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Homework Help: Kinematics train problem

  1. Sep 10, 2008 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    A fugitive tries to hop on a freight train traveling at a constant speed of 6.0m/s. The fugitive starts from rest and accelerates at 4.0m/s^2 to his maximum speed of 8.0 m/s. How long does it take him to catch the train? What is the distance traveled to catch the train?

    3. The attempt at a solution

    Displacement of fugitive=Displacement of train
    D=VoT +1/2aT^2 So...

    VoT +1/2aT^2 = VoT +1/2aT^2 Plug in some values...

    0 + 1/2aT^2 = VoT + 0 Now I will rearrange the equation to solve for T (I'm going to eliminate a double root here, but it really doesn't matter I think)

    T=2Vo(of the train) / a (of the fugitive)


    Now to find the displacement of the fugitive when he catches the train, I plug in 3s into the equation d=1/2(Vo+V)


    It takes the fugitive 3s to catch up to the boxcar. The fugitive travels 12m to catch the car.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 11, 2008 #2


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    Homework Helper

    Hi joe215,

    I don't believe this is right. The factor of 1/2aT^2 only describes the fugitives motion while he is accelerating; however, he will reach maximum speed before he reaches the train, so you'll need to calculate his displacement in two steps (or two terms in the equation).
  4. Sep 11, 2008 #3
    Ok is this right...

    First I figure out how long it takes the fugitive to attain a velocity of 8m/s and the distance he travels in that interval. So...

    8/4= 2s

    In 2s he reaches 8m/s.

    d=VoT + 1/2at^2

    Now, when the distance of the train and fugitive are equal, their time is...

    velocity of the fugitive * time of the fugitive=velocity of the train * time of the train +3s


    The fugitives displacement= his velocity * time
    D= 8m/s * 4s

    Now i add the the first 8m the fugitive traveled. 32m+40m

    It takes him 6s to catch the train and he travels 40m.
  5. Sep 11, 2008 #4


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    This equation is close, but not quite correct. The quantity on the right side is the distance the train has travelled from the time the man began running, but the quantity on the left is only the distance the man has run since the man reached full speed.

    The left side needs to be the total distance the man has run since he began running, so you need to add the 8m term to the left side in this equation to solve for t (not later on in the problem).

    By the way, you can check and see that this value does not work; in 6 seconds the train (moving 6m/s) has moved 36m, so this time and distance do not match for this problem.
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