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Q:

What is an inclined plane?

A:

An inclined plane is, essentially, a ramp. Inclined planes are useful for a wide range of physics experiments, and they can demonstrate basic physics principles about gravity and angular motion.

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Some of the earliest experiments about gravity were conducted using inclined planes. One of the curious effects of them is that objects that roll down them have the same speed as objects dropped from the same height, but they take a longer time to reach their ultimate speed.

Ancient cultures used inclined planes for a variety of experiments as well, and they are one of the six classic "simple machines" of the Renaissance period. Without inclined planes, some of the simple rules that govern classical gravitational theory may not have been discovered until later.

Inclined planes also fill a number of practical roles. They were invaluable tools for lifting heavy items since they allow sideways motion to be converted into vertical motion, and many classic structures were built using inclined planes. Their simplicity also makes them popular; simply laying down a flat surface is enough to form an inclined plane, and they can be moved easily. While humans generally call them ramps, inclined planes are still in use in modern buildings.

Related Questions

• A:

An inclined plane works by reducing the amount of force needed to lift an object from a lower point to a higher one. The inclined plane is normally a flat surface that extends from the lowest point up to the highest, which allows things to be moved up and down the incline easier than lifting it straight up or down.

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• A:

Relying on the principle that work done is equal to force multiplied by distance, an inclined plane reduces the force needed and compensates for the deficit by increasing the distance moved, making the work easier. The steeper the angle of inclination, the shorter the distance moved and the more the force needed to move an object. Work done remains constant, whatever the distance or force applied.

• A:

An inclined plane makes work easier by reducing the exertion needed for the job while increasing the distance over which that exertion is maintained. The angle at which a load is lifted determines the amount of exertion needed to lift it. Lifting a load straight overhead requires the most exertion.