In physics today, we began our work in circular motion. I started by asking the class three questions:
- When do you feel ‘heaviest’ on an elevator? When do you feel ‘lightest’?
- When do you feel ‘heaviest’ on an airplane? When do you feel ‘lightest?’
- When do you feel ‘heaviest’ on a swing? Lightest?
We discussed and shared ideas for a bit. I tried my hardest not to nudge anyone toward thinking they were right or wrong, as this was merely a test for intuition and experience. We then played a few rounds of circular ‘book’-ball, a variation of the standard modeling curriculum activity of broom ball from the modeling curriculum in which students use a textbook to push a ball in a circular path on a table. The students could not touch the ball with anything other than a single book at one time. A couple of students quickly established themselves as the masters:
I then had students draw the ball in three configurations as well as the force and velocity vectors for the ball at those locations. Students figured the right configuration much more quickly than in previous years:
I think some of our work emphasizing the perpendicular nature of the normal force on surfaces in previous units may have helped on this one.
We then took a look at some vertical circles and analyzed them using what we knew from the last unit on accelerated motion together with our new intuition about circular motion.
We finished the class playing with my most recent web-app, Newton’s Cannonball. We haven’t discussed orbits at all, but I wanted them to get an intuitive sense of the concept of how a projectile could theoretically go into orbit. This was the latest generation of my parabolas to orbits exploration concept.