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The Free High School Science Texts:
A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
Physics is the study of the laws which govern space, structure and time. In a sense we are more qualified to do physics than any other science. From the day we are born we study the things around us in an effort to understand how they work and relate to each other. For example, learning how to catch or throw a ball is a physics undertaking.
In the field of study we refer to as physics we just try to make the things everyone has been studying more clear. We attempt to describe them through simple rules and mathematics. Mathematics is merely the language we use. The best approach to physics is to relate everything you learn to things you have already noticed in your everyday life. Sometimes when you look at things closely, you discover things you had initially overlooked.
It is the continued scrutiny of everything we know about the world around us that leads people to the lifelong study of physics. You can start with asking a simple question like "Why is the sky blue?", which could lead you to electromagnetic waves, which in turn could lead you to wave particle duality and energy levels of atoms. Before long you are studying quantum mechanics or the structure of the universe.
In the sections that follow notice that we will try to describe how we will communicate the things we are dealing with. This is our language. Once this is done we can begin the adventure of looking more closely at the world we live in.
Early society had primitive ideas such as one, two or many, then more sophisticated means of counting emerged, mainly relating to trade. Units of weight, volume and money were at first integer whole units, often recorded by notches in a tally stick or marks in clay tablets. About 6000 years ago, with the advent of writing came units such as the length of the king's arm, together with the idea of multiples such as dozens and scores, together with vulgar fractions based on halves, quarters and so on., In order to describe these things, it is necessary to carefully measure what is observed.
In 1791, following the French Revolution, the decimal system was published based on tens and multiples or fractions of ten. The idea of ten months per year and ten days in a week were quickly dropped, but for most purposes it was revolutionary, with integrated standard weights and measures, such as fixing the second to the length of a pendulum of one metre, and the weight of a kilo of water the same as a litre volume. Since the 1960s the International System of Units ("Système International d'Unités" in French, hence "SI") has been almost universal outside the United States of America, which still prefers a version of the Imperial Roman measuring system which emerged more than 2000 years go and which is complicated and illogical.
Measurements must always be reported with appropriate units, which specify what type of quantity is being discussed  weight, length or whatever. For science and engineering, the SI system is universal and is not 'owned' by anyone, so it remains constant and free of political manipulation. As recently as 1897 the Indiana State Legislature,attempted (unsuccessfully) to set the value of Pi to 3.2, and during 1940, in Britain, the weight of a pound (lb) loaf of bread was legislated at a lower weight to concerve supplies during food rationing, giving rise to the expression 'baker's dozen' because you needed thirteen new loaves or buns for the same quantity of bread as 12 of the correct weight!
As a simple example of the importance of units, imagine you had to make curtains and needed to buy material. The shop assistant would need to know how much material was
required. Telling her you need material 2 wide and 6 long would be insufficient—you have to specify the unit
(i.e. 2 metres wide and 6 metres long). Without the unit, the information is
incomplete and the shop assistant would have to guess. If you were making curtains for a doll's house the dimensions might be 2 centimetres wide and 6 centimetres long!
It is not just lengths that have units. Any measurement of any physical phenomenon—time, temperature, force, or voltage, just to name a few—has units.
Tip: Many physics problems ask you to determine a specific numeric quantity. When you solve the problem, do not forget to specify the units of your answer: even if you have the right number, your answer is not correct unless you include the correct units.
In the remainder of this class we will be using SI units, which are defined in the table below. These seven units are used to measure fundamental quantities, and are the basis of everything we will do, as will be discussed in more detail in the next section.
Table 1.1:
SI Base Units
Base quantity
Name
Symbol
length
metre
m
mass
kilogram
kg
time
second
s
electric current
ampere
A
thermodynamic temperature
kelvin
K
countable amount of substance
mole
mol
luminous intensity
candela
cd
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics
These units are internationally agreed upon and form the system we will use. Historically these units are based on the metric
system which was developed in France at the time of the French Revolution.
Table 1.1:
SI Base Units
Base quantity
Name
Symbol
length
metre
m
mass
kilogram
kg
time
second
s
electric current
ampere
A
thermodynamic temperature
kelvin
K
amount of substance
mole
mol
luminous intensity
candela
cd
All physical quantities have units which can be built from the 7 base units listed in Table 1.1 (incidentally the choice of
these seven was arbitrary). They are called base units because none of them can be expressed as combinations of
the other six. This is similar to breaking a language down into a set of sounds from which all words are made. Another way of viewing the
base units is like the three primary colours. All other colours can be made from the primary colours but no primary colour can be made by combining the other two primaries.
Unit names are always written with lowercase initials (e.g. the metre). The symbols (or abbreviations) of units are also written with lowercase initials except if they are named after scientists (e.g. the kelvin (K) and the ampere (A)). An exception to this rule is the litre, which is abbreviated as either L or l.
To make life convenient, particular combinations of the base units are given special names. This makes working with them easier, but it is always correct to reduce everything to the base units. Table 1.2 lists some examples of combinations of SI base units assigned special names. Do not be concerned if the formulae look unfamiliar at this stage—we will deal with each in detail in the chapters ahead (as well as many others)!
It is very important that you are able to say the units correctly. For instance, the newton is another name for the kilogram metre per second squared (kg·m·s^{−2}), while the kilogram metre squared per second squared (kg·m^{2}·s^{−2}) is called the joule.
Table 1.2: Some Examples of Combinations of SI Base
Units Assigned Special Names
Quantity
Formula
Unit Expressed
in
Name of
Base Units
Combination
Force
m·a
kg·m·s^{−2}
N (newton)
Frequency
${1 \over T}$
s^{−1}
Hz (hertz)
Work & Energy
F·s
kg·m^{2}·s^{−2}
J (joule)
Electrical Potential
W/A
kg·m^{2}·s^{−3}·A^{−1}
V (volt)
Another important aspect of dealing with units is the prefixes that they sometimes have (prefixes are words or letters written in front that change the meaning).
The kilogram (kg) is a simple example: 1 kg is 1000 g or
$1\times {10^{3}{\mbox{ g}}}$.
Grouping the 10^{3} and the g together we can replace the 10^{3} with the prefix k (kilo). Therefore the k takes the place of the 10^{3}. Incidentally the kilogram is unique in that it is the only SI base unit containing a prefix.
There are prefixes for many powers of 10 (Table 1.3 lists a large set of these prefixes). This is a larger set than you will need but it serves as a good
reference. The case of the prefix symbol is very important. Where a letter features twice in the table, it is written in uppercase for exponents
bigger than one and in lowercase for exponents less than one. Those prefixes listed in boldface should be learned.
Table 1.3:
Unit Prefixes
Prefix
Symbol
Exponent
Prefix
Symbol
Exponent
yotta
Y
10^{24}
yocto
y
10^{−24}
zetta
Z
10^{21}
zepto
z
10^{−21}
exa
E
10^{18}
atto
a
10^{−18}
peta
P
10^{15}
femto
f
10^{−15}
tera
T
10^{12}
pico
p
10^{−12}
giga
G
10^{9}
nano
n
10^{−9}
mega
M
10^{6}
micro
µ
10^{−6}
kilo
k
10^{3}
milli
m
10^{−3}
hecto
h
10^{2}
centi
c
10^{−2}
deca
da
10^{1}
deci
d
10^{−1}
As another example of the use of prefixes,
$1\times 10^{3}{\mbox{ g}}$ can be written as 1 mg (1 milligram).
The remaining sets of units, although not used by us, are also internationally recognised and still in use by others. We will mention them briefly for interest only.
In this system the basic measure of length is the centimetre, weight is in grams and time is in seconds. Later the metre is replaced the centimetre and the kilogram replaced the gram. The Second has remained the basic unit of time throughout. This is a simple change but it means that all units derived from these two are changed. For example, the units of force and work are different. These units are used most often in astrophysics and atomic physics.
When electromagnetism comes into play, there are three CGS systems, adapted to the fundamental equations each theory views as basic: The electric CGS, the magnetic CGS, and the combined Gaussian. The latter has the advantage that corresponding electric and magnetic phenomena have the same units and related equations.
It has the additional advantage that there is only one natural constant in the equations, the speed of light, where the SI system has two. And experience, i.e. measurements, has shown that there is only one constant. So the Gaussion system is a bit more 'right'.
These unit systems also show that the choice of base units is arbitrary. In SI, there is a base unit for the current, the ampere [A], derived from it the unit of charge, coulomb [C]. The Gaussian system does without a dedicated unit for electricity. It simply defines the factor in the law of force between two charged particles as one  and lo, the unit C disappears; the esu (electrostatic unit) can be derived from g, cm, s  the C cannot, it is As, and A is basic.
[The same could be done with mass, leading to kg vanishing, just by setting the gravitational constant in Newton's law to one. kg would then be replaced by a combination of m and s.
These units (as their name suggests) stem from the days when the Roman Empire decided measures. Some of these were later altered by local rulers. As a result, different countries used different base units for each quantity (except for time). The British abandoned the Roman measurement and money system in 1972. There were 12 pennies or denaries in a shilling or solidus, and 20 shillings in a pound or libra ergo there were 240 'old pennies' and are now 100 new pennies in the pound sterling or GBP  which large unit was unchanged. The British also used both avoirdupois and troy weight and other capricious local measures, but following its integration in the EU, Britain now officially use decimal SI units for all measurements.
Although the British once used an imperial metric system similar to that in use in the US, it is important to know that there are some differences, because the colonists made certain incorrect assumptions, such as that because there were 16 ounces in a pound weight, there were also 16 fluid ounces in a pint of liquid, when the Romans and British defined 20 fl oz. This matters, because during World War II, for example, great fraud was perpetrated by the British selling the smaller American gallons (8 pints) at the price for the larger British measure!
The decimal metric system was invented in France in 1791, following the French revolution. This later became the MKS (Meter/Kilogram/Second) system and is now the System International (SI) system, which is still close that early French system. Using different units in different places would make effective scientific communication very difficult. That is why the scientific community has adopted SI units as its internationally agreed upon standard. Therefore the SI is overwhelmingly predominant for nearly all international scientific and technical use.
This is the most sophisticated choice of units. Here the most fundamental discovered quantities (such as the speed of light) are set equal to 1. The argument for this choice is that all other quantities should be built from these fundamental units. This system of units is used in high energy physics and quantum mechanics.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics
Without units much of our work as scientists would be meaningless. We need to express our thoughts clearly and units give meaning to the
numbers we calculate. Depending on which units we use, the numbers are different (e.g. 3.8 m and 3800 mm actually represent the same length). Units are an essential part of the language we use. Units must be
specified when expressing physical quantities. In the case of the curtain example at the beginning of the chapter,
the result of a misunderstanding would simply have been an incorrect amount of material cut. However, sometimes such misunderstandings have
catastrophic results. Here is an extract from a story on CNN's website:
NASA: Human error caused loss of Mars orbiter November 10, 1999
WASHINGTON (AP)  Failure to convert English measures to metric values caused the loss
of the Mars Climate Orbiter, a spacecraft that smashed into the planet instead of
reaching a safe orbit, a NASA investigation concluded Wednesday.
The Mars Climate Orbiter, a key craft in the space agency's exploration of the red planet,
vanished after a rocket firing September 23 that was supposed to put the spacecraft on orbit around Mars.
An investigation board concluded that NASA engineers failed to convert English measures
of rocket thrusts to newton, a metric system measuring rocket force. One English pound of
force equals 4.45 newtons. A small difference between the two values caused the spacecraft
to approach Mars at too low an altitude and the craft is thought to have smashed into the
planet's atmosphere and was destroyed.
The spacecraft was to be a key part of the exploration of the planet. From its station about
the red planet, the Mars Climate Orbiter was to relay signals from the Mars Polar Lander,
which is scheduled to touch down on Mars next month.
``The root cause of the loss of the spacecraft was a failed translation of English units
into metric units and a segment of groundbased, navigationrelated mission software,"
said Arthus Stephenson, chairman of the investigation board. Reported by CNN at http://www.cnn.com/TECH/space/9911/10/orbiter.02/
This story illustrates the importance of being aware that different systems of units exist. Furthermore, we must be able to convert
between systems of units!
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics
There are no wrong units to use, but a clever choice of units can make a problem look simpler. The vast range of problems makes it impossible
to use a single set of units for everything without making some problems look much more complicated than they should. We can't
easily compare the mass of the sun and the mass of an electron, for instance. This is why astrophysicists and atomic physicists use
different systems of units.
We won't ask you to choose between different unit systems. For your present purposes the SI system is
perfectly sufficient. In some cases you may come across quantities expressed in units other than the standard SI units. You will then
need to convert these quantities into the correct SI units. This is explained in the next section.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics
How to Change Units the "Multiply by 1" TechniqueEdit
Also known as fractional dimensional analysis, the technique involves multiplying a labeled quantity by a conversion ratio, or knowledge of conversion factors. First, a relationship between the two units that you wish to convert between must be found. Here's a simple example: converting millimetres (mm) to metres (m) the SI unit of length. We know that there are 1000 mm in 1 m which we can write as
This is the conversion ratio from millimetres to metres. You can derive any conversion ratio in this way from a known relationship
between two units. Let's use the conversion ratio we have just derived in an example:
Note that we wrote every unit in each step of the calculation. By writing them in and cancelling
them properly, we can check that we have the right units when we are finished. We started with mm and multiplied by ${\frac {m}{mm}}$
This cancelled the mm leaving us with just m, which is the SI unit we wanted! If we wished to do the reverse and convert metres to
millimetres, then we would need a conversion ratio with millimetres on the top and metres on the bottom.
It is helpful to understand that units cancel when one is in the numerator and the other is in the denominator. If the unit you are trying to cancel is on the top, then the conversion factor that you multiply it with must be on the bottom.
This same technique can be used to not just to convert units, but can also be used as a way to solve for an unknown quantity. For example: If I was driving at 65 miles per hour, then I could find how far I would go in 5 hours by using ${\frac {65{\mbox{ miles}}}{1{\mbox{ hour}}}}$ as a conversion factor.
This would look like ${\frac {5{\mbox{ hours}}}{1}}{\frac {65{\mbox{ miles}}}{1{\mbox{ hour}}}}$
This would yield a result of 325 miles because the hours would cancel leaving miles as the only unit.
