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15.11: Measuring Acceleration Due to Gravity

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Measuring Acceleration Due to Gravity

15.11: Measuring Acceleration Due to Gravity

Consider a coffee mug hanging on a hook in a pantry. If the mug gets knocked, it oscillates back and forth like a pendulum until the oscillations die out.

A simple pendulum can be described as a point mass and a string. Meanwhile, a physical pendulum is any object whose oscillations are similar to a simple pendulum, but cannot be modeled as a point mass on a string because its mass is distributed over a larger area. The behavior of a physical pendulum can be modeled using the principles of rotational motion and the concept of the moment of inertia. For both a simple and a physical pendulum, the restoring force is the force of gravity. With a simple pendulum, gravity acts on the center of the pendulum bob, while in the case of a physical pendulum, the force of gravity acts on the center of mass (CM) of the object.

The period (T) of a simple pendulum depends on its length and acceleration due to gravity (g). The period is entirely independent of other factors, such as mass and maximum displacement. Given the dependence of T on g, if the length of a pendulum and the period of oscillation is precisely known, they can be used to measure the acceleration due to gravity. This method for determining gravity can be very accurate.

A physical pendulum can also be used to measure the free-fall acceleration due to gravity at a particular location on Earth's surface, thousands of measurements of which have been made during geophysical prospecting.

Suggested Reading


Measuring Acceleration Due To Gravity Coffee Mug Hook Pantry Oscillations Pendulum Point Mass String Physical Pendulum Rotational Motion Moment Of Inertia Restoring Force Force Of Gravity Center Of Mass Period Length Maximum Displacement Dependence On G Measurement Accuracy Free-fall Acceleration Geophysical Prospecting

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