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written by Scott Schneider
This Java Applet simulates the well-known "leaning ladder" physics problem. It consists of a ladder leaning against a wall and a person standing on the ladder (represented by a blue ball). The user can adjust mass of ladder, mass of person, distance person stands from base of ladder, coefficient of static friction underneath ladder, and the theta angle. Force vectors and values are shown for the lateral force and force of static friction on the base of the ladder.  The ladder will fall if the lateral is greater than the frictional force.

Editor's Note: Physlets are designed using very simple graphics to convey focused concepts. In this case, the ladder is on a frictional surface and will stand in place if the applied force is less than the force of static friction. This simulation will help students build an understanding of factors affecting static equilibrium.  

This is part of a larger collection of Physlet-based tutorials developed at Lawrence Technological University to support instruction of introductory physics.

Please note that this resource requires Java Applet Plug-in.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Applications of Newton's Laws
= Friction
- Statics of Rigid Bodies
= Equilibrium
= Resolution of Forces
= Static Torque
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Curriculum support
= Interactive Simulation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Free access
© 2002 Scott Schneider
equilibrium, forces, ladder, static friction, torque
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created March 23, 2011 by Kendall Hunnewell
Record Updated:
September 2, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 15, 2006

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 9-12: 4F/H1. The change in motion (direction or speed) of an object is proportional to the applied force and inversely proportional to the mass.
  • 9-12: 4F/H7. In most familiar situations, frictional forces complicate the description of motion, although the basic principles still apply.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
  • 6-8: 11B/M5. The usefulness of a model depends on how closely its behavior matches key aspects of what is being modeled. The only way to determine the usefulness of a model is to compare its behavior to the behavior of the real-world object, event, or process being modeled.
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Record Link
AIP Format
S. Schneider, (2002), WWW Document, (http://vnatsci.ltu.edu/s_schneider/physlets/main/ladder.shtml).
S. Schneider, LTU Physlet: Ladder Leaning Against a Wall, (2002), <http://vnatsci.ltu.edu/s_schneider/physlets/main/ladder.shtml>.
APA Format
Schneider, S. (2006, March 15). LTU Physlet: Ladder Leaning Against a Wall. Retrieved May 31, 2016, from http://vnatsci.ltu.edu/s_schneider/physlets/main/ladder.shtml
Chicago Format
Schneider, Scott. LTU Physlet: Ladder Leaning Against a Wall. March 15, 2006. http://vnatsci.ltu.edu/s_schneider/physlets/main/ladder.shtml (accessed 31 May 2016).
MLA Format
Schneider, Scott. LTU Physlet: Ladder Leaning Against a Wall. 2002. 15 Mar. 2006. 31 May 2016 <http://vnatsci.ltu.edu/s_schneider/physlets/main/ladder.shtml>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Scott Schneider", Title = {LTU Physlet: Ladder Leaning Against a Wall}, Volume = {2016}, Number = {31 May 2016}, Month = {March 15, 2006}, Year = {2002} }
Refer Export Format

%A Scott Schneider
%T LTU Physlet: Ladder Leaning Against a Wall
%D March 15, 2006
%U http://vnatsci.ltu.edu/s_schneider/physlets/main/ladder.shtml
%O application/java

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A Schneider, Scott
%D March 15, 2006
%T LTU Physlet: Ladder Leaning Against a Wall
%V 2016
%N 31 May 2016
%8 March 15, 2006
%9 application/java
%U http://vnatsci.ltu.edu/s_schneider/physlets/main/ladder.shtml

Disclaimer: ComPADRE offers citation styles as a guide only. We cannot offer interpretations about citations as this is an automated procedure. Please refer to the style manuals in the Citation Source Information area for clarifications.

Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

The Chicago Style presented is based on information from Examples of Chicago-Style Documentation.

The MLA Style presented is based on information from the MLA FAQ.

LTU Physlet: Ladder Leaning Against a Wall:


A link to the full collection of LTU Java Physlets.

relation by Caroline Hall
Same topic as Ejs TPT Ladder Demonstration Model

This related Physlet presents the concept of equilibrium with fewer components: it removes the person from the ladder. The only problem to be considered is the mean lean angle required to maintain static equilibrium.

relation by Caroline Hall

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