Don’t be intimidated by scientific laws. They are simple rules that tell how the universe works. This Newton’s first law of motion experiment shows just how simple.
Most people remember Sir Isaac Newton as the man who first explained gravity. Newton, also, gave us his three laws of motion. Newton’s first law of motion states that objects at rest tend to stay at rest, and objects in motion tend to stay in motion at the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon my an outside force. This is sometimes referred to as the Law of Inertia.
Inertia is an object’s resistance to change in its state of motion whether at rest or moving. Objects retain their inertia unless acted on by a force. Force can be applied in many ways.
Try this simple experiment to test Newton’s first law of motion. It will help you and your students get a good idea of what the Law Of Inertia is all about and how applied force, frictional force, and the force of gravity affect objects.
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All you will need for this experiment is:
- a coin
- a glass
- a notecard
In the first part of the experiment, both the note card and the coin had a certain amount of inertia at rest. Then, an applied force was applied to the note card making it move. The force overcame the inertia of the note card. That applied force was the hand grasping and pulling the note card. The hand did not touch the coin, but the coin still moved with the note card.
According to Apologia’s Physical Science curriculum, “Friction is a force that results from surfaces rubbing against one another.” The frictional force between the note card and the coin acted on the coin and that force caused the coin to move along with the note card. The coin would have stayed at rest if the frictional force had not been applied to it.
In the second part of the experiment, the coin did not move with the note card. In fact, when the note card was quickly removed from beneath the coin, the force of gravity acted upon the coin causing it to fall into the glass. The speed of the applied force that moved the card overcame the frictional force between the note card and the coin, so the coin wasn’t moved by frictional force. However, the inertia of the coin was overcome by the force of gravity.
Try this simple experiment with your kids. It’s a fun way to make a complicated sounding concept easy to understand.