Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

We have to analyze this video


  • An applied net torque due to the wind on the windmill is equal to 1500 N*m.
  • Each (of the 3) propeller props weighs approximately 45 Kg and has a Moment of Inertial equal to about 65% of that of a rod of the same mass being spun about its end.

  • This torque is applied for approximately 45 seconds before the explosion, prior to which the windmill was at rest.

Question: What was the angular acceleration caused by the torque?

So here's my attempt at it: T=Ia (a is alpha) T=ML^2/3 * a * .65 (due to the whole 65% thing. Actually not sure if I should put 3*M for each propeller)

And so this is where I get stuck. I'm not given L, so I'm not sure how to work around this. I could also use $T=1/2MR^2\times a$, but then I dont know R.

share|cite|improve this question
Thanks for marking this as homework; I'm sure someone will be able to give you hints. (I would myself, but it's rather late here!) – Noldorin Nov 4 '10 at 1:08
Maybe I haven't understood the problem, but have you looked at (particularly to the rod with the axis of rotation at the end of the rod)?. That's according to your point 2). For using that equation, you need the angular momentum, however, you know the torque and you know the time in which the torque is being applied. As far as I can see, that's all the information that you need to calculate the angular acceleration. – Robert Smith Nov 4 '10 at 1:54
@Robert Smith I think you're mistaking the L in that equation for angular momentum, when it's actually length of the rod. – ZachMcDargh Nov 4 '10 at 2:31
@ZachMcDargh: Argh, you're so right. – Robert Smith Nov 4 '10 at 4:15
Very strange that they chose to call that L. I was confused both by the OP's post and that equation on Wikipedia for a second. – ZachMcDargh Nov 4 '10 at 4:49
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The first thing I would point out to you is that $\tau = \frac{1}{2} MR^2 \alpha$ is really just $\tau = I\alpha$, with a particular choice of $I$. Is that choice appropriate for this problem? (Ask yourself the same thing any other time you consider using $\tau = \frac{1}{2} MR^2\alpha$.)

Next, note that the moments of inertia of different parts of the windmill do add up to produce the total, just like with mass. You can't just use the moment of inertia of one propeller prop, you have to calculate the total moment of inertia.

Finally, consider this: what information can you get from the video, that could supplement the 3 "givens"? There's no length scale in the video, so you can't measure the length of a prop directly, but there is a time scale. What can you do with that?

share|cite|improve this answer
Hmm not really there is actually a way to get an actual value for this thats not in terms of L or R? – maq Nov 4 '10 at 1:44
I think there's a way to calculate L or R (they're the same thing) from the the information you can get from the video. So again, think about what you can get from the video. Hint: look for the amount of time it takes for something to happen. – David Z Nov 4 '10 at 4:33

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.