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DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS

Problem Set 1

Due: Friday September 15 4:00PM. Please deposit the problem set in the appropriate 8.033 bin,

Reading: Resnick Chapter 1 & beginning of Chapter 2. Parallel reading: Chapters 1 & 2 in French.

Problem 0(3 points): Write your name, section number and staple your problem set!

In 1675, the Danish astronomer Olaus Roemer showed for the rst time that the speed of light is

nite. He did this using measurements by French the astronomer Giovanni Cassini of the orbital

period of Jupiters moon Io. The time between two successive appearances of Io from behind

Jupiter was observed to be slightly longer when Earth was moving away from Jupiter rather than

approaching. Relative to the orbital period when Earth was closest to Jupiter (around A), all

periods were thus measured to be slightly longer during the six months when Earth moved from

B to C to the point farthest from Jupiter (around D). The sum of these six months of period

excesses was was measured to be 22 minutes. How would you interpret this result and estimate

the speed of light? (Neglect the motion of Jupiter, which takes 12 years to orbit the Sun.)

Hint: This eect has nothing to do with doppler shifting of light! The dierence in observed period

values is related to the nite speed of light i.e, the time taken for light to reach Earth varies with

its orbital position.

Problem 2(6 points): This Goodly Frame, the Earth... (Hamlet)

For some purposes the Earth cannot be taken as a totally goodly inertial frame because its

motion is accelerated. Calculate the accelerations associated with

a) the Earths rotation about its axis (assume an equatorial point),

c) the orbital motion of the solar system about the Galactic Center and

The Earth-Sun distance is about 1.5 1011 m and the Earth-Moon distance is about 3.8 108 m.

Mass ratio of Earth and the Moon is about 80. Assume that the Sun is about 10 kpc from the

Galactic center and orbits around it at about 300 km/s. One parsec = 103 kpc 3.09 1016 m.

Problem 3(6 points): The Galilean Transformation Generalized

a) Resnick, Chapter 1, problem number 7, page 46. In other words, generalize equations 1.1a

and 1.1b in the book.

b) Write down the equivalent matrix equation.

Note: We will return to this problem in Special Relativity where it becomes substantially more

complicated.

Problem 4(9 points): Momentum conservation

An observer on the ground watches a collision between two particles whose masses are m1 and

m2 and nds, by measurement, that momentum is conserved. Use the classical velocity addition

theorem to show that an observer on a moving train will also nd that momentum is conserved

in this collision.

Repeat this calculation under the assumption that a transfer of mass from one particle to the other

takes place during the collision, the initial masses being m1 and m2 and the nal masses being

m1 and m2 . Again, assume that the ground observer nds, by measurement, that momentum is

conserved. Show that the train observer will also nd that momentum is conserved only if mass

is also conserved, that is, if m1 + m2 = m1 + m2 .

Note: In this course we generally reserve u for velocities of objects within a given frame, and v for

velocities of transformation.

Problem 5(9 points): The Invariance of Elastic

A collision between two particles in which energy is conserved is described as elastic. Show, using

the Galilean velocity transformation equations, that if a collision is found to be elastic in one

inertial reference frame, then it will also be found to be elastic in all other such frames.

Could this result have been predicted from the conservation of energy principle?

Note: You may restrict your analysis to the special case where all velocities are along the x-axis.

Problem 6(6 points): The work-energy theorem holds in all inertial frames

Observer G is on the ground and observer T is on a train moving with uniform velocity v with

respect to the ground. Each observes that a particle of mass m, initially at rest with respect the

train, is acted on by a constant force F applied to it in the forward direction for a time t.

a) Show that the two observers will nd, for the work done on the particle by the force F,

1 1

WT = ma2 t2 and WG = ma2 t2 + mvat,

2 2

respectively, where a is the common acceleration of the particle.

b) Show that KT and KG , the changes in kinetic energy calculated by each observer, are

also given by these same two expressions.

Thus the work-energy theorem W = K is valid in all inertial reference frames.

Problem 7(6 points): Initial Conditions Depend on the Frame

A person standing on a train moving with speed v (with respect to the ground) releases a ball

from rest at a height h above the oor. The ball falls straight down and hits the oor at a time

t = (2h/g)1/2 , where g is the gravitational acceleration. Sketch the trajectory that an observer at

rest on the ground measures. (Assume that one side of the train is made of transparent material.)

How do you reconcile, quantitatively, the dierent trajectories with the fact that Newtons second

law, F = ma, is supposed to work equally well in both of these inertial frames?

Problem A: (Optional) Vacuum Speed of Light is Independent of Frequency

X-ray pulses, visible-light pulses, and radio pulses (the latter corrected for dispersion in the in

terstellar plasma) emitted by an astronomical object called a pulsar are all observed to arrive

simultaneously at the Earth with an uncertainty of only 200 microseconds. The particular

pulsar in question is located at a distance from the Earth of 6000 light years. Use this information

to make a quantitative estimate of how much the speed of electromagnetic radiation can vary with

frequency (or wavelength). Express your answer as a limit on the fractional dierence in speed

over this wide range of electromagnetic frequencies.

Feedback: Roughly how much time did you spend on this problem set?

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