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this force increases with increase in the

speed of the body.

Therefore the unbalanced force (W-D)
downwards decreases hence the
acceleration decreases. The velocity-time
graph of the motion is as shown below.


a) Acceleration due to gravity.
If a body is released from a height in air, it
accelerates downwards. On the surface of
the Earth, this acceleration is equal to
10m/s2. This acceleration would be
maintained if such an experiment is
conducted in a vacuum.
However if it is conducted in air, air
resistance (In fluid, drag) acts against the
motion reducing the unbalanced force
hence reducing the acceleration.
b) Forces acting on a body falling
through air.
Three forces acts on a body falling through
i) Weight, W of the body that acts
vertically downwards.
ii) Upthrust, U acting vertically
upwards. However this force is so
small in air such that it can be
iii) Air resistance (drag, D) which
is opposite to the direction of motion
since its a friction force.
At the point of release, ignoring upthrust,
the only force that acts on a falling body is
its weight. This force is unbalanced hence
the body accelerates.

At a point in time during the fall, the two

force balance and the body fall at a
constant velocity called terminal velocity.
This is shown in the graph by the horizontal
part of the graph.

As it starts moving another force comes

into play, the air resistance. The size of

His motion graph would be as follows.

c) A fall using a parachute.

On opening the parachute, drag increases,

creating some unbalanced force upwards.
Since he is moving downwards this
unbalanced force makes him to decelerate.
If a high altitude diver jumps off a hovering
aircraft, accelerates downwards.

However, with decrease in speed, air

resistance decreases therefore the
unbalanced force downwards also
decreases. The deceleration decreases until
the two forces once again balances. The
parachutist once again travels downwards
at a constant speed, a lower terminal
velocity which is safe to land.
d) Drag force.
This refers to fluid resistance. Bodies
moving through fluid experiences friction
force called drag or viscous drag or simply
viscosity. The size of this force depends on:
i) The shape and the size of the
object. Wide block shaped object

This happens until he achieves terminal

velocity after which he opens the

have more drag than narrow

streamlined ones.
Racing cars, boats, aeroplanes and
high speed trains are streamlined.

The time taken between making a dot and

the next is called a tick. For this timer it is
given by:

A wider parachute experiences more

air resistance.
ii) The speed of the body. The higher
the speed of a body in a fluid, the
greater the drag.
iii) The thickness of the fluid. Thick
fluids exerts more drag.
e) Modelling terminal velocity.
To reach terminal velocity in air, objects
have to be accelerated to quite high
Objects falling through liquids experiences
greater drag than in gases. Therefore
objects falling through liquids have a much
lower terminal velocity.
By use of a tall glass jar filled with oil and
dropping a small diameter ball bearing,
terminal velocity can be measured using
light gates and data loggers.



= 1/50
= 0.02s

A ticker timer tape is attached to the back

of a trolley and is let run down an inclined
plane as shown below.

f) Ticker timer.
It is an instrument that is used to make
dots at a constant time interval. If it has a
frequency of 50Hz, it makes 50 dots in a

If the trolley moves at a constant speed the

dots are equally spaced as shown in the
first tape below.
If it is accelerating the spacing increases as
shown in the second tape and if

decelerating, the spacing decreases as

shown in the third tape.

Determine the initial velocity, u, by

dividing the length of the 1st space
by a tick and the final velocity, v,
using the last space.
Calculate the time between the two
velocities by multiplying the number
of spaces minus one by a tick.
Using the formula below acceleration
is obtained.

The tape below had dots made by a ticker
timer frequency 50Hz. Find the acceleration
to the motion.

The speed of the trolley can be obtained as

Using a ruler measure the length
between the first and the last dot to
get the distance travelled.
Count the number of spaces
between the first and the last dot
and multiply this by a tick to get the
time taken.
Using the formula below find the
Speed =


u = 0.5/0.02
= 25cm/s
v = 3/0.02
= 150cm/s
A = ( v-u)/t
= (150-25)/(6-1)x0.02
= 1250cm/s2


Find the speed of the body pulling the tape
below made by a timer that has a
frequency of 50Hz.

g) Graphs
Graphs can also be used to analyse the
motion. The tape is cut into lengths
representing equal time intervals and it is
pasted on a pair of axes as shown below. If
the tapes are equal in size, it shows that
the motion is at a constant speed as shown
in the graph (a) below.
If it is accelerating as in the graph (b) and
if decelerating as in the graph (c).

V = d/t
= 15/(0.02 X 15)
= 50cm/s
If the body was moving at a higher
constant speed the spacing between the
dots will be greater.

The acceleration or deceleration of a body
can also be calculated using a tape as

h) Measuring acceleration.
Galileos experiment.
When a ball is rolled down a slope, its
speed increases or it accelerates. Galileo
devised an experiment to study this
acceleration. The rolling ball was made to
strike series small bells as shown below.

By adjusting the positions of the bells

carefully, it is possible to make the bells
ring at equal intervals of time as the ball
passes. He noticed that the ball was
accelerating at a constant rate.