Classical Mechanics

An introductory course
Richard Fitzpatrick
Associate Professor of Physics
The University of Texas at Austin
Contents
1 Introduction 7
1.1 Major sources: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
1.2 What is classical mechanics? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
1.3 mks units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
1.4 Standard prefixes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
1.5 Other units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
1.6 Precision and significant figures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
1.7 Dimensional analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
2 Motion in 1 dimension 18
2.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
2.2 Displacement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
2.3 Velocity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
2.4 Acceleration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
2.5 Motion with constant velocity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
2.6 Motion with constant acceleration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
2.7 Free-fall under gravity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
3 Motion in 3 dimensions 32
3.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
3.2 Cartesian coordinates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
3.3 Vector displacement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
3.4 Vector addition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
3.5 Vector magnitude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
2
3.6 Scalar multiplication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
3.7 Diagonals of a parallelogram . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
3.8 Vector velocity and vector acceleration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
3.9 Motion with constant velocity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
3.10 Motion with constant acceleration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
3.11 Projectile motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
3.12 Relative velocity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
4 Newton’s laws of motion 53
4.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
4.2 Newton’s first law of motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
4.3 Newton’s second law of motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
4.4 Hooke’s law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
4.5 Newton’s third law of motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
4.6 Mass and weight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
4.7 Strings, pulleys, and inclines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
4.8 Friction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
4.9 Frames of reference . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
5 Conservation of energy 78
5.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
5.2 Energy conservation during free-fall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
5.3 Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
5.4 Conservative and non-conservative force-fields . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
5.5 Potential energy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92
3
5.6 Hooke’s law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
5.7 Motion in a general 1-dimensional potential . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
5.8 Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
6 Conservation of momentum 107
6.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
6.2 Two-component systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
6.3 Multi-component systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
6.4 Rocket science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
6.5 Impulses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118
6.6 Collisions in 1-dimension . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121
6.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
7 Circular motion 136
7.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136
7.2 Uniform circular motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136
7.3 Centripetal acceleration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138
7.4 The conical pendulum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141
7.5 Non-uniform circular motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142
7.6 The vertical pendulum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
7.7 Motion on curved surfaces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150
8 Rotational motion 160
8.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160
8.2 Rigid body rotation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160
8.3 Is rotation a vector? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162
4
8.4 The vector product . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166
8.5 Centre of mass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168
8.6 Moment of inertia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
8.7 Torque . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179
8.8 Power and work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184
8.9 Translational motion versus rotational motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186
8.10 The physics of baseball . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186
8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190
9 Angular momentum 204
9.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204
9.2 Angular momentum of a point particle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204
9.3 Angular momentum of an extended object . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206
9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209
10 Statics 217
10.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217
10.2 The principles of statics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217
10.3 Equilibrium of a laminar object in a gravitational field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220
10.4 Rods and cables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
10.5 Ladders and walls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226
10.6 Jointed rods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 228
11 Oscillatory motion 237
11.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237
11.2 Simple harmonic motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237
5
11.3 The torsion pendulum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 241
11.4 The simple pendulum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 242
11.5 The compound pendulum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 245
11.6 Uniform circular motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 246
12 Orbital motion 253
12.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253
12.2 Historical background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253
12.3 Gravity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 262
12.4 Gravitational potential energy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265
12.5 Satellite orbits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 268
12.6 Planetary orbits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 269
13 Wave motion 279
13.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279
13.2 Waves on a stretched string . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279
13.3 General waves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 284
13.4 Wave-pulses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 285
13.5 Standing waves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 289
13.6 The Doppler effect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 291
6
1 INTRODUCTION
1 Introduction
1.1 Major sources:
The sources which I consulted most frequently whilst developing this course are:
Analytical Mechanics: G.R. Fowles, Third edition (Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, New
York NY, 1977).
Physics: R. Resnick, D. Halliday, and K.S. Krane, Fourth edition, Vol. 1 (John Wiley
& Sons, New York NY, 1992).
Encyclopædia Brittanica: Fifteenth edition (Encyclopædia Brittanica, Chicago IL,
1994).
Physics for scientists and engineers: R.A. Serway, and R.J. Beichner, Fifth edition,
Vol. 1 (Saunders College Publishing, Orlando FL, 2000).
1.2 What is classical mechanics?
Classical mechanics is the study of the motion of bodies (including the special
case in which bodies remain at rest) in accordance with the general principles
first enunciated by Sir Isaac Newton in his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Math-
ematica (1687), commonly known as the Principia. Classical mechanics was the
first branch of Physics to be discovered, and is the foundation upon which all
other branches of Physics are built. Moreover, classical mechanics has many im-
portant applications in other areas of science, such as Astronomy (e.g., celestial
mechanics), Chemistry (e.g., the dynamics of molecular collisions), Geology (e.g.,
the propagation of seismic waves, generated by earthquakes, through the Earth’s
crust), and Engineering (e.g., the equilibrium and stability of structures). Classi-
cal mechanics is also of great significance outside the realm of science. After all,
the sequence of events leading to the discovery of classical mechanics—starting
with the ground-breaking work of Copernicus, continuing with the researches of
Galileo, Kepler, and Descartes, and culminating in the monumental achievements
7
1 INTRODUCTION 1.2 What is classical mechanics?
of Newton—involved the complete overthrow of the Aristotelian picture of the
Universe, which had previously prevailed for more than a millennium, and its
replacement by a recognizably modern picture in which humankind no longer
played a privileged role.
In our investigation of classical mechanics we shall study many different types
of motion, including:
Translational motion—motion by which a body shifts from one point in space to
another (e.g., the motion of a bullet fired from a gun).
Rotational motion—motion by which an extended body changes orientation, with
respect to other bodies in space, without changing position (e.g., the motion
of a spinning top).
Oscillatory motion—motion which continually repeats in time with a fixed period
(e.g., the motion of a pendulum in a grandfather clock).
Circular motion—motion by which a body executes a circular orbit about another
fixed body [e.g., the (approximate) motion of the Earth about the Sun].
Of course, these different types of motion can be combined: for instance, the
motion of a properly bowled bowling ball consists of a combination of trans-
lational and rotational motion, whereas wave propagation is a combination of
translational and oscillatory motion. Furthermore, the above mentioned types of
motion are not entirely distinct: e.g., circular motion contains elements of both
rotational and oscillatory motion. We shall also study statics: i.e., the subdivision
of mechanics which is concerned with the forces that act on bodies at rest and
in equilibrium. Statics is obviously of great importance in civil engineering: for
instance, the principles of statics were used to design the building in which this
lecture is taking place, so as to ensure that it does not collapse.
