The worked examples in this section demonstrate the types of questions that can be asked about graphs.
The position vs. time graph for the motion of a car is given below. Draw the corresponding velocity vs. time and acceleration vs. time graphs, and then describe the motion of the car.
The question gives a position vs. time graph and the following three things are required:
Draw a
$v$ vs.
$t$ graph.
Draw an
$a$ vs.
$t$ graph.
Describe the motion of the car.
To answer these questions, break the motion up into three sections: 0 – 2 seconds, 2 – 4 seconds and 4 – 6 seconds.
For the first 2 seconds we can see that the displacement remains constant - so the object is not moving, thus it has zero velocity during this time. We can reach this conclusion by another path too: remember that the gradient of a displacement vs. time graph is the velocity. For the first 2 seconds we can see that the displacement vs. time graph is a horizontal line, ie. it has a gradient of zero. Thus the velocity during this time is zero and the object is stationary.
For the next 2 seconds, displacement is increasing with time so the object is moving. Looking at the gradient of the displacement graph we can see that it is not constant. In fact, the slope is getting steeper (the gradient is increasing) as time goes on. Thus, remembering that the gradient of a displacement vs. time graph is the velocity, the velocity must be increasing with time during this phase.
For the final 2 seconds we see that displacement is still increasing with time, but this time the gradient is constant, so we know that the object is now travelling at a constant velocity, thus the velocity vs. time graph will be a horizontal line during this stage. We can now draw the graphs:
So our velocity vs. time graph looks like this one below. Because we haven't been given any values on the vertical axis of the displacement vs. time graph, we cannot figure out what the exact gradients are and therefore what the values of the velocities are. In this type of question it is just important to show whether velocities are positive or negative, increasing, decreasing or constant.
Once we have the velocity vs. time graph its much easier to get the acceleration vs. time graph as we know that the gradient of a velocity vs. time graph is the just the acceleration.
For the first 2 seconds the velocity vs. time graph is horisontal and has a value of zero, thus it has a gradient of zero and there is no acceleration during this time. (This makes sense because we know from the displacement time graph that the object is stationary during this time, so it can't be accelerating).
For the next 2 seconds the velocity vs. time graph has a positive gradient. This gradient is not changing (i.e. its constant) throughout these 2 seconds so there must be a constant positive acceleration.
For the final 2 seconds the object is traveling with a constant velocity. During this time the gradient of the velocity vs. time graph is once again zero, and thus the object is not accelerating.
The acceleration vs. time graph looks like this:
A brief description of the motion of the object could read something like this: At
$t=0$ s and object is stationary at some position and remains stationary until
$t=2$ s when it begins accelerating. It accelerates in a positive direction for 2 seconds until
$t=4$ s and then travels at a constant velocity for a further 2 seconds.
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