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Build a simple Atwood Machine to understand Newton’s Second Law and estimate
the pull of gravity.

The Atwood machine (or Atwood's the machine) was invented in 1784 by the
English mathematician George Atwood as a laboratory experiment to verify
the mechanical laws of motion with constant acceleration. Atwood's machine is a
common classroom demonstration used to illustrate the principles of classical
The ideal Atwood machine consists of two objects of mass m1 and m2, connected by
an inextensible massless string over an ideal massless pulley.
When m1 = m2, the machine is in neutral equilibrium regardless of the position of the
weights. When m1 ≠ m2 both masses experience uniform acceleration.
Newtons 2nd law states that : “The acceleration of an object as produced by a net force
is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the
net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object.”
Or, F = ma


Here, from newtons 2nd law,

m1 g – T = m1 a_____(1)
T – m2 g = m2 a_____(2)

Adding (1) and (2),

m1 g – T + T – m2 g = m1 a + m2 a
m1 g – m2 g = m1 a + m2 a
(m1 – m2) g = (m1 + m2) a
(m1 – m2) g = a
(m1 + m2)
(m1 + m2) a = g
(m1 – m2)

 Ring stand
 Pulley
 Massless string
 Ruler
 Two masses of same weight
 Several masses of different masses
 Stopwatch

1. Attach the pulley to the top of the ring stand.

2. Tie two masses of equal weight to opposite ends of the string and run the string over
the top of the pulley. The string should be long enough so that one mass can rest on
the table/ground with the other dangling near the top of the stand.

3. Position the masses at different heights from the ground and let go.

4. Replace one mass with another that is slightly heavier. Drag the lighter mass down as
far as it will go and release.

5. Replace the same mass with one that is slightly heavier still and repeat Step 4.

6. Go back to the masses you used in Step 4 – one slightly heavier than the other. Pull
the lighter mass down as far as it will go.

7. Use a ruler to measure the height of the other mass above the table.

8. Grab a stopwatch. Release the mass and start the watch at the same time. As soon as
you hear the other mass hit the ground, stop the timer.
9. For each drop, record the observation.


m1 = m2 = Height(h) =

Time taken (s) Acceleration(a) Acc. Due to Gravity(g)

S.No. a = 2h / t2 (m/s2) g(m/s2)





Average of g = g1+g2+ g3+g4

gmean = ______

Hence with equal masses, the weights will not move. When the weights are
unequal, the masses will move so that the heavier one falls. As the difference in the
masses increases, the speed with which it hits the ground increases as well.
And the value of acc due to gravity is _______ m/s2
Denil Binu XII