8
1 INTRODUCTION 1.3 mks units
1.3 mks units
The first principle of any exact science is measurement. In mechanics there are
three fundamental quantities which are subject to measurement:
1. Intervals in space: i.e., lengths.
2. Quantities of inertia, or mass, possessed by various bodies.
3. Intervals in time.
Any other type of measurement in mechanics can be reduced to some combina-
tion of measurements of these three quantities.
Each of the three fundamental quantities—length, mass, and time—is mea-
sured with respect to some convenient standard. The system of units currently
used by all scientists, and most engineers, is called the mks system—after the first
initials of the names of the units of length, mass, and time, respectively, in this
system: i.e., the meter, the kilogram, and the second.
The mks unit of length is the meter (symbol m), which was formerly the dis-
tance between two scratches on a platinum-iridium alloy bar kept at the Inter-
national Bureau of Metric Standard in S`evres, France, but is now defined as the
distance occupied by 1, 650, 763.73 wavelengths of light of the orange-red spectral
line of the isotope Krypton 86 in vacuum.
The mks unit of mass is the kilogram (symbol kg), which is defined as the mass
of a platinum-iridium alloy cylinder kept at the International Bureau of Metric
Standard in S`evres, France.
The mks unit of time is the second (symbol s), which was formerly defined in
terms of the Earth’s rotation, but is now defined as the time for 9, 192, 631, 770
oscillations associated with the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the
ground state of the isotope Cesium 133.
In addition to the three fundamental quantities, classical mechanics also deals
with derived quantities, such as velocity, acceleration, momentum, angular mo-
9
1 INTRODUCTION 1.4 Standard prefixes
mentum, etc. Each of these derived quantities can be reduced to some particular
combination of length, mass, and time. The mks units of these derived quantities
are, therefore, the corresponding combinations of the mks units of length, mass,
and time. For instance, a velocity can be reduced to a length divided by a time.
Hence, the mks units of velocity are meters per second:
[v] =
[L]
[T]
= ms
−1
. (1.1)
Here, v stands for a velocity, L for a length, and T for a time, whereas the operator
[· · ·] represents the units, or dimensions, of the quantity contained within the
brackets. Momentum can be reduced to a mass times a velocity. Hence, the mks
units of momentum are kilogram-meters per second:
[p] = [M][v] =
[M][L]
[T]
= kg ms
−1
. (1.2)
Here, p stands for a momentum, and M for a mass. In this manner, the mks units
of all derived quantities appearing in classical dynamics can easily be obtained.
1.4 Standard prefixes
mks units are specifically designed to conveniently describe those motions which
occur in everyday life. Unfortunately, mks units tend to become rather unwieldy
when dealing with motions on very small scales (e.g., the motions of molecules)
or very large scales (e.g., the motion of stars in the Galaxy). In order to help
cope with this problem, a set of standard prefixes has been devised, which allow
the mks units of length, mass, and time to be modified so as to deal more easily
with very small and very large quantities: these prefixes are specified in Tab. 1.
Thus, a kilometer (km) represents 10
3
m, a nanometer (nm) represents 10
−9
m,
and a femtosecond (fs) represents 10
−15
s. The standard prefixes can also be used
to modify the units of derived quantities.
10
1 INTRODUCTION 1.5 Other units
Factor Prefix Symbol Factor Prefix Symbol
10
18
exa- E 10
−1
deci- d
10
15
peta- P 10
−2
centi- c
10
12
tera- T 10
−3
milli- m
10
9
giga- G 10
−6
micro- µ
10
6
mega- M 10
−9
nano- n
10
3
kilo- k 10
−12
pico- p
10
2
hecto- h 10
−15
femto- f
10
1
deka- da 10
−18
atto- a
Table 1: Standard prefixes
1.5 Other units
The mks system is not the only system of units in existence. Unfortunately, the
obsolete cgs (centimeter-gram-second) system and the even more obsolete fps
(foot-pound-second) system are still in use today, although their continued em-
ployment is now strongly discouraged in science and engineering (except in the
US!). Conversion between different systems of units is, in principle, perfectly
straightforward, but, in practice, a frequent source of error. Witness, for ex-
ample, the recent loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter because the engineers who
designed its rocket engine used fps units whereas the NASA mission controllers
employed mks units. Table 2 specifies the various conversion factors between
mks, cgs, and fps units. Note that, rather confusingly (unless you are an engineer
in the US!), a pound is a unit of force, rather than mass. Additional non-standard
units of length include the inch (1 ft = 12 in), the yard (1 ya = 3 ft), and the
mile (1 mi = 5, 280 ft). Additional non-standard units of mass include the ton
(in the US, 1 ton = 2, 000 lb; in the UK, 1 ton = 2, 240 lb), and the metric ton
(1 tonne = 1, 000 kg). Finally, additional non-standard units of time include the
minute (1 min = 60 s), the hour (1 hr = 3, 600 s), the day (1 da = 86, 400 s), and
the year (1 yr = 365.26 da = 31, 558, 464 s).
11
1 INTRODUCTION 1.6 Precision and significant figures
1cm = 10
−2
m
1g = 10
−3
kg
1ft = 0.3048 m
1lb = 4.448 N
1slug = 14.59 kg
Table 2: Conversion factors
1.6 Precision and significant figures
In this course, you are expected to perform calculations to a relative accuracy
of 1%: i.e., to three significant figures. Since rounding errors tend to accumulate
during lengthy calculations, the easiest way in which to achieve this accuracy is to
perform all intermediate calculations to four significant figures, and then to round
the final result down to three significant figures. If one of the quantities in your
calculation turns out to the the small difference between two much larger num-
bers, then you may need to keep more than four significant figures. Incidentally,
you are strongly urged to use scientific notation in all of your calculations: the
use of non-scientific notation is generally a major source of error in this course.
If your calculators are capable of operating in a mode in which all numbers (not
just very small or very large numbers) are displayed in scientific form then you
are advised to perform your calculations in this mode.
