on the rubber
stopper which is being rotated around a pivotal point.
In this investigation the variables are
Fc = Centripetal Force - This is being kept constant by the constant mass of the hanging
M = Mass of the rubber stopper - This is constant throughout the experiment.
r = Radius - This is kept constant by the knot, the paper clip and the force applied to the
the rubber stopper to keep it in a constant velocity.
v = Velocity - This is dependent as it is being calculated from the period of rotation (time).
T = Time - This is indepedent as it is measured.

1.2 Purpose: To find the relationship between centripetal force and the velocity of an object
as it moves in its circular parth.

1.3 Hypothesis: When the results are graphed the graph of centripetal force (Fc) vs.
velocity (v) should be a or part of a quadratic graph. This hypothesis is made because the
relationship between centripetal force and velocity is which indicates

a quadratic relationship between cetripetal force and velocity. Hence when the graph of
centripetal force vs. (velocity)2 is graphed the relationship should be linear. In both of the
graphs mass(m) and radius(r) have no influence on the shape of the graph as they are
constants in our experiment.

2. Equipment and Safe work practices:

2.1 Equipment: Weights, in increments of 50 grams (from 50 grams to 350 grams)

Paper clip
Rubber stopper

2.2 Safe work practices: Perform this experiment outside. Safety glasses are to be worn so
no free flying rubber stoppers are projected into any persons eyes. If more than one group
is performing this experiment spread out so as no other unsuspecting person is hit by
free flying rubber stopper.

3. Experimental Procedures and Conduct:

3.1 Experimental Procedures:

1. The experiment is to be conducted under the safe work practices in section 2.2

2. The experiment should be set up as in the diagram Figure.1. Figure.1

EPI Circular Motion: Centripetal Force David Blades

The rubber stopper tied to the string.

The string threaded through the tube.
Measure the length of 1 metre from the rubber stopper to the tube (This will give you the
radius of the circle).
When the radius is measured tie a knot in the string under the tube (so the radius can not
exceed the measured length) and place the paper clip there (so that it is visible to your
group member when enough force has been used to to accelerate the rubber stopper in a
circle) this is also done so that more string can not slide through the tube when it is being
Attach the weights to the string.

3. Spin the rubber stopper around in a horizontal direction. With a hanging mass of 50

4. Have one person in your group timing how long it takes for the rubber stopper to do 5
full circles. (5 full circles are recorded so that an average can be taken)

5. Have the third person recording the times on a table of results.

6. Repeat the steps 3 - 5 increasing the hanging mass by 50 grams each time.

4. Results Collection:

Mass of rubber stopper= 23.66g ±0.005g (0.02366kg ±0.000005kg)
Radius= 1m ±0.0005m
Acceleration due to gravity= 9.8 m/s2
Known values: when Fc = 0, therefore v and v2 must also equal 0
Hanging Fc=W T(x5) T V V2
Trial W=mg (N)
mass(g) (N) (s) (s) ms-1 m^2s-2
1 100 0.98 0.98 3.54 0.71 8.88 78.76

2 150 1.47 1.47 3.22 0.64 9.76 95.19

3 200 1.96 1.96 2.97 0.59 10.58 111.89

4 250 2.45 2.45 2.63 0.53 11.95 142.69

5 300 2.94 2.94 2.44 0.49 12.88 165.78

6 350 3.43 3.43 2.38 0.48 13.12 174.24

v = (Fcr)1/2 v2=Fcr All time values have an uncertainty of ±0.005s

(m)1/2 m and a reaction time uncertainty of ±0.3s
EPI Circular Motion: Centripetal Force David Blades

Figure 2

4.2 Graph 1:

Is a graph of the data Fc against the data v.

4.3Graph 2:

Is a graph of the data Fc against the data v2.

Figure 3

EPI Circular Motion: Centripetal Force David Blades

The weight of the rubber stopper is measured to the nearest hundredth of a gram. Time
was measured to the nearest hundredth of a second. Distance was measured to the
nearest millimetre.
Any uncertainty in the weight is due to mechanical limitations of the scales used only
allowing us to measure to the closest hundredth of a gram.
Any uncertainty in the results for the time would come from:
Human error: the reaction time of those conducting the experiment and their ability to
judge correctly that the rubber stopper has completed the full 5 revolutions required.
Mechalical limitations: There have been two decimal places used as this is the time given
on the stopwatch but along with human error there is the mechanical limitations of the
stopwatch of δ±0.005 as the stopwatch only goes to a measure of a hundredth of a second
there is the uncertainty of half the last digit measured, this is because the stopwatch must
round the time to the closest available digit.
The uncertainty in the distance measured is due to the ruler used.
Since there is an uncertainty in the time then there is also an uncertainty in the v and v^2
There would also be some form of uncertainty in the lines of best, because they have been
measured to such a small value and the values that have been recorded are not that
EPI Circular Motion: Centripetal Force David Blades

a. Weight uncertainty percentage = 0.00021%

b. Time uncertainty percentage = 0.0014%
c. Measured uncertainty percentage = 0.0005%
d. Reaction time uncertainty percentage = 12.5%
Total uncertainty percentage = a + b + c = 12.50211%

The improvments that could be made to this experiment could include weighing the
weights with a more accurate scale. If the human factor was also taken out of the whole
experiment this would improve the accuracy. If there was a laser measuring system that
took the time readings. Also if a machine was made to rotate the rubber stopper around
the pivital point with an angle of 90 ° this would also help to improve the accuracy of the
Relationship between force and velocity2 is . Therefore Fc is

theoretically linear to v2, because the mass of the rubber stopper is constant as is the

Weight equals the centripetal force because the rubber stopper is not moving closer or
further away from the pivot point of the circle.

