# Understanding the Motion of a System: Analyzing Gravitational Interactions

• kolua
In summary, the system described in the given homework statement involves particles of mass m, 2m, and 3m arranged in a triangular formation that interact only gravitationally. If released from rest, the system will rotate clockwise around the common center of mass, and the particles will move in a straight line towards the center of mass. However, the accelerations are not constant, making the analysis of the motion of this system difficult to describe completely. The correct answer is therefore b, as the particles move towards the center of mass with increasing acceleration due to the inverse proportional relationship between acceleration and distance. Conservation laws such as momentum and angular momentum support this conclusion, as there is no external torque and the angular velocity and acceleration must be constant
kolua

## Homework Statement

Particles of mass m, 2m, and 3m are arranged as shown in (Figure 1) , far from any other objects. These three particles interact only gravitationally, so that each particle experiences a vector sum of forces due to the other two.

Is the analysis of the motion of this system straightforward?
Is the analysis of the motion of this system straightforward?
a. No. If released from rest, the system will rotate clockwise around the common center of mass. The accelerations are not constant, so the motion is difficult to describe completely.
b. No. If released from rest, each particle moves in a straight line toward the common center of mass. The accelerations are not constant, so the motion is difficult to describe completely.
c. Yes. If released from rest, the system will rotate clockwise around the common center of mass. The accelerations are constant, so the motion is easy to describe completely.
d. Yes. If released from rest, each particle moves in a straight line toward the common center of mass. The accelerations are constant, so the motion is easy to describe completely.

kolua said:

## The Attempt at a Solution

gneill said:
I calculated the forces between the three particles. m&2m: F=2Gm2/5d2 m&3m: F=3Gm2/d2 2m&3m: F=6Gm2/4d2 then compare the magnitude of the three forces to get the answer. They are not equal and they can't cancel out so they must be accelerating.

kolua said:
I calculated the forces between the three particles. m&2m: F=2Gm2/5d2 m&3m: F=3Gm2/d2 2m&3m: F=6Gm2/4d2 then compare the magnitude of the three forces to get the answer. They are not equal and they can't cancel out so they must be accelerating.
True, but all of the answers provided include acceleration, so acceleration alone is not a distinguishing factor. How did you settle on choice a?

gneill said:
True, but all of the answers provided include acceleration, so acceleration alone is not a distinguishing factor. How did you settle on choice a?
the forces are in different directions, so they can't be accelerating on a straight line or can they? and then I am struggled in picking a or c

Perhaps you're approaching the problem in a more complex way than necessary, trying to analyze the forces and motions. What do the various conservation laws suggest to you about how the system must behave?

gneill said:
Perhaps you're approaching the problem in a more complex way than necessary, trying to analyze the forces and motions. What do the various conservation laws suggest to you about how the system must behave?
There is no external force, so there is energy conservation, momentum conservation? should the answer be d then?

kolua said:
There is no external force, so there is energy conservation, momentum conservation? should the answer be d then?
Again, you'll have to make your argument for all the features of the chosen answer.

It's a straightforward isolated system so you can expect all the conservation laws to apply. Try them all against each of the proposed solutions. Hint: don't forget angular momentum! Hint: if you pare them down to a couple of choices that the conservation laws don't seem to be able to distinguish between, then take a look at the forces (accelerations) as the system evolves.

Since the forces on each particle point inward to the triangle. But the change in acceleration is inversely proportional to the square of the distance, so the acceleration is not constant?

kolua said:
Since the forces on each particle point inward to the triangle. But the change in acceleration is inversely proportional to the square of the distance, so the acceleration is not constant?
Is that a question or a statement? Seems like a reasonable argument rendered weak by adding a question mark

Don't be afraid to draw conclusions from a sound use of the laws of physics

gneill said:
Is that a question or a statement? Seems like a reasonable argument rendered weak by adding a question mark

Don't be afraid to draw conclusions from a sound use of the laws of physics
that is a statement seems like answer b is most reasonable now?

kolua said:
that is a statement seems like answer b is most reasonable now?
It could be! Why don't you list the reasons in support of each of the characteristics of answer b?

The forces point inward to the triangle, so the particles move to the center of mass. As the distance between them decreases, the acceleration increases. Only b seems to be suitable.
gneill said:
It could be! Why don't you list the reasons in support of each of the characteristics of answer b?

kolua said:
The forces point inward to the triangle, so the particles move to the center of mass. As the distance between them decreases, the acceleration increases. Only b seems to be suitable.
How can you be sure that the accelerations must be directly toward the center of mass? How are answers with rotating systems excluded?

What I'm looking for are arguments like, "By the conservation of momentum, ..." and "By the conservation of angular momentum,...". If you can fill in those blanks then you will have a rock solid answer.

gneill said:
How can you be sure that the accelerations must be directly toward the center of mass? How are answers with rotating systems excluded?

What I'm looking for are arguments like, "By the conservation of momentum, ..." and "By the conservation of angular momentum,...". If you can fill in those blanks then you will have a rock solid answer.
by the conservation of angular momentum, there is no external torque, so the angular velocity is constant, and the angular acceleration is thus constant. By the conservation of momentum, the center of mass must be at rest the whole time. But for each of the particle, the momentum is not conserved because of the forces exerted by the other two particle, its velocity must increase because of this force. is this correct? I have no clue...

kolua said:
by the conservation of angular momentum, there is no external torque, so the angular velocity is constant, and the angular acceleration is thus constant. By the conservation of momentum, the center of mass must be at rest the whole time. But for each of the particle, the momentum is not conserved because of the forces exerted by the other two particle, its velocity must increase because of this force. is this correct? I have no clue...
It's a good attempt, and covers the major ideas. I might have used the conservation of angular momentum to first exclude answers that suggest rotation (a & c), then argue that while both momentum laws are in favor of b & d (stationary center of gravity and no rotations about it so straight trajectories are suggested) that ultimately the law of gravitation implies that the accelerations will not be constant (must increase as particle separations decrease), making the final choice between b & d on that basis.

gneill said:
It's a good attempt, and covers the major ideas. I might have used the conservation of angular momentum to first exclude answers that suggest rotation (a & c), then argue that while both momentum laws are in favor of b & d (stationary center of gravity and no rotations about it so straight trajectories are suggested) that ultimately the law of gravitation implies that the accelerations will not be constant (must increase as particle separations decrease), making the final choice between b & d on that basis.
The acceleration will not be constant because the distance is changing.

## 1. What is the force of gravity?

The force of gravity is a natural phenomenon that attracts objects with mass towards each other. It is one of the four fundamental forces of nature and is responsible for keeping planets in orbit around the sun, as well as keeping objects on Earth's surface.

## 2. How is gravitational force calculated?

The force of gravity between two objects is calculated using Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation, which states that the force is directly proportional to the product of the masses of the two objects and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

## 3. What is the difference between weight and mass?

Weight is a measure of the force of gravity acting on an object, while mass is a measure of the amount of matter in an object. Weight can vary depending on the strength of the gravitational field, while mass remains constant regardless of location.

## 4. How does an increase in distance affect the force of gravity?

According to the inverse square law, an increase in distance between two objects will result in a decrease in the force of gravity between them. This means that the force of gravity decreases by a factor of four when the distance is doubled.

## 5. What is the difference between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy?

Gravitational potential energy is the energy an object possesses due to its position in a gravitational field, while kinetic energy is the energy an object possesses due to its motion. When an object falls, its gravitational potential energy decreases while its kinetic energy increases.

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