Most people don't know how many seconds are in a millennium, but they do know enough to solve this problem. Since we know 1000 years = 1 millennium, 1 year = about 365.2425 days, 1 day = 24 hours, and 1 hour = 3600 seconds we can solve this problem by multiplying by one many times.
We conclude each section of this book with a discussion of the units most relevant to that particular section. It is important to try to understand what the units mean. That is why thinking about the examples and explanations of the units is essential.
If we are careful with our units then the numbers we get in our calculations can be checked in a 'sanity test'.
This isn't a special or secret test. All we do is stop, take a deep breath, and look at our answer. Sure we always look at our answers—or do we? This time we mean stop and really look—does our answer make sense?
Imagine you were calculating the number of people in a classroom. If the answer you got was 1 000 000 people you would know it was wrong—that's just an insane number of people to have in a classroom. That's all a sanity check is—is your answer insane or not? But what units were we using? We
were using people as our unit. This helped us to make sense of the answer. If we had used some other unit (or no unit) the number would have
lacked meaning and a sanity test would have been much harder (or even impossible).
It is useful to have an idea of some numbers before we start. For example, let's consider masses. An average person has mass 70 kg,
while the heaviest person in medical history had a mass of 635 kg. If you ever have to calculate a person's mass and you get 7000 kg, this should fail your sanity check—your answer is insane and you must have made a mistake somewhere. In the same way an answer of 0.00001 kg should fail your sanity test.
The only problem with a sanity check is that you must know what typical values for things are.
In the example of people in a classroom you need to know that there are usually 2050 people in a classroom. Only then do you know that
your answer of 1 000 000 must be wrong. Here is a table of typical values of various things (big and small, fast and slow, light and heavy—you get the idea):
Table 1.4:
Everyday examples to help with sanity checks
Category
Quantity
Minimum
Maximum
People
Mass Height
(NOTE TO SELF: Add to this table as we go along with examples from each section)
Note that you do not have to memorize this table. However, read it so that you can refer to it when you do a calculation.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics
In everyday life, many people measure temperatures in Celsius. But in physics, we prefer to use the Kelvin scale which starts at absolute zero(−273.15 °C).
As we all know, Celsius temperatures can be negative. This might suggest that
any number is a valid temperature. In fact, the temperature of a gas is a measure of the average kinetic
energy of the particles that make up the gas. As we lower the temperature so the motion of the particles is reduced until a point is
reached where all motion ceases. The temperature at which this occurs is called absolute zero. There is no physically possible temperature
colder than this. In Celsius, absolute zero is at 273.15 °C. In Kelvin, the ordinary freezing point of water 0 °C is therefore 273.15 K
Physicists have defined a new temperature scale called the Kelvin scale. According to this scale absolute zero is at 0 K and negative temperatures are not allowed. The size of one unit kelvin is exactly the same as that of one unit degree Celsius. This means that a change in temperature of 1 kelvin is equal to a change in temperature of 1 degree Celsius—the scales just start in different places. Think of two ladders with steps that are the same size but the bottom most step on the Celsius ladder is labelled 273.15, while the first step on the Kelvin ladder is labelled 0. There are still 100 'steps' or degrees (Celsius or Kelvin) between the points where water freezes and boils when it is at at 1.0 atmosphere of pressure (water boils at lower temperatures if the air pressure is lowerO.
(NOTE TO SELF: Come up with a decent picture of two ladders with the labels—water boiling and freezing—in the same place but with different labelling on the steps!)
This makes the conversion from kelvin to degree Celsius and back very easy. To convert from degrees Celsius to kelvins add 273.15. To convert from kelvins to degrees Celsius subtract 273.15. Representing the Kelvin temperature by T_{K} and the Celsius temperature by T_{°C},
Converting between kelvin and Celsius is additive—so a difference in temperature of 1 degree Celsius is equal to a difference of 1 kelvin. The majority of conversions between units are multiplicative. For example, to convert from metres to millimetres we multiply by 1000. Therefore a change of 1 m is equal to a change of 1000 mm.
Although it seems as though there is not much reason for the scientific community to use the Kelvin scale over the Celsius scale, there is actually a very remarkable difference in using the Kelvin scale other than the reminding effect stated above. It happens that the idealised form of some materials varies proportionately according to the Kelvin scale, such that some required values can be simply found by multiplication and division. In such calculations, it is just a chore to use the Celsius scale.
Fahrenheit is a temperature scale previously used in meteorology until about 1970, and which is still widely used in the USA. It was devised by a German physicist in 1724. He needed a scale that went below the freezing point of water, and used a mixture of ice, water, and ammonium chloride which freezes at a much lower temperature.
In this scale, the freezing point of water (0 °C) is 32 degrees Fahrenheit (32 °F) and the boiling point (100 °C) is 212 °F, placing the boiling and freezing points of water exactly 180 degrees apart. A temperature interval of one degree Fahrenheit is an interval of 5⁄9 of a degree Celsius. The Fahrenheit and Celsius scales coincide at −40 degrees (i.e. −40 °F and −40 °C describe the same temperature).
Absolute zero is −459.67 °F. The Rankine temperature scale was created to use degrees the same size as those of the Fahrenheit scale, such that a temperature difference of one degree Rankine (1 °R) is the same as a temperature difference of 1 °F, but with absolute zero being 0 °R.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics
Scientific Notation, Significant Figures and RoundingEdit
If you are only sure of say, both digits of a twodigit number, and put it in a formula and get a long series of numbers to the right of the decimal place, then those digits are probably not very accurate. This is the idea of significant figures.
Take 10 and divide by 3. If you are not sure that the number 10 is perfectly accurate, then you do not need to write down 3.333... and can get away with something like 3.3 or 3.33
(NOTE TO SELF: still to be written)
The accuracy of a measurement using significant figures is represented by the number of digits that it contains. A number is said to have the number of significant figures equal to the number of digits in the number not including leading 0s or trailing 0s unless there is a decimal point. The table below contains a list of numbers and how many significant digits each contains.
Table ?:
Significant Digits
Number
Significant Digits
1000
1
1000.
4
10.0
3
010
2
232
3
23.2
3
$1\times {10^{3}}$
1
$1.00\times {10^{3}}$
3
As you may have noted, some numbers cannot be shown in proper significant figure notation without the use of scientific notation. For example, the number 1000 can only be shown to have 1 or 4 or more significant digits by the inclusion of a decimal point. However, by rewriting 1000 as $1.\times {10^{3}}$ any number of significant digits may be added by simply add additional 0s after the decimal point.
Sometimes you may be asked to determine the number of significant figures in a given number. There are three rules to determine what numerals are significant.
Leading zeros are never significant. Leading zeros are zeros that appear on the left end of the number.
All nonzero digits are significant. Trapped zeros (zeros between nonzero digits) are also significant.
Trailing zeros are never significant unless there is a decimal point. Trailing zeros are zeros that appear on the right end of the number.
Very large numbers such as the speed of light (the C part of Einstein's famous $E=MC^{2}$) are difficult to write accurately.
We could write 300,000,000 m/sec, $3x10^{8}$, 300 million meters per second or some such. There is a much better way!
We simply separate the number (coefficient) part 3 from its multiplier 00000000 base!
But be careful, there is an Elephant trap here, and it is that in scientific notation the number is always expressed as a decimal fraction with a maximum value of 1.0, (in this case =0.3) so the multiplier part is one bigger than you might expect! $3x10^{8}$ is the same as 0.3E9. (Because there are a total of nine digits after the decimal point)
A tiny dust particle might weigh as little as 0.000 000 000 678 kg.! This time we shift the decimal point 9 places to the right so the number (678) has a negative base so our weight is written as 0.678E9 kg.
Now is that not a whole lot easier to write and understand? That is why many scientific calculators and most spreadsheets allow input and display in E notation format.
Most English speaking people use the comma [ , ] to separate thousands and the dot (fulstop, or point) [ . ] for the decimal indicator. Europeans often use these the other way around. Many spreadsheets allow both, but it is just one more complexity you need to know about!
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics
In this chapter we have discussed the importance of units. We have discovered that there are many
different units to describe the same thing, although you should stick to SI units in your
calculations. We have also discussed how to convert between different units. This is a skill you must acquire.
Waves occur frequently in nature. The most obvious examples are waves in water on a dam, in the ocean, or in a bucket, but sound waves and electromagnetic waves are other, less visible examples. We are
most interested in the properties that waves have. All waves have the same basic properties, so by studying waves in water we can transfer our knowledge and predict how other types of waves will behave.
Waves are associated with energy. As the waves move, they carry energy from one point to another in space. It is true for water waves as well. You can see the wave energy working while a ship drifts along the wave in rough sea. The most spectacular example is the enormous amount of energy we receive from the sun in the form of light and heat, which are transmitted as electromagnetic waves  not even requiring a medium to propagate.
wave was being discovered by Sir Reagan Lulu Wokoz
Simple Harmonic motion is a wavelike motion. It is considered wavelike because the graph of time vs. displacement from the equilibrium position is a sine curve.
An example of simple harmonic motion is a mass oscillating on a spring. It will be hard to understand the forces involved this early in the course that cause the motion to simple harmonic, but it is still possible to look at a mass oscillating on a spring and understand that it is indeed simple harmonic. When a mass is oscillating on a spring, the further the string stretches, the slower the mass will be moving. Then the mass reaches a point where the string won't stretch any further, so it quits moving and then it reverses direction. As it moves closer to the equilibrium position is moves faster.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
Waves are phenomena that everyone experiences constantly; water waves, sound waves, light waves, human waves when the home team scores... the list goes on. When asked what makes a wave a wave, the most common responses would probably be that a wave is something that moves, or propagates, or perhaps that it is something that repeats over and over again. These properties do capture the essential qualities of waves. Now we must determine these properties quantitatively, and discover what governs their behavior.
Generally, a wave is defined as any phenomenon which can be modeled by a function of the form $f({\bar {k}}{\bar {r}}\omega t)$ where the $r$vector represents a position in space, and $t$ represents a time, and the $k$vector and omega are both constants. Don't be intimidated by the vectors in the argument  most of our time at first will be spent on onedimensional waves. If the wave is in only one spatial dimension 'x', for instance a wave travelling on a taut string, it can be written simply as $f(kxwt)$ .
Any function of this form "propagates" along the ${\bar {k}}$ direction over time. As time increases, the argument of the function increases; over time the form of the function effectively advances through space. Try coming up with functions of this form, and plot them at time $t=0$ , then plot them again at a later time. This progressive property will become obvious. Try to figure out the velocity with which your function advances! (we will study this later) The negative sign in front of the time term causes the wave to propagate in the direction defined as positive (if that seems confusing, try plotting more functions over time, and examine the results). If you replace the negative with a positive (or instead consider a negative value of omega), the wave will propagate in the negative direction.
A very special and important case of a wave is the mathematical function $f({\bar {k}}{\bar {r}}\omega t)=\sin({\bar {k}}{\bar {r}}\omega t)$ , or in one dimension, $f(kx\omega t)=\sin(kx\omega t)$ . This is a sinusoidal wave – it oscillates up and down infinitely in both directions, and moves as time progresses. I mentioned that waves have the quality of repeating over and over, the quality of periodicity. However, many functions of the form mentioned above do not seem to repeat. However, you will find that ALL waves can be decomposed into a sum of many of these simple, infinitely repeating waves when you learn about Fourier transformations.
More than any other concept, physicists are finding that waves characterize the structure of the universe at every scale imaginable. As you learn about the physics of waves in everyday life, keep an open mind towards finding waves and wave behavior everywhere you turn.
Let's consider a very wellknown case of a wave phenomenon: water waves. Waves in water consist of moving peaks and troughs. A peak is a place where the water rises higher than when the water is still and a trough is a place where the water sinks lower than when the water is still.
So waves have peaks and troughs. This could be our first property for waves. The following diagram shows the peaks and troughs on a wave.
In physics we try to be as quantitative as possible. If we look very carefully we notice that the height of the peaks above the level of the still water is the same as the depth of the troughs below the level of the still water.
Waves are repetitions of physical quantity in a periodic manner, carrying energy in the process. The water waves, for example, can be visualized to repeat any of the physical quantities like "peaks", "troughs", "potential energy" or "kinetic energy". Even, we can visualize water waves as the motion of disturbance (energy). It is the energy aspect of waves that is central to the understanding of different types of waves, many of which are not visible.
Looking closely at the water wave, we can recognize that crests and troughs basically represent of extreme potential and kinetic energies in addition to representing rise and fall of water from the still level. At the peak, energy is only potential, whereas energy is only kinetic at the trough. Similarly, propagation of electromagnetic wave is associated with repetitions of magnetic and electric field in space with certain periodicity. As existence of electrical or magnetic fields does not require any medium, electromagnetic waves can move even in the absence of any medium.
We use symbols agreed upon by convention to label the characteristic quantities of the waves. The characteristic height
of a peak and depth of a trough is called the amplitude of the wave. The vertical distance between the bottom of the trough and
the top of the peak is twice the amplitude. To put it simply, the amplitude is the distance of the wave from the medium, to the crest or trough
Worked Example 1
Question: (NOTE TO SELF: Make this a more exciting question)
The height of the wave from the medium is 2m. What is the distance from the peak to the trough. What
Answer
The amplitude is 2m. (Read above paragraph to know why). The distance from the peak to trough is 4m.
Look a little closer at the peaks and the troughs. The distance between two adjacent (next to each other) peaks is the same
no matter which two adjacent peaks you choose. So there is a fixed distance between the peaks.
Similarly, you'll notice that the distance between two adjacent troughs is the same no matter which two troughs you look
at. But, more importantly, its is the same as the distance between the peaks. This distance which is a characteristic of the
wave is called the wavelength.
Waves have a characteristic wavelength. The symbol for the wavelength
is the Greek letter lambda, $\lambda$.
The wavelength is the distance between any two adjacent points which are in phase. Two points in phase are separate by an
integer (0,1,2,3,...) number of complete wave cycles. They don't have to be peaks or trough but they must be separated by a
complete number of waves.
