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Whenever we have two-dimensional vector problems in which no two vectors are parallel, the easiest method of solution is to pick a convenient coordinate system and project the vectors onto its axes. In this case the best coordinate system has one axis horizontal and the other vertical. We call the horizontal the $x$ -axis and the vertical the $y$ -axis.
Solution
First, we need to resolve the tension vectors into their horizontal and vertical components. It helps to draw a new free-body diagram showing all of the horizontal and vertical components of each force acting on the system.
Consider the horizontal components of the forces (denoted with a subscript $x$ ):
The net external horizontal force ${F}_{\text{net}x}=0$ , since the person is stationary. Thus,
Now, observe [link] . You can use trigonometry to determine the magnitude of ${T}_{\text{L}}$ and ${T}_{\text{R}}$ . Notice that:
Equating ${T}_{\text{L}x}$ and ${T}_{\text{R}x}$ :
Thus,
as predicted. Now, considering the vertical components (denoted by a subscript $y$ ), we can solve for $T$ . Again, since the person is stationary, Newton’s second law implies that net ${F}_{y}=0$ . Thus, as illustrated in the free-body diagram in [link] ,
Observing [link] , we can use trigonometry to determine the relationship between ${T}_{\text{L}y}$ , ${T}_{\text{R}y}$ , and $T$ . As we determined from the analysis in the horizontal direction, ${T}_{\text{L}}={T}_{\text{R}}=T$ :
Now, we can substitute the values for ${T}_{\text{L}y}$ and ${T}_{\text{R}y}$ , into the net force equation in the vertical direction:
and
so that
and the tension is
Discussion
Note that the vertical tension in the wire acts as a normal force that supports the weight of the tightrope walker. The tension is almost six times the 686-N weight of the tightrope walker. Since the wire is nearly horizontal, the vertical component of its tension is only a small fraction of the tension in the wire. The large horizontal components are in opposite directions and cancel, and so most of the tension in the wire is not used to support the weight of the tightrope walker.
If we wish to create a very large tension, all we have to do is exert a force perpendicular to a flexible connector, as illustrated in [link] . As we saw in the last example, the weight of the tightrope walker acted as a force perpendicular to the rope. We saw that the tension in the roped related to the weight of the tightrope walker in the following way:
We can extend this expression to describe the tension $T$ created when a perpendicular force ( ${\mathbf{\text{F}}}_{\perp}$ ) is exerted at the middle of a flexible connector:
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