1.7 Dimensional analysis
As we have already mentioned, length, mass, and time are three fundamentally
different quantities which are measured in three completely independent units. It,
therefore, makes no sense for a prospective law of physics to express an equality
between (say) a length and a mass. In other words, the example law
m = l, (1.3)
where m is a mass and l is a length, cannot possibly be correct. One easy way of
seeing that Eq. (1.3) is invalid (as a law of physics), is to note that this equation is
dependent on the adopted system of units: i.e., if m = l in mks units, then m = l
12
1 INTRODUCTION 1.7 Dimensional analysis
in fps units, because the conversion factors which must be applied to the left- and
right-hand sides differ. Physicists hold very strongly to the assumption that the
laws of physics possess objective reality: in other words, the laws of physics are
the same for all observers. One immediate consequence of this assumption is that
a law of physics must take the same form in all possible systems of units that a
prospective observer might choose to employ. The only way in which this can be
the case is if all laws of physics are dimensionally consistent: i.e., the quantities
on the left- and right-hand sides of the equality sign in any given law of physics
must have the same dimensions (i.e., the same combinations of length, mass, and
time). A dimensionally consistent equation naturally takes the same form in all
possible systems of units, since the same conversion factors are applied to both
sides of the equation when transforming from one system to another.
As an example, let us consider what is probably the most famous equation in
physics:
E = mc
2
. (1.4)
Here, E is the energy of a body, m is its mass, and c is the velocity of light
in vacuum. The dimensions of energy are [M][L
2
]/[T
2
], and the dimensions of
velocity are [L]/[T]. Hence, the dimensions of the left-hand side are [M][L
2
]/[T
2
],
whereas the dimensions of the right-hand side are [M] ([L]/[T])
2
= [M][L
2
]/[T
2
].
It follows that Eq. (1.4) is indeed dimensionally consistent. Thus, E = mc
2
holds good in mks units, in cgs units, in fps units, and in any other sensible set
of units. Had Einstein proposed E = mc, or E = mc
3
, then his error would
have been immediately apparent to other physicists, since these prospective laws
are not dimensionally consistent. In fact, E = mc
2
represents the only simple,
dimensionally consistent way of combining an energy, a mass, and the velocity of
light in a law of physics.
The last comment leads naturally to the subject of dimensional analysis: i.e.,
the use of the idea of dimensional consistency to guess the forms of simple laws
of physics. It should be noted that dimensional analysis is of fairly limited appli-
cability, and is a poor substitute for analysis employing the actual laws of physics;
nevertheless, it is occasionally useful. Suppose that a special effects studio wants
to film a scene in which the Leaning Tower of Pisa topples to the ground. In
order to achieve this, the studio might make a scale model of the tower, which
13
1 INTRODUCTION 1.7 Dimensional analysis
h
m
g
Figure 1: The Leaning Tower of Pisa
is (say) 1m tall, and then film the model falling over. The only problem is that
the resulting footage would look completely unrealistic, because the model tower
would fall over too quickly. The studio could easily fix this problem by slowing
the film down. The question is by what factor should the film be slowed down in
order to make it look realistic?
Although, at this stage, we do not know how to apply the laws of physics to
the problem of a tower falling over, we can, at least, make some educated guesses
as to what factors the time t
f
required for this process to occur depends on. In
fact, it seems reasonable to suppose that t
f
depends principally on the mass of
the tower, m, the height of the tower, h, and the acceleration due to gravity, g.
See Fig. 1. In other words,
t
f
= Cm
x
h
y
g
z
, (1.5)
where C is a dimensionless constant, and x, y, and z are unknown exponents.
The exponents x, y, and z can be determined by the requirement that the above
equation be dimensionally consistent. Incidentally, the dimensions of an acceler-
ation are [L]/[T
2
]. Hence, equating the dimensions of both sides of Eq. (1.5), we
obtain
[T] = [M]
x
[L]
y
_
_
[L]
[T
2
]
_
_
z
. (1.6)
14
1 INTRODUCTION 1.7 Dimensional analysis
We can now compare the exponents of [L], [M], and [T] on either side of the
above expression: these exponents must all match in order for Eq. (1.5) to be
dimensionally consistent. Thus,
0 = y +z, (1.7)
0 = x, (1.8)
1 = −2 z. (1.9)
It immediately follows that x = 0, y = 1/2, and z = −1/2. Hence,
t
f
= C
¸
¸
¸
_
h
g
. (1.10)
Now, the actual tower of Pisa is approximately 100m tall. It follows that since
t
f


h (g is the same for both the real and the model tower) then the 1m
high model tower falls over a factor of
_
100/1 = 10 times faster than the real
tower. Thus, the film must be slowed down by a factor 10 in order to make it
look realistic.
Worked example 1.1: Conversion of units
Question: Farmer Jones has recently brought a 40 acre field and wishes to replace
the fence surrounding it. Given that the field is square, what length of fencing (in
meters) should Farmer Jones purchase? Incidentally, 1 acre equals 43,560 square
feet.
Answer: If 1 acre equals 43,560 ft
2
and 1 ft equals 0.3048 m (see Tab. 2) then
1 acre = 43560 ×(0.3048)
2
= 4.047 ×10
3
m
2
.
Thus, the area of the field in mks units is
A = 40 ×4.047 ×10
3
= 1.619 ×10
5
m
2
.
Now, a square field with sides of length l has an area A = l
2
and a circumference
D = 4l. Hence, D = 4

A. It follows that the length of the fence is
D = 4 ×
_
1.619 ×10
5
= 1.609 ×10
3
m.
15
1 INTRODUCTION 1.7 Dimensional analysis
Worked example 1.2: Tire pressure
Question: The recommended tire pressure in a Honda Civic is 28 psi (pounds per
square inch). What is this pressure in atmospheres (1 atmosphere is 10
5
Nm
−2
)?
Answer: First, 28 pounds per square inch is the same as 28×(12)
2
= 4032 pounds
per square foot (the standard fps unit of pressure). Now, 1 pound equals 4.448
Newtons (the standard SI unit of force), and 1 foot equals 0.3048 m (see Tab. 2).
Hence,
P = 4032 ×(4.448)/(0.3048)
2
= 1.93 ×10
5
Nm
−2
.
It follows that 28 psi is equivalent to 1.93 atmospheres.
Worked example 1.3: Dimensional analysis
Question: The speed of sound v in a gas might plausibly depend on the pressure p,
the density ρ, and the volume V of the gas. Use dimensional analysis to determine
the exponents x, y, and z in the formula
v = Cp
x
ρ
y
V
z
,
where C is a dimensionless constant. Incidentally, the mks units of pressure are
kilograms per meter per second squared.
Answer: Equating the dimensions of both sides of the above equation, we ob-
tain
[L]
[T]
=
_
_
[M]
[T
2
][L]
_
_
x
_
_
[M]
[L
3
]
_
_
y
[L
3
]
z
.
A comparison of the exponents of [L], [M], and [T] on either side of the above
expression yields
1 = −x −3y +3z,
0 = x +y,
−1 = −2x.
