The student will:
Understand how to apply Newton’s Second Law under equilibrium conditions in two dimensions.
Objects in static equilibrium are motionless.
There are many objects we do not want to see in motion. In the
, the mountain climbers want their ropes to keep them from moving downward. We construct buildings and bridges to be as motionless as possible. We want the acceleration (and velocity) of these objects to be zero. For an object to be in
(that is, motionless) the right-hand side of Newton’s Second Law,
, must be zero. Thus,
. This equation is simple enough when an object is held with a single support. In an earlier example, we depicted Joe Loose hanging by a single rope (
). Joe’s goal was to remain hanging in equilibrium (just like the climbers in the photograph). The force of gravity pulling Joe down was exactly balanced by the tension in the rope that supported him.
But Joe won’t be hanging for very long, will he? You can see that the rope is slowly fraying against the mountainside (recall the original problem). Soon it will snap. But Joe’s in luck, because a rescue team has come to his aid. They arrive just in time to secure two more ropes to the mountain side and toss Joe the slack to tie around his waist before his rope snaps! Joe is saved. But does Joe thank the rescue team like any sane person would? No. Instead, still in midair, he pulls out a pad and pencil from his back pocket in order to analyze the forces acting on him (
Static Equilibrium—Saving Joe
In order for Joe to remain in equilibrium, he must not move in the
directions. This means that the sum of all forces in the
direction must add to zero. And the sum of all forces in the
direction must add to zero.
The procedure for solving problems with forces in equilibrium is as follows:
in a coordinate plane with the object at the origin.
Resolve the tension vectors
Use Newton's Second Law:
In order to solve this problem, we’ll need more information, including the angles that the ropes make with the vertical. The information is provided below, along with
The solution requires solving a set of simultaneous equations.
First, we find the components of vectors
Next we apply Newton's Second Law.
The first equation can be quickly simplified to give
is then substituted in the second equation and
is found. Once
can easily be computed using
Check your understanding
What general equation can be written for
if the angles in
: The sum of the
components is responsible for supporting the weight. If the angles are equal, the ropes have equal tension. Therefore, the tension in the
direction of either rope can quickly be found since: