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SHM in an accelerating frame

  1. Feb 10, 2015 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    The question is:

    A simple pendulum is mounted in an elevator. What happens
    to the period of the pendulum (does it increase, decrease, or
    remain the same) if the elevator
    (a) accelerates upward at 5 m/s/s
    (b) moves upward at a steady 5 m/s
    (c) accelerates downward at 5 m/s/s
    (d) accelerates downward at 9.81 m/s/s
    Justify your answers.

    My answer:

    (a) If the elevator accelerates upward, there is a greater upward force, therefore the amplitude will decrease. However, the amplitude and period are independent of each other, therefore, the period shall remain the same.

    (b) At constant speed, the period is the same

    (c) If it accelerated downward, lesser upward force, therefore the amplitude will decrease --> period is still the same.

    (d) No effect on the period for the same reasons as mentioned above.

    I don't know if I approached these questions correctly; can someone please help me out?
    Thank you.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 10, 2015 #2

    gneill

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    Staff: Mentor

    Can you write the equation for the period of a simple pendulum? What variables does it depend upon? Can any of them be affected during an elevator ride?
     
  4. Feb 10, 2015 #3

    Nathanael

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    Homework Helper

    Situation (d) where you are accelerating downwards at 9.81 m/s/s, this is just free fall, right?

    So if I dropped a pendulum and let it freely fall, are you saying it would oscillate like normal (while it's falling)?
     
  5. Feb 10, 2015 #4
    Ok. For some reason I was thinking this was a vertical spring-block system in an elevator!

    @gneill , the equation for the period of a simple pendulum is T = 2pi (L/g). The gravitational force is constant throughout as well as the length of the spring, so I don't think that amplitude would be affected.

    @Nathanael , no, it would just fall the same way an apple would fall from a tree.
     
  6. Feb 10, 2015 #5
    Well what if you moved the pendulum to deep outer space? Would it swing? Can this environment be replicated?

    Be careful to trust equation merely on their variables and learn to understand how they are formed/derived
     
  7. Feb 10, 2015 #6
    Well, to make it swing, there must be some sort of restoring force.
     
  8. Feb 10, 2015 #7

    gneill

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    Correct. What's the usual source of that restoring force?
     
  9. Feb 10, 2015 #8
    The gravitational force.
     
  10. Feb 10, 2015 #9

    gneill

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    Staff: Mentor

    Right. So some a force Mg acts on the bob, and some component of that resolves into the restoring force. What happens if the pendulum is being accelerated upwards or downwards?
     
  11. Feb 10, 2015 #10
    That force mg changes. If it is being accelerated upward, from the frame of the pendulum, the acceleration is greater. If it is being accelerated downward, then that force would be less. The greater the acceleration, the less the period.
     
  12. Feb 10, 2015 #11

    gneill

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    Staff: Mentor

    Bingo! :)
     
  13. Feb 10, 2015 #12

    Nathanael

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    Homework Helper

    Just to drill the point a bit more; it depends on what direction it is being accelerated in.
    In the free fall case (acceleration = 9.81 m/s/s downwards) the period increases to "infinity." But if the acceleration were 9.81 m/s/s upwards the period would be decreased.
     
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