16
1 INTRODUCTION 1.7 Dimensional analysis
The third equation immediately gives x = 1/2; the second equation then yields
y = −1/2; finally, the first equation gives z = 0. Hence,
v = C
¸
¸
¸
_
p
ρ
.
17
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION
2 Motion in 1 dimension
2.1 Introduction
The purpose of this section is to introduce the concepts of displacement, velocity,
and acceleration. For the sake of simplicity, we shall restrict our attention to 1-
dimensional motion.
2.2 Displacement
Consider a body moving in 1 dimension: e.g., a train traveling down a straight
railroad track, or a truck driving down an interstate in Kansas. Suppose that we
have a team of observers who continually report the location of this body to us
as time progresses. To be more exact, our observers report the distance x of the
body from some arbitrarily chosen reference point located on the track on which
it is constrained to move. This point is known as the origin of our coordinate
system. A positive x value implies that the body is located x meters to the right of
the origin, whereas a negative x value implies that the body is located |x| meters
to the left of the origin. Here, x is termed the displacement of the body from the
origin. See Fig. 2. Of course, if the body is extended then our observers will have
to report the displacement x of some conveniently chosen reference point on the
body (e.g., its centre of mass) from the origin.
Our information regarding the body’s motion consists of a set of data points,
each specifying the displacement x of the body at some time t. It is usually
illuminating to graph these points. Figure 3 shows an example of such a graph.
As is often the case, it is possible to fit the data points appearing in this graph
using a relatively simple analytic curve. Indeed, the curve associated with Fig. 3
is
x = 1 +t +
t
2
2

t
4
4
. (2.1)
18
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.3 Velocity
2.3 Velocity
Both Fig. 3 and formula (2.1) effectively specify the location of the body whose
motion we are studying as time progresses. Let us now consider how we can use
this information to determine the body’s instantaneous velocity as a function of
time. The conventional definition of velocity is as follows:
Velocity is the rate of change of displacement with time.
This definition implies that
v =
∆x
∆t
, (2.2)
where v is the body’s velocity at time t, and ∆x is the change in displacement of
the body between times t and t +∆t.
How should we choose the time interval ∆t appearing in Eq. (2.2)? Obviously,
in the simple case in which the body is moving with constant velocity, we can
make ∆t as large or small as we like, and it will not affect the value of v. Suppose,
however, that v is constantly changing in time, as is generally the case. In this
situation, ∆t must be kept sufficiently small that the body’s velocity does not
change appreciably between times t and t + ∆t. If ∆t is made too large then
formula (2.2) becomes invalid.
Suppose that we require a general expression for instantaneous velocity which
is valid irrespective of how rapidly or slowly the body’s velocity changes in time.
We can achieve this goal by taking the limit of Eq. (2.2) as ∆t approaches zero.
This ensures that no matter how rapidly v varies with time, the velocity of the
x = 0
x
origin track body
displacement
Figure 2: Motion in 1 dimension
19
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.3 Velocity
Figure 3: Graph of displacement versus time
body is always approximately constant in the interval t to t +∆t. Thus,
v = lim
∆t→0
∆x
∆t
=
dx
dt
, (2.3)
where dx/dt represents the derivative of x with respect to t. The above definition
is particularly useful if we can represent x(t) as an analytic function, because it
allows us to immediately evaluate the instantaneous velocity v(t) via the rules of
calculus. Thus, if x(t) is given by formula (2.1) then
v =
dx
dt
= 1 +t −t
3
. (2.4)
Figure 4 shows the graph of v versus t obtained from the above expression. Note
that when v is positive the body is moving to the right (i.e., x is increasing in
time). Likewise, when v is negative the body is moving to the left (i.e., x is
decreasing in time). Finally, when v = 0 the body is instantaneously at rest.
The terms velocity and speed are often confused with one another. A velocity
can be either positive or negative, depending on the direction of motion. The
conventional definition of speed is that it is the magnitude of velocity (i.e., it is v
with the sign stripped off). It follows that a body can never possess a negative
speed.
20
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.4 Acceleration
Figure 4: Graph of instantaneous velocity versus time associated with the motion specified in Fig. 3
2.4 Acceleration
The conventional definition of acceleration is as follows:
Acceleration is the rate of change of velocity with time.
This definition implies that
a =
∆v
∆t
, (2.5)
where a is the body’s acceleration at time t, and ∆v is the change in velocity of
the body between times t and t +∆t.
How should we choose the time interval ∆t appearing in Eq. (2.5)? Again,
in the simple case in which the body is moving with constant acceleration, we
can make ∆t as large or small as we like, and it will not affect the value of a.
Suppose, however, that a is constantly changing in time, as is generally the case.
In this situation, ∆t must be kept sufficiently small that the body’s acceleration
does not change appreciably between times t and t +∆t.
A general expression for instantaneous acceleration, which is valid irrespective
of how rapidly or slowly the body’s acceleration changes in time, can be obtained
21
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.4 Acceleration
Figure 5: Graph of instantaneous acceleration versus time associated with the motion specified in
Fig. 3
by taking the limit of Eq. (2.5) as ∆t approaches zero:
a = lim
∆t→0
∆v
∆t
=
dv
dt
=
d
2
x
dt
2
. (2.6)
The above definition is particularly useful if we can represent x(t) as an analytic
function, because it allows us to immediately evaluate the instantaneous acceler-
ation a(t) via the rules of calculus. Thus, if x(t) is given by formula (2.1) then
a =
d
2
x
dt
2
= 1 −3t
2
. (2.7)
Figure 5 shows the graph of a versus time obtained from the above expression.
Note that when a is positive the body is accelerating to the right (i.e., v is in-
creasing in time). Likewise, when a is negative the body is decelerating (i.e., v is
decreasing in time).
Fortunately, it is generally not necessary to evaluate the rate of change of ac-
celeration with time, since this quantity does not appear in Newton’s laws of
motion.
22
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.5 Motion with constant velocity
∆x
x
0
t
x
0
0
t ∆
Figure 6: Graph of displacement versus time for a body moving with constant velocity
2.5 Motion with constant velocity
The simplest type of motion (excluding the trivial case in which the body under
investigation remains at rest) consists of motion with constant velocity. This type
of motion occurs in everyday life whenever an object slides over a horizontal, low
friction surface: e.g., a puck sliding across a hockey rink.
Fig. 6 shows the graph of displacement versus time for a body moving with
constant velocity. It can be seen that the graph consists of a straight-line. This
line can be represented algebraically as
x = x
0
+v t. (2.8)
Here, x
0
is the displacement at time t = 0: this quantity can be determined from
the graph as the intercept of the straight-line with the x-axis. Likewise, v = dx/dt
is the constant velocity of the body: this quantity can be determined from the
graph as the gradient of the straight-line (i.e., the ratio ∆x/∆t, as shown). Note
that a = d
2
x/dt
2
= 0, as expected.
