### Video Transcript

In this video, weβre going to learn
about tension. No, not the kind of tension that
you feel in the classroom when the instructor is handing back a graded exam, this is
a different type of tension having to do with physical force. To get started with this topic,
imagine you are an art student, completing a graduation project for the end of the
semester. Your project, an abstract
demonstration of the interconnectedness of life on Earth, consists of a paper mache
sphere connected by various colored strings to the walls and ceilings of the
room. Very proud of your work, you look
forward to showing it to the teachers and students in your class. Some of the streams in the project
block an emergency exit door in the room. The school safety officer tells you
that that doorway needs to be clear. You realize you can cut one of the
chords to clear the exit way. But the question is, how will that
affect the equilibrium of your model? Understanding tension helps us to
understand this question.

When we talk about tension, weβre
talking about a force. Tension is a force measured in
newtons that acts along the length of a linear segment. That linear segment could be a rope
or a chain or a string. Or it could even be a rigid body,
like a section of a bridge. Say we had two objects: a rope on
the left and a concrete column on the right. Both of these objects are able to
transmit an experienced tension force. With something pulling on the ends
of each object, to create tension, we could pick any point along their lengths and
at that cross section find tension pulling in either direction. This helps us understand tension,
because tension is always a pulling force. It never pushes. This fact is helpful to us when we
draw free body diagrams.

Imagine that we had a mass π
suspended by two cables. When we go to draw the free body
diagram of the forces acting on this mass, since tension is always a pulling force,
we know that the tension in the cables pulls the mass away from its center. When we go to solve for tension in
an example, there are two steps we want to remember to the process. To solve for the force of tension
in an example, we take two steps, the first of which is to draw a free body diagram
of the object weβre interested in. In our example of the mass
suspended by two cables, we could represent the tension in the cables by π sub one
and π sub two. And then there is the weight of the
mass pulling it down.

Step two to solving for tension is
to apply Newtonβs second law of motion, which says that the net force acting on an
object equals its mass times its acceleration. Even when an object is not
accelerating, as this mass in equilibrium is not, this second law of relationship
lets us balance out the forces acting on our object of interest. Itβs through that balance or
imbalance in the case of an accelerating object that lets us solve for the forces
acting on our object and therefore the tension force. Now, letβs get some practice with
this two-step process through a couple of examples.

A ball of mass 11.5 grams hangs
from the roof of a freight car by a string. While the freight car accelerates,
the string makes an angle of 22.7 degrees with the vertical. What is the magnitude of the
acceleration of the freight car? What is the magnitude of the
tension in the string?

We can call the acceleration
magnitude of the freight car π and the tension magnitude in the string capital
π. Letβs start by drawing a diagram of
our situation. In this situation, we have a
freight car accelerating we can say to the right with some acceleration magnitude
weβve called π. Inside the freight car is a mass
hanging from a string with a mass value of 11.5 grams. When the freight car is
accelerating, the string makes an angle π of 22.7 degrees with the vertical. The first thing weβll do to start
off solving for π and then π is to draw a free body diagram of the forces acting
on our mass. Thereβs the string acting with a
tension weβve called capital π on the mass. And second, thereβs the weight
force, the force of gravity acting on it, which is equal to its mass times the
acceleration due to gravity. Weβll treat that acceleration as
exactly 9.8 meters per second squared.

Next, to prepare to write out force
balance equations, weβll put a π¦- and π₯-axis in our scenario, where positive
π₯-motion is to the right and positive π¦-motion is up. And next, we recall Newtonβs second
law of motion, which tells us that the net force on an object is equal to its mass
multiplied by its acceleration. Applying this relationship to our
scenario, if we focus on the vertical forces, the forces along the π¦-axis, we can
write that π times the cos of π, the vertical component of the tension force,
minus the weight force ππ is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by its
acceleration. Since the mass is in equilibrium,
that acceleration is equal to zero. And we can say that π times the
cos of π is equal to π times π.

Now, letβs apply Newtonβs second
law to the forces in the π₯-direction. In this case, thereβs only one
force. Itβs the horizontal component of
the tension force. And by the second law, that equals
the mass of the object multiplied by π. This tells us that π is equal to
π sin π over π. We know both π and π. But we donβt yet know the tension
π. But we do know from our π¦ force
balance equation that, rearranging the equation, tension is equal to ππ over cos
π. If we substitute this expression
for π in to our equation for π β and when we do this substitution, we recall the
trigonometric identity sin π divided by cos π equals tan π β then we find an
expression for π, which when the masses cancel out equals π times the tan of
π.

