Universal Law of Gravitation

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Additional information

Useful websites

  1. Cavendish experiment - This link gives a simple sketch of the Cavendish experiment.

This website demonstrates the set-up of the Cavendish experiment.

  1. Walter-Levin.png
    This is a college lecture by Prof Walter Levin explaining gravitation. Click here to see the video.



  2. Conceptual Physics
  3. Physics Classroom

Reference Books

The following textbooks are good references

  1. Conceptual Physics, Paul Hewitt, 10th Edition
  2. Physics for Scientists and Engineers, Douglas C. Giancoli, 3rd Edition
  3. Resnick & Halliday with Jearl Walker, 8th Edition
  4. NCERT Class 9 textbook Motion
  5. NCERT Class 9 textbook Laws of Motion
  6. NCERT Class 9 textbook Gravitation

Teaching Outlines

Concept #1 - Nature of Gravitational Force

Learning objectives

  1. Inertial and Gravitational Property of Mass
  2. Idea of a force field and that forces can act at a distance. The distance over which the effect of a force can be felt is called its field.
  3. Gravitational force acts over a distance through a field and is one of the four fundamental forces
  4. Gravitational force is a very small force

Notes for teachers

These are short notes that the teacher wants to share about the concept, any locally relevant information, specific instructions on what kind of methodology used and common misconceptions/mistakes.

  • Mass has two aspects – inertial and gravitational. We are familiar with mass; it is an intrinsic property of matter. An intrinsic property is something that cannot be separated from the object. The mass of an object can be understood in terms of its gravitational aspect and inertial aspect. The intrinsic property of matter which makes it resist change is what we have called as mass. But this same mass possesses another property – the ability to “attract” mass. This we call the gravitational aspect. The gravitational aspect of the mass is responsible for the attractive force between two masses. The gravitational aspect is what makes masses interact with one another.
  • Gravitation is a fundamental force. Gravitational force, or gravity, is the force by which physical bodies attract each other with a force directly proportional to their mass and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This is one of the four fundamental forces in nature. Gravity is the force which makes masses interact with one another. Gravitational force is mutually attractive. Another fundamental force is the electromagnetic force, due to another intrinsic property of matter – charge. These forces are due to charges possessed by an object and their movement.
  • Strong and weak nuclear forces are other fundamental forces that act within the nucleus of an atom, holding it together. These forces however act only at the subatomic level. Above the atomic level, gravitational and electromagnetic forces can satisfactorily explain all events.



Concept #2 - Newton's law of universal gravitation

Learning objectives

  1. Gravitational Force is small
  2. The importance of inverse square law

Notes for teachers

These are short notes that the teacher wants to share about the concept, any locally relevant information, specific instructions on what kind of methodology used and common misconceptions/mistakes.

Newton's law of universal gravitation states that every particle in the universe attracts every other particle with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Click on the links below to read more.

  1. Newton's Law of Gravitation
  2. Inverse Square Law
  3. Law of gravitation and relativity

Activity No # 1 Demonstration of the gravitational force

  • Estimated Time - 45 minutes
  • Materials/ Resources needed
  • Prerequisites/Instructions, if any
  • Multimedia resources
  • Website interactives/ links/ simulations

Gravity-force-lab-screenshot.png Click here for PhET simulation

  • Process (How to do the activity)
  1. Open the simulation
  2. Work with the simulation, change the parameters and discuss the following questions o
  • Developmental Questions (What discussion questions)
  1. When '"`UNIQ--postMath-00000001-QINU`"' is moved towards '"`UNIQ--postMath-00000002-QINU`"' what is the the force on each sphere?
  2. What is the direction and magnitude of the force?
  3. When the spheres are moved towards each other, does the force increase or decrease?
  4. What is this due to? (Inverse square law)
  • Evaluation (Questions for assessment of the child)
  1. If the gravitational force is the same for both objects, why do we see the apple falling but not the ground moving up?
  2. What can you say about the magnitude of gravitational force?
  • Question Corner
  1. If you were to go inside a mine, deep into the Earth will the gravitational force increase or decrease?
  2. If there was a hollow channel through the centre of the earth and if you drop a ball inside, how would the ball move?

Activity No #

  • Estimated Time
  • Materials/ Resources needed
  • Prerequisites/Instructions, if any
  • Multimedia resources
  • Website interactives/ links/ simulations
  • Process (How to do the activity)
  • Developmental Questions (What discussion questions)
  • Evaluation (Questions for assessment of the child)
  • Question Corner

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