Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite

Edward F. Redish

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A Tree on the House

After a few weeks of heavy drought, we had three days of heavy rain in Maryland. A result was that one of my old oak trees -- a double trunk -- uprooted and fell on my house. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the damage was reasonably well contained. A picture of the result is shown at the right. The trunks of the tree extended right over the top of the house so the top branches extended over the front and blocked the front doorway.

The house is a rectangle, 50 feet long and 30 feet wide. The back of the house (long dimension) is shown. The distance from the root ball of the tree to the edge of the house is 20 feet.


a. Given that the tree was an oak and therefore can be expected to have a density about 2/3 that of water (which is 1 gm/cm3), estimate the weight of the tree in pounds. Discuss what assumptions you have made to make your estimations.

b. Using the dimensions given and the geometry in the picture, calculate the amount of force the house is exerting on the tree to hold it up.

c. What is the total force that the tree is exerting on the house?

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Page last modified November 6, 2007: R26