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This handout lists Motivating Questions, Key Activities/Problems, Unit Learning Outcomes, and an Equation Sheet for a Unit on Classical Mechanics Orbits. It can be used both to introduce the unit and, even better, for review.
  • Found in: Central Forces course(s)

Mathematica Activity

30 min.

Effective Potentials
Students use a pre-written Mathematica notebook or a Geogebra applet to explore how the shape of the effective potential function changes as the various parameters (angular momentum, force constant, reduced mass) are varied.


10 min.

Acting Out Effective Potentials
A student is invited to “act out” motion corresponding to a plot of effective potential vs. distance. The student plays the role of the “Earth” while the instructor plays the “Sun”.