Lesson 1: Describing Motion with Words

Introduction to the Language of Kinematics

Scalars and Vectors

Distance and Displacement

Speed and Velocity


Lesson 2: Describing Motion with Diagrams

Introduction to Diagrams

Ticker Tape Diagrams

Vector Diagrams

Lesson 3: Describing Motion with Position vs. Time Graphs

The Meaning of Shape for a p-t Graph

The Meaning of Slope for a p-t Graph

Determining the Slope on a p-t Graph


Lesson 4: Describing Motion with Velocity vs. Time Graphs

The Meaning of Shape for a v-t Graph

The Meaning of Slope for a v-t Graph

Relating the Shape to the Motion

Determining the Slope on a v-t Graph

Determining the Area on a v-t Graph


Lesson 5: Free Fall and the Acceleration of Gravity

Introduction to Free Fall

The Acceleration of Gravity

Representing Free Fall by Graphs

How Fast? and How Far?

The Big Misconception


Lesson 6: Kinematic Equations

The Kinematic Equations


Kinematic Equations and Free Fall

Sample Problems and Solutions

Kinematic Equations and Graphs



Lesson 2 : Describing Motion with Diagrams

Ticker Tape Diagrams

A common way of analyzing the motion of objects in physics labs is to perform a ticker tape analysis. A long tape is attached to a moving object and threaded through a device that places a tick upon the tape at regular intervals of time - say every 0.1 second. As the object moves, it drags the tape through the "ticker," thus leaving a trail of dots. The trail of dots provides a history of the object's motion and therefore a representation of the object's motion.

The distance between dots on a ticker tape represents the object's position change during that time interval. A large distance between dots indicates that the object was moving fast during that time interval. A small distance between dots means the object was moving slow during that time interval. Ticker tapes for a fast- and slow-moving object are depicted below.

The analysis of a ticker tape diagram will also reveal if the object is moving with a constant velocity or accelerating. A changing distance between dots indicates a changing velocity and thus an acceleration. A constant distance between dots represents a constant velocity and therefore no acceleration. Ticker tapes for objects moving with a constant velocity and an accelerated motion are shown below.

And so ticker tape diagrams provide one more means of representing various features of the motion of objects.


Check Your Understanding

Ticker tape diagrams are sometimes referred to as oil drop diagrams. Imagine a car with a leaky engine that drips oil at a regular rate. As the car travels through town, it would leave a trace of oil on the street. That trace would reveal information about the motion of the car. Renatta Oyle owns such a car and it leaves a signature of Renatta's motion wherever she goes. Analyze the three traces of Renatta's ventures as shown below. Assume Renatta is traveling from left to right. Describe Renatta's motion characteristics during each section of the diagram. Use the pop-up menu to check your answers.












Lesson 2: Describing Motion with Diagrams

Go to Lesson 3


© Tom Henderson, 1996-2001

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