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Inclined plane experiment, illustration

Inclined plane experiment, illustration

C035/9565

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Credit

JOSE ANTONIO PENAS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY JOSE ANTONIO PENAS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Inclined plane experiment. Illustration of the inclined plane experiment, a classic experiment used to demonstrate visually the rate at which speed (and distance covered) increases under a constant acceleration. When Italian physicist Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) investigated the effects of gravity, objects falling directly downwards accelerated too fast to allow accurate experimentation. Instead, he used an inclined plane to lower the acceleration. This allowed him to observe that the distance covered by the ball rolling down the inclined plane was proportional to the square of the time taken. The distance covered by the ball rolling down the plane is measured for each unit of time (T). The distance between each measurement is given here as X. After T=1, the ball has covered distance X=1. After T=2, it has covered a further distance X=3. After T=3, a further distance X=5, and after T=4, a further distance X=7. The total distance covered at each time interval is 1, 4, 9 and 16 respectively. This experiment was used by Galileo to calculate the value of gravity (g). For this illustration without labels, see C035/9566.

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