The question states: "You have a lightweight spring whose unstretched length is 3.28 cm. You're curious to see if you can use this spring to measure charge. First, you attach one end of the spring to the ceiling and hang a 2.57 g mass from it. This stretches the spring to a length of 4.37 cm. You then attach two small plastic beads to the opposite ends of the spring, lay the spring on a frictionless table, and give each plastic bead the same charge. This stretches the spring to a length of 3.78 cm. What is the magnitude of the charge on each bead?" So, after finding the spring constant using the mass hung from the ceiling, we can calculate the restoring force of the spring in the spring-2bead system. This restoring force must be equal to the electric force exerted by the beads since the spring is at equilibrium. This is the part that I'm having trouble with. Shouldn't the restoring force be equal to 2x the electric force? Each bead will exert a force on the other and cause each to stretch the spring in opposite directions. In other words, the electric force of each bead on the other (so there are two forces) is what actually causes the spring to stretch to its equilibrium length. If we calculate using only one electric force, aren't we making the assumption that one bead is held still in position? The answer as it stands is found by equating the restoring force to only one electric force so where have I gone wrong? Thanks.
… springy thingy … Hi nothing123! But if one bead was held still in position, wouldn't the length of the spring be the same?
Yes, you're right and I have reasoned it this way. Nevertheless, if one wasn't held in place, why would the result be the same?
We are applying Newton's second law on the Bead. There are only two forces working on it-electrostatic and spring force. So [tex]F_s=F_q[/tex] not [tex] F_s=2F_q[/tex]