Newton's First Law of Motion Experiment

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  • 0:04 Introduction to the Experiment
  • 1:18 Materials of the Experiment
  • 1:41 Steps of the Experiment
  • 2:47 How It Works
  • 3:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this experiment, you'll test how mass affects inertia based on Newton's first law of motion. In this lab, you'll demonstrate this relationship by dropping an egg into a glass of water.

Introduction to the Experiment

Let's take a moment to look at the basic information regarding this experiment before we get into the steps of testing Newton's first law of motion.

Research Question: What is the relationship between mass and inertia?
Age: High school and up
Safety Concerns: You'll be hitting some objects in this experiment, so make sure 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 of motion, which states that an object in motion tends to stay in 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.

Materials of the Experiment

Now let's quickly cover the different materials required to complete this experiment:

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

You'll also need to create a data table like this one, appearing here:

Mass of egg Observations

Steps of the Experiment

  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. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 with the larger egg and observe any differences compared to the small egg.
  8. If there are any breaks to your eggs, wash your hands and carefully clean up the spill with a cleaning product.

For some 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.

Now here are some discussion questions to consider when you're looking at your results:

  • 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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