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Experimenting with Newton’s Third Law of Motion

Research Question
 How does action and reaction forces effect the motion of an object?

Materials
 A Balloon
 A Meter Strick
 1 Meter of String
 A Small Rubber Band
 1 Sheet of Construction Paper
 3 Drinking Straws
 4 Pieces of Breath Mint Lifesaver Candy
 Glue Gun
 Scissors
 1 Roll of Scotch Tape

Introduction
The purpose of the experiment is to study Newton’s Third Law and understand how it
effects the motion of an object. Newton’s Third Law of motion states that every action has an
equal and opposite reaction. In this experiment, a balloon used to propel a cart will be used in
order to observe Newton’s Third Law of Motion and how it determines the motion of a cart.
When the air escapes the inflated balloon inside the cart, the air escapes in the direction behind
the cart. In accordance with Newton’s Third Law, it is expected that the force of the air pressing
against the inside of the balloon propels the cart in the opposite direction the air is escaping. The
reaction of cart, or rather its motion, to the escaping air is opposite in direction. In order to
observe if the reaction is equal, the circumference of the balloon within the cart will be used to
observe if the cart will travel an equal distance to the circumference of the balloon. The cart will
be expected to move a distance that is equal to the circumference of the balloon. In this
experiment, the independent variable is the circumference of the balloon. Subsequently, the
distance the cart travels is the dependent variable that results from the manipulation of the
circumference of the balloon. The controls in the experiment is the balloon used to propel the
cart and the cart whose distance will be measured.

Hypothesis
 If Newton’s Third Law is observed during the experiment, then the circumference of the
balloon will be the distance the cart will travel when air is released from the balloon.

Procedure
1. Use a ruler to measure a rectangle 5 inches by 2 inches on the sheet of construction paper.
2. Use the scissors to cut out the rectangle.
3. Use a glue gun to place glue along the widths of the rectangle.
4. Attach the straws so that they are parallel to the widths of the rectangle.
5. Attach 1 piece of Lifesaver candy onto both sides of the straws, creating the wheels of the
cart.
6. Wrap a piece of scotch tape along both sides of the straws until the piece of tape is
thicker than the hole of the Lifesaver candy.
7. Trim the lengths of the straws.
8. Use a ruler to measure two rectangles that are 5 inches by 1 inch on the construction
paper.
9. Cut out the rectangles using scissors.
10. Attach both pieces to the base of the cart using scotch tape to create the walls of the cart.
11. Use a ruler to measure a rectangle that is 2 inches by 1 inch on the construction paper.
12. Use the scissors to cut out the rectangle.
13. Use scotch tape to attach the rectangle to one end of the cart, creating the third wall.
14. Attach the opening of a balloon to one end of a straw.
15. Wrap a rubber band around the opening of the balloon until the balloon is secure around
the straw.
16. Use scotch tape to secure the balloon attached to the straw inside the cart, with the other
end of the straw facing the back of the cart.
17. Mark a starting point on a flat smooth surface.
18. Place a meter stick along the edge of the starting point.
19. Inflate the balloon and pinch the straw to ensure that no air escapes.
20. Place the cart at the starting mark.
21. Use the string to measure the circumference of the balloon, ensure that the balloon is at
least 6 inches in circumference.
22. Release the straw to allow the air to escape and measure the distance the cart travels
using the meter stick.
23. Repeat steps 19-22 two more times.
24. Repeat steps 19-23 three more times, increasing the circumference of by 6 inches.

Data

Distance Travelled (inches)


Circumference of Balloon (inches) Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Average
6 4.25 3 4.75 4
12 10.5 11 10 10.5
18 15 16.75 16.25 16
24 20.75 22.5 21 21.4
Graph

Conclusion
The purpose of the experiment was to observe Newton’s Third Law and determine how it
effects the motion of an object. The hypothesis that the distance the cart will travel will be equal
to the circumference of the balloon was supported. For each trial, the graph shows a linear
relationship between circumference of the balloon and the distance the cart travelled. For a
circumference of 6 inches, the average slope was 2/3 inches. For a circumference of 12 inches,
the average slope was 7/8 inches. For a circumference of 18 inches, the average slope was 8/9
inches. For a circumference of 24 inches, the average slope was around 21/24 inches. As noted in
the data table, the distance traveled by the cart was not exactly match the circumference of the
balloon. For instance, when the balloon had a circumference of 6 inches, the cart traveled a
distance of 3 inches. This was likely due to friction acting on the cart as it traveled along the flat
surface. Additionally, errors arose due to the balloon possibly not being inflated to the exact
measurement of the desired circumference. The cart also did not travel in a completely straight
line, as it wobbled slightly as the balloon propelled it. Additional experiments could utilize a
more stable construction of the cart and use a surface that minimizes the effects of friction acting
on the cart. Overall, however, the experiment did demonstrate Newton’s Third Law as the action
and reaction of the balloon on the cart was relatively equal and opposite as the results showed a
positive correlation between the circumference of the balloon and the distance the cart traveled.