About Inclined Planes

The inclined plane is one of the original six simple machines; as the name suggests, it is a flat surface whose endpoints are at different heights. By moving an object up an inclined plane rather than completely vertically, the amount of force required is reduced, at the expense of increasing the distance the object must travel. The mechanical advantage of an inclined plane is the ratio of the length of the sloped surface to the height it spans; this may also be expressed as the cosecant of the angle between the plane and the horizontal. Note that due to the conservation of energy, the same amount of mechanical energy is required to lift a given object by a given distance, except for losses from friction, but the inclined plane allows the same work to be done with a smaller force exerted over a greater distance.