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Homework Help: Magnet experiment performed by a math major (yikes)

  1. Mar 29, 2009 #1
    Let me first explain my situation here...

    I'm a math major and out of all the sciences, physics is my least favorite, but I have to take this science class that forces you to design your own experiments. Math is used in physics all the time, but I have a really hard time connecting math to other areas of study, and I am horrible at physics. My final project has to be a physics project. So, I'm doing it on magnets.

    I know Iron, Nickel, and Cobalt are the three metals attracted to magnets. Originally I was designing an experiment with three pieces of each of those three metals and seeing how far away each metal would become attracted to a magnet and then measure how much more Iron is attracted to magnets than the other metals. This was to happen on a flat surface with different masses of the metals (50g, 250g, 500g for each metal), but my teacher said we don't have the resources. So, he having me use a ramp and put a metal on a car and use different degrees for the ramp. He said that would be the same as using different weights on a flat surface. Personally, I think he's just trying to make my life more difficult. I knew that if I kept everything flat, I wouldn't have to worry about extra variables like degrees and stuff like that... But no, he wants to make sure I use as much math with this as possible. I know that because I'm a math major, using a bunch of math should be easy, but I'm not good at applying math at all, I'm a pure math kind of person and have been trying to escape applied mathematics for years.

    Anyways, what I wanted to know was, what equations am I going to have to use with this kind of experiment? I have searched the internet to find simple equations, but when I do, the letters in the formulas aren't explained. Also, do you have any suggestions on how to make this easier on myself? Will I have to worry about friction at all? How much is gravity going to play a roll in this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2009 #2


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    The force component along the ramp, due to the object's weight, is
    m g sinθ
    m is the mass of the object (metal + car?)
    g is the acceleration due to gravity
    θ is the angle of the ramp w.r.t. horizontal
    So vary the angle in order to effectively vary the weight between 0 and the actual weight.

    Since the car would be on wheels, free to roll, you can probably neglect any friction.

    Hope that helps.
  4. Apr 4, 2009 #3
    That was fantastic. Thanks you!

    F=mg sin(angle of the ramp)

    It's safe to assume that g is always the same, right?
  5. Apr 4, 2009 #4


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    Yes, definitely. Good luck!
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