Newton's First Law of Motion Experiment

Instructor: Amanda Robb
In this experiment, you'll be testing how mass affects inertia based on Newton's first law of motion. In this lab, you'll be demonstrating this relationship by dropping an egg into a glass of water.

Introduction

Research Question: What is the relationship between mass and inertia?
Age: High school and up
Safety Concerns: In this lab, you'll be hitting some objects. Make sure that you have plenty of room to work.
Time: 1 hour
Independent variable: Mass of the egg
Dependent variable: Qualitative analysis of inertia
Control variables: Egg drop apparatus setup, force applied to plate, amount of water in cup

Imagine a tractor trailer barreling down the highway. On the same highway, a compact car speeds along. Which one would you rather collide with? Probably neither, but one vehicle is going to be much harder to stop than the other. Can you guess which one? You're probably thinking the large truck, and you would be right. But why are heavier objects harder to stop than lighter objects? The answer has to do with Newton's first law, which states that an object in motion tends to stay in motion. To review Newton's first law, you can watch this video lesson: Newton's First Law of Motion: Examples of the Effect of Force on Motion.

Newton's first law explains the concept of inertia, which is the tendency of objects to resist changes in motion. Today, we're going to see how the mass of an object influences its inertia. If you need to read up on inertia, you can do that in this lesson: Laws of Inertia: Definition & Formula.

Materials

  • Paper towel tube
  • Pie plate
  • 12-ounce glass
  • 12 ounces of water
  • Extra large egg
  • Small egg (still large enough to fit on top the paper towel tube)
  • Access to running water and soap
  • Balance
  • Data table:

Mass of egg Observations


Steps

1. Take the mass of both eggs and record this in your data table.

2. Fill your glass with 6 ounces of water.

3. Center the pie plate on top of the glass.

4. Next, center the paper towel tube vertically on top of the pie plate.

5. Gently place the smaller egg on the paper towel tube, making sure it sits on top of the tube.

Experiment setup
setup

5. You're going to smack the pie plate out from under the paper towel tube and egg. You won't touch the paper towel tube or the egg, only the pie plate. You might need to try this more than once to apply to appropriate force.

6. Repeat steps 2-5 with the larger egg and observe any differences compared to the small egg.

Safety Tip!! Raw eggs may contain pathogens.

7. If there are any breaks to your eggs, wash your hands and carefully clean up the spill with a cleaning product.

Troubleshooting

If you're having trouble smacking your pie plate out of the way, try to use a little more force. You should be able to disrupt the pie plate without hitting the egg.

Discussion Questions

What happened when you hit the pie plate?

What differences did you observe between the small egg and the large egg?

How did mass influence inertia?

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