Now imagine you are sitting next to a pond and you watch the waves going past you. First one peak, then a trough and then another
peak. If you measure the time between two adjacent peaks you'll find that it is the same. Now if you measure the time between two
adjacent troughs you'll find that its always the same, no matter which two adjacent troughs you pick. The time you have been
measuring is the time for one wavelength to pass by. We call this time the period and it is a characteristic of the wave.
The period of the wave is denoted with the symbol $T$.
There is another way of characterising the time interval of a wave. We timed how long it takes for one wavelength to go past. We could also
turn this around and say how many waves go by in 1 second.
We can easily determine this number, which we call the frequency and denote f. To determine the frequency, how many waves go by in
1s, we work out what fraction of a waves goes by in 1 second by dividing 1 second by the time it takes T. If a wave takes 1/2 a
second to go by then in 1 second two waves must go by. ${\frac {1}{\frac {1}{2}}}=2$. The unit of frequency is the Hz or s^{−1}.
Waves have a characteristic frequency.
$f={\frac {1}{T}}$
f
: frequency (Hz or s^{−1})
T
: period (s)
generally, the frequency of a wave is the number of crests that pass by per unit time.
Now if you are watching a wave go by you will notice that they move at a constant velocity. Thinking back to rectilinear motion
you will be able to remember that we know how to work out how fast something moves. The speed is the distance you travel divided by
the time you take to travel that distance. This is excellent because we know that the waves travel a distance $\lambda$ in a
time T. This means that we can determine the speed.
$v={\frac {\lambda }{T}}$
v
: speed (m.s^{−1})
$\lambda$
: wavelength (m)
T
: period (s)
There are a number of relationships involving the various characteristic quantities of waves. A simple example of how this
would be useful is how to determine the velocity when you have the frequency and the wavelength. We can take the above equation and
substitute the relationship between frequency and period to produce an equation for speed of the form
$v=f\lambda$
v
: speed (m.s^{−1})
$\lambda$
: wavelength (m)
f
: frequency (Hz or s^{−1})
Is this correct? Remember a simple first check is to check the units! On the right hand side we have speed which has units
ms^{−1}. On the left hand side we have frequency which is measured in s^{−1} multiplied by wavelength which is measure in
m. On the left hand side we have ms^{−1} which is exactly what we want.
We agreed that a wave was a moving set of peaks and troughs and we used water as an example. Moving peaks and troughs, with all the
characteristics we described, in any medium constitute a wave. It is possible to have waves where the peaks and troughs are
perpendicular to the direction of motion, like in the case of water waves. These waves are called transverse waves.
There are two additional types of waves. The first is called longitudinal waves and have the peaks and troughs in the same direction as the
wave is moving. The question is how do we construct such a wave?
An example of a longitudinal wave is pressure waves moving through a gas. The peaks in this wave are places where the pressure
reaches a peak and the troughs are places where the pressure is a minimum.
In the picture below we show the random placement of the gas molecules in a tube. The piston at the end moves into the tube
with a repetitive motion. Before the first piston stroke the pressure is the same throughout the tube.
When the piston moves in it compresses the gas molecules together at the end of the tube. If the piston stopped moving the gas
molecules would all bang into each other and the pressure would increase in the tube.
When the piston moves out again before the molecules have time to bang around then the increase in pressure moves down the tube like
a pulse (single peak and trough, a single wave cycle).
As this repeats we get waves of increased and decreased pressure moving down the tubes. We can describe these pulses of increased
pressure (peaks in the pressure) and decreased pressure (troughs of pressure) by a sine or cosine graph.
The second additional type of wave is the torsional wave. The peaks and troughs rotate around the direction of motion. In simpler terms, a "twisting motion" is transmitted through the medium. Of the two wave types, this is the hardest one to describe and visualize.
There are a number of examples of each type of wave. Not all can be seen with the naked eye but all can be detected.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
We have discussed some of the simple properties of waves that we need
to know. These have just been describing the characteristics that
waves have. Now we can progress onto some more interesting and,
perhaps, less intuitive properties of waves.
When waves strike a barrier they are reflected. This means that waves
bounce off things. Sound waves bounce off walls, light waves bounce
off mirrors, radar waves bounce off planes and how bats can fly at
night and avoid things as small as telephone wires. etc. The property
of reflection is a very important and useful one.
(NOTE TO SELF: Get an essay by an air traffic controller on radar)
(NOTE TO SELF: Get an essay by on sonar usage for fishing or for submarines)
When waves are reflected, the process of reflection has certain
properties. If a wave hits an obstacle at a right angle to the surface
(NOTE TO SELF: diagrams needed) then the wave is reflected directly
backwards.
If the wave strikes the obstacle at some other angle then it is
not reflected directly backwards. The angle that the waves arrives
at is the same as the angle that the reflected waves leaves at.
The angle that waves arrives at or is incident at equals the angle
the waves leaves at or is reflected at. Angle of incidence equals
angle of reflection
In the optics chapter you will learn that light is a wave. This means
that all the properties we have just learnt apply to light as well. Its
very easy to demonstrate reflection of light with a mirror. You can also
easily show that angle of incidence equals angle of reflection.
If you look directly into you see yourself ....
Need to mention that the incident wave, normal to the surface and the reflected wave all lie in the same plane. The same also holds for refraction at a surface.
When a wave is reflected from a more dense medium, it undergoes a phase
shift. That means that the peaks and troughs are swapped around.
The easiest way to demonstrate this is to tie a piece of string to
something. Stretch the string out flat and then flick the string
once so a pulse moves down the string. When the pulse (a single peak
in a wave) hits the barrier that the string is tied to, it will be
reflected. The reflected wave will look like a trough instead of a
peak. This is because the pulse had undergone a phase change. The
fixed end is like reflection off a more dense medium.
If the end of the string was not fixed, i.e. it could move up and
down then the wave would still be reflected but it would
not undergo a phase shift.
Sometimes waves move from one medium to another. The medium is the
substance that is carrying the waves. In our first example this was
the water. When the medium properties change it can affect the wave.
Let us start with the simple case of a water wave moving from one
depth to another.
The speed of the wave depends on the depth. If the wave moves directly
from the one medium to the other than we should look closely at the
boundary. When a peak arrives at the boundary and moves across it must
remain a peak on the other side of the boundary. This means that the
peaks pass by at the same time intervals on either side of the
boundary. The period and frequency remain the same! But we said the
speed of the wave changes, which means that the distance it travels in
one time interval is different i.e. the wavelength has changed.
Going from one medium to another the period or frequency does not
change only the wavelength can change.
Now if we consider a water wave moving at an angle of incidence not 90
degrees towards a change in medium then we immediately know that not
the whole wave will arrive at once. So if a part of the wave arrives
and slows down while the rest is still moving faster before it arrives
the angle of the wavefront is going to change. This is known as
refraction. When a wave bends or changes its direction when it goes
from one medium to the next.
If it slows down it turns towards the perpendicular.
If the wave speeds up in the new medium it turns away from the
perpendicular to the medium surface.
When you look at a stick that emerges from water it looks like it
is bent. This is because the light from below the surface of the
water bends when it leaves the water. Your eyes project the light
back in a straight line and so the object looks like it is a
different place.
If two waves meet interesting things can happen. Waves are basically
collective motion of particles. So when two waves meet they both try
to impose their collective motion on the particles. This can have
quite different results.
If two identical (same wavelength, amplitude and frequency) waves are
both trying to form a peak then they are able to achieve the sum of
their efforts. The resulting motion will be a peak which has a height
which is the sum of the heights of the two waves. If two waves are
both trying to form a trough in the same place then a deeper trough is
formed, the depth of which is the sum of the depths of the two
waves. Now in this case the two waves have been trying to do the same
thing and so add together constructively. This is called
constructive interference.
If one wave is trying to form a peak and the other is trying to
form a trough then they are competing to do different things. In
this case they can cancel out. The height of the peak less the
depth of the trough will be the resulting effect. If the depth of
the trough is the same as the height of the peak nothing will
happen. If the height of the peak is bigger than the depth of the
trough a smaller peak will appear and if the trough is deeper then
a less deep trough will appear. This is destructive
interference.
When two waves move in opposite directions, through each other,
constructive interference happens. If the two waves have the same
frequency and wavelength then a specific type of constructive
interference can occur: standing waves can form.
Standing waves are disturbances which don't appear to move, they
stand in the same place. Lets demonstrate exactly how this comes
about. Imagine a long string with waves being sent down it from
either end. The waves from both ends have the same amplitude,
wavelength and frequency as you can see in the picture below:
To stop from getting confused between the two waves we'll draw the
wave from the left with a dashed line and the one from the right
with a solid line. As the waves move closer together when they touch
both waves have an amplitude of zero:
If we wait for a short time the ends of the two waves move past each
other and the waves overlap. Now we know what happens when two waves
overlap, we add them together to get the resulting wave.
Now we know what happens when two waves overlap, we add them
together to get the resulting wave. In this picture we show the two
waves as dotted lines and the sum of the two in the overlap region
is shown as a solid line:
The important thing to note in this case is that there are some
points where the two waves always destructively interfere to zero.
If we let the two waves move a little further we get the picture
below:
Again we have to add the two waves together in the overlap region to
see what the sum of the waves looks like.
In this case the two waves have moved half a cycle past each other
but because they are out of phase they cancel out completely. The
point at 0 will always be zero as the two waves move past each
other.
When the waves have moved past each other so that they are
overlapping for a large region the situation looks like a wave
oscillating in place. If we focus on the range 4, 4 once the waves
have moved over the whole region. To make it clearer the arrows at
the top of the picture show peaks where maximum positive
constructive interference is taking place. The arrows at the bottom
of the picture show places where maximum negative interference is
taking place.
As time goes by the peaks become smaller and the troughs become
shallower but they do not move.
Then all the points begin to move back. Each point on the line is
oscillating up and down with a different amplitude.
If we superimpose the two cases where the peaks where at a maximum
and the case where the same waves where at a minimum we can see the
lines that the points oscillate between. We call this the envelope
of the standing wave as it contains all the oscillations of the
individual points. A node is a place where the two waves cancel out
completely as two waves destructively interfere in the same place.
An antinode is a place where the two waves constructively
interfere.
To make the concept of the envelope clearer let us draw arrows
describing the motion of points along the line.
Every point in the medium containing a standing wave oscillates up
and down and the amplitude of the oscillations depends on the
location of the point. It is convenient to draw the envelope for the
oscillations to describe the motion. We cannot draw the up and down
arrows for every single point!
If waves are reflected from a fixed end, for example tying the end
of a rope to a pole and then sending waves down it. The fixed end
will always be a node. Remember: Waves reflected from a
fixed end undergo a phase shift.
The wavelength, amplitude and speed of the wave cannot affect this,
the fixed end is always a node.
If waves are reflected from end, which is free to move, it is an
antinode. For example tying the end of a rope to a ring, which can
move up and down, around the pole. Remember: The waves sent
down the string are reflected but do not suffer a phase shift.
Wavelengths of standing waves with fixed and open endsEdit
If the waves that are interfering are not identical then the waves
form a modulated pattern with a changing amplitude. The peaks in
amplitude are called beats. If you consider two sound waves
interfering then you hear sudden beats in loudness or intensity of
the sound.
The simplest illustration is to draw two different waves and then
add them together. You can do this mathematically and draw them
yourself to see the pattern that occurs.
Here is wave 1:
Now we add this to another wave, wave 2:
When the two waves are added (drawn in coloured dashed lines) you
can see the resulting wave pattern:
To make things clearer the resulting wave without the dashed lines
is drawn below. Notice that the peaks are the same distance apart
but the amplitude changes. If you look at the peaks they are
modulated i.e. the peak amplitudes seem to oscillate with another
wave pattern. This is what we mean by modulation.
The maximum amplitude that the new wave gets to is the sum of the
two waves just like for constructive interference. Where the waves
reach a maximum it is constructive interference.
The smallest amplitude is just the difference between the
amplitudes of the two waves, exactly like in destructive
interference.
The beats have a frequency which is the difference between the
frequency of the two waves that were added. This means that the
beat frequency is given by
One of the most interesting, and also very useful, properties of
waves is diffraction. When a wave strikes a barrier with a
hole, only part of the wave can move through the hole. If the hole
is similar in size to the wavelength of the wave diffractions
occurs. The waves that comes through the hole no longer looks like
a straight wave front. It bends around the edges of the hole. If
the hole is small enough it acts like a point source of circular
waves.
This bending around the edges of the hole is called diffraction.
To illustrate this behaviour we start with Huygen's principle.
Huygen's principle states that each point on a wavefront acts like
a point source or circular waves. The waves emitted from each
point interfere to form another wavefront on which each point
forms a point source. A long straight line of points emitting
waves of the same frequency leads to a straight wave front moving
away.
To understand what this means lets think about a whole lot of
peaks moving in the same direction. Each line represents a peak of
a wave.
If we choose three points on the next wave front in the direction of
motion and make each of them emit waves isotropically (i.e. the same in all
directions) we will get the sketch below:
What we have drawn is the situation if those three points on the
wave front were to emit waves of the same frequency as the moving
wave fronts. Huygens principle says that every point on the wave
front emits waves isotropically and that these waves interfere to
form the next wave front.
To see if this is possible we make more points emit waves
isotropically to get the sketch below:
You can see that the lines from the circles (the peaks) start to
overlap in straight lines. To make this clear we redraw the sketch
with dashed lines showing the wavefronts which would form. Our
wavefronts are not perfectly straight lines because we didn't draw
circles from every point. If we had it would be hard to see clearly
what is going on.
Huygen's principle is a method of analysis applied to problems of
wave propagation. It recognizes that each point of an advancing
wave front is in fact the center of a fresh disturbance and the
source of a new train of waves and that the advancing wave as a
whole may be regarded as the sum of all the secondary waves
arising from points in the medium already traversed. This view of
wave propagation helps better understand a variety of wave
phenomena, such as diffraction.
Now if we allow the wavefront to impinge on a barrier with a hole in
it, then only the points on the wavefront that move into the hole
can continue emitting forward moving waves  but because a lot of
the wavefront have been removed the points on the edges of the
hole emit waves that bend round the edges.
