So, I mentioned last time that I was rather surprised at the result of the Balancing Ruler Problem. I expected the balancing point to be further away from the center. In case you are having a hard time reading the ruler, the balancing point of the one penny-two pennies ruler was at 5 7/16″ inches. This means that the prism was moved 9/16 of an inch toward the two pennies end from the center.
So, I decided that I would see how the position of the prism changes if the proportion of the masses stays constant, but the amount of mass changes. So, I recreated the balancing act with dimes instead of pennies.
The balancing point appeared to be at 5 9/16″. The prism was located a full eighth-inch back toward the center. In my mind, this demonstrated that the mass at the end is a variable as much as the proportion of the two masses. Also, it seemed to suggest that the prism will move away from the center if the masses are greater. So, I decided to test this hypothesis by combining the coins so that there was one penny and one dime on one end and two of each at the other.
The balancing point is located a 5 3/8″ meaning that combining the masses moved the balancing point another eighth-inch away from the center. This supported my hypothesis.
Well, what about quarters? Balancing point: 5 3/16″
And quarters and pennies together? Balancing point: 4 15/16″.
So, it seems like there is more support for my hypothesis.
Then, a student and I decided to grow the project a bit.
With the number of variables that have changed, this photo doesn’t really mean a whole lot, but we had fun trying to balance calculators on a yardsticks.
So, how can we explain this phenomena? What causes the balance point to move predictably even though the ratio of the masses at the end is a constant?