Episode 223: Preparation for circular motion topic

Advance warning
There are several demonstrations in this topic which can add a lot to the interest of the subject. It is useful to practise them in advance, to avoid embarrassing failures in front of the students.

A useful source of material is Multimedia Motion II, from Cambridge Science Media. This CD-ROM contains many excellent video clips of motion including that showing an object moving in a horizontal and vertical circle. The position, velocity and acceleration of the object can be analysed.


Main aims
Students will:

  • Describe qualitatively motion in a curved path due to a perpendicular force, and understand the centripetal acceleration in the case of uniform motion in a circle
  • Express angular displacement in radians
  • Recall and use centripetal acceleration a = v 2/r
  • Apply the equation F = ma to uniform motion in a circle to derive F = mv 2/r

Prior knowledge
Students should be familiar with the equations of linear motion, and Newton's laws of motion.

Where this leads
Circular motion crops up in many different situations, and students will need to be able to apply the equations for centripetal force and acceleration. For example:

  • masses orbiting under gravity
  • charged particles moving in uniform magnetic fields
  • charged particles moving in radial electric fields

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