The wave front that impinges (strikes) the wall cannot continue
moving forward. Only the points moving into the gap can. If you
employ Huygens' principle you can see the effect is that the
wavefronts are no longer straight lines.
Riaan Note: still cant find this image, have to get it from the pdf
For example, if two rooms are connected by an open doorway and a
sound is produced in a remote corner of one of them, a person in
the other room will hear the sound as if it originated at the
doorway. As far as the second room is concerned, the vibrating air
in the doorway is the source of the sound. The same is true of
light passing the edge of an obstacle, but this is not as easily
observed because of the short wavelength of visible light.
This means that when waves move through small holes they appear to
bend around the sides because there aren't enough points on the
wavefront to form another straight wavefront. This is bending
round the sides we call diffraction.
Dispersion is a property of waves where the speed of the
wave through a medium depends on the wavelength. So if two waves
enter the same dispersive medium and have different wavelengths
they will have different speeds in that medium even if they both
entered with the same speed.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
The Doppler Effect is an interesting phenomenon that occurs when an object producing sound is moved relatively to the listener.
Consider the following: When a car blaring its horn is behind you, the pitch is higher as it is approaching, and becomes lower as it is moving away. This is only noticeable if the object is moving at a fairly high speed, although it is still theoretically present at any speed.
When an object is moving away from the listener, the sound waves are stretched over a further distance meaning they happen less often. The wavelength ends up being greater so the frequency is less and the pitch is lower. When an object is moving towards the listener, the waves are compressed over a small distance making a very small wavelength and therefore a large frequency and high pitch. Since the pitch of the sound depends on the frequency of the waves, the pitch increases when the object is moving towards the listener.
$f'=f({\frac {v\pm v_{0}}{v\mp v_{s}}})$
f' is the observed frequency, f is the actual frequency, v is the speed of sound ($v=336+0.6T$) T is temperature in degrees Celsius, $v_{0}$ is the speed of the observer, and $v_{s}$ is the speed of the source. If the observer is approaching the source, use the top operator (the +) in the numerator, and if the source is approaching the observer, use the top operator (the ) in the denominator. If the observer is moving away from the source, use the bottom operator (the ) in the numerator, and if the source is moving away from the observer, use the bottom operator (the +) in the denominator.
A. An ambulance, which is emitting a 40 Hz siren, is moving at a speed of 30 m/s towards a stationary observer. The speed of sound in this case is 339 m/s.
$f'=40({\frac {339+0}{33930}})$
B. An M551 Sheridan, moving at 10 m/s is following a Renault FT17 which is moving in the same direction at 5 m/s and emitting a 30 Hz tone. The speed of sound in this case is 342 m/s.
Ultrasound is sound that has too high a frequency for humans to hear. Some other animals can hear ultrasound though. Dog whistles are an example of ultrasound. We can't hear the sound, but dogs can. Audible sound is in the frequency range between 20 Hz and 20000 Hz. Anything above that is ultrasound, and anything below that is called infrasonic.
Ultrasound also has medical applications. It can be used to generate images with a sonogram. Ultrasound is commonly used to look at fetuses in the womb.
This page or section is an undeveloped draft or outline. You can help to develop the work, or you can ask for assistance in the project room.
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Practical Applications of Waves: Electromagnetic WavesEdit
In physics, waveparticle duality holds that light and matter
simultaneously exhibit properties of waves and of particles. This
concept is a consequence of quantum mechanics.
In 1905, Einstein reconciled Huygens' view with that of Newton. He
explained the photoelectric effect (an effect in which light did
not seem to act as a wave) by postulating the existence of
photons, quanta of energy with particulate qualities. Einstein
postulated that the frequency of light, $f$, is related to the energy, $E$, of its photons:
${\begin{matrix}E=hf\end{matrix}}$
(2.3)
where $h$ is Planck's constant ($6.626\times 10^{34}Js$).
In 1924, De Broglie claimed that all matter has a wavelike
nature. He related wavelength $\lambda$ and momentum p:
This is a generalization of Einstein's equation above, since the
momentum of a photon is given by
${\begin{matrix}p={\frac {E}{c}},\end{matrix}}$
(2.5)
where $c$ is the speed of light in vacuum, and $f={\frac {c}{\lambda }}$.
De Broglie's formula was confirmed three years later by guiding a
beam of electrons (which have rest mass) through a crystalline
grid and observing the predicted interference patterns. Similar
experiments have since been conducted with neutrons and protons.
Authors of similar recent experiments with atoms and molecules
claim that these larger particles also act like waves. This is
still a controversial subject because these experimenters have
assumed arguments of waveparticle duality and have assumed the
validity of de Broglie's equation in their argument.
The Planck constant h is extremely small and that explains why we
don't perceive a wavelike quality of everyday objects: their
wavelengths are exceedingly small. The fact that matter can have
very short wavelengths is exploited in electron microscopy.
In quantum mechanics, the waveparticle duality is explained as
follows: every system and particle is described by state functions
which encode the probability distributions of all measurable
variables. The position of the particle is one such variable.
Before an observation is made the position of the particle is
described in terms of probability waves which can interfere with
each other.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
``A vector is `something' that has both magnitude and direction. ```Thing'? What sorts of `thing'?" Any piece of information which contains a magnitude and a related direction can be a vector. A vector should tell you how much and which way.
Consider a man driving his car east along a highway at 100 km/h. What we have given here is a vector — the car's velocity. The car is moving at 100 km/h (this is the magnitude) and we know where it is going — east (this is the direction). Thus, we know the speed and direction of the car. These two quantities, a magnitude and a direction, form a vector we call velocity.
Definition: A vector is a measurement which has both magnitude and direction.
In physics, magnitudes often have directions associated with them. If you push something it is not very useful knowing just how hard you pushed. A direction is needed too. Directions are extremely important, especially when dealing with situations more complicated than simple pushes and pulls.
Different people like to write vectors in different ways. Any way of writing a vector so that it has both magnitude and direction is valid.
Are vectors physics? No, vectors themselves are not physics. Physics is just a description of the world around us. To describe something we need to use a language. The most common language used to describe physics is mathematics. Vectors form a very important part of the mathematical description of physics, so much so that it is absolutely essential to master the use of vectors.
Numerous notations are commonly used to denote vectors. In this text, vectors will be denoted by symbols capped with an arrow. As an example, ${\overrightarrow {s}}$, ${\overrightarrow {v}}$ and ${\overrightarrow {F}}$are all vectors (they have both magnitude and direction). Sometimes just the magnitude of a vector is required. In this case, the arrow is omitted. In other words, F denotes the magnitude of vector ${\overrightarrow {F}}$. ${\overrightarrow {F}}$ is another way of representing the size of a vector.
Graphically vectors are drawn as arrows. An arrow has both a magnitude (how long it is) and a direction (the direction in which it points). For this reason, arrows are vectors.
In order to draw a vector accurately we must specify a scale and include a reference direction in the diagram. A scale allows us to translate the length of the arrow into the vector's magnitude. For instance if one chose a scale of 1cm = 2N (1cm represents 2N), a force of magnitude 20N would be represented as an arrow 10cm long. A reference direction may be a line representing a horizontal surface or the points of a compass.
Imagine you walked from your house to the shops along a winding path through the veld. Your route is shown in blue in Figure 3.1. Your sister also walked from the house to the shops, but she decided to walk along the pavements. Her path is shown in red and consisted of two straight stretches, one after the other.
Figure 3.1: Illustration of Displacement
Although you took very different routes, both you and your sister walked from the house to the shops. The overall effect was the same! Clearly the shortest path from your house to the shops is along the straight line between these two points. The length of this line and the direction from the start point (the house) to the end point (the shops) forms a very special vector known as displacement. Displacement is assigned the symbol ${\overrightarrow {s}}$
Definition:Displacement is defined as the magnitude and direction of the straight line joining one's starting point to one's final point.
OR
Definition:Displacement is a vector with direction pointing from some initial (starting) point to some final (end) point and whose magnitude is the straightline distance from the starting point to the end point.
(NOTE TO SELF: choose one of the above)
In this example both you and your sister had the same displacement. This is shown as the black arrow in Figure 3.1. Remember displacement is not concerned with the actual path taken. It is only
concerned with your start and end points. It tells you the length of the straightline path between your start and end points and the direction from start to finish. The distance travelled is the length of the path followed and is a scalar (just a number). Note that the magnitude of the displacement need not be the same as the distance travelled. In this case the magnitude of your displacement would be considerably less than the actual length of the path you followed through the veld!
Definition:Velocity is the rate of change of displacement with respect to time.
The terms rate of change and with respect to are ones we will use often and it is important that you understand what they mean. Velocity describes how much displacement changes for a certain change in time.
We usually denote a change in something with the symbol $\Delta$ (the Greek letter Delta). You have probably seen this before in maths — the gradient of a straight line is ${\frac {\Delta y}{\Delta x}}$. The gradient is just how much y changes for a certain change in x. In other words it is just the rate of change of y with respect to x. This means that velocity must be
(NOTE TO SELF: This is actually average velocity. For instantaneous$\Delta$'s
change to differentials. Explain that if$\Delta$is large then we have average velocity else for infinitesimal time interval instantaneous!)
What then is speed? Speed is how quickly something is moving. How is it different from velocity? Speed is not a vector. It does not tell you which direction something is moving, only how fast. Speed is the magnitude of the velocity vector (NOTE TO SELF: instantaneous speed is the magnitude of the instantaneous velocity.... not true of averages!).
Consider the following example to test your understanding of the differences between velocity and speed.
Question: A man runs around a circular track of radius 100m. It takes him 120s to complete a revolution of the track. If he runs at constant speed, calculate:
his speed,
his instantaneous velocity at point A,
his instantaneous velocity at point B,
his average velocity between points A and B,
his average velocity during a revolution.
Answer:
1. To determine the man's speed, we need to know the distance he travels and how long it takes. We know it takes $120s$ to complete one revolution of the track. What distance is one revolution of the track? We know the track is a circle and we know its radius, so we can determine the perimeter or distance around the circle. We start with the equation for the circumference of a circle:
2. Now that we have distance and time, we can determine speed. We know that speed is distance covered per unit time. If we divide the distance covered by the time it took, we will know how much distance was covered for every unit of time.
We know which way the man is running around the track, and we know his speed. His velocity at point A will be his speed (the magnitude of the velocity) plus his direction of motion (the direction of his velocity). He is moving at the instant that he arrives at A, as indicated in the diagram below.
His velocity vector will be $5.23\ m.s^{1}$ West.
4. Consider point B in the diagram:
We know which way the man is running around the track, and we know his speed. His velocity at point B will be his speed (the magnitude of the velocity) plus his direction of motion (the direction of his velocity). He is moving at the instant that he arrives at B, as indicated in the diagram below.
His velocity vector will be $5.23\ m.s^{1}$ South.
4. So, now, what is the man's average velocity between Point A and Point B?
As he runs around the circle, he changes direction constantly. (Imagine a series of vector arrows pointing out from the circle, one for each step he takes.) If you add up all these directions and find the average it turns out to be ...Right. South west. And, notice that if you just looked for the average between his velocity at Point A and at Point B, that comes out south west, too. So his average velocity between Point A and Point B is $5.23\ m.s^{1}$ south west.
5. Now we need to calculate his average velocity over a complete revolution. The definition of average velocity is given earlier and requires that you know the total displacement and the total time. The total displacement for a revolution is given by the vector from the initial point to the final point. If the man runs in a circle, then he ends where he started. This means the vector from his initial point to his final point has zero length. A calculation of his average velocity follows:
Definition:Acceleration is the rate of change of velocity with respect to time.
Acceleration is also a vector. Remember that velocity was the rate of change of displacement with respect to time so we expect
the velocity and acceleration equations to look very similar. In fact:
Imagine that you and your friend are pushing a cardboard box kept on a smooth floor. Both of you are equally strong. Can you tell me in which direction the box will move ? Probably not. Because I have not told you in which direction each of you are pushing the box. If both of you push it towards north, the box would move northwards. If you push it towards north and you friend pushes it towards east, it would move northeastwards. If you two push it in opposite directions, it wouldn't move at all !
Thus in dealing with force applied on any object, it is equally important to take into account the direction of the force, as the magnitude. This is the case with all vectors.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
Vectors are mathematical objects and we will use them to describe physics in the language of mathematics. However, first we need to
understand the mathematical properties of vectors (e.g. how they add and subtract).
We will now use arrows representing displacements to illustrate the properties of vectors. Remember that displacement is just one example
of a vector. We could just as well have decided to use forces to illustrate the properties of vectors.
If we define a displacement vector as 2 steps in the forward direction and another as 3 steps in the forward direction then adding them together would mean moving a total of 5 steps in the forward direction. Graphically, this can be seen by first following the first vector two steps forward, and then following the second one three steps forward:
We add the second vector at the end of the first vector, since this is where we now are after the first vector has acted. The vector from the tail of the first vector (the starting point) to the head of the last (the end point) is then the sum of the vectors. This is the tailtohead method of vector addition.
The order in which you add vectors does not matter. In the example above, if you decided to first go 3 steps forward and then another 2 steps forward, the end result would still be 5 steps forward.
The final answer when adding vectors is called the resultant.
Definition: The resultant of a number of vectors is the single vector whose effect is the same as the individual vectors acting together.
In other words, the individual vectors can be replaced by the resultant — the overall effect is the same. If vectors ${\overrightarrow {a}}$ and ${\overrightarrow {b}}$ have a resultant ${\overrightarrow {R}}$, this can be represented mathematically as, ${\begin{matrix}{\overrightarrow {R}}&=&{\overrightarrow {a}}+{\overrightarrow {b}}.\end{matrix}}$
Let us consider some more examples of vector addition using displacements. The arrows tell you how far to move and in what direction. Arrows to the right correspond to steps forward, while arrows to the left correspond to steps backward. Look at all of the examples below and check them.
Let us test the first one. It says one step forward and then another step forward is the same as an arrow twice as long — two steps forward.
It is possible that you end up back where you started. In this case the net result of what you have done is that you have gone nowhere
(your start and end points are at the same place). In this case, your resultant displacement is a vector with length zero units. We use the symbol ${\overrightarrow {0}}$ to denote such a vector:
Check the following examples in the same way. Arrows up the page can be seen as steps left and arrows down the page as steps right.
