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Newton and the Apple

# Newton and the Apple

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10/23/2013

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Newton and the apple
I if you believe thestory, then the apple has a place in history. What Really Happened with the Apple?Probably the more correct version of the story is that Newton, upon observing an apple fall froma tree, began to think along the following lines: The apple is accelerated, since its velocitychanges from zero as it is hanging on the tree and moves toward the ground. Thus, by Newton's2nd Law there must be a force that acts on the apple to cause this acceleration. Let's call thisforce "gravity,” and the associated acceleration the "acceleration due to gravity.” Then imaginethe apple tree is twice as high. Again, we expect the apple to be accelerated toward the ground,so this suggests that this force that we call gravity reaches to the top of the tallest apple tree.Sir Isaac's Most Excellent Idea Now comes Newton's truly brilliant insight: if the force of gravity reaches to the top of thehighest tree, might it not reach even further; in particular, might it not reach all the way to theorbit of the Moon! Then, the orbit of the Moon about the Earth could be a consequence of thegravitational force, because the acceleration due to gravity could change the velocity of theMoon in just such a way that it followed an orbit around the earth.This can be illustrated with the thought experiment shown in the following fiqure. Suppose wefire a cannon horizontally from a high mountain; the projectile will eventually fall to earth, asindicated by the shortest trajectory in the figure, because of the gravitational force directedtoward the center of the Earth and the associated acceleration. (Remember that an acceleration isa change in velocity and that velocity is a vector, so it has both a magnitude and a direction.

Thus, an acceleration occurs if either or both the magnitude and the direction of the velocitychange.) An object that is falling under the sole influence of gravity. A free-falling object has anacceleration of 9.8 m/s/s, downward (on Earth). This numerical value for the acceleration of afree-falling object is such an important value that it is given a special name. It is known asthe
acceleration of gravity
- the acceleration for any object moving under the sole influence of gravity. A matter of fact, this quantity known as the acceleration of gravity is such an importantquantity that physicists have a special symbol to denote it - the symbol
g
. The numerical valuefor the acceleration of gravity is most accurately known as 9.8 m/s/s. There are slight variationsin this numerical value (to the second decimal place) that are dependent primarily upon onaltitude.You might believe that Newton came up with all this gravity stuff and planetary motion byobserving the apple. But you would be wrong. Actually it was his cannon that gave him the

inspiration. And this was in his mind Newton's did a thought experiment. "Imagine a hugecannon located on the surface of the earth, firing a cannonball at greater and greater speeds.Ignore the effects of air resistance. As the speed increases, the cannon ball will fall at greater andgreat distances from the cannon (A, B, C). At some point (D), the speed will be so great that bythe time the cannonball "falls" to the earth, the surface of the earth will have curved away fromit! Instead of striking the earth, the ball swings all the way around the earth. Now the cannonballis in orbit! If you continue to give the cannon ball more and more speed (D, E, F), its path willcarry it farther and farther away from the earth as it travels around it. Newtons cannon ( below)This thought is how we put satillites in orbit today. awsomeisent it. Funny how we can base complex ideas and theories on simple foundations. so orbitscame from that apple? an
orbit
is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point inspace, for example the orbit of a planetaround the center of a star system, such as theSolar  System. Orbits of planets are typicallyelliptical. Note that the following is a classical ( Newtonian) analysis of orbital mechanics, which assumes that the more subtle effects of general relativity, such as frame dragging and gravitational time dilationare negligible. Relativistic effects cease to be negligible when near very massive bodies(as with the precession of Mercury's orbitabout the Sun), or when extreme precision is needed(as with calculations of theorbital elements and time signal references for GPSsatellites.
)To analyze the motion of a body moving under the influence of a force which is always directedtowards a fixed point, it is convenient to use polar coordinates with the origin coinciding with the center of force. In such coordinates the radial and transverse components of theaccelerationare,respectively:andSince the force is entirely radial, and since acceleration is proportional to force, itfollows that the transverse acceleration is zero. As a result,