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Physics 8A Midterm 1 Review Problems & Solutions

Nicole Greene (


Problem 1.
The figure below shows two masses resting on a larger block in the shape of an equilateral triangle.
The two blocks have mass m1 and m2 , with m2 > m1 . They are connected to one another through
a string running over a pulley. The whole system is being accelerated to the right at an acceleration,
a, chosen such that the two small blocks do not move relative to the triangle. If at this acceleration
mass m1 is just starting to lose contact with the triangle, what is m2 /m1 ? Your final answer should
depend only on θ. All surfaces are frictionless.

Solution 1.

Newton’s Second Law:
F1x = T cos θ = m1 a
F1y = T sin θ − m1 g = 0
F2x = −T cos θ + N2 sin θ = m2 a
F2y = T sin θ + N2 cos θ − m2 g = 0


T cos θ = m1 a (1)
T sin θ = m1 g (2)
N2 sin θ = (m2 + m1 )a (3)
N2 cos θ = (m2 − m1 )g (4)

Dividing (2) by (1) and (3) by (4), we get:

g (m2 + m1 )a
tan θ = =
a (m2 − m1 )g

Which is equivalent to:

m2 tan2 θ + 1 1 −1
= 2 = 2 =
m1 tan θ − 1 2
sin θ − cos θ cos2θ

Problem 2.
A person throws a ball with speed v0 at 45◦ angle and hits a target. How much quicker does the
ball get to the target if the person instead throws the ball with the same speed v0 but at the angle
that makes the trajectory consist of two identical bumps, as shown in the figure below? (Assume
unrealistically that there is no loss in speed at the bounce.)

Solution 2.
In the y direction: 0 = v0 sin θt − 2 In the x direction: ∆x = v0 cos θt

2v0 sin θ
Solving the y equation for t (= g ) and plugging that into the x equation, gives the re-
v0 2 sin 2θ
lationship between ∆x and θ: ∆x = g . For the throw without a bounce, θ = 45◦ , and so

v0 2 v0 2
∆x = g . This means the distance traveled by the ball by the first bounce is 2g .

v0 2 sin 2θ v0 2 2v0 sin 15◦

So g = 2g , which means θ = 15◦ and t = g . This however, is the amount of
time that it takes for the ball to traverse the first bump. Therefore the total time it takes for the
4v0 sin 15◦
ball to do both bumps is g .

t1bump sin 45◦

This means the ball is t2bumps −1= 2 sin 15◦ − 1 ≈ 37% faster

Problem 3.
In the Atwood’s machine shown below, both masses are m. Find their accelerations.

Solution 3.
Let the tension in the upper left part of the string be T. Then the two other upper parts also have
tension T, as shown. Because the left pulley is massless, the net force on it must be zero, so the
string below it must have tension 2T . This then implies the other 2T shown. Finally, the tension
in the bottom string is 4T because the net force on the bottom pulley must be zero.

Newton’s Second Law:

Ftx = −T + 2T + mg = mat
Fby = −4T + mg = mab

In order to figure out the relationship between at and ab we first need to look at the relationship
between the top mass and the left pulley, and the bottoms mass and the left pulley.
Imagine that the left mass (and hence left pulley) goes up by a distance d. Then a length d of
string disappears from each of the two segments above the pulley. So a total length 2d of string
disappears from these two segments. This string has to go somewhere, so it appears above the
right mass. The right mass therefore goes down by 2d, as shown. So the downward displacement
of the right mass is always twice the upward displacement of the left mass. Taking two derivatives
of this relation tells us that downward acceleration of the right mass is always twice the upward
acceleration of the left mass.

Additionally, if the left pulley goes up by d, then an extra length d of string appears below the
dotted line of the previous picture. This is true because d disappears from each of the two parts
of the string above the left pulley, but d must also be inserted right below the pulley. So a net
length d is left over, and this appears below the dotted line. It gets divided evenly between the two
parts of the string touching the bottom pulley, so the bottom pulley (and hence the bottom mass)
goes down by d/2. So the acceleration of the bottom mass is half the acceleration of the left pulley
(with the opposite sign).
Combining these two effects gives us the relationship ab = 4. Therefore:

T + mg = mat
−16T + 4mg = mat

20 5
So at = 17 g downwards and ab = 17 g downwards.

Problem 4.
A ball is dropped from rest at height h. At height y, it bounces elastically (that is, without losing
any speed) off a board. The board is inclined at the angle (which happens to be 45◦ ) that makes
the ball bounce off horizontally. In terms of h, what should y be so that the ball hits the ground
as far off to the side as possible? What is the horizontal distance in this optimal case?
Solution 4.

Before bounce:
vy 2 = −2g(y − h), therefore vy = 2g(h − y)
After bounce: q
gt2 2y
p p
vx = vy = 2g(h − y) (elastic), and y − 2 = 0 so t = g . Therefore ∆x = vx t = 2 y(h − y).

To maximize ∆x with respect to y, maximize y(h − y). ∂y = h − 2y = 0, so ∆x is maxi-
mized when y = 2, which means ∆xmax = h.

Problem 5.
Two children are playing a game, which they try to hit a small box using a spring-loaded marble
gun, which is fixed rigidly to a table and projects a marble of mass m horizontally from the edge
of the table. The edge of the table is a height h above the top of the box. The spring has a spring
constant k and the edge of the box is some unknown horizontal distance l away from the table. The
first child compresses the spring a distance x0 and finds that the marble falls short of its target by
a horizontal distance y. How far should the second child compress the spring in order to land in
the box? Let g denote the gravitational acceleration. Express your answer in terms of k, m, x0 , g,
h, and y as needed but do not use the unknown distance l.

Solution 5. q
Work Energy Theorem: Wtot = 12 kx2 = 12 mvx 2 = ∆KE, so vx = k

In the y direction: ∆y = 0 − h = − 12 gt2 so t = 2h g
In the x direction: ∆x = vx t = gm x
If ∆x = l − y and x = x0 , then l = 2hk x0 + y.
q gm q q
If ∆x = l (which we desire), then 2hk gm x 0 + y = 2hk
gm x so x = x 0 + y 2hk

Problem 6.
At t = 0 two blocks of the same mass M composed of different materials, are released from rest
down an inclined plane. The blocks are initially separated by a distance L. The coefficient of
kinetic friction between the plane and the lower block is µ2 , while that between the plane and the
upper block is µ1 . Suppose µ1 < µ2 . The upper and lower blocks both start to accelerate after
release, with accelerations a1 and a2 respectively. At t = t1 , they collide, while still traveling down
the plane.

a) Draw a free body diagram for each block, applicable or any time in the interval 0 < t < t1 .

b) Derive expressions for a1 and a2 in terms of the given variables: M , g. L, θ, m1 , and m2 .

c) What is t1 in terms of these same variables?

Solution 6.


b) Newton’s Second Law:
F1 , 2x = −f r1,2 + M g sin θ = M a1,2
F1 , 2y = N1,2 − M g cos θ = 0

Therefore: f r1,2 = µ1,2 N1,2 = µ1,2 M g cos θ and so a1,2 = g(sin θ − µ1,2 cos θ).
q q
2 2 L L
c) a1 t1 = xf = L + a2 t1 , therefore t1 = a1 −a 2
= g cos θ(µ2 −µ1 ) .

Problem 7.
The figure below shows a small, triangular block with mass, m, on top of an incline with mass, M ,
making an angle, θ, from the horizontal. A force, F, is applied on the small block so that the two
blocks do not move relative to one another on a table. If all surfaces are frictionless, find F interms
of m, M , θ, and g.

Solution 7.

Newton’s Second Law:

F1x = F − N1 sin θ = ma
F1y = N1 cos θ − mg = 0
F2x = N1 sin θ = M a
F2y = N2 − N1 cos θ − M g = 0

So N1 = cos θ and a = N1 sin θ
M therefore F − mg tan θ = m mgM
tan θ
. Thus F = mg tan θ(1 + m
M ).

Problem 8.
A projectile is fired horizontally with speed v0 from the top of a cliff of height h. It immediately
enters a fixed tube with length x, as shown in the figure below. There is friction between the
projectile and the tube, the effect of which is to make the projectile decelerated with constant
acceleration −a (a is a positive quantity here) After the projectile leaves the tube, it undergoes
normal projectile motion down to the ground.

a) What is the total horizontal distance (call it l) that the projectile travels, measured from the
base of the cliff? Give your answer in terms of x, h, v0 , g, and a.

b) What value of x yields the maximum value of l?

Solution 8.

a) In the tube: vf 2 = v0 2 − 2ax so vf =q v0 2 − 2ax
Out of the tube: h − gt2 = 0 so t = 2h g
√ q
Therefore l = x + vf t = x + v0 2 − 2ax 2h g

v0 2
b) Maximize l with respect to x: 0 = = 1 + 12 √ −2a
2h ah
g so x = 2a − g .
v0 2 −2ax
q q
g g
However this is only physical for a ≤ v0 2h (when x ≥ 0), otherwise if a ≥ v0 2h than any
nonzero value of x will hurt l.

Problem 9.
A object of mass m is pushed against a spring at the bottom of a plane that is inclined at an angle
of θ with respect to the horizontal and held in place with a catch. The spring compresses a distance
x0 and has spring constant k. The catch is released and the object slide up the incline plane. At
x = 0 the object detaches from the spring and continues to slide up the inclined planed. Assume
that the incline plane has a coefficient of kinetic friction µk . How far up the incline does the object
move from the point where the object detaches from the spring?

Solution 9.
While touching the spring:

Work Energy Theorem: ∆KE = 21 mv0 2 = F~net · d~x =
x0 (−kx + mg sin θ + µk mg cos θ)dx =
1 2
2 kx0 − mgx0 (sin θ + µk cos θ)
k 2
So v0 = m x0 − 2gx0 (sin θ + µk cos θ)

After detaching from spring:

Fx = mg sin θ + µk mg cos θ) so a = g(sin θ + µk cos θ)
0 = v0 2 + 2a(−d − 0) = 2
m x0 − 2gx0 (sin θ + µk cos θ) − 2gd(sin θ + µk cos θ).
k 2
So d = 2gm(sin θ+µk cos θ) x0 − x0 .