Try a couple to convince yourself!
It is important to realise that the directions aren't special — forward and backwards or left and right are treated in the same way. The same is true of any set of parallel directions:
In the above examples the separate displacements were parallel to one another. However the same tailtohead technique of vector addition can be applied to vectors in any direction.
Now you have discovered one use for vectors; describing resultant displacement — how far and in what direction you have travelled after a series of movements.
Although vector addition here has been demonstrated with displacements, all vectors behave in exactly the same way. Thus, if given a number of forces are acting on a body, you can use the same method to determine the resultant force acting on the body. We will return to vector addition in more detail later.
What does it mean to subtract a vector? Well this is really simple: if we have 5 apples and we subtract 3 apples, we have only 2 apples left. Now lets work in steps — if we take 5 steps forward, and then subtract 3 steps forward, we are left with only two steps forward:
What have we done? You originally took 5 steps forward but then you took 3 steps back. That backward displacement would be represented by an arrow pointing to the left (backwards) with length 3. The net result of adding these two vectors is 2 steps forward:
Thus, subtracting a vector from another is the same as adding a vector in the opposite direction (i.e. subtracting 3 steps forwards is the same as adding 3 steps backwards).
This suggests that in this problem, arrows to the right are positive, and arrows to the left are negative. More generally, vectors in opposite directions differ in sign (i.e. if we define up as positive, then vectors acting down are negative). Thus, changing the sign of a vector simply reverses its direction:
In mathematical form, subtracting ${\overrightarrow {a}}$ from ${\overrightarrow {b}}$ gives a new vector ${\overrightarrow {c}}$
This clearly shows that subtracting vector ${\overrightarrow {a}}$ from ${\overrightarrow {b}}$ is the same as adding $({\overrightarrow {a}})$ to ${\overrightarrow {b}}$. Look at the following examples of vector subtraction.
What happens when you multiply a vector by a scalar (an ordinary number)?
Going back to normal multiplication we know that $2\times 2$ is just 2 groups of 2 added together to give 4. We can adopt a similar approach
to understand how vector multiplication works.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
Now that you have been acquainted with the mathematical properties of
vectors, we return to vector addition in more detail. There are a number of
techniques of vector addition. These techniques
fall into two main categories graphical and algebraic techniques.
Graphical techniques involve drawing accurate scale diagrams to denote
individual vectors and their resultants. We next discuss the two primary
graphical techniques, the tailtohead technique and the parallelogram
method.
In describing the mathematical properties of vectors we used
displacements and the tailtohead graphical method of vector addition
as an illustration. In the tailtohead method of vector addition the
following strategy is followed:
Choose a scale and include a reference direction.
Choose any of the vectors to be summed and draw it as an arrow in the correct direction and of the correct length remember to put an arrowhead on the end to denote its direction.
Take the next vector and draw it as an arrow starting from the arrowhead of the first vector in the correct direction and of the correct length.
Continue until you have drawn each vector each time starting from the head of the previous vector. In this way, the vectors to be added are drawn one after the other tailtohead.
The resultant is then the vector drawn from the tail of the first vector to the head of the last. Its magnitude can be determined from the length of its arrow using the scale. Its direction too can be determined from the scale diagram.
Worked Example 4 TailtoHead Graphical Addition IEdit
Question: A ship leaves harbour H and sails 6km north to port A. From here the ship travels 12km east to port B, before sailing 5.5km
southwest to port C. Determine the ship's resultant displacement using the tailtohead technique of vector addition.
Answer:
Now, we are faced with a practical issue: in this problem the displacements are too large to draw them their actual length! Drawing
a 2km long arrow would require a very big book. Just like cartographers (people who draw maps), we have to choose a scale. The
choice of scale depends on the actual question you should choose a scale such that your vector diagram fits the page. Before choosing a
scale one should always draw a rough sketch of the problem. In a rough sketch one is interested in the approximate shape of the vector diagram.
Step 1 :
Let us draw a rough sketch of the situation
In a rough sketch one should include all of the information given in the problem. All of the magnitudes of the displacements are shown and
a compass has been included as a reference direction.
Step 2 :
Next we choose a scale for our vector diagram. It is clear from the rough sketch that choosing a
scale where 1cm represents 1km (scale: 1cm = 1km) would be a good choice in this
problem ) the diagram will then take up a good fraction of an A4 page. We now start the accurate construction.
Step 3 :
Construction Step 1: Starting at the harbour H we draw the first vector 6cm long in the direction north (remember in the
diagram 1cm represents 1km):
Construction Step 2: Since the ship is now at port A we draw the second vector 12cm long starting from this point in the direction east:
Construction Step 3: Since the ship is now at port B we draw the third vector 5.5cm long starting from this point in the direction
southwest. A protractor is required to measure the angle of 45^{o}.
Construction Step 4: As a final step we draw the resultant displacement from the starting point (the harbour H) to the end point (port C).
We use a ruler to measure the length of this arrow and a protractor to determine its direction
Step 4 :
We now use the scale to convert the length of the resultant in the scale diagram to the actual displacement in the problem. Since we have
chosen a scale of 1cm = 1km in this problem the resultant has a magnitude of 8.38 km. The direction can be specified in terms of the
angle measured either as 75.4^{o} east of north or on a bearing of 75.4^{o}.
Step 5 :
Now we can quote the final answer: The resultant displacement of the ship is 8.38 km on a bearing of 75.4^{o}!
Worked Example 5 TailtoHead Graphical Addition IIEdit
Question: A man walks 40 m East, then 30 m North.
a) What was the total distance he walked?
b) What is his resultant displacement?
Answer:
Step 1 :
What distance did the man travel? In the first part of his journey he traveled 40 m and in the second part he traveled 30 m. This
gives us a total distance traveled of $40+30=70\ m$
Step 2 :
What is his resultant displacement? The man's resultant displacement is the vector
from where he started to where he ended. It is the sum of his two separate displacements. We will use the tailtohead method of
accurate construction to find this vector. Firstly, we draw a rough sketch:
Next we choose a scale suitable for the problem. A scale of 1cm represents 5m (1cm = 5m) is a good choice here. Now we can
begin the process of construction.
Step 4 :
We draw the first displacement as an arrow 8cm long (according to the scale $8cm=8\times 5m=40m$) in the direction east:
Step 5 :
Starting from the head of the first vector we draw the second displacement as an arrow 6cm long (according to the scale $6cm=6\times 5m=30m$) in the direction north:</math>
Step 6 :
Now we connect the starting point to the end point and
measure the length and direction of this arrow (the resultant)
Step 7 :
Finally we use the scale to convert the length of the resultant in the scale diagram to the actual magnitude of the resultant
displacement. According to the chosen scale 1cm = 5m. Therefore 10cm represents 50m. The resultant
displacement is then 50m 36.9^{o} north of east.
When needing to find the resultant of two vectors another graphical technique can be applied the parallelogram method. The following
strategy is employed:
Choose a scale and a reference direction.
Choose either of the vectors to be added and draw it as an arrow of the correct length in the correct direction.
Draw the second vector as an arrow of the correct length in the correct direction from the tail of the first vector.
Complete the parallelogram formed by these two vectors.
The resultant is then the diagonal of the parallelogram. Its magnitude can be determined from the length of its arrow using the scale. Its direction too can be determined from the scale diagram.
Question: A force of F_{1} = 5 N is applied to a block in a horizontal direction. A second force F_{2} = 4 N is applied to the object
at an angle of 30° above the horizontal.
Determine the resultant force acting on the block using the parallelogram method of accurate construction.
Answer:
Step 1 :
Firstly we make a rough sketch of the vector diagram:
Step 2 :
Now we choose a suitable scale. In this problem a scale of 1 cm = 0.5 N would be appropriate, since then the vector diagram would take up a reasonable fraction of the page. We can now begin the accurate scale diagram.
Step 3 :
Let us draw F_{1} first. According to the scale it has length 10 cm:
Step 4 :
Next we draw F_{2}. According to the scale it has length 8 cm. We make use of a protractor to draw this vector at 30° to the horizontal:
Step 5 :
Next we complete the parallelogram and draw the diagonal:
Finally we use the scale to convert the measured length into the actual magnitude. Since 1 cm = 0.5 N, 17.4 cm represents 8.7 N. Therefore the resultant force is 8.7 N at 13.3° above the horizontal.
The parallelogram method is restricted to the addition of just two vectors. However, it is arguably the most intuitive way of adding two forces acting at a point.
Whenever you are faced with adding vectors acting in a straight line (i.e. some directed left and some right, or some acting
up and others down) you can use a very simple algebraic technique:
Choose a positive direction. As an example, for situations involving displacements in the directions west and east, you might choose west as your positive direction. In that case, displacements east are negative.
Next simply add (or subtract) the vectors with the appropriate signs.
As a final step the direction of the resultant should be included in words (positive answers are in the positive direction, while negative resultants are in the negative direction).
Question: A tennis ball is rolled towards a wall which is 10m away to the right. If after striking the wall the ball rolls
a further 2.5m along the ground to the left, calculate algebraically the ball's resultant displacement.
(NOTE TO SELF: PGCE suggest a `more real looking' diagram, followed by a diagram one would draw to solve the problem (like our existing one
with the positive direction shown as an arrow))
Answer:
Step 1 :
Let us draw a picture of the situation:
Step 2 :
We know that the resultant displacement of the ball ( ${\overrightarrow {s}}_{resultant}$) is equal to the sum of the ball's separate
displacements (${\overrightarrow {s}}_{1}$ and ${\overrightarrow {s}}_{2}$ ):
Question: Suppose that a tennis ball is thrown horizontally towards a wall at 3m.s^{−1} to the right. After striking the wall,
the ball returns to the thrower at 2m.s^{−1}. Determine the change in velocity of the ball.
Answer:
Step 1 :
Remember that velocity is a vector. The change in the velocity of the ball is equal to the difference between the ball's initial and final velocities:
In worked example 3 the tail to head method of accurate construction was used to determine the
resultant displacement of a man who travelled first east and then north. However, the man's resultant can be calculated without drawing an
accurate scale diagram. Let us revisit this example.
Note that the triangle formed by his separate displacement vectors and his resultant displacement vector is a rightangle
triangle. We can thus use Pythogoras' theorem to determine the length of the resultant. If the length of the resultant vector is called
s then:
Step 3 :
Now we have the length of the resultant displacement vector but not yet its direction. To determine its direction we calculate the angle $\alpha$ between the resultant displacement vector and East.
Resultant Displacement: 50 m at 36.9^{o} North of East
This is exactly the same answer we arrived at after drawing a scale diagram!
In the previous example we were able to use simple trigonometry to calculate a man's resultant displacement. This was possible since the
man's directions of motion were perpendicular (north and east). Algebraic techniques, however, are not limited to cases where the vectors to be
combined are along the same straight line or at right angles to one another. The following example illustrates this.
Question: A man walks from point A to point B which is 12km away on a bearing of 45^{o}. From point B the man walks a
further 8km east to point C. Calculate the man's resultant displacement.
Answer:
Step 1 :
Let us begin by drawing a rough sketch of the situation
$B{\hat {A}}F=45^{o}$ since the man walks initially on a bearing of 45^{o}.Then, $A{\hat {B}}G=B{\hat {A}}F=45^{o}$ (alternate angles parallel lines). Both of these angles are included in the rough sketch.
Step 2 :
Now let us calculate the length of the resultant (AC). Since we know both the lengths of $AB$ and $BC$ and the included angle $A{\hat {B}}C$, we can use
the cosine rule:
In the discussion of vector addition we saw that a number of vectors acting together can be combined to give a single vector (the resultant). In
much the same way a single vector can be broken down into a number of vectors which when added give that original vector. These
vectors which sum to the original are called components of the original vector. The process of breaking a vector into its components
is called resolving into components.
While summing a given set of vectors gives just one answer (the resultant), a single vector can be resolved into infinitely many sets
of components. In the diagrams below the same black vector is resolved into different pairs of components. These components are shown in red.
When added together the red vectors give the original black vector (i.e. the original vector is the resultant of its components).
In practice it is most useful to resolve a vector into components which are at right angles to one another.
Question: A motorist undergoes a displacement of 250km in a direction 30^{o} north of east. Resolve this displacement into
components in the directions north (${\overrightarrow {s}}_{N}$ and east (${\overrightarrow {s}}_{E}$).
Answer:
Step 1 :
Firstly let us draw a rough sketch of the original vector
Step 2 :
Next we resolve the displacement into its components north and east. Since these directions are orthogonal to one another, the
components form a rightangled triangle with the original displacement as its hypotenuse:
Notice how the two components acting together give the original vector as their resultant.
Step 3 :
Now we can use trigonometry to calculate the magnitudes of the components of the original displacement:
As a further example of components let us consider a block of mass m placed on a frictionless surface inclined at some angle $\theta$ to
the horizontal. The block will obviously slide down the incline, but what causes this motion?
The forces acting on the block are its weight mg and the normal force N exerted by the surface on the object. These two forces are
shown in the diagram below.
Now the object's weight can be resolved into components parallel and perpendicular to the inclined surface. These components are shown as
red arrows in the diagram above and are at right angles to each other. The components have been drawn acting from the same
point. Applying the parallelogram method, the two components of the block's weight sum to the weight vector.
To find the components in terms of the weight we can use trigonometry:
The component of the weight perpendicular to the slope W_{$\perp$ } exactly balances the normal force N exerted by the surface. The parallel component, however, $W_{\}$ is unbalanced and causes the block to slide down the slope.
In Figure 3.3 two vectors are added in a slightly different way to the methods discussed so far. It might look
a little like we are making more work for ourselves, but in the long run things will be easier and we
will be less likely to go wrong.
In Figure 3.3 the primary vectors we are adding are represented by solid lines and are the same vectors as those added in Figure 3.2 using the less complicated looking method.
Figure 3.2: An example of two vectors being added to give a resultant
Each vector can be broken down into a component in the xdirection and one in the ydirection. These components are two
vectors which when added give you the original vector as the resultant. Look at the red vector in figure 3.3. If you add up the two red dotted ones in the xdirection and ydirection
you get the same vector. For all three vectors we have shown their respective components as dotted lines in the same colour.
