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Calc based Kinetics problem (Very easy to solve with physics- confused with calc0

  1. Dec 15, 2007 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    With what intial velocity must an object be thrown upward (from ground level) to reach the top of the Washington Monument (approx 550ft)?

    2. Relevant equations
    Here's what I know:

    [tex] s(t_{max})=550\\

    3. The attempt at a solution

    Actually I got the correct answer but I don't understand something. How do you know whether the constants "C" given by the indefinite integrals are the same?

    For example, when you integrate a(t)=s''(t) you get:


    When you integrate the velocity or s'(t) you get:

    [tex]s(t)=-16t^2+Ct+C [/tex]

    So are those C's the same or are they different? How do you know? When I treated them the same I got the correct answer, but when I didn't the answer turned out to be wrong.

    Can someone please explain the "constants dilemma?" Thanks.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 15, 2007 #2


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    They are different. And s'(t)=-32t+C, you left out the t. You fix the constants by making sure that s(0)=0 and the max of s(t) is 550ft.
  4. Dec 15, 2007 #3


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    Since you integrated the (constant) acceleration function, you now have the velocity function. The velocity at time t = 0 would be

    v(0) = s'(0) = -32·0 + C = C ,

    so the "arbitrary constant" becomes your initial velocity v(0). Now,

    The position function is now

    s(t) = -16(t^2) + v(0)·t + D ,

    which at time t = 0 becomes

    s(0) = -16·(0^2) + v(0)·0 + D .

    So the second arbitrary constant is D = s(0), the initial position. This is where the textbooks get the formulas for constant acceleration (a) kinematics

    v(t) = v(0) + at ,

    x(t) = x(0) + v(0)·t + (1/2)·a·(t^2) .
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2007
  5. Dec 15, 2007 #4
    WOW That's so cool!!! Okay thanks guys. First time seeing things in both the calculus and physics perspectives. lol
  6. Dec 15, 2007 #5


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    I really wish the two were simply taught together, since they grew up together. A great deal of mathematical technique and theory for millenia, but particularly over the last four hundred years, was in aid of solving increasingly sophisticated problems in physics and engineering...
  7. Dec 15, 2007 #6
    Yeah, me too. Unfortunately I learned physics before learning calculus, which I'm currently taking. I wish I had learned both together. I'm glad I took physics though, or else I wouldn't understand the physics-based calculus problems as much.
  8. Dec 15, 2007 #7
    Also, I can't believe I never knew how to actually derive these formulas.. I guess I couldn't anyways since I did not know any calculus to begin with.
  9. Dec 15, 2007 #8


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    Actually, the constant acceleration kinematic equations were already known in medieval Europe. If you make a graph of a constant acceleration function and ask how the area under it increases as time on the graph advances, you get the velocity equation given above. If you do the same with that function, you get the position equation. (They were doing what we would now called "graphical integration".) Newton developed calculus in order to grapple with problems involving non-constant accelerations.
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