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This classroom demonstration illustrates the concept of inertia.  A large wooden crochet hoop is balanced on the lip of a glass soda bottle.  A pencil is then balanced atop the hoop.  The pencil remains stationary until the demonstrator yanks the hoop in a downward angle.  Performed properly, the pencil should drop directly into the soda bottle below.  The page contains photos and background information on the physics fundamentals (in this case, Newton's First Law of Motion).  Performed incorrectly, the demo still illustrates the effects of a net external force on a stationary object.  

Phun Physics is a collection of physics demonstrations which introduce basic physics topics, are approximately 45 minutes long, and can be varied for presentation to grades 3-12. See Related Items for a link to the full collection.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Newton's First Law
= Inertia at Rest
- High School
- Middle School
- Elementary School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Demonstration
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 1999 University of Virginia
Law of Inertia, Newton's First Law, classroom demonstration, demonstration, physics demonstration
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created January 5, 2009 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 23, 2020 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
January 20, 2008

Next Generation Science Standards

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (5-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (5)
  • Support an argument that the gravitational force exerted by Earth on objects is directed down. (5-PS2-1)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • For any pair of interacting objects, the force exerted by the first object on the second object is equal in strength to the force that the second object exerts on the first, but in the opposite direction (Newton's third law). (6-8)
Types of Interactions (PS2.B)
  • The gravitational force of Earth acting on an object near Earth's surface pulls that object toward the planet's center. (5)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.
4G. Forces of Nature
  • 3-5: 4G/E1. The earth's gravity pulls any object on or near the earth toward it without touching it.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Dynamics: Forces and Motion
Unit Title: Newton's First Law & Inertia

A great companion to the "Dollar Bill Grab" above.  This demo illustrates the same basic concept (Law of Inertia).  If done correctly, it looks like a magic trick.  Even if done incorrectly, it still demonstrates the idea of inertia at rest.  Could be a good springboard for cooperative learning groups to discuss the meaning of net force, and what happens when net force is zero.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
Phun Physics, (1999), WWW Document, (http://web.archive.org/web/20180224191818/http://phun.physics.virginia.edu/demos/pencil_drop.html).
Phun Physics, Phun Physics: Pencil Drop (1999), <http://web.archive.org/web/20180224191818/http://phun.physics.virginia.edu/demos/pencil_drop.html>.
APA Format
Phun Physics. (2008, January 20). Phun Physics: Pencil Drop. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from http://web.archive.org/web/20180224191818/http://phun.physics.virginia.edu/demos/pencil_drop.html
Chicago Format
Phun Physics. Phun Physics: Pencil Drop. January 20, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20180224191818/http://phun.physics.virginia.edu/demos/pencil_drop.html (accessed 29 May 2024).
MLA Format
Phun Physics. Phun Physics: Pencil Drop. 1999. 20 Jan. 2008. 29 May 2024 <http://web.archive.org/web/20180224191818/http://phun.physics.virginia.edu/demos/pencil_drop.html>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Phun Physics", Title = {Phun Physics: Pencil Drop}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {29 May 2024}, Month = {January 20, 2008}, Year = {1999} }
Refer Export Format

%Q Phun Physics %T Phun Physics: Pencil Drop %D January 20, 2008 %U http://web.archive.org/web/20180224191818/http://phun.physics.virginia.edu/demos/pencil_drop.html %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %A Phun Physics, %D January 20, 2008 %T Phun Physics: Pencil Drop %V 2024 %N 29 May 2024 %8 January 20, 2008 %9 text/html %U http://web.archive.org/web/20180224191818/http://phun.physics.virginia.edu/demos/pencil_drop.html

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Phun Physics: Pencil Drop:

Is Part Of Phun Physics

this is the full collection of Phun Physics demonstrations for elementary and secondary science classrooms.  Procedures and background information are available for each demo.

relation by Caroline Hall
Covers the Same Topic As Phun Physics: Dollar Bill Grab

This is a demonstration by the same authors that also illustrates the principle of Newton's Law of Inertia.  It can be modified for use in either an elementary or secondary science classroom.

relation by Caroline Hall

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