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The Physics of Wagon Pulling



My neice, Emma, is only a couple months old, but she already has a lot of stuff. Clothes, toys, books, even a little blue wagon for when she gets older.

Probably in five plus years she'll want to drag that thing around all summer. But I'm not so sure how easy it would be for her to do that. How much work would she have to put into that action?

Well to figure out work, you can do W=Fd, W=mgd, or W=Fcos(-)d. I'd probably use W=mgd so I don't have to measure angles or anything. Let's say the wagon is 10 kg, and Emma pulls it 10 meters. Obviously by the time she is 5, gravity won't have changed so that's 9.81 m/s^2. When you plug in to the equation, you get W=(10 kg)(9.81m/s^2)(10 m). You'll end up with 981 J. That seems like a lot of work for a little girl.

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