Lunar Madness (page 2)

based on 12 ratings
Author: Sydney H.
Topics: Ninth Grade, Physics

Terms and Concepts for Background Research

  • Basic physical concepts
  • linear velocity
  • angular momentum and torque
  • gravity and friction
  • Tidal force

Research Questions

  • What makes a top spin?
  • What makes a top’s spinning stop?
  • What is the moon’s effect on Earth’s gravity?

Experimental Procedure

  1. Place top in its respective, automatic spinner and turn until the spinner clicks ten times
  2. With a metric rule, level top 2.5cm off the ground and pull the spinner’s trigger at appropriate* time
  3. At the same time the trigger is pulled, press the “start” button of a stopwatch
  4. When top stops spinning, write down the time recorded by the stopwatch
  5. Repeat steps one through four nine times

*Because time is the dependent variable, the time the top is spun varies for every top in each trial. This project’s time was every four minutes from 8:00pm to 8:36pm.


 Half Moon
 Full Moon
 New Moon
Avg.* time spun

*Avg. = Average

*STDEV = Standard Deviation

*SEM = Standard Error of the Mean (the SEM value plus and minus the average)


Though the moon does have an effect on Earth and the objects within it, according to the experiment’s data, the phase of the moon does not have an effect on a spinning top that can be measured in seconds. This means a top does not spin longer on a full and new moon as compared to a half moon when measured in seconds. These two facts are proven because the SEM (standard error of the mean) of the trials overlap which means there is no true difference between the average spin times of the top during differing phases of the moon. A 95% SEM shows that if an experiment is repeated with the same number of trials, the experimenter can be 95% sure that the average outcome will be within the SEM. 

Error Statement:

The outcome of my experiment may have been different if a stopwatch that counted smaller time measurements was used.

Questions for Further Research

Use a stop watch that measures to smaller decimal place


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  • Enchanted, (2010). All about oceans and seas. Retrieved December 20, 2010, from
  • Groleau, R. (2002, October). What causes the tides. Retrieved December 20, 2010, from
  • Haase D. G. (Ed.). (2008) Physics in action: Planets, stars, and galaxies. New York, NY: Chelsea House.
  • Jedicke P., (2008) Scientific American: Gravity, and how it works. New York, NY: Chelsea House.
  • Lehrman R. L., (1990) Physics mass weight the easy way (2nd ed.). Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series.
  • Sonneborn L., (2005) The library of Physics: Forces in nature. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group
  • Waxman L.H., (2010) The Moon. Minneapolis, MN: Learner Publishing Group


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