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Physics Lab Essay

2096 words - 9 pages

In my physics lab, I perform many experiments intended to compliment the lecture material. Doing these experiments not only improves my general understanding of the lab material and how physics equations apply to the real world, but also teaches me many things about experimental procedure and data collection. Overall, it is a very enriching experience.
The labs are performed in groups, usually of three to four people each. Four TAs are present during labs, to assist students in completing the lab procedures correctly. At the beginning of each lab, a TA explains the lab procedure and the equations necessary to do the lab.
In the lab, several rules are in place to ensure a safe and ...view middle of the document...

Students enrolled in the writing section must submit an additional 500 word essay for the first and fifth labs. Note that unlike the data collection portion of the lab, the pre-lab and lab report are done individually, rather than by collaborating with others in the lab.
Each experiment in the lab demonstrates a concept covered in the lecture section of the course, and helps students to better understand how the equations and theories from the classes can be applied to tangible, measurable experiments in the real world. For example, the first experiment provided students with hands-on experience taking measurements using professional equipment. In this experiment, the mass and spatial dimensions of an aluminum block were measure using a balance and caliper, respectively. One of the most important lessons of this experiment was that multiple trials should be taken to reduce experimental error. For this reason, the mass and spatial dimension measurements were each taken several times. These measurements were used to calculate the density of the block, and the standard deviation and standard error of the measurements and density calculation were evaluated. This experiment made clear the importance of units and the standard deviation/standard error equations described in the lecture.
The other experiments were similarly educational. The second experiment examined motion with constant acceleration. In this experiment, an air track was used to obtain a nearly frictionless inclined plane, on which a glider was placed. The glider was released at various positions along the track, and its speed was measured when it reached the bottom of the track. The velocity squared vs. Δx data and its linear regression line were plotted. Using equations from the lecture, it was possible to determine that the acceleration was the same as the slope of the regression line. Finally, the calculated acceleration was used to determine the gravitational acceleration.
For the third experiment, the decomposition of two-dimensional motion into one-dimensional components was analyzed. To do this, a metal ball was dropped through a length of bent PVC pipe, in such a way that the ball exited the pipe at a known height h above the ground, and traveling parallel to the ground. A photogate was mounted at the end of the pipe to measure the speed of the ball as it exited. Also, the distance that the ball traveled before hitting the ground was measured. From these data, it was possible to determine the horizontal and vertical components of the ball's motion after exiting the pipe. The results showed that the vertical portion of the motion was the same as if the ball had simply been dropped from the height of the pipe. The horizontal motion had no effect whatsoever on the vertical motion of the ball, demonstrating that a two-dimensional motion can indeed be broken down into component parts.
The fourth experiment explored the equilibrium of particles acted upon by several forces and...

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