Calculating the Resting Position of a Hanging Mass

(due date December 6)

Consider a mass hanging from a string and pulley arrangement shown in the accompanying diagram. The laws of physics decree that that the mass will come to rest at a position which minimizes its energy. For the configuration being considered, this simply means that the rest configuration will be that configuration in which the mass is as low as possible. What will the angle a be in this rest position? Begin your analysis of this problem by considering cases of specific values for A and B. For example, start with A = 2 and B = 3. Why should you be especially careful in considering the case A = 1 and B = 2? Use the observations you have made in studying these specific cases to deal with the following problems:

Make an effort to present your answer to the final question in an understandable form. The most obvious approach to a problem is not always the one that results in the most direct path to a solution. For example, explore the results you achieve by using different choices of
independent variable. For example, instead of using the angle a as the independent variable, try x = cos(a). Instead of the parameters A and B try using A and r= B/A instead.


Mike Zabrocki
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Department of Mathematics and Statistics
York University
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