# External force on three blocks stacked

• brotherbobby
In summary, the figure shows that the blocks will not move relative to each other because the static friction between them is greater than the acceleration of the blocks.
brotherbobby
Homework Statement
An external force of 10 N is applied on the lowest of the three blocks as shown in the figure below. The masses of the blocks are shown along with the coefficient of friction of their (rough) surfaces. If the ground in contact with the lowest block is smooth, calculate the accelerations ##a_1, a_2\; \text{and}\; a_3## of the three blocks. [Assume ##g = 10 m/s^2##]
Relevant Equations
Newton's (2nd) law : ##\Sigma \vec F = m\vec a##. Frictional force ##f =\mu N##, where ##N## is the normal reaction at contact and ##\mu## is the coefficient of friction.

The figure is shown above. In order to facilitate solution, I need to separate each block and draw the free-body diagram (FBD) with all the forces acting on it.

1. Let me start with the lowest block. Let me put its FBD as shown below.

For forces in the vertical direction, ##N_3 = N_2 + m_3 g = (m_1+m_2)g + m_3g = (m_1+m_2+m_3)g##. The frictional force ##f_{23} = \mu_2 N_2 = \mu_2 (m_1+m_2)g##.
The net force acting on the block : ##F - \mu_2 (m_1+m_2)g = 10 - 0.3(2+3) \times 10 = 10-15 = -5## N, which is less than zero.

Hence the lowest block will not move relative to the 2nd block above it (##\checkmark##, correct in so far as it matches with the answer in the text, see below). The block may have an acceleration, but certainly none relative to the block (2) above it. Please note that this, in and of itself, does not tell us what the frictional force between the two blocks (##f_{23}##) is. It has to be of some value >0 but its value as of yet is unknown. What we can say is that ##F - f_{23} = m_3 a##.2. I put the FBD of block 2. This is where my problems begin.

Since we don't know ##f_{23}## (see 1 above), we don't know whether it is more or less than the maximum frictional force between the blocks 1 and 2 ##f_{12}##. I could not proceed further.[The answer as given in the text is that the three blocks move as a system with acceleration ##a = \frac{F}{m_1+m_2+m+3} = \frac{10}{12} = \mathbf{\boxed{5/6 \; \text{ms}^{-2}}}##.]

In my attempt for the lowest block (1) above, I find that I did go somewhere. Indeed, far as I can see, blocks 2 and 3 won't move relative to one another. How does that mean that the system of blocks 2-3 won't move relative to block 1?

Some help as to how that is would be appreciated.

Last edited:
Begin by calculating the acceleration of the blocks as if they did not slide relative to each other. Note that the net force on the top block under this assumption is the static friction ##f_{s1}##. Then answer the question, "Is the maximum value ##f_{s1}^{max}## greater than or less than ##m_1a##?" If less than, ##m_1## is sliding on ##m_2##; if greater than, it is not. Repeat considering ##m_1+m_2## as the "top" block.

nasu
kuruman said:
Begin by calculating the acceleration of the blocks as if they did not slide relative to each other. Note that the net force on the top block under this assumption is the static friction ##f_{s1}##. Then answer the question, "Is the maximum value ##f_{s1}^{max}## greater than or less than ##m_1a##?" If less than, ##m_1## is sliding on ##m_2##; if greater than, it is not. Repeat considering ##m_1+m_2## as the "top" block.
Sorry to bother but do you mean the acceleration of blocks as if m1 and m2 only didn’t slide relative to each other in first line because if I consider acceleration such that all three blocks don’t slide relative to each other and then compare the max frictional value, answer is coming wrong in some cases.
Thanks

teo11 said:
Sorry to bother but do you mean the acceleration of blocks as if m1 and m2 only didn’t slide relative to each other in first line because if I consider acceleration such that all three blocks don’t slide relative to each other and then compare the max frictional value, answer is coming wrong in some cases.
Thanks

kuruman

## 1. What is an external force?

An external force is a force that acts on an object from outside of the system. It can change the motion or shape of the object, and is typically caused by interactions with other objects or forces in the environment.

## 2. How does an external force affect three blocks stacked on top of each other?

An external force can cause the three blocks to move or change shape. Depending on the direction and magnitude of the force, the blocks may slide, topple, or remain in place.

## 3. What factors determine the effect of an external force on the stacked blocks?

The weight and mass of each block, the surface friction between the blocks, and the direction and magnitude of the external force are all factors that determine the effect of the force on the stacked blocks.

## 4. Can an external force cause the stacked blocks to separate?

Yes, if the external force is strong enough, it can cause the stacked blocks to separate and move away from each other. This can happen if the blocks are not securely stacked or if the force is applied at a certain angle.

## 5. How can the effect of an external force on the stacked blocks be calculated?

The effect of an external force can be calculated using Newton's laws of motion and the principles of statics. By considering the forces acting on each block and the overall stability of the system, the resulting motion or deformation of the stacked blocks can be determined.

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