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Investigating Centripetal Acceleration using a Pendulum

Experiment #12A from Advanced Physics with Vernier — Mechanics

Education Level
High School


The typical response when one hears the word acceleration is to think of an object changing its speed. You have also learned that velocity has both magnitude and direction. So, an object traveling at constant speed in a circular path is undergoing an acceleration. In this experiment you will develop an expression for this type of acceleration.


In this experiment, you will

  • Analyze velocity vectors of an object undergoing uniform circular motion to determine the direction of the acceleration vector at any given moment.
  • Collect force, velocity, and radius data for a mass swinging as a pendulum.
  • Analyze the force vs. velocity and force vs. radius graphs.
  • Determine the relationship between force, mass, velocity, and radius when the force is perpendicular to the velocity.
  • Use this relationship and Newton’s second law to determine an expression for centripetal acceleration.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following sensors and equipment. Additional equipment may be required.

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This experiment is #12A of Advanced Physics with Vernier — Mechanics. The experiment in the book includes student instructions as well as instructor information for set up, helpful hints, and sample graphs and data.

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