Fig. 7 shows a displacement versus time graph for a slightly more complicated
case of motion with constant velocity. The body in question moves to the right
23
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.6 Motion with constant acceleration
t
x
0
C D E A B
Figure 7: Graph of displacement versus time
(since x is clearly increasing with t) with a constant velocity (since the graph is a
straight-line) between times Aand B. The body then moves to the right (since x is
still increasing in time) with a somewhat larger constant velocity (since the graph
is again a straight line, but possesses a larger gradient than before) between times
B and C. The body remains at rest (since the graph is horizontal) between times
C and D. Finally, the body moves to the left (since x is decreasing with t) with a
constant velocity (since the graph is a straight-line) between times D and E.
2.6 Motion with constant acceleration
Motion with constant acceleration occurs in everyday life whenever an object is
dropped: the object moves downward with the constant acceleration 9.81 ms
−2
,
under the influence of gravity.
Fig. 8 shows the graphs of displacement versus time and velocity versus time
for a body moving with constant acceleration. It can be seen that the displacement-
time graph consists of a curved-line whose gradient (slope) is increasing in time.
24
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.6 Motion with constant acceleration
0
t
0
0
x
x

0
t
0
0
t ∆
v
v
v
Figure 8: Graphs of displacement versus time and velocity versus time for a body moving with con-
stant acceleration
This line can be represented algebraically as
x = x
0
+v
0
t +
1
2
at
2
. (2.9)
Here, x
0
is the displacement at time t = 0: this quantity can be determined from
the graph as the intercept of the curved-line with the x-axis. Likewise, v
0
is the
body’s instantaneous velocity at time t = 0.
The velocity-time graph consists of a straight-line which can be represented
algebraically as
v =
dx
dt
= v
0
+at. (2.10)
25
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.7 Free-fall under gravity
The quantity v
0
is determined from the graph as the intercept of the straight-
line with the x-axis. The quantity a is the constant acceleration: this can be
determined graphically as the gradient of the straight-line (i.e., the ratio ∆v/∆t,
as shown). Note that dv/dt = a, as expected.
Equations (2.9) and (2.10) can be rearranged to give the following set of three
useful formulae which characterize motion with constant acceleration:
s = v
0
t +
1
2
at
2
, (2.11)
v = v
0
+at, (2.12)
v
2
= v
2
0
+2 as. (2.13)
Here, s = x −x
0
is the net distance traveled after t seconds.
Fig. 9 shows a displacement versus time graph for a slightly more complicated
case of accelerated motion. The body in question accelerates to the right [since
the gradient (slope) of the graph is increasing in time] between times A and B.
The body then moves to the right (since x is increasing in time) with a constant
velocity (since the graph is a straight line) between times B and C. Finally, the
body decelerates [since the gradient (slope) of the graph is decreasing in time]
between times C and D.
2.7 Free-fall under gravity
Galileo Galilei was the first scientist to appreciate that, neglecting the effect of air
resistance, all bodies in free-fall close to the Earth’s surface accelerate vertically
downwards with the same acceleration: namely, g = 9.81 ms
−2
.
1
The neglect of
air resistance is a fairly good approximation for large objects which travel rela-
tively slowly (e.g., a shot-putt, or a basketball), but becomes a poor approxima-
tion for small objects which travel relatively rapidly (e.g., a golf-ball, or a bullet
fired from a pistol).
1
Actually, the acceleration due to gravity varies slightly over the Earth’s surface because of the combined effects
of the Earth’s rotation and the Earth’s slightly flattened shape. The acceleration at the poles is about 9.834 ms
−2
,
whereas the acceleration at the equator is only 9.780 ms
−2
. The average acceleration is 9.81 ms
−2
.
26
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.7 Free-fall under gravity
x
0
A B C D
t
Figure 9: Graph of displacement versus time
Equations (2.11)–(2.13) can easily be modified to deal with the special case
of an object free-falling under gravity:
s = v
0
t −
1
2
gt
2
, (2.14)
v = v
0
−gt, (2.15)
v
2
= v
2
0
−2 gs. (2.16)
Here, g = 9.81 ms
−2
is the downward acceleration due to gravity, s is the distance
the object has moved vertically between times t = 0 and t (if s > 0 then the object
has risen s meters, else if s < 0 then the object has fallen |s| meters), and v
0
is
the object’s instantaneous velocity at t = 0. Finally, v is the object’s instantaneous
velocity at time t.
Let us illustrate the use of Eqs. (2.14)–(2.16). Suppose that a ball is released
from rest and allowed to fall under the influence of gravity. How long does it take
the ball to fall h meters? Well, according to Eq. (2.14) [with v
0
= 0 (since the
ball is released from rest), and s = −h (since we wish the ball to fall h meters)],
h = gt
2
/2, so the time of fall is
t =
¸
¸
¸
_
2 h
g
. (2.17)
27
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.7 Free-fall under gravity
Suppose that a ball is thrown vertically upwards from ground level with veloc-
ity u. To what height does the ball rise, how long does it remain in the air, and
with what velocity does it strike the ground? The ball attains its maximum height
when it is momentarily at rest (i.e., when v = 0). According to Eq. (2.15) (with
v
0
= u), this occurs at time t = u/g. It follows from Eq. (2.14) (with v
0
= u, and
t = u/g) that the maximum height of the ball is given by
h =
u
2
2 g
. (2.18)
When the ball strikes the ground it has traveled zero net meters vertically, so
s = 0. It follows from Eqs. (2.15) and (2.16) (with v
0
= u and t > 0) that v = −u.
In other words, the ball hits the ground with an equal and opposite velocity to
that with which it was thrown into the air. Since the ascent and decent phases of
the ball’s trajectory are clearly symmetric, the ball’s time of flight is simply twice
the time required for the ball to attain its maximum height: i.e.,
t =
2 u
g
. (2.19)
Worked example 2.1: Velocity-time graph
t (s)
v

(
m
/
s
)
4 8 12 16 0
0
4
8
28
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.7 Free-fall under gravity
Question: Consider the motion of the object whose velocity-time graph is given
in the diagram.
1. What is the acceleration of the object between times t = 0 and t = 2?
2. What is the acceleration of the object between times t = 10 and t = 12?
3. What is the net displacement of the object between times t = 0 and t = 16?
Answer:
1. The v-t graph is a straight-line between t = 0 and t = 2, indicating constant
acceleration during this time period. Hence,
a =
∆v
∆t
=
v(t = 2) −v(t = 0)
2 −0
=
8 −0
2
= 4 ms
−2
.
