A2L Item 067

Goal: Recognize physical conditions under which conservation principles hold.

Source: UMPERG-ctqpe144

child is standing at the rim of a rotating disk holding a rock. The
disk rotates without friction. The rock is thrown in the RADIAL
direction at the instant shown. What quantities are conserved during
this process?

  1. Only angular momentum is conserved.
  2. Only mechanical energy is conserved.
  3. Both angular momentum and mechanical energy are conserved.
  4. Neither is conserved.
  5. cannot be determined.



(1) is the correct response if the rock is thrown radially. The change
in velocity of the rock and, therefore its change in momentum, is in the
radial direction. The net torque on the system is zero so the angular
momentum cannot change. Some students may be tempted to choose (3) but,
since the rock is thrown via biological processes (as opposed to
mechanical processes), mechanical energy is not conserved.


Throwing the rock radially, clearly increases the kinetic energy but not
the angular momentum. This item provides a mechanism for a rich
discussion of the source of the kinetic energy.

Questions to Reveal Student Reasoning

Does the rock have angular momentum (or energy) just before it is
thrown? just after it is thrown?

If energy (angular momentum) is gained, where does it come from?

Changes in angular momentum are caused by a net torque. What torques
act on the system during the process of throwing?


Have the students do a ‘thought’ experiment by considering a spring
loaded gun mounted on a rotating turntable aimed outward along a radius.
The spring is released firing a small ball outward. This situation
makes it easier for some students to identify the source of additional
kinetic energy. Further, since the force applied is parallel to the
radius, there is no angular impulse and no change in angular momentum in
the system. Have students relate their answer to this question to the
previous one. Also contrast this and the previous one to items 64 and