But if we look carefully, addition of the x components of the two original vectors gives the x component of the resultant. The same applies to
the y components. So if we just added all the components together we would get the same answer! This is another important property of vectors.
Question: Lets work through the example shown in Figure 3.3 to determine the resultant.
Answer:
Step 1 :
The first thing we must realise is that the order that we add the vectors does not matter. Therefore, we can work through the vectors to be added in any order.
Step 2 :
Let us start with the bottom vector. If you are told that this vector has a length of 5.385 units and an angle of 21.8^{o} to the
horizontal then we can find its components. We do this by using known trigonometric ratios. First we find the vertical or y component:
We now know the lengths of the sides of the triangle for which our vector is the hypotenuse. If you look at these sides we can assign
them directions given by the dotted arrows. Then our original red vector is just the sum of the two dotted vectors (its components). When we try to
find the final answer we can just add all the dotted vectors because they would add up to the two vectors we want to add.
Step 3 :
Now we move on to considering the second vector. The green vector has a length of 5 units and a direction of 53.13 degrees to the
horizontal so we can find its components.
Now we have all the components. If we add all the xcomponents then we will have the xcomponent of the resultant vector. Similarly if
we add all the ycomponents then we will have the ycomponent of the resultant vector.
The xcomponents of the two vectors are 5 units right and then 3 units right. This gives us a final xcomponent of 8 units right.
The ycomponents of the two vectors are 2 units up and then 4 units up. This gives us a final ycomponent of 6 units up.
Step 5 :
Now that we have the components of the resultant, we can use Pythagoras' theorem to determine the length of the resultant. Let us call the length of the hypotenuse l and we can calculate its
value
The resultant has length of 10 units so all we have to do is calculate its direction. We can specify the direction as
the angle the vectors makes with a known direction. To do this you only need to visualize the vector as starting at the origin of
a coordinate system. We have drawn this explicitly below and the angle we will calculate is labeled $\alpha$.
Using our known trigonometric ratios we can calculate the value of $\alpha$
Do I really need to learn about vectors? Are they really useful?Edit
Vectors are essential to do physics. Absolutely essential. This is an important warning. If
something is essential we had better stop for a moment and make sure
we understand it properly.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
Summary of Important Quantities, Equations and ConceptsEdit
Table 3.1:
Summary of the symbols and units of the quantities used in Vectors
Quantity
Symbol
S.I. Units
Direction
Displacement
${\overrightarrow {s}}$
m
yes
Velocity
${\overrightarrow {u}}$${\overrightarrow {v}}$
m.s^{−1}
yes
Distance
d
m

Speed
v
m.s^{−1}

Acceleration
${\overrightarrow {a}}$
m.s^{−2}
yes
Vector: A vector is a measurement which has both magnitude and direction.
Displacement: Displacement is a vector with direction pointing from some initial (starting) point to some final (end) point and
whose magnitude is the straightline distance from the starting point to the final point.
Distance: The distance traveled is the length of your actual path.
Velocity: Velocity is the rate of change of displacement with respect to time.
Acceleration: Acceleration is the rate of change of velocity with respect to time.
Resultant: The resultant of a number of vectors is the single vector whose effect is the same as the individual vectors acting together
The simplest way to describe force is to say that it is a `push' or a `pull'. The push or pull on an object may cause either deformation or may change the state of motion of the object under consideration. The harder you 'push' or 'pull', the more force you are applying.
If we leave aside the deformation aspects, then force can be considered to produce change in the state of the motion of the object i.e. velocity. We have, though, experienced in real life that a 'push' or 'pull' does not always manifest in the change of motion. The reason is simple. A change in the state of motion requires a net force. For example, if the force is great enough to overcome friction
the object being pushed or pulled will move. So long as the forces on an object are balanced (i.e. net force is zero), the state of motion described by "velocity" will remain same.
In fact, the acceleration of a body is directly proportional to the net force acting on it. The word net is important forces are vectors and
what matters in any situation is the vector sum of all the forces acting on an object.
The unit of force is the newton (symbol N)
Force was first described by Archimedes. Archimedes of Syracuse (circa 287 BC  212 BC), was a Greek mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, physicist and engineer. He was killed by a Roman soldier during the sack of the city, despite orders from the Roman general, Marcellus, that he was not to be harmed.
EQUILIBRIUM OF FORCES.
DEFINITIONThe Equilibrium of forces is the single fore required to produce an equilibrium
When only three forces act on an object this closed figure is a triangle. This leads to the triangles law for three forces in equilibrium.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
The resultant force acting on an object is the vector sum of the set of forces acting on that
one object. It is very important to remember that we consider all the forces that act on the object under consideration  not the forces that the object might, in turn, apply on other objects.
The easiest way to determine this resultant force is to construct what we call a force diagram. In a force diagram we represent the object by a point and draw all the force vectors connected to that point as arrows. Remember from the Vectors chapter that we use the length of the arrow to indicate the vector's magnitude and the direction of the arrow to show which direction it acts in.
The second step is to rearrange the force vectors so that it is easy to add them together and find the resultant force.
Let us consider an example to get started:
Two people push on a box from opposite sides with a force of 5 N.
When we draw the force diagram we represent the box by a dot. The two forces are represented by arrows, with their tails on the dot.
See how the arrows point in opposite directions and have the same magnitude (length). This
means that they cancel out and there is no net force acting on the object.
This result can be obtained algebraically too, since the two forces act along the same line. Firstly we choose a positive direction and then add the two vectors taking their directions into account.
Considering direction towards right as the positive direction
As you work with more complex force diagrams, in which the forces do not exactly balance, you may notice that sometimes you get a negative answer (e.g. 2 N). What does this mean? Does it mean that we have something which is opposite of the force? No, all it means is that the force acts in the opposite direction to the one that you chose to be positive. You can choose the positive direction to be any way you want, but once you have chosen it you must stick with it.
Once a force diagram has been drawn the techniques of vector addition introduced in the previous chapter can be implemented. Depending on
the situation you might choose to use a graphical technique such as the tailtohead method or the parallelogram method, or else an
algebraic approach to determine the resultant. Since force is a vector, all of these methods apply!
Question: A block on a frictionless flat surface weighs 100 N. A 75 N force is applied to the block towards the right. What is the net force (or resultant force) on the block?
Answer:
Step 1 :
Firstly let us draw a force diagram for the block:
Be careful not to forget the two forces perpendicular to the surface. Every object with mass is attracted to the centre of the
earth with a force (the object's weight). However, if this were the only force acting on the block in the vertical direction then the
block would fall through the table to the ground. This does not happen because the table exerts an upward force (the normal force) which
exactly balances the object's weight.
Step 2 :
Thus, the only unbalanced force is the applied force. This applied force is then the resultant force
acting on the block.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
At the beginning of this chapter it was mentioned that resultant forces cause objects to accelerate. If an object is stationary or
moving at constant velocity then either:
no forces are acting on the object, or
the forces acting on that object are exactly balanced.
A resultant force would cause a stationary object to start moving or an object moving with a given velocity to speed up or
slow down or change direction such that the velocity of the object changes.
In other words, for stationary objects or objects moving with constant velocity, the resultant force acting on the object is zero. The object is said to be
in equilibrium.
If a resultant force acts on an object then that object can be brought into equilibrium by applying an additional force that exactly balances
this resultant. Such a force is called the equilibrant and is equal in magnitude but opposite in direction to the original resultant
force acting on the object.
Definition: The equilibrant of any number of forces is the single force required to produce equilibrium.
As an example of an object in equilibrium, consider an object held stationary by two ropes in the arrangement below:
Let us draw a force diagram for the object. In the force diagram the object is drawn as a dot and all forces acting on the object are drawn
in the correct directions starting from that dot. In this case, three forces are acting on the object.
Each rope exerts a force on the object in the direction of the rope away from
the object.
Since the object has mass, it is attracted towards the centre of the earth. This weight is represented
in the force diagram as ${\overrightarrow {W}}$.
Since the object is stationary, the resultant force acting on the object is zero. In other words the three force vectors drawn tailtohead form a
closed triangle:
[In general, when drawn tailtohead the forces acting on an object in equilibrium form a closed figure with the head of the last vector
joining up with the tail of the first vector. When only three forces act on an object this closed figure is a triangle. This leads to the
triangle law for three forces in equilibrium:
Triangle Law for Three Forces in Equilibrium:
Three forces in equilibrium can be represented in magnitude and direction by the three sides of a triangle taken in order.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
Our current laws of motion were discovered by Sir Isaac Newton. It is said that Sir Isaac Newton started to think about the nature of motion and gravitation after being struck on the head by a falling apple.
Newton's first law basically says that a force has to be applied to an object to make it move or to make it stop. The first part of that statement definitely makes sense. The only way I can make something move is to have something give it a push. The second part of that statement might not be quite as easy to just take as fact. We've all witnessed objects slow down when nobody is pushing them. How then can we say that the only way to stop an object's motion is with a force? The answer is that there are forces that we don't always see. Most of the time, the force that we don't see is the force of friction.
Friction is the force that resists motion when two things are sliding past one another. To understand what friction is, think about sandpaper. If you try to rub 2 pieces of sandpaper together, it will be hard to get them to slide. This same phenomenon happens between all objects to some degree. This frictional force is what slows objects down or stops their motion.
Definition: The time rate of change in momentum is proportional to the applied force and takes place in the direction of the force.
The law is represented in the following basic form (the system of measurement is chosen such that constant of proportionality is 1):
${\vec {F}}={\frac {d(m{\vec {v}})}{dt}}$
The product of mass and velocity i.e. $m{\vec {v}}$ is called the momentum. The net force on a particle is, thus, equal to rate change of momentum of the particle with time. Generally mass of the object under consideration is constant and thus can be taken out of the derivative:
Force is equal to mass times acceleration. This version of Newton's Second Law of Motion assumes that the mass of the body does not change with time, and as such, does not represent a general mathematical form of the Law. Consequently, this equation cannot, for example, be applied to the motion of a rocket, which loses its mass (the lost mass is ejected at the rear of the rocket) with the passage of time.
It makes sense that the direction of the acceleration is in the direction of the resultant force. If you push something away from you it doesn't move toward you unless of course there is another force acting on the object towards you!
Question: A block of mass 10 kg is accelerating at 2 m·s^{−2}. What is the
magnitude of the net force acting on the block?
Answer
Step 1:
We are given
the block's mass
the block's acceleration
all in the correct units.
Step 2 :
We are asked to find the magnitude of the force applied to the block. Newton's Second Law tells us the relationship between acceleration and force for an object. Since we are only asked for the magnitude we do not need to worry about the directions of the vectors:
Question: A 12 N force is applied in the positive xdirection to a block of mass 100 mg resting on a frictionless flat surface. What is the resulting acceleration of the block?
We know that net force results in acceleration. Since there is no friction the applied force is the resultant or net force on the
block (refer to the earlier example of the block pushed on the surface of the table). The block will then accelerate in the direction of
this force according to Newton's Second Law.
From Newton's Second Law the direction of the acceleration is the same as that of the resultant force. The final result is then that the
block accelerates at $1.2\times 10^{5}\ {\mbox{ m}}\cdot {\mbox{s}}^{2}$ in the positive xdirection.
You must have heard people saying ``My weight is 60 kg. This is actually correct, though physicists often have difficulty understanding it because it is mass that is measured in kilograms. This is a different meaning of the word weight from the one used in mechanics, where weight is the force of gravity exerted by the earth on an object with mass:
${\begin{matrix}F_{weight}=mg\end{matrix}}$
As such, weight is measured in newtons.
If you compare this equation to Newton's Second Law you will see that it looks exactly the same with the a replaced by g. Thus, when weight is the
only force acting on an object (i.e. when $F_{weight}$
F_{weight} is the resultant force acting on the object) the object has an acceleration g. Such an object is said to be in free fall. The value for g is the same for all
objects (i.e. it is independent of the objects mass):
You will learn how to calculate this value from the mass and radius of the earth in Chapter ???. Actually the value of
g varies slightly from place to place on the Earth's surface.
The reason that we often get confused between weight and mass, is that scales measure your weight (in newtons) and then display your mass using the
equation above.
Worked Example 18 Calculating the resultant and then the accelerationEdit
Question: A block (mass 20 kg) on a frictionless flat surface has a 45 N force applied to it in the positive xdirection.
In addition a 25 N force is applied in the negative xdirection. What is the resultant force acting on the block and the acceleration of the block?
Answer:
Step 1 :
We are given
the block's mass
Force F_{1} = 45 N in the positive xdirection
Force F_{2} = 25 N in the negative xdirection
all in the correct units.
Step 2 :
We are asked to determine what happens to the block. We know that net force results in an acceleration. We need to determine the net force acting on the block.
Step 3 :
Since F_{1} and F_{2} act along the same straight line, we can apply the algebraic technique of vector addition discussed in the Vectors chapter to determine the resultant force. Choosing the positive xdirection as our positive direction:
where we remembered in the last step to include the direction of the resultant force in words.
By Newton's Second Law the block will accelerate in the direction of this resultant force.
Step 4 :
Next we determine the magnitude of the acceleration:
The final result is then that the block accelerates at $1\ {\mbox{ m}}\cdot {\mbox{s}}^{2}$ in the positive xdirection (the same direction as the resultant force).
Question: A block (mass 10 kg) is released on an inclined plane. What is the resulting rate of acceleration of the block if the angle theta is 25 degrees and the coefficient of friction between the block and the plane is 0.25?
Solution:
Step 1:
The acceleration of the block will be parallel to the plane, so we break the problem into two parts  forces perpendicular to the plane (which must cancel out since there is no acceleration perpendicular to the plane) and parallel to the plane.
Step 2:
We know that there is no acceleration in the direction perpendicular to the surface of the inclined plane, or in other words $a_{\perp }=0$. Therefore we know that:
Definition: For every force one body applies to another (action) there is always an equal but opposite in direction force another body applies back to the first one (reaction.)
Newton's Third Law is easy to understand but it can get quite difficult to apply it. An important thing to realise is that the
action and reaction forces can never act on the same object and hence cannot contribute to the same resultant.
