Classical Mechanics Resource Packet (comments to: moloney@nextwork.rose-hulman.edu)

Suggestions for 'Active' Classroom Learning


When a light ball and a heavy ball are dropped together with the light ball just above the heavy ball, the lighter ball can rebound much higher than its initial height. Suppose that two balls of mass m and M are dropped with a spring (force constant k) between them. Will the maximum rebound occur when m and M are both touching the spring? What sort of qualitative condition is needed for the lighter mass (on top) to rebound to a maximum height above where it was dropped. [Hint: How long does it take the large mass to compress and release?]


(Good classroom problem after mass-spring behavior is discussed, including energy.)

A proposed automobile design has the bumper effectively attached to the body of an 1100-kg car by a spring of constant 150 N/m. The body structure is capable of withstanding a 5.5g's without suffering damage due to crumpling. The car must pass a 'crash test' at 5 mph with a stationary obstacle.
a) Is this a satisfactory design? State the reasons for your conclusion.
[No, g forces are very low, but bumper length is much too great.]
b) If the design is not satisfactory, improve the design to meet the crash test specs without serious objections to your modified design. [The spring constant can be greatly increased and still meet the spec, with a much shorter length of bumper.]


A mass M hangs from a fixed support by a thin thread.An identical thread is connected to the bottom of mass M. By grasping the bottom thread, a person can make either the top thread or the bottom thread break. Discuss how this would be done. [1-2 min, Think-pair-share.Yank sharply on the lower thread to break it first.]


Drop a mass from height H onto a dashpot. Design the dashpot spring constant and damping constant so that the time to equilibrium is as short as possible. What are the qualitative considerations? [Examine coefficients of the increasing and decreasing exponentials in overdamped motion.]


Why must a realistic potential energy function be continuous? (What would happen if there were a jump in the potential function?


Here are the components of a supposedly conservative force

a) Convert Fx, Fy, and Fz into spherical polar coordinates using
x = r sin theta cos phi, y = r sin theta sin phi, and z = r cos theta.

b) For integrating in a circle at constant z, both r and theta must be constant.
Show that an element of length dl along a path at constant r and theta will be

This must be done by means of a sketch, showing dl, and the angles theta and phi . c) Integrate the dot product of the force F with the length element dl around a path at constant z, holding theta and r constant, showing that the value of the integral will be zero for all values of r and theta. [The integral around any closed path should be zero for a conservative force.]


Energy diagrams, forces, and equilibrium (by J. W. Harrell, U of Alabama)

A particle is subject to a conservative force for which the potential energy function U(x) is given by

1. Use Maple to plot U(x) from x= -1 to x= +5 .

2. Examine the plot and estimate the following

3. a) At what points would the particle be in stable equilibrium if placed there at rest?

   b) At what points would the particle be in unstable equilibrium if placed there at rest?

4. Now use Maple to calculate the force function F(x) = -dU(x)/dx.

5. On a single graph, plot both U(x) and F(x). Is your graph consistent with your answers to questions 2 and 3? If not, then reconcile your answers.

6. Now suppose the particle has an energy of 10 units.

On a single graph, plot both U(x) and total energy. (Don't use E for energy; Maple has claimed E for something else.)

7. If no other forces act on the particle, determine from your graph

Notes:

to differentiate, use diff(f(x),x);