28 March 2008

Help me understand a misconception....

An interesting situation came up in my Physics class today, where two of my students surprised me with a question they asked. To try and understand their thinking so I can teach the content better, I'd like to ask that everyone take a look at the below situation and tell me what you think will happen. I don't care if you know any physics or if you're a professional ear-wax taster, I want to know what you think and why.

In the picture below, Box 1 (m1) is hanging from a string that passes over a pulley. There's no friction in the pulley, and the pulley has no mass, so it can spin freely. The string is then connected to Box 2 (m2) sitting on a table. For simplicity, let's assume there's no friction on the table - there's some lubrication between the box and the table.

Open this page in a new window or tab to fill out the poll - there's 6 short questions (check boxes) about how the blocks will move.

X-posted a couple places.

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