Worked Example 20 Identifying actionreaction PairsEdit
Question: Consider pushing a box on the surface of a rough table.
Draw a force diagram indicating all of the forces acting on the box.
Identify the reaction force for each of the forces acting on the box.
Answer:
The following force diagram shows all of the forces acting on the box
There is an important thing to realise which is related to Newton's Third Law. Think about dropping a stone off a cliff. It falls because the earth exerts a force on it (see Chapter ???) and it doesn't seem like there are any other forces acting. So is Newton's Third Law wrong? No, the reactionary force to the weight of the stone is the force exerted by the stone on the earth. This is illustrated in detail in the next worked example.
Question: A stone of mass 0.5 kg is accelerating at 10 m·s^{−2} towards the earth.
What is the force exerted by the earth on the stone?
What is the force exerted by the stone on the earth?
What is the acceleration of the earth, given that its mass is 5.97 × 10^{27} kg?
Answer:
Step 1 : We are given
the stone's mass
the stone's acceleration (g)
By Newton's Third Law the stone must exert an equal but opposite force on the earth. Hence the stone exerts a force of 5 N towards the stone on the earth.
Newton first published these laws in Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687) and used them to prove many results concerning the motion of physical objects. Only in 1916 were
Newton's Laws superseded by Einstein's theory of relativity.
The next two worked examples are quite long and involved but it is very important that you understand the discussion as they illustrate
the importance of Newton's Laws.
Note that the forces shown in this picture are representative. With an explosion there will be forces in all directions.
Due to the symmetry of the situation, all the forces exerted on the rocket are balanced by forces on the opposite side, except for the force opposite the open side. This force on the upper surface is unbalanced.
This is therefore the resultant force acting on the rocket and it makes the rocket accelerate forwards.
The concepts of a system and an external forces are very important in physics. A system is any collection of objects. If one draws an
imaginary box around such a system then an external force is one that is applied by an object or person outside the box. Imagine for example
a car pulling a trailer.
Concept of system is extremely important. Consider an example of a person holding a load (box) on his head and standing on a platform.
Now count the forces :
(i) Box presses the person down
(ii) The person pushes the box up (reaction to box's weight)
(iii) Box is pulled down by the earth
(iv) Earth is pulled up by the box
(v) Person presses the floor
(vi) Floor pushes the person up
(vii) Person is pulled down by earth and (viii) Earth is pulled up by the person.
Quite a mess. Which ones are internal forces and which ones are external forces? Identification of system comes handy here. We can select the box or the person as a system for analyzing forces or we may even consider box and person together as a single system. Only condition to watch while selecting a system is that all parts of the system should have same acceleration. If two parts are at different accelerations then each of them should be treated as a separate system.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
Why does the Earth stay in orbit around the Sun? Shouldn't it fly off tangentially into outer space?
These questions intrigued Newton and inspired his study of gravitation.
Newton realized that a force must be constantly pulling on the Earth, redirecting its motion and preventing it from being flung off. Newton reasoned that this force, which he termed 'gravity', acted between all bodies with mass and varied inversely to the square of the distance between the two bodies.
where $G$ is a universal gravitational constant, $m_{1},m_{2}$ are the 2 masses, and $r$ is the distance between the centers of mass.
Newton also realized that this same force which redirects the path of the Earth around the Sun, was also responsible for an apple falling to the ground. In this case, the two masses, the Earth, and the apple, are attracted each other and this exerts a force which pulls the apple towards the center of the Earth. While we can use the Universal Law of Gravitation formula to solve this problem it is often more convenient to realize two facts:
The Earths mass, $M_{E}$ is constant
The distance between the apple (or other object) can usually be approximated with just $R_{E}$ , the radius of the Earth, because this is the dominating term.
Thus we can rewrite the equations such that
${\vec {F}}=m{\vec {g}}$
where
$g=G\!\cdot \!{\frac {M_{E}}{R_{E}^{2}}}$
g is the acceleration on Earth and is
$g=9.8{\frac {m}{s^{2}}}$
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
Most of physics revolves around forces. Although there are many different forces we deal with them all in the same way. The methods to find resultants and
acceleration do not depend on the type of force we are considering.
At first glance, the number of different forces may seem overwhelming  gravity, drag, electrical forces, friction and many others. However, physicists have found that all these forces can be classified into four groups. These are gravitational forces, electromagnetic forces, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force. Even better, all the forces that you will come across at school are either gravitational or electromagnetic. Doesn't that make life easy?
Gravity is the attractive force between two objects due to the mass of the objects. When you throw a ball in the air, its mass and the Earth's mass attract each other, which leads to a force between them. The ball falls back towards the Earth, and the Earth accelerates towards the ball. The movement of the Earth toward the ball is, however, so small that you couldn't possibly measure it.
Almost all of the forces that we experience in everyday life are electromagnetic in origin. They have this unusual name because long ago people thought that electric forces and magnetic forces were different things. After much work and experimentation, it has been realised that they are actually different manifestations of the same underlying theory.
If we have objects carrying electrical charge, which are not moving, then we are dealing with electrostatic forces (Coulomb's Law). This force is actually much stronger than gravity. This may seem strange, since gravity is obviously very powerful, and holding a balloon to the wall seems to be the most impressive thing electrostatic forces have done, but think about it: for gravity to be detectable, we need to have a very large mass nearby. But a balloon rubbed in someone's hair can stick to a wall with a force so strong that it overcomes the force of gravity  with just the charges in the balloon and the wall!
The magnetic force is a different manifestation of the electromagnetic force. It stems from the interaction between moving charges as opposed to the fixed charges involved in Coulomb's Law.
Examples of the magnetic force in action include magnets, compasses, car engines, computer data storage and your hair standing on end. Magnets are also used in the wrecking industry to pick up cars and move them around sites.
Newton's First Law states that an object moving without a force acting on it will keep moving. Then why does a box sliding on a table stop? The answer is friction. Friction arises from the interaction between the molecules on the bottom of a box with the molecules on a table. This interaction is electromagnetic in origin, hence friction is just another view of the electromagnetic force. The great part about school physics is that most of the time we are told to neglect friction but it is good to be aware that there is friction in the real world.
Friction is also useful . If there was no friction and you tried to prop a ladder up against a wall, it would simply slide to the ground. Rock climbers use friction to maintain their grip on cliffs.
Friction is a force that impedes motion. It is in parallel to the contact surface and acts against the motion of the body.
This is the force an object experiences while travelling through a medium. When something travels through the air it needs to displace air as it travels and because of this the air exerts a force on the object. This becomes an important force when you move fast and a lot of thought is taken to try and reduce the amount of drag force a sports car experiences.
The drag force is very useful for parachutists. They jump from high altitudes and if there was no drag force, then they would continue accelerating all the way to the ground. Parachutes are wide because the more surface area you show, the greater the drag force and hence the slower you hit the ground.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
Summary of Important Quantities, Equations and ConceptsEdit
Table 4.1:
Summary of the symbols and units of the quantities used in Force
Units
Quantity
Symbol
S.I. Unit
Fundamental Units
Direction
Mass
m
kg
kg
no
Acceleration
${\overrightarrow {a}}$
m·s^{−2}
m·s^{−2}
yes
Force
${\overrightarrow {F}}$
N
kg·m·s^{−2}
yes
Equilibrium: Objects at rest or moving with constant velocity are in equilibrium and have a zeroresultant force.
Equilibrant: The equilibrant of any number of forces is the single force required to produce equilibrium.
Triangle Law for Forces in Equilibrium: Three forces in equilibrium can be represented in magnitude and direction by the three sides of a triangle taken in order.
Newton's First Law: Every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless it is made to change its state by the action of an external force.
Newton's Second Law: The resultant force acting on a body results in an acceleration which is in the same direction as the resultant force and is directly proportional to the magnitude of
this force and inversely proportional to the mass of the object.
Newton's Third Law: For every force or action there is an equal but opposite force or reaction.
Rectilinear motion means motion along a straight line. This is a useful topic to study for learning how to describe the movement of cars along a straight road or of trains along straight railway tracks. In this section you have only two directions to worry about: (1) along the direction of motion, and (2) opposite to the direction of motion.
To illustrate this imagine a train heading east.
If it is accelerating away from the station platform (P), the direction of acceleration is the same as the direction of the train's velocity — east. If it is braking the direction of acceleration is opposite to the direction of its motion, i.e. west.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics
For this cyclist, his velocity is not the same as his speed because there has been a change in the direction of his motion. If the cyclist traveled directly from A to C without passing through B his speed would be
In this case where the cyclist is not undergoing any change of direction (i.e. he is traveling in a straight line) the magnitudes of the speed and the velocity are the same. This is the defining principle of rectilinear motion.
Important:
For motion along a straight line the magnitudes of speed and velocity are the same, and the magnitudes of the distance and displacement are the same.
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics
In physics we often use graphs as important tools for picturing certain concepts. Below are some graphs that help us picture the concepts of displacement, velocity and acceleration.
Below is a graph showing the displacement of the cyclist from A to C:
This graphs shows us how, in 10 seconds time, the cyclist has moved from A to C. We know the gradient (slope) of a graph is defined as the change in y divided by the change in x, i.e.
${\frac {\Delta y}{\Delta x}}$. In this graph the gradient of the graph is just ${\frac {\Delta {\overrightarrow {s}}}{\Delta t}}$  and this is just the expression for velocity.
Important:
The area between a velocitytime graph and the `time' axis gives the displacement of the object.
The slope is the same all the way from A to C, so the cyclist's velocity is constant over the entire displacement he travels.
In figure 5.1 are examples of the displacementtime graphs you will encounter.
a) shows the graph for an object stationary over a period of time. The gradient is zero, so the object has zero velocity.
b) shows the graph for an object moving at a constant velocity. You can see that the displacement is increasing as time goes on. The gradient, however, stays constant (remember: its the slope of a straight line), so the velocity is constant. Here the gradient is positive, so the object is moving in the direction we have defined as positive.
c) shows the graph for an object moving at a constant acceleration. You can see that both the displacement and the velocity (gradient of the graph) increase with time. The gradient is increasing with time, thus the velocity is increasing with time and the object is accelerating.
This is the velocitytime graph of a cyclist traveling from A to B at a constant acceleration, i.e. with steadily increasing velocity. The gradient (slope) of this graph is just ${\frac {\Delta {\overrightarrow {v}}}{\Delta t}}$  and this is just the expression for acceleration. Because the slope is the same at all points on this graph, the acceleration of the cyclist is constant. And the constant acceleration is $2/m/s^{2}$, or 2 meters per second per second (or 2 meters per second squared)
Not only can we get the acceleration of an object from its velocitytime graph, but we can also get some idea of the displacement traveled. Look at the graph below:
This graph shows an object moving at a constant velocity of 10m/s for a duration of 5s. The area between the graph and the time
axis (the shaded area) of the above plot will give us the displacement of the object during this time. In this case we just
need to calculate the area of a rectangle with width 5s and height 10 m/s
So, here we've shown that an object traveling at 10 m/s for 5s has undergone a displacement of 50m.
Important:
The area between a velocitytime graph and the `time' axis gives the displacement of the object.
Here are a couple more velocitytime graphs to get used to:
Figure 5.2: Some common velocitytime graphs:
In figure 5.2 are examples of the displacementtime graphs you may encounter.
a) shows the graph for an object moving at a constant velocity over a period of time. The gradient is zero, so the object is not accelerating.
b) shows the graph for an object which is decelerating. You can see that the velocity is decreasing with time. The gradient, however, stays constant (remember: its the slope of a straight line), so the acceleration is constant. Here the gradient is negative, so the object is accelerating in the opposite direction to its motion, hence it is decelerating.
In this chapter on rectilinear motion we will only deal with objects moving at a constant acceleration, thus all accelerationtime graphs will look like these two:
Here is a description of the graphs below:
a) shows the graph for an object which is either stationary or traveling at a constant velocity. Either way, the acceleration is zero over time.
b) shows the graph for an object moving at a constant acceleration. In this case the acceleration is positive  remember that it can also be negative.
We can obtain the velocity of a particle at some given time from an acceleration time graph  it is just given by the area between the
graph and the timeaxis. In the graph below, showing an object at a constant positive acceleration, the increase in velocity of the
object after 2 seconds corresponds to the shaded portion.
Its useful to remember the set of graphs below when working on problems. Figure 5.3 shows how displacement, velocity and time relate to each other. Given a displacementtime graph like the one on the left, we can plot the corresponding velocitytime graph by remembering that the slope of a displacementtime graph gives the velocity. Similarly, we can plot an accelerationtime graph from the gradient of the velocitytime graph.
Figure 5.3: A Relationship Between Displacement, Velocity and Acceleration
Worked Example 24 Relating displacement, velocity, and accelerationtime graphsEdit
Question: Given the displacementtime graph below, draw the corresponding velocitytime and accelerationtime graphs, and then describe the motion of the object.
Answer:
Step 1 : Analyse the question to determine what is given. The question explicitly gives a displacementtime graph.
Step 2 : What is asked?
3 things:
Draw a velocitytime graph
Draw an accelerationtime graph
Describe the behaviour of the object
For the first 2 seconds we can see that the displacement remains constant  so the object is not moving, thus it has zero velocity during this time. We can reach this conclusion by another path too: remember that the gradient of a displacementtime graph is the velocity. For the first 2 seconds we can see that the displacementtime graph is a horizontal line, i.e. it has a gradient of zero. Thus the velocity during this time is zero and the object is stationary.
For the next 2 seconds, displacement is increasing with time so the object is moving. Looking at the gradient of the displacement graph we can see that it is not constant. In fact, the slope is getting steeper (the gradient is increasing) as time goes on. Thus, remembering that the gradient of a displacementtime graph is the velocity, the velocity must be increasing with time during this phase.
For the final 2 seconds we see that displacement is still increasing with time, but this time the gradient is constant, so we know that the object is now travelling at a constant velocity, thus the velocitytime graph will be a horizontal line during this stage.
So our velocitytime graph looks like this one below. Because we haven't been given any values on the vertical axis of the displacementtime graph, we cannot figure out what the exact gradients are and hence what the values of the velocity are. In this type of question it is just important to show whether velocities are positive or negative, increasing, decreasing or constant.
Once we have the velocitytime graph its much easier to get the accelerationtime graph as we know that the gradient of a velocitytime graph is the just the acceleration.
For the first 2 seconds the velocitytime graph is horizontal at zero, thus it has a gradient of zero and there is no acceleration during this time. (This makes sense because we know from the displacement time graph that the object is stationary during this time, so it can't be accelerating).
For the next 2 seconds the velocitytime graph has a positive gradient. This gradient is not changing (i.e. its constant) throughout these 2 seconds so there must be a constant positive acceleration.
For the final 2 seconds the object is traveling with a constant velocity. During this time the gradient of the velocitytime graph is once again zero, and thus the object is not accelerating.
The accelerationtime graph looks like this:
A brief description of the motion of the object could read something like this: At t = 0s and object is stationary at some position and remains stationary until t = 2s when it begins accelerating. It accelerates in a positive direction for 2 seconds until t = 4s and then travels at a constant velocity for a further 2 seconds.
Worked Example 25 Calculating distance from a velocitytime graphEdit
Question: The velocitytime graph of a car is plotted below. Calculate the displacement of the car has after 15 seconds.
Answer:
We are asked to calculate the displacement of the car. All we need to remember here is that the area between the velocitytime graph and the time axis gives us the displacement.
For t = 0s to t = 5s this is the triangle on the left:
Now the total displacement of the car is just the sum of all of these areas. HOWEVER, because in the last second (from t = 14s to t = 15s) the velocity of the car is negative, it means that the car was going in the opposite direction, i.e. back where it came from! So, to get the total displacement, we have to add the first 3 areas (those with positive displacements) and subtract the last one (because it signifies a displacement in the opposite direction).
This section is about solving problems relating to uniformly accelerated motion. We'll first introduce the variables and the equations, then we'll show you how to derive them, and after that we'll do a couple of examples.
u = starting velocity (m/s) at t = 0
v = final velocity (m/s) at time t
s = displacement (m)
t = time (s)
a = acceleration (m/s²)
$v=u+at\,$
(5.1)
$s={\frac {(u+v)}{2}}t$
(5.2)
$s=ut+{\frac {1}{2}}at^{2}$
(5.3)
$v^{2}=u^{2}+2as\,$
(5.4)
$\Delta x=1/2*a*(\Delta t)^{2}+u(\Delta t)$
Make sure you can rhyme these off, they are very important!
There are so many different types of questions for these equations. Basically when you are answering a question like this:
Find out what values you have and write them down.
Figure out which equation you need.
Write it down!!!
Fill in all the values you have and get the answer.
(1.5,0)
Galileo Galilei of Pisa, Italy, was the first to determine the correct mathematical law for acceleration: the total distance covered, starting from rest, is proportional to the square of the time. He also concluded that
objects retain their velocity unless a force  often friction  acts upon them, refuting the accepted Aristotelian hypothesis that
objects "naturally" slow down and stop unless a force acts upon them. This principle was incorporated into Newton's laws of motion (1st law).
In the previous section we saw that displacement can be calculated from the area between a velocitytime graph and the timeaxis. For uniformly accelerated motion the most complicated velocitytime graph we can have is a straight line. Look at the graph below — it represents an object with a starting velocity of u, accelerating to a final velocity v over a total time t.
To calculate the final displacement we must calculate the area under the graph — this is just the area of the rectangle added to the area of the triangle.
Step 4 :
The time at which the object had covered half the total distance. Half the distance is 32m. Here we have the quantities s, u and a so we first use equation 5.4 to calculate the velocity at this distance:
Step 5 :
The distance the object had covered in half the time. Half the time is 2s. Thus we have u, a and t  all in the correct units. We can use equation 5.3 to get the distance:
Question:
A ball is thrown vertically upwards with a velocity of 10 m/s from the balcony of a tall building. The balcony is 15 m above the ground and gravitational acceleration is 10 m/s^{2}. Find a) the time required for the ball to hit the ground, and b) the velocity with which it hits the ground.
Step 1 :
In this case it often helps to make the problem easier to understand if we draw ourselves a picture like the one below:
First the ball goes upwards with gravitational acceleration slowing it until it reaches its highest point — here its speed is 0 m/s — then it begins descending with gravitational acceleration causing it to increase its speed on the way down. We can separate the motion into 2 stages:
Stage 1  the upward motion of the ball
Stage 2  the downward motion of the ball.
We'll choose the upward direction as positive  this means that gravitation acceleration is negative  and we'll begin by solving for all the variables of Stage 1. So far we have these quantities:
applying ${\vec {s}}(t)={\vec {S}}_{i}+{\vec {U}}_{i}\ (tT_{i})+{\frac {\vec {A}}{2}}(tT_{i})^{2}$ $0=15{\hat {j}}+10{\hat {j}}(T_{total}0)+{\frac {10{\hat {j}}}{2}}(T_{total}0)^{2}$ $T_{total}^{2}2\ T_{total}3=0$
solving we will get $T_{total}=3,1$
so time to reach is 3 second , now applying ${\vec {v}}(t)={\vec {U}}_{i}+{\vec {A}}(tT_{i})$ ${\vec {v}}(3)=10{\hat {j}}+(10{\hat {j}})(30)$ ${\vec {v}}(3)=20{\hat {j}}$
These questions do not have the working out in them, but they are all done in the manner described on the previous page.
Question: A car starts off at 10 m/s and accelerates at 1 m/s^{2} for 10 seconds. What is its final velocity?
Answer: 20 m/s
Question: A car starts from rest, and accelerates at 1 m/s^{2} for 10 seconds. How far does it move?
Answer: 50 m
Question: A car is going 30 m/s and stops in 2 seconds. What is its stopping distance for this speed?
Answer: 30 m
Question: A car going at 20 m/s stops in a distance of 20 m.
What is its deceleration?
If the car is 1 tonne (1000 kg, or 1 Mg) how much force do the brakes exert?
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics
Momentum is a physical quantity which is closely related to forces. We will learn about this connection a little later. Remarkably momentum is a conserved quantity. This makes momentum extremely useful in solving a great variety of realworld problems. Firstly we must consider the definition of momentum.
Definition:
The momentum of an object is defined as its mass multiplied by its velocity.
Mathematically,
${\overrightarrow {p}}=m{\overrightarrow {v}}$
${\overrightarrow {p}}$
: momentum ($kg.m.s^{1}$ + direction)
m
: mass (kg)
${\overrightarrow {v}}$
: velocity (m.s^{1} + direction)
Thus, momentum is a property of a moving object and is determined by its velocity and mass. A large truck travelling slowly can have the same momentum as a much smaller car travelling relatively fast.
Note the arrows in the equation defining momentum momentum is a vector with the same direction as the velocity of the object.
Since the direction of an object's momentum is given by the direction of its motion, one can calculate an object's momentum in two steps:
include in the final answer the direction of the object's motion
Thus, we need the mass and velocity of the ball but we have only its mass and the magnitude of its velocity.
Step 3 :
In order to determine the velocity of the ball we need the direction of the ball's motion. If the problem does not give an explicit direction we are forced to be general. In a case like this we could say that the direction of the velocity is in the direction of motion of the ball. This might sound silly but the lack of information in the question has forced us to be, and we are certainly not wrong! The ball's velocity is then m.s^{−1} in the direction of motion.
Worked Example 33 Calculating the Momentum of the MoonEdit
Question: The moon is $384\ 400km$ away from the earth and orbits the earth in 27.3 days. If the moon has a mass of $7.35\times 10^{22}kg$ [footnode.html#foot11743 ^{6.1}] what is the magnitude of its momentum if we assume a circular orbit?
Answer:
Step 1 :
Analyse the question to determine what is given. The question explicitly gives
the moon's mass,
the distance to the moon, and
the time for one orbit of the moon
with mass in the correct units but all other quantities in the incorrect units.
The units we require are
seconds (s) for time, and
metres (m) for distance pesteng physics→→→→→→
Step 2 :
What is being asked? We are asked to calculate only the magnitude of the moon's momentum (i.e. we do not need to specify a direction). In order to do this we require the moon's mass and the magnitude of its velocity, since ${\begin{matrix}p=mv.\end{matrix}}$
Step 3 :
How do we find the speed or magnitude of the moon's velocity?
Speed is defined as,
We are given the time the moon takes for one orbit but not how far it travels in that time. However, we can work this out from the distance to the moon and the fact that the moon's orbit is circular.
Firstly let us convert the distance to the moon to the correct units,
Next we must convert the orbit time, T, into the correct units. Using the fact that a day contains 24 hours, an hour consists of 60 minutes, and a minute is 60 seconds long,
Combining the distance travelled by the moon in an orbit and the time taken by the moon to complete one orbit, we can determine the magnitude of the moon's velocity or speed,
In Chapter 4 Forces the concept of a system was introduced. The bodies that make up a system can have different masses and can be
moving with different velocities. In other words they can have different momenta.
Definition:
The total momentum of a system is the sum of the momenta of each of the objects in the system.
Since momentum is a vector, the techniques of vector addition discussed in This chapter must be
used to calculate the total momentum of a system. Let us consider an example.
Worked Example 34 Calculating the Total Momentum of a SystemEdit
Question: Two billiard balls roll towards each other. They each have a mass of 0.3kg. Ball 1 is moving at $v_{1}=1\ m.s^{1}$ to the right, while ball 2 is moving at $v_{2}=0.8\ m.s^{1}$ to the left.
Calculate the total momentum of the system.
Answer:
Step 1 :
Analyse the question to determine what is given. The question explicitly gives
the mass of each ball,
the velocity of ball 1, ${\overrightarrow {v_{1}}}$ and
the velocity of ball 2, ${\overrightarrow {v_{2}}}$,
all in the correct units!
Step 2 :
What is being asked? We are asked to calculate the total momentum of the system. In this example our system consists of two balls. To find the total momentum we must sum the momenta of the balls,
Since ball 1 is moving to the right, its momentum is in this direction, while the second ball's momentum is directed towards the left.
Thus, we are required to find the sum of two vectors acting along the same straight line. The algebraic method of vector addition introduced in this chapter can thus be used.
Step 3 :
Firstly we choose a positive direction. Let us choose right as the positive direction, then obviously left is negative.
Step 4 :
The total momentum of the system is then the sum of the two momenta taking the directions of the velocities into account. Ball 1 is travelling at $1\ m.s^{1}\ to\ the\ right$ or $+1\ m.s^{1}$. Ball 2 is travelling at $0.8\ m.s^{1}\ to\ the\ left$ or $0.8\ m.s^{1}$. Thus,
In the last step the direction was added in words. Since the result in the second last line is positive, the total momentum of the system is in the positive direction (i.e. to the right).
The Free High School Science Texts: A Textbook for High School Students Studying Physics.
If either an object's mass or velocity changes then its momentum too will change. If an object has an initial velocity ${\overrightarrow {u}}$ and a final velocity ${\overrightarrow {v}}$, then its change in momentum, $\Delta {\overrightarrow {p}}$, is
Question: A rubber ball of mass 0.8kg is dropped and strikes the floor at a velocity of $6\ m.s^{1}$. It bounces back with an initial velocity of $4\ m.s^{1}$. Calculate the change in momentum of the rubber ball caused by the floor.
Answer:
Step 1 :
Analyse the question to determine what is given. The question explicitly gives
the ball's mass,
the ball's initial velocity, and
the ball's final velocity
all in the correct units.
Do not be confused by the question referring to the ball bouncing back with an ``initial velocity
of $4\ m.s^{1}$. The word initial is included here since the ball will obviously slow down with time and $4\ m.s^{1}$ is the speed immediately after bouncing from the floor.
Step 2 :
What is being asked? We are asked to calculate the change in momentum of the ball,
We have everything we need to find $\Delta {\overrightarrow {p}}$. Since the initial momentum is directed downwards and the final momentum is in the upward direction, we can use the algebraic method of subtraction discussed in the vectors chapter.
Step 3 :
Firstly, we choose a positive direction. Let us choose down as the positive direction. Then substituting,
You may at this stage be wondering why there is a need for introducing momentum. Remarkably momentum is a conserved quantity. Within an isolated system the total momentum is constant. No matter what happens to the individual bodies within an isolated system, the total momentum of the system never changes! Since momentum is a vector, its conservation implies that both its magnitude and its direction remains the same.
Momentum is conserved in isolated systems!
This Principle of Conservation of Linear Momentum is one of the most fundamental principles of physics and it alone justifies the definition of momentum. Since momentum is related to the motion of objects, we can use its conservation to make predictions about what happens in collisions and explosions. If we bang two objects together, by conservation of momentum, the total momentum of the objects before the collision is equal to their total momentum after the collision.
Principle of Conservation of Linear Momentum:
The total linear momentum of an isolated system is constant.
or
In an isolated system the total momentum before a collision
(or explosion) is equal to the total momentum after the
collision (or explosion).
Let us consider a simple collision of two pool or billiard balls. Consider the first ball (mass m_{1}) to have an initial velocity (${\overrightarrow {u_{1}}}$). The second ball (mass m_{2}) moves towards the first ball with an initial velocity ${\overrightarrow {u_{2}}}$. This situation is shown in Figure 6.1. If we add the momenta of each ball we get a total momentum for the system. This total momentum is then
After the two balls collide and move away they each have a different momentum. If we call the final velocity of ball 1 ${\overrightarrow {v_{1}}}$ and the final velocity of ball 2 ${\overrightarrow {v_{2}}}$ (see Figure 6.2), then the total momentum of the system after the collision is
This system of two balls is isolated since there are no external forces acting on the balls. Therefore, by the principle of conservation of linear momentum, the total momentum before the collision is equal to the total momentum after the collision. This gives the equation for the conservation of momentum in a collision of two objects,
At the beginning of this chapter it was mentioned that momentum is closely related to force. We will now explain the nature of this
connection.
Consider an object of mass m moving with constant acceleration ${\overrightarrow {a}}$. During a time $\Delta$t the object's velocity changes from an initial velocity ${\overrightarrow {u}}$ to a final velocity ${\overrightarrow {v}}$ (refer to Figure 6.3). We know from Newton's First Law that there must be a resultant force $\overrightarrow{F}}_{$