## Hanging Slinky Analysis 2: The Pre-Tension Wrinkle Last time, we saw how the length of a hanging slinky is quadratic in the the number of links, namely, $\Delta x = \int \mathrm{d}x = \int_0^M \sigma mg \, \mathrm{d}m = \frac {\sigma M^2 g}{2}$,

where M is the mass of the hanging part of the slinky, g is the acceleration of gravity, and $\sigma$ is the “stretchiness” of the material (related to the spring constant k—but see the previous post for details).

And this almost perfectly fit the data, except when we looked closely and found that the fit was better if we slid the parabola to the right a little bit. Here are the two graphs, with residual plots: ## Hanging Slinky Analysis 1: Sums to Integrals Last time, we (re-)introduced the Hanging Slinky problem, designed a few years back as a physics lab but suitable for a math class, say Algebra II or beyond. We looked at the length of the hanging slinky as a function of the number of slinks that hang down, and it looked seriously quadratic.

I claim that knowing that the real-world data is quadratic will help you explain  why the data has that shape. That is, “answer analysis” will guide your calculations.

I beg you to work this out for yourself as much as you can before reading this. I made many many many wrong turns in what is supposed to be an easy analysis, and do not want to deprive you of that—and the learning that comes with it.