**VELOCITY PROFILE OF A PARTICLE MOVING ON AN IRREGULAR PATHWAY WITH FRICTION USING A COMPUTER ALGEBRA SYSTEM**

*Charles B. WakefieldDepartment of Science, Mathematics, and Computer ScienceUniversity of Texas of the Permian BasinOdessa, Texas 79762e-mail: Wakefield_C@UTPB.edu*

**ABSTRACT**

In this study, using the computer algebra system *Mathematica*, we consider the evaluation of the velocity at any point along an irregular pathway. We assume there is friction which is a function of the horizontal distance along the pathway. Since there is friction, we can't assume conservative forces. Also, because the pathway is not simple we must use numerical integration to evaluate the distance traveled. This is necessary because for nonconservative forces, the force is dependent on the path.

The pathway data is fit with a fifth degree polynomial. The distance along the path is calculated with the numerical integrator for several different values of the independent variable. These distances are plotted and then fitted with a cubic fitting function. This gives us a function which will allow us to calculate the distance along the path at any point on the path. Using the work energy relation for nonconservative forces

,

we derive an expression for the final velocity as a function of x. This is then plotted for the region of interest. We then show a graphic which illustrates how the velocity will change with a range of different values of the coefficient of friction.

The problem is understandable to students but not doable without a Computer Algebra System. *This problem illustrates vividly the Calculus in Calculus Based Engineering Physics*. *It can be used to illustrate the use of a computer algebra system and the basic Calculus involved in the Engineering Physics course and the Calculus II course. *

Fig. 1 Fitting function for irregular pathway

Fig. 2 Fitting function for distances along the pathway

**DERIVATION**

From the work energy theorem for non conservative forces we know that the following is true.

(1)

In this equation . In this problem changes with x. However, the derivative at any point along the curve gives the slope of the curve at that value of x. This slope is equal to the tangent of the angle, , makes with the x axis. So, . Therefore,

(2)

If we substitute this result into equation (1) and recall that , we have:

If this equation is solved for we arrive at the final working equation.

(3)

Fig. 3 Velocity profile with friction included. In this case , the horizontal distance.

Fig. 4 This figure shows the velocity profiles over the irregular path for three different functional relationships between and the path. Green is the horizontal relation, blue is the actual path way function and red is the squared path way data. The particle will stop if is increased between x = 2.7 and x = 3 for the red curve.

Fig. 5 Comparing the two we see that the velocity rises as the path decends and vice versa.

Fig. 6 Velocity profiles with the sigma varying from 0.0 to 0.3. The yellow curve is the sigma 0.0 and the purple curve is the sigma = to .3.

1. Raymond A. Serway, Physics For Scientests & Engineers with Modern Physics, Third ed., Updated Version, Saunders Golden Sunburst Series, 1992