When we plug in for these values,
π and π, and solve for π, we find itβs 4.10 meters per second squared. Thatβs the acceleration of the
freight car that will create this angle π. Next, we want to solve for the
tension, capital π, in the string. To do that, we can return to our
π¦-direction force balance equation, which told us that tension π is equal to ππ
over cos π. Plugging in for π, π, and π,
being careful to use units of kilograms for the mass, when we solve for π, we find
that, to three significant figures, itβs 0.122 newtons. This is the magnitude of the
tension in the string.

Now, letβs look at an example
involving a system of masses in motion.

Two blocks are connected across a
pulley by a rope as shown. The mass π one of the block on the
table is 4.0 kilograms. And the mass π two of the hanging
block is 1.0 kilogram. The mass of the rope is
negligible. The table and the pulley are both
frictionless. Find the acceleration of the
system. Find the tension in the rope. Find the speed of the hanging block
when it hits the floor. Assume that the hanging block is
initially at rest and located 1.0 meters vertically above the floor.

From this last bit of information,
we can add some detail to our diagram. We now know that π two is a
distance we can call π of 1.0 meters above the floor. Weβre told previously the masses π
one and π two. And we want to solve overall for
three pieces of information. We want to solve for the
acceleration π of the system, the tension π in the cable connecting the two
blocks, and the final speed, we can call π£ sub π of π two, as it hits the
ground. As we get started solving for
system acceleration π, we recall Newtonβs second law of motion that the net force
acting on an object or a system is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by its
acceleration.

When we consider the forces
involved with respect to our diagram, we see that the only force responsible for the
motion of this system of masses is the gravitational force acting on π two. Thatβs because our system overall
is frictionless and the gravitational force on π one is counteracted by the normal
force pushing up on π one. So by Newtonβs second law, we can
write that the weight force on π two, which is π two times π, equals the mass of
our system, π one plus π two, multiplied by the acceleration of the system,
π. Rearranging this expression to
solve for π, we see itβs equal to π two times π divided by the sum of the masses
π one and π two. π weβll treat as exactly 9.8
meters per second squared. And since weβre given π one and π
two, weβre ready to plug in and solve for π.

When we enter this expression on
our calculator, we find that π is 2.0 meters per second squared. Thatβs the overall acceleration of
this system of masses. Next, we want to solve for the
tension π in the line connecting the two masses. The interesting thing about solving
for π is that since π, the tension, is a force on both masses, we could look at
either one of the masses to solve for it. Just to pick a mass, letβs choose
π two. The two forces acting on π two are
the tension force π and the weight force π two times π. If we consider motion down to be
motion in the positive direction, then Newtonβs second law tells us we can write π
two times π minus π is equal to π two times π, where π is the acceleration we
solved for earlier.

Rearranging to solve for π, we
find itβs equal to π two times π minus π, or 1.0 kilograms multiplied by 9.8
minus 2.0 meters per second squared. When we multiply these values
together, we find that π is 7.8 newtons. Thatβs the tension in the line
connecting the masses. And finally, knowing that π two
starts from rest and descends a distance 1.0 meters before it reaches the floor, we
want to solve for π£ sub π, its final speed, just as it does reach the floor. Since the mass π two has a
constant acceleration, we can use the kinematic equations to solve for its
motion.

Specifically, we can use the
equation that π£ sub π squared equals π£ sub zero squared plus two times π times
π. Since π two starts at rest, that
means π£ sub zero is zero. So our equation is simplified to π£
sub π squared equals two times π times π. When we take the square root of
both sides and plug in 2.0 meters per second squared for π and 1.0 meters for π,
when we calculate the square root, to two significant figures, it equals 2.0 meters
per second. Thatβs the speed of block π two
just as it hits the ground.

Letβs summarize now what weβve
learned about tension. Weβve seen that tension is a force,
measured in newtons, that acts along the length of a linear segment, where the
segment could be a rope or a cable or a string or a solid object. Tension, weβve also seen, is always
a pulling force. It never pushes. To remember that, just imagine how
hard it would be to try to push a rope. And finally, when we solve for
tension in an example, we follow a two-step process. First, we draw a free body diagram
of the object of interest. And then we apply Newtonβs second
law of motion. This second law lets us generate
the equation that weβll use to solve for the tension involved.