Problem 10.
In the vertical right triangle shown below, a particle falls from A to B either along the hypothenuse,
or along the two legs (lengths a and b) via point C. There is no friction anywhere.

a) What is the time (call it tH ) if the particle travels along the hypotenuse?

b) What is the time (call it tL ) if the particle travels along the legs? Assume that at point C
there is an infinitesimal curved arc that allows the direction of the particle’s motion to change
fro vertical to horizontal without any change is speed.

c) Verify that tH = tL when a=0.?

d) How do tH and tL compare in the limit b  a

e) Excluding the a = 0 case, what triangle shape yields tH = tL ?

Solution 10.

a) If θ is the inclination angle of the hypotenuse,then the component of the gravitational accel-
√ b at2
eration along the hypotenuse is g sin θ, where sin θ = a2 +b2
. Using d = 2 (this a is the
acceleration, not the length of the lower leg!), the time to travel along the hypotenuse is given

√ √
1 2(a2 +b2 )
a2 + b2 = √ b 2
2 (g a2 +b2 )tH , so tH = gb .

2b √
b) The time to fall to C is given by 2 = b, so t1 = g . The speed at C is then gt1 = 2gb.
The particle then travels along the bottom leg of the triangle at this constant speed, which
takes a time of t2 = √a . The total time is therefore:

2b √a .
tL = t1 + t2 = g + 2bg

c) If a = 0 then both tH and tl reduce to g .

2a √a
d) If b  a then tH ≈ gb (the b2 term in part a is negligible), and tL ≈ 2bg
(the first term
in part b is negligible). So in this limit we have tH ≈ 2tL .

2(a2 +b2 )
2b √a ,
e) Setting the tH in part a equal to the tL in part b gives: gb = g + 2bg
so a = 43 b.

Problem 11.
In the last Star Trek movie, Young Kirk drops out of a Corvette speeding at velocity, v0 , towards
a cliff (see figure below). [He was taking his uncle’s car out for a joyride, a robot cop was chasing
him, and his car was heading to a cliff.] Young Kirk slides along the ground and travels a distance,
d = 5m, before stopping right at the edge of the cliff. The car flies off the cliff and after falling a
height, H = 50m, hits the ground, a distance, D = 30m, from the bottom of the cliff. What is the
coefficient of kinetic friction, µk , between Young Kirk and the ground? Assume that the car did
not slow down after Young Kirk dropped out of it.

Solution 11.
Car: In the y direction: (50m) − gt2 = (0m) In they x direction: (0m) + v0 t = (30m)
q q
So t = 100mg and therefore v 0 = (30m) 100m

Kirk: 0 = v0 2 + 2(−µk g)(5m) so µk = .9.

Problem 12.
A block with mass M rests on a wedge with mass m and angle θ, which lies on a table, as shown
in the figure below. All surfaces are frictionless. The block is constrained to move vertically by
means of a wall on its left side. What is the acceleration of the wedge?

Solution 12.

Newton’s Second Law:

Fx = N sin θ = mam
Fy = M g − N cos θ = M aM

We have two equations but three unknowns (N , aM , am ), so we need one more equation. This
equation is the constraint that the block remains on the wedge at all times. At a later time, let the
positions of the block and wedge be indicated by the dotted lines in the figure below.

The block has moved downward a distance yM , and the wedge has moved rightward a dis-
tance xm . From the triangle that these lengths form (the shaded triangle in the figure), we see
that yM = xm tan θ. Taking two time derivatives of this relation gives the desired third equation,
aM = am tan θ.

If we multiply the first equation by sin θ and the second by cos θ, and then add them, the N
terms cancel. If we then use aM = am tan θ to eliminate aM , we obtain:

M g sin θ = M aM sin θ + mam cos θ = M (am tan θ) sin θ + mam cos θ.

M g sin θ cos θ
Solving for am gives: am = M sin2 θ+m cos2 θ

Problem 13.
An object of mass m is released from an initial state from rest from a spring constant k that has

been compressed a distance x0 . After leaving the spring (at the position x = 0 when the spring
is unstretched) the object travels a distance d along a horizontal track that has a coefficient of
friction that varies with position as µ = µ0 + µ1 (x/d). Following the horizontal track, the object
enters a quarter turn of a frictionless loop whose radius is R. Finally after exiting the quarter turn
of the loop the object travels vertically upward to a maximum height, h, (as measured from the
horizontal surface). Let g be the gravitational constant. Find the maximum height, h, that the
object attains. Express all answered in terms of m, k, x0 , g, µ0 , µ1 , d, and R; not all variables may
be needed.

Solution 13.

Work Energy Theorem:

R0 Rd Rh
∆KE = 12 m(0)2 − 12 m(0)2 = 0 = F~net · d~x = − x
−x0 kxdx − 0 (µ0 + µ1 d )mgdx − 0 mgdy
1 2 µ1 d kx0 2 µ1 d
Therefore 0 = 2 kx0 − (µ0 d + 2 )mg − mgh, so h = 2mg − (µ0 d + 2 ).