IP3 04 Forces

Tensegrity Explained

There is a new internet trend called “tensegrity” – an amalgamation of the words tension and integrity. It is basically a trend of videos showing how objects appear to float above a structure while experiencing tensions that appear to pull parts of the floating object downwards.

In the diagram below, the red vectors show the tensions acting on the “floating” object while the green vector shows the weight of the object.

The main force that makes this possible is the upward tension (shown below) exerted by the string from which the lowest point of the object is suspended. The other tensions are downward and serve to balance the moment created by the weight of the object. The centre of gravity of the “floating” structure lies just in front of the supporting string, where the green vector representing its weight is in the following image. The two smaller downward vectors at the back due to the strings balance the moment due to the weight, and give the structure stability sideways.

This is a fun demonstration to teach the principle of moments, and concepts of equilibrium.

These tensegrity structures are very easy to build if you understand the physics behind them. Some tips on building such structures:

  1. Make the two strings exerting the downward tensions are easy to adjust by using technic pins to stick them into bricks with holes. You can simply pull to release more string in order to achieve the right balance.
  2. The two strings should be sufficiently far apart to prevent the floating structure from tilting too easily to the side.
  3. The centre of gravity of the floating structure must be in front of the string exerting the upward tension.
  4. The base must be wide enough to provide some stability so that the whole structure does not topple.

Here’s another tensegrity structure that I built: this time, with a Lego construction theme.

Forces in Equilibrium

While preparing for a bridging class for those JAE JC1s who did not do pure physics in O-levels, I prepared an app on using a vector triangle to “solve problems for a static point mass under the action of 3 forces for 2-dimensional cases”.

For A-level students, they can be encouraged to use either the sine rule or the cosine rule to solve for magnitudes of forces instead of scale drawing, which is often unreliable.

For students who are not familiar with these rules, here is a simple summary:

Sine Rule

If you are trying to find the length of a side while knowing only two angles and one side, use sine rule:

$$\dfrac{A}{\sin{a}}=\dfrac{B}{\sin{b}}$$

Cosine Rule

If you are trying to find the length of a side while knowing only one angle and two sides, use cosine rule:

$$A^2 = B^2 + C^2 – 2BC\cos{a}$$

Does Hydrostatic Pressure Depend on Container Shape?

The following GeoGebra app simulates a pressure sensor that measures hydrostatic pressure, calibrated to eliminate the value of atmospheric pressure.

The purpose of this simulation is to address certain misconceptions by students such as the assumption that the shape of a container affects the pressure such that the pressure differs in different containers when measured at the same depth.

Drag the dot around to compare the pressure values at the same height between both containers.

The following codes can be used to embed this into SLS.

<iframe scrolling="no" title="Hydrostatic Pressure" src="https://www.geogebra.org/material/iframe/id/wbjduxt7/width/640/height/480/border/888888/sfsb/true/smb/false/stb/false/stbh/false/ai/false/asb/false/sri/true/rc/false/ld/false/sdz/false/ctl/false" width="640px" height="480px" style="border:0px;"> </iframe>