Tuesday, 18 October 2011


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In these experiments we observe the conservation of energy in a system and explore the implications of friction on this system.


I. Setting up the Motion Detector

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A. First we set our cart in proper range of the detector and tested to make sure we had good data signals

B. We then gave the track a slight incline with a wood block under the end closest to the detector

C. Finally run the program several times making sure you collect consistent data from the detector

II. Conservation of Mechanical Energy on a Gentle Slope

A. Start by taking several measurements, placing the cart on the lowest end, record its height as well as it horizontal position on the track

1. Then move the cart to the highest end, record the height and position again.

B. Place the cart at the top of the track, release it and start collecting data

C. Use the collected data to find the highest velocity recorded. This should be repeated several times to get constant data.

III. Conservation of Mechanical Energy on a Steeper Slope from Multiple Height

A. Flipping the wood block onto its thin side and then placing it under the track will increase the slope.

B. Repeat just as before, recording initial heights and the final height

C. Also the cart will be released from several other starting positions and data will be recorded for each

D. Finally record the mass of the cart and reflector

Data and Analysis

We recorded a velocity of .86m/s in part B. With that velocity and the height data we were able to calculate the change in potential energy and kinetic energy. Our (PE) value was .0 and our (KE) value was .04, a difference of .5 between the two due to conservative forces. Here energy was transformed, but energy was also lost to conservative forces such as friction and air resistance. The errors in our data probably come from our measured heights of the cart. Using the large meter stick made if harder to calculate the exact height, so our measurements might be off a few tenths of a cm. There was also air resistance but that did not contribute a great deal of error. There was a .5 energy loss due to friction. This does seem like a relatively high number after seeing how smoothly the cart rolled down the track.

In part C after measuring the highest velocity for each individual height we could calculate the change in KE and the change in PE. This also allowed us to calculate the amount of work done by frictional forces. KE, PE and frictional values are included on a data sheet. Again most of the error can be attribute to a lack of accurate measurements, each person saw a different height so we made guestemations. We did not measure the angle of the track which probably would have given us more accurate data. These errors could alter the PE value making it higher or lower. Also air resistance attributed some amount of energy loss and is random. The systematic error was minimal. Could you run the experiment in a vacuum or closed system to eliminate all sources except friction? Would that tell you how much energy loss is due only to friction? All of the runs look very consistent except in runs 1 and of part C. We expected to see run 1 yield the greatest change in energy due to friction, but it was run that actually resulted in the greatest change in energy due to friction, .101 vs .11. This error could be attributed to non-physical error. In part C there is a sharper angle than in part B. Friction caused a larger change in energy in part C due to the increased angle. The larger the angle on the track, results in a larger change in energy due to frictional forces. A larger angle will also result in a higher velocity.


This lab gave a good understanding of when a system has Potential Energy and when that systems Potential Energy will be changed into Kinetic Energy. The cart has PE when it is at rest atop of the track and as it rolls toward the bottom of the track it loses this PE and gains KE. In a closed system these two values should be inversely proportional, but in our experiments we found them to differ, as a result of conservative forces. The main force we are concerned with is friction, which seamed to give off quite a bit of energy in the form of heat. By increasing the angle of the track you then have a higher starting position and a steeper slope. This will result in a higher PE value and a greater loss of heat energy due to frictional forces.

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