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A Simple Penny on Playing Card Experiment

Born on January 4, 1643, in the United Kingdom, Sir Isaac Newton, philosopher, astronomer, mathematician and physicist remains one of the greatest science minds that ever existed. In 1687, Newton published what has been called the greatest influential book on physics, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. Newton died on March 31, 1727 in London.

During his work, he came up with what scientists now call Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. We will focus on the first law, the Law of Inertia. This law states that “an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” To help you understand this law better try this simple experiment.

spring201628 Materials

  • 1 playing card
  • 1 coin
  • 1 small plastic cup


  • Place the playing card on top of the cup
  • Place coin on top of the card
  • using your finger, quickly flick the card out from under the coin in a horizontal direction
  • The coin should drop into the plastic cup


The coin’s tendency was to “keep on doing what it was doing.” It stayed in place because it has inertia.  By moving the card quickly you were able to overcome any forces, the coin stayed in place (an object at rest will remain at rest) then dropped into the plastic cup. Moving it too slowly does not allow that to happen. Keep trying if you didn’t get it right the first time because it can be done.


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