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Tug of War

Tug of War

Credit: Ryan Child
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tug_of_war_2.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Believe it or not, but tug of war used to be an Olympic sport. This old photo shows a tug-of-war competition from the 1904 summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Back Story

  • Tug of war is no longer part of the Olympics, but like many other sports, tug of war is a battle of opposing forces.
  • Watch this video in which Bill Nye the Science Guy explains balanced and unbalanced force and shows an unusual tug-of-war competition: 


  • Then explore the tug-of-war simulation at the following link to see for yourself the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces.


Can You Apply It?

Learn more about balanced and unbalanced forces and how they affect motion at the links below. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. What is a force?
  2. Compare and contrast balanced and unbalanced forces.
  3. How do you compute the net force acting on the rope in a game of tug of war?
  4. State Newton’s first law of motion.
  5. What is inertia? What does Newton’s first law have to do with inertia?
  6. Relate Newton’s first law of motion to a game of tug of war.
  7. Draw vectors to represent the forces in a game of tug and war, and explain what motion results. Represent and explain each of the following situations:
    1. Both teams apply the same amount of force.
    2. The team on the right applies twice as much force as the team on the left.

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Ryan Child; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tug_of_war_2.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0


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