If something has an acceleration of 5 ft/s² how fast will it be going after 1 second…2 second…3 seconds? After one second it will be going 5 ft/s; after two seconds 10 ft/s; and after three seconds 15 ft/s. Again, it’s just like v = gt (v is velocity, g is the gravitational constant, t is time) but put the rate of acceleration of the object in place of g to get the formula v = at or velocity equals acceleration times time.
Once in a while, an object will change its velocity by the same amount at the same rate, and when this happens, it’s called constant acceleration, since the velocity is changing by the same amount each time. Note that constant acceleration is not the same as constant velocity. If an object is changing speed, no matter how consistently it does it, it’s still accelerating since it doesn’t have a constant velocity. Objects in free fall motion, like a sky diver, experiences constant acceleration and may also eventually reach a constant velocity, but this is a very special case (we’ll talk more about that later).
Average acceleration is found by dividing the average velocity (the difference between the initial and final velocity points) by the time lapsed between the two points. Acceleration is measured in a variety of units, but the most common are “meters per second squared” (m/s2) or “feet per second squared” (ft/s2).
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Take a look at your marks. See how they get farther and farther apart as the ball continues to accelerate? Your ball was constantly increasing speed and as such, it was constantly accelerating. By the way, would it have mattered what the mass of the ball was that you used? No. Gravity accelerates all things equally. This fact is what Galileo was proving when he did this experiment. The the weight of the ball doesn’t matter but the size of the ball might. If you used a small ball and a large ball you would probably see differences due to friction and rotational inertia. The bigger the ball, the more slowly it begins rolling. The mass of the ball, however, does not matter.
- Was the line a straight line?
- It should be close now, and the slope represents the acceleration it experienced going down the ramp. Calculate the slope of this line.
- What do you think would happen if you increased the height of the ramp?
- Knowing what you do about gravity, what is the highest acceleration it can reach?
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Is acceleration a scalar or a vector quantity? You could argue that it’s both actually, but in physics it’s usually a vector. This means that acceleration has a magnitude and a direction. The direction is either “+” or “-“, depending on if an object is increasing or decreasing speed. Usually, objects that speed up have their acceleration vector in the same direction as the object is moving in. If it’s slowing down, then the arrow flips to be in the opposite direction.