Sunday, September 27, 2020

RT;DL The Clever Dumbbell - Tension & Inertia Demo

A classic and popular demo. I do it in Conceptual Physics, Physics, and AP Physics 1. And I use a 5-lb dumbbell and kite/packaging cotton string. For years, I used a cast-iron dumbbell. But I broke floor tiles on occasion, and there was that one time the wheel-like nature of the dumbbell ends allowed it to roll onto a student's open ... toes. So I found rubberized hexagonal-end dumbbells. And I use a cardboard catch-box with scrap paper to protect the tiles.

After posing the initial question: Which string will break when the bottom string is pulled, I have them work through some leading questions.

Instead of having students predict which string will break, I have them request a string for me to break. Once they understand this paradigm shift, they request the bottom string. And I oblige. Eventually I break the top string, too. This can be navigated in the preso, alone. But I prefer to do the demo in my empty classroom because I can.

The efficacy of this demo lies in the dependence of the outcome on the presenter's technique. If it were a 50-50 coin flip each time, the demo would not have any pedagogical value. Some ponderables are offered post-demo, too.

As is a continuing theme in my RT;DLs, the student sheet is a Google Doc and the preso is an Apple Keynote preso, exported to HTML. These exports work delightfully on computers. Less well on tablets or phones. 

This one takes a bit of practice to navigate. 

Things shown in images but not in words: strings break when they are stretched beyond their limit by tension greater than the sting can withstand. A rapid pull stretches the bottom string through its limit before the dumbbell moves very much, thus keeping the top string from being stretched. A slow pull allows the top string to be at greater tension than the bottom string, allowing it to reach its limit before the bottom string does.

Student document (Google Docs file on Google Drive)
Observations presentation (linked to on student document)
Answer key

No comments: