NTNUJAVA Virtual Physics Laboratory
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A man paints with his brains and not with his hands. ..."Michelangelo (1475-1564, Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet)"
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Author Topic: No gravitational force inside a uniform shell of matter  (Read 9005 times)
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Fu-Kwun Hwang
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on: June 03, 2009, 10:59:53 pm »

It is easier to understand that: a uniform sphere shell of matter exerts a gravitational force on a particle outside the shell as if all the shell's mass were concentrated at its center.

However, it might not be easy to see why : a uniform shell of matter exerts no gravitational force on a particle located inside it.

The following applet was designed to help you understand it.
There are 2D view and 3D view in the applet.
The green surfaces (curves) represent mass distributed on a uniform shell.
The blue dot represent the particle inside the shell (with mass M).

The gravitation force is propotional to mass and r-2: \vec{F}=-\frac{G M m}{r^2}\hat{r}.
Let's consider mass distributed on those two green shell (m1 and m2).
The solid angles for both sirface related to particle are the same (solid angle=\Omega),
 and the distance to both those two surface are r1 and r2.
Assume the surface density is \sigma
The surface area for two surface are A_1=r_1^2 \Omega and A_2=r_2^2 \Omega
So m_1=\sigma A_1 =\sigma r_1^2 \Omega, and m_2=\sigma A_2 =\sigma r_2^2 \Omega

F_1= \frac{GM\sigma r_1^2 \Omega}{r_1^2}=GM\sigma\Omega, and F_2= \frac{GM\sigma r_2^2 \Omega}{r_2^2}=GM\sigma\Omega.
But those two force are in the oppositive direction so all the gravitational force cencel each other.
You can drag the particle with your mouse to watch how the surface area changed at the same time.
Another question for you: what happened to the rest of the mass on the surface (upper and lower parts)?
Does the gravitational force due to those mass also cancel each other? Why? Cheesy

Embed a running copy of this simulation

Embed a running copy link(show simulation in a popuped window)
Full screen applet or Problem viewing java?Add http://www.phy.ntnu.edu.tw/ to exception site list
Press the Alt key and the left mouse button to drag the applet off the browser and onto the desktop. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Taiwan License
  • Please feel free to post your ideas about how to use the simulation for better teaching and learning.
  • Post questions to be asked to help students to think, to explore.
  • Upload worksheets as attached files to share with more users.
Let's work together. We can help more users understand physics conceptually and enjoy the fun of learning physics!

* smf_r2solidangle.gif (25.62 KB, 867x471 - viewed 482 times.)
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A man paints with his brains and not with his hands. ..."Michelangelo (1475-1564, Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet)"
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