The rubber stopper was not always kept at a constant angle of 90°. This was difficult to
achieve because it is controled by how much force is applied by the person rotating the
rubber stopper.

The condition given was that the graph was to go through the point (0,0). This
Figure 6 is shown in figures 2 and 3. Figures 4 and 5 have been drawn without the point
(0,0). This allows the gradient of the line of best fit to be closer to the
theoretical calculations of m/r. The gradient of figue 5 is 0.0234 ±12.50211% which is
extremly close to that of the thoretical gradient of 0.0236, this is only 0.85% from the
predicted theoretical value. This therefore is very misleading data, if the point (0,0) is not
added to the graphs.
If the point (0,0) is added to the graph then the gradient becomes 0.0177 ±12.50211%
which is 25.35% away from the predicted theoretical value.

There was a substatial difference of 25.35%, this would be acceptable as we were relying
completly on human reaction time to record the times. In figure 6 it states that we have a
reaction time of 150 ms for what we see, therefore each time we recored a time, we have a
human error of at least 300 ms added or taken away from our time. It is for this reason that
we do not time the rubber stopper for just one rotation and we do it for five, so that the
reaction time has less impact on the results. The time recorded for trial six was 2.38
seconds and when divided by 5 to give the time of a single rotation the time is 0.48
seconds, therefore if only one rotation was recorded there could potentially be an impact of

EPI Circular Motion: Centripetal Force David Blades

0.3 seconds on the result now there is potentially an impact of 0.06 seconds (±12.5%)
which is considerably less impact than 62.5%.

The experimental limitations faced are that of human error and a time constraint where the
experiment was to be completed by. If there were computers and machines used then
there would not be the problem of a reaction time influencing the results. If the experiment
was not conducted under time constrants then there could have be many results taken,
then the average could have be used from that. To make the reaction time of the time
recorder negligible the object could be rotated for a longer time, this has it’s own problems
that would need to be taken into consideration including random errors such as: friction, air
resistance and the ability for the person rotating the object to keep the object at a constant
speed and at an angle of 90° .

7. Data calculations, graphical representaion and analysis:

Data calculations:


v = (Fcr)1/2
v =Fcr
EPI Circular Motion: Centripetal Force David Blades

Velocity2 and Velocity Weight
Fc= 0.98 W= ?
m= 23.66 m= 100
r= 1 g= 9.8
v= ? W=mg
W= 100 x 9.8
W= 98 N

0.98= 23.66 x v2 Time

1 T(x5)= 3.54
v = 78.76 T= 0.71s
v= 8.88 m/s

7.2 Graphical Representations:

Error bars can not be shown for the Centripetal force as they are too small.
Graph 1:
The graph drawn closely resembles that of a linear graph when the point (0,0) is not part of
the graph (figure 4), but when this point is added to the graph the now shown graph
resembles that of a quadratic. With an R2 value of 98%.
The quadratic line of best fit resembles a quadratic but can not be true as the force can not
be negativly applied to the rubber stopper.

EPI Circular Motion: Centripetal Force David Blades

Graph 2:
This graph (figure 5) looks very similar to the above graph (figure 4) when the point (0,0) is
not included in the graph.
The graph (figure 3) resembles a linear graph (given that there are the uncertainties of
human error). The line of best fit has an R2 value of 0.96. The value 0.96 tells us that the
variation in the centripetal force and be 96% explained by the variation in velocity. This is a
very high value so this means that it is a very close fit. If a value was to be calculated from
the line of best fit it would be very close to the true value.

Figure 4

7.3 Analyisis:

The gradient of the line of best fit for the graph (figure 3) should be theoretically equally to
the mass of the rubber stopper divided by the radius of the circle.

Gradient of the line of best fit (figure 3) = 0.0177

The theoretical gradient should be 0.02366 = 0.02366

1 Figure 5
EPI Circular Motion: Centripetal Force David Blades

This does not seem like a substantial difference but when it is put into its original units
there is a difference of 6 grams/metre. Since the total mass is is 23.66 grams this is a
difference of 25.35%. Therefore this is a substantial difference.


The relationship between centripetal force and velocity was found. The relationship is
centripetal force is linearly proportional to (velocity)2.
The results of the pratical experiment have been graphed as centripetal force vs.
velocity and centripetal force vs. (velocity)2. The first graph (figure 2) did turn out to
resemble the rough shape of a parabola. The second graph (figure 3) has a linear
resemblence and has an r2 value of 0.96 so it is very close to being linear. Both of these
graphs support what was hypothesised earlier in part 1.3.
The gradient of the graph centripetal force vs. (velocity)2 is 0.0177 ±12.50211% which is
25.35% away from the predicted theoretical value of 0.02366.
Including the point (0,0) made the shape of the graph true but increased the difference
from the theoretical value of the gradient.
The part of the experiment that has the biggest influence on the final result is the timing
which is the biggest source of error due to reaction time.

Figure 1: Handout given to the class. Circular Motion. Experiment 41 Centripetal Force.
Figure 6: Dehaene S (1997) The number sense. New York: Oxford University
Press. 274 p.

EPI Circular Motion: Centripetal Force David Blades

Physics EPI Circular Motion

David Blades