2. The v-t graph is a straight-line between t = 10 and t = 12, indicating con-
stant acceleration during this time period. Hence,
a =
∆v
∆t
=
v(t = 12) −v(t = 10)
12 −10
=
4 −8
2
= −2 ms
−2
.
The negative sign indicates that the object is decelerating.
3. Now, v = dx/dt, so
x(16) −x(0) =

16
0
v(t) dt.
In other words, the net displacement between times t = 0 and t = 16 equals
the area under the v-t curve, evaluated between these two times. Recalling
that the area of a triangle is half its width times its height, the number of
grid-squares under the v-t curve is 25. The area of each grid-square is 2×2 =
4 m. Hence,
x(16) −x(0) = 4 ×25 = 100 m.
29
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.7 Free-fall under gravity
Worked example 2.2: Speed trap
Question: In a speed trap, two pressure-activated strips are placed 120 m apart on
a highway on which the speed limit is 85 km/h. A driver going 110 km/h notices
a police car just as he/she activates the first strip, and immediately slows down.
What deceleration is needed so that the car’s average speed is within the speed
limit when the car crosses the second strip?
Answer: Let v
1
= 110 km/h be the speed of the car at the first strip. Let ∆x =
120 m be the distance between the two strips, and let ∆t be the time taken by the
car to travel from one strip to the other. The average velocity of the car is
¯v =
∆x
∆t
.
We need this velocity to be 85 km/h. Hence, we require
∆t =
∆x
¯v
=
120
85 ×(1000/3600)
= 5.082 s.
Here, we have changed units from km/h to m/s. Now, assuming that the accel-
eration a of the car is uniform, we have
∆x = v
1
∆t +
1
2
a(∆t)
2
,
which can be rearranged to give
a =
2 (∆x −v
1
∆t)
(∆t)
2
=
2 (120 −110 ×(1000/3600) ×5.082)
(5.082)
2
= −2.73 ms
−2
.
Hence, the required deceleration is 2.73 ms
−2
.
Worked example 2.3: The Brooklyn bridge
Question: In 1886, Steve Brodie achieved notoriety by allegedly jumping off the
recently completed Brooklyn bridge, for a bet, and surviving. Given that the
30
2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.7 Free-fall under gravity
bridge rises 135ft over the East River, how long would Mr. Brodie have been in
the air, and with what speed would he have struck the water? Give all answers
in mks units. You may neglect air resistance.
Answer: Mr. Brodie’s net vertical displacement was h = −135×0.3048 = −41.15 m.
Assuming that his initial velocity was zero,
h = −
1
2
gt
2
,
where t was his time of flight. Hence,
t =
¸
¸
¸
_
−2 h
g
=
¸
¸
¸
_
2 ×41.15
9.81
= 2.896 s.
His final velocity was
v = −gt = −9.81 ×2.896 = −28.41 ms
−1
.
Thus, the speed with which he plunged into the East River was 28.41 ms
−1
, or
63.6 mi/h! Clearly, Mr. Brodie’s story should be taken with a pinch of salt.
31
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS
3 Motion in 3 dimensions
3.1 Introduction
The purpose of this section is to generalize the previously introduced concepts of
displacement, velocity, and acceleration in order to deal with motion in 3 dimen-
sions.
3.2 Cartesian coordinates
Our first task, when dealing with 3-dimensional motion, is to set up a suitable
coordinate system. The most straight-forward type of coordinate system is called
a Cartesian system, after Ren´e Descartes. A Cartesian coordinate system consists
of three mutually perpendicular axes, the x-, y-, and z-axes (say). By convention,
the orientation of these axes is such that when the index finger, the middle finger,
and the thumb of the right-hand are configured so as to be mutually perpendic-
ular, the index finger, the middle finger, and the thumb can be aligned along the
x-, y-, and z-axes, respectively. Such a coordinate system is termed right-handed.
See Fig. 10. The point of intersection of the three coordinate axes is termed the
origin of the coordinate system.
y
x
z
(middle finger)
(index finger)
(thumb)
Figure 10: A right-handed Cartesian coordinate system
32
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.3 Vector displacement
y
x
z
R
O
r
Figure 11: A vector displacement
3.3 Vector displacement
Consider the motion of a body moving in 3 dimensions. The body’s instantaneous
position is most conveniently specified by giving its displacement from the origin
of our coordinate system. Note, however, that in 3 dimensions such a displace-
ment possesses both magnitude and direction. In other words, we not only have
to specify how far the body is situated from the origin, we also have to specify
in which direction it lies. A quantity which possesses both magnitude and direc-
tion is termed a vector. By contrast, a quantity which possesses only magnitude
is termed a scalar. Mass and time are scalar quantities. However, in general,
displacement is a vector.
The vector displacement r of some point R from the origin O can be visualized
as an arrow running from point O to point R. See Fig. 11. Note that in typeset
documents vector quantities are conventionally written in a bold-faced font (e.g.,
r) to distinguish them from scalar quantities. In free-hand notation, vectors are
usually under-lined (e.g., r).
The vector displacement r can also be specified in terms of its coordinates:
r = (x, y, z). (3.1)
The above expression is interpreted as follows: in order to get from point O to
point R, first move x meters along the x-axis (perpendicular to both the y- and
z-axes), then move y meters along the y-axis (perpendicular to both the x- and
33
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.4 Vector addition
S
R
r
1
r
2
r
O
Figure 12: Vector addition
z-axes), finally move z meters along the z-axis (perpendicular to both the x- and
y-axes). Note that a positive x value is interpreted as an instruction to move x
meters along the x-axis in the direction of increasing x, whereas a negative x value
is interpreted as an instruction to move |x| meters along the x-axis in the opposite
direction, and so on.
3.4 Vector addition
Suppose that the vector displacement r of some point R from the origin O is
specified as follows:
r = r
1
+r
2
. (3.2)
Figure 12 illustrates how this expression is interpreted diagrammatically: in order
to get from point O to point R, we first move from point O to point S along vector
r
1
, and we then move from point S to point R along vector r
2
. The net result is the
same as if we had moved from point O directly to point R along vector r. Vector
r is termed the resultant of adding vectors r
1
and r
2
.
Note that we have two ways of specifying the vector displacement of point
S from the origin: we can either write r
1
or r − r
2
. The expression r − r
2
is
interpreted as follows: starting at the origin, move along vector r in the direction
of the arrow, then move along vector r
2
in the opposite direction to the arrow.
