Tools For Scientific Thinking

Applets for Motion Investigations

by John M. Clement

NOTE: These simulation require Java 1.1 with Java Script to applet communication, which some older MacIntosh systems do not support. Physlets run on the MAc using OSX Panther and the latest Safari browser. For more infomation go to: Physlets These work with Netscape, Firefox, or Internet Explorer browsers with Java support. Older versions of Netscape may generate some error messages. They have been tested with both MS and SUN Java

These are simulations designed to allow the student to perform TST labs at home.  The Tools for Scientific Thinking Labs are written by Ronald K. Thornton and David R. Sokoloff.  They are available from Vernier Software.

Wherever the lab talks about the detector, you place the ball on the positive axis.  The positive axis is in front of the detector, and the negative axis is behind the detector.  The detector would be at zero, so moving away is movement to the right.   Moving toward, is movement toward zero or to the left.

Investigation 1: Distance-Time Graphs of Motion
Investigation 2: Velocity-Time Graphs of Motion
Investigation 3: Distance and Velocity Graphs

The following are simulations which can be used as a lab to explore various aspects of acceleration and forces. The modified Atwood simulation is a realistic simulation of the forces and acceleration set up.

Two constant velocities match - Match graphs by selecting velocities


Constant Acceleration – Horizontal acceleration of a cart
Constant Acceleration - match graphs by selecting A, Vi, Xi
Constant Acceleration - match graphs by writing equations
Constant Acceleration - match motions by selecting a,v,x
Two constant accelerations - match graphs by selecting acceleration graphs
Three constant accelerations - match graphs by selecting acceleration graphs


Spring Force

Constant Vertical Acceleration
Multiple Constant Forces – View Acceleration, Velocity vs time for 2 constant forces.
Two Variable Forces – View Acceleration, Velocity vs time as you vary one of the forces by hand
Force Investigation using a Modified Atwood Machine
Force Investigation using a Modified Atwood Machine with friction
Frictional Forces
Motion of Cart with Friction force on a Ramp
Motion of Cart with Friction coefficient on a Ramp
Motion of Cart with angled force and friction force
Motion of Cart with angled force and friction coefficient

Atwood machine
Two cart collisions
Cart and Piston collision

Cart and Spring collision
Cart and Spring collision with impulse

Spring Cart & Position
Energy of a cart on a ramp with friction – New as of Oct 2009
Energy of a pushed cart on a ramp with friction – Oct 2009 – Simulates Energy ILD

Dropped block onto Spring – Similar to Minds on Physics A94 A3
Hanging block with Spring – Suitable for SHM ILD


Projectile Motion – . June 2010. Suitable for ILD or a lab, air resistance and graphs of many quantities are available.


Waves on a String – You may vary tension, frequency, amplitude, mass density.

These simulations are designed to help you visualize what is happening during the experiment.
You can slow them down to see more details and get a more accurate picture of the interactions.
You can step forwards or backwards. When you do this the red ball shows you the location on the graph that corresponds to the current position of the object.
You can adjust the variables by either moving the slider, or by typing in the desired value. Some variable are limited in value.
Quantities that are not shown on a graph can often be measured. For example force vectors (arrows) are shown according to the selected scale. You can measure the arrows to get a good estimate of their values.
By clicking on the graph or the picture you are shown the value at the cursor.
By checking Strobe ON, the simulation shows you a motion map or strobe diagram.
By checking Graph ON, the simulation plot graphs. If parameters are changed, graphing is turned off to encourage prediction.
By checking Keep current graph, the current data is saved, and new data is plotted with a separate line.
By checking Reverse allowed, the simulation allows the object to reverse direction.
Some quantities are shown by the color of the object. The coefficient of friction and spring constant are visually shown this way.
Normally are not allowed to change variables while the experiment is being run.


You are welcome to transfer these simulations to local computers for educational use. These simulations are based on Physlets by Wolfgang Christian  at Davidson College.  The Physlets code may not be sold or commercially distributed for profit without permission of the author.


July, 2000