In other words, a minus sign in front of a vector indicates that we should move
along that vector in the opposite direction to its arrow.
34
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.5 Vector magnitude
Suppose that the components of vectors r
1
and r
2
are (x
1
, y
1
, z
1
) and (x
2
, y
2
, z
2
),
respectively. As is easily demonstrated, the components (x, y, z) of the resultant
vector r = r
1
+r
2
are
x = x
1
+x
2
, (3.3)
y = y
1
+y
2
, (3.4)
z = z
1
+z
2
. (3.5)
In other words, the components of the sum of two vectors are simply the algebraic
sums of the components of the individual vectors.
3.5 Vector magnitude
If r = (x, y, z) represents the vector displacement of point R from the origin, what
is the distance between these two points? In other words, what is the length, or
magnitude, r = |r|, of vector r. It follows from a 3-dimensional generalization of
Pythagoras’ theorem that
r =
_
x
2
+y
2
+z
2
. (3.6)
Note that if r = r
1
+r
2
then
|r| ≤ |r
1
| + |r
2
|. (3.7)
In other words, the magnitudes of vectors cannot, in general, be added alge-
braically. The only exception to this rule (represented by the equality sign in the
above expression) occurs when the vectors in question all point in the same di-
rection. According to inequality (3.7), if we move 1m to the North (say) and
next move 1m to the West (say) then, although we have moved a total distance
of 2m, our net distance from the starting point is less than 2m—of course, this
is just common sense.
3.6 Scalar multiplication
Suppose that s = λ r. This expression is interpreted as follows: vector s points
in the same direction as vector r, but the length of the former vector is λ times
35
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.7 Diagonals of a parallelogram
A
B
X
D
C b
a a
b
c
d
Figure 13: A parallelogram
that of the latter. Note that if λ is negative then vector s points in the opposite
direction to vector r, and the length of the former vector is |λ| times that of the
latter. In terms of components:
s = λ (x, y, z) = (λ x, λ y, λ z). (3.8)
In other words, when we multiply a vector by a scalar then the components of
the resultant vector are obtained by multiplying all the components of the original
vector by the scalar.
3.7 Diagonals of a parallelogram
The use of vectors is very well illustrated by the following rather famous proof
that the diagonals of a parallelogram mutually bisect one another.
Suppose that the quadrilateral ABCD in Fig. 13 is a parallelogram. It follows
that the opposite sides of ABCD can be represented by the same vectors, a and
b: this merely indicates that these sides are of equal length and are parallel (i.e.,
they point in the same direction). Note that Fig. 13 illustrates an important point
regarding vectors. Although vectors possess both a magnitude (length) and a
direction, they possess no intrinsic position information. Thus, since sides AB
and DC are parallel and of equal length, they can be represented by the same
vector a, despite the fact that they are in different places on the diagram.
The diagonal BD in Fig. 13 can be represented vectorially as d = b − a. Like-
wise, the diagonal AC can be written c = a +b. The displacement x (say) of the
36
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.8 Vector velocity and vector acceleration
centroid X from point A can be written in one of two different ways:
x = a +λ d, (3.9)
x = b +a −µc. (3.10)
Equation (3.9) is interpreted as follows: in order to get from point A to point
X, first move to point B (along vector a), then move along diagonal BD (along
vector d) for an unknown fraction λ of its length. Equation (3.10) is interpreted
as follows: in order to get from point A to point X, first move to point D (along
vector b), then move to point C (along vector a), finally move along diagonal CA
(along vector −c) for an unknown fraction µ of its length. Since X represents the
same point in Eqs. (3.9) and (3.10), we can equate these two expressions to give
a +λ (b −a) = b +a −µ(a +b). (3.11)
Now vectors a and b point in different directions, so the only way in which the
above expression can be satisfied, in general, is if the coefficients of a and b
match on either side of the equality sign. Thus, equating coefficients of a and b,
we obtain
1 −λ = 1 −µ, (3.12)
λ = 1 −µ. (3.13)
It follows that λ = µ = 1/2. In other words, the centroid X is located at the
halfway points of diagonals BD and AC: i.e., the diagonals mutually bisect one
another.
3.8 Vector velocity and vector acceleration
Consider a body moving in 3 dimensions. Suppose that we know the Cartesian
coordinates, x, y, and z, of this body as time, t, progresses. Let us consider how
we can use this information to determine the body’s instantaneous velocity and
acceleration as functions of time.
The vector displacement of the body is given by
r(t) = [x(t), y(t), z(t)]. (3.14)
37
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.8 Vector velocity and vector acceleration
By analogy with the 1-dimensional equation (2.3), the body’s vector velocity v =
(v
x
, v
y
, v
z
) is simply the derivative of r with respect to t. In other words,
v(t) = lim
∆t→0
r(t +∆t) −r(t)
∆t
=
dr
dt
. (3.15)
When written in component form, the above definition yields
v
x
=
dx
dt
, (3.16)
v
y
=
dy
dt
, (3.17)
v
z
=
dz
dt
. (3.18)
Thus, the x-component of velocity is simply the time derivative of the x-coordinate,
and so on.
By analogy with the 1-dimensional equation (2.6), the body’s vector acceler-
ation a = (a
x
, a
y
, a
z
) is simply the derivative of v with respect to t. In other
words,
a(t) = lim
∆t→0
v(t +∆t) −v(t)
∆t
=
dv
dt
=
d
2
r
dt
2
. (3.19)
When written in component form, the above definition yields
a
x
=
dv
x
dt
=
d
2
x
dt
2
, (3.20)
a
y
=
dv
y
dt
=
d
2
y
dt
2
, (3.21)
a
z
=
dv
z
dt
=
d
2
z
dt
2
. (3.22)
Thus, the x-component of acceleration is simply the time derivative of the x-
component of velocity, and so on.
As an example, suppose that the coordinates of the body are given by
x = sint, (3.23)
y = cos t, (3.24)
z = 3 t. (3.25)
38
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.9 Motion with constant velocity
The corresponding components of the body’s velocity are then simply
v
x
=
dx
dt
= cos t, (3.26)
v
y
=
dy
dt
= −sint, (3.27)
v
z
=
dz
dt
= 3, (3.28)
whilst the components of the body’s acceleration are given by
a
x
=
dv
x
dt
= −sint, (3.29)
a
y
=
dv
y
dt
= −cos t, (3.30)
a
z
=
dv
z
dt
= 0. (3.31)
3.9 Motion with constant velocity
An object moving in 3 dimensions with constant velocity v possesses a vector
displacement of the form
r(t) = r
0
+v t, (3.32)
where the constant vector r
0
is the displacement at time t = 0. Note that dr/dt =
v and d
2
r/dt
2
= 0, as expected. As illustrated in Fig. 14, the object’s trajectory
is a straight-line which passes through point r
0
at time t = 0 and runs parallel to
vector v.
3.10 Motion with constant acceleration
An object moving in 3 dimensions with constant acceleration a possesses a vector
displacement of the form
r(t) = r
0
+v
0
t +
1
2
a t
2
. (3.33)
39
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.10 Motion with constant acceleration
r
0
r
v
trajectory
t = 0
t = t
Figure 14: Motion with constant velocity
Hence, the object’s velocity is given by
v(t) =
dr
dt
= v
0
+a t. (3.34)
Note that dv/dt = a, as expected. In the above, the constant vectors r
0
and v
0
are the object’s displacement and velocity at time t = 0, respectively.
As is easily demonstrated, the vector equivalents of Eqs. (2.11)–(2.13) are:
s = v
0
t +
1
2
a t
2
, (3.35)
v = v
0
+a t, (3.36)
v
2
= v
2
0
+2 a·s. (3.37)
These equation fully characterize 3-dimensional motion with constant accelera-
tion. Here, s = r − r
0
is the net displacement of the object between times t = 0
and t.
The quantity a·s, appearing in Eq. (3.37), is termed the scalar product of vectors
a and s, and is defined
a·s = a
x
s
x
+a
y
s
y
+a
z
s
z
. (3.38)
The above formula has a simple geometric interpretation, which is illustrated in
Fig. 15. If |a| is the magnitude (or length) of vector a, |s| is the magnitude of
40
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.11 Projectile motion
s
θ
a . s = |a| |s| cos θ
|a|
a
cos θ |s|
|s|
Figure 15: The scalar product
vector s, and θ is the angle subtended between these two vectors, then
a·s = |a| |s| cos θ. (3.39)
In other words, the scalar product of vectors a and s equals the product of the
length of vector a times the length of that component of vector s which lies in the
same direction as vector a. It immediately follows that if two vectors are mutually
perpendicular (i.e., θ = 90

) then their scalar product is zero. Furthermore, the
scalar product of a vector with itself is simply the magnitude squared of that
vector [this is immediately apparent from Eq. (3.38)]:
a·a = |a|
2
= a
2
. (3.40)
It is also apparent from Eq. (3.38) that a· s = s· a, and a·(b +c) = a·b +a·c, and
a·(λs) = λ(a· s).
Incidentally, Eq. (3.37) is obtained by taking the scalar product of Eq. (3.36)
with itself, taking the scalar product of Eq. (3.35) with a, and then eliminating t.
3.11 Projectile motion
As a simple illustration of the concepts introduced in the previous subsections, let
us examine the following problem. Suppose that a projectile is launched upward
from ground level, with speed v
0
, making an angle θ with the horizontal. Neglect-
ing the effect of air resistance, what is the subsequent trajectory of the projectile?
41
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.11 Projectile motion
z
x
θ
v
0
0
v
v
0
cos θ
v


0
s
i
n
θ
Figure 16: Coordinates for the projectile problem
Our first task is to set up a suitable Cartesian coordinate system. A conve-
nient system is illustrated in Fig. 16. The z-axis points vertically upwards (this
is a standard convention), whereas the x-axis points along the projectile’s initial
direction of horizontal motion. Furthermore, the origin of our coordinate system
corresponds to the launch point. Thus, z = 0 corresponds to ground level.
Neglecting air resistance, the projectile is subject to a constant acceleration
g = 9.81 ms
−1
, due to gravity, which is directed vertically downwards. Thus, the
projectile’s vector acceleration is written
a = (0, 0, −g). (3.41)
Here, the minus sign indicates that the acceleration is in the minus z-direction
(i.e., downwards), as opposed to the plus z-direction (i.e., upwards).
What is the initial vector velocity v
0
with which the projectile is launched into
the air at (say) t = 0? As illustrated in Fig. 16, given that the magnitude of
this velocity is v
0
, its horizontal component is directed along the x-axis, and its
direction subtends an angle θ with this axis, the components of v
0
take the form
v
0
= (v
0
cos θ, 0, v
0
sinθ). (3.42)
Note that v
0
has zero component along the y-axis, which points into the paper in
Fig. 16.
Since the projectile moves with constant acceleration, its vector displacement
42
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.11 Projectile motion
s = (x, y, z) from its launch point satisfies [see Eq. (3.35)]
s = v
0
t +
1
2
a t
2
. (3.43)
Making use of Eqs. (3.41) and (3.42), the x-, y-, and z-components of the above
equation are written
x = v
0
cos θ t, (3.44)
y = 0, (3.45)
z = v
0
sinθ t −
1
2
gt
2
, (3.46)
respectively. Note that the projectile moves with constant velocity, v
x
= dx/dt =
v
0
cos θ, in the x-direction (i.e., horizontally). This is hardly surprising, since
there is zero component of the projectile’s acceleration along the x-axis. Note,
further, that since there is zero component of the projectile’s acceleration along
the y-axis, and the projectile’s initial velocity also has zero component along this
axis, the projectile never moves in the y-direction. In other words, the projectile’s
trajectory is 2-dimensional, lying entirely within the x-z plane. Note, finally, that
the projectile’s vertical motion is entirely decoupled from its horizontal motion.
In other words, the projectile’s vertical motion is identical to that of a second pro-
jectile launched vertically upwards, at t = 0, with the initial velocity v
0
sinθ (i.e.,
the initial vertical velocity component of the first projectile)—both projectiles will
reach the same maximum altitude at the same time, and will subsequently strike
the ground simultaneously.
Equations (3.44) and (3.46) can be rearranged to give
z = x tanθ −
1
2
gx
2
v
2
0
sec
2
θ. (3.47)
As was first pointed out by Galileo, and is illustrated in Fig. 17, this is the equa-
tion of a parabola. The horizontal range R of the projectile corresponds to its
x-coordinate when it strikes the ground (i.e., when z = 0). It follows from the
above expression (neglecting the trivial result x = 0) that
R =
2 v
2
0
g
sinθ cos θ =
v
2
0
g
sin2θ. (3.48)
43
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.12 Relative velocity
x
z
h
R
θ
Figure 17: The parabolic trajectory of a projectile
Note that the range attains its maximum value,
R
max
=
v
2
0
g
, (3.49)
when θ = 45

. In other words, neglecting air resistance, a projectile travels
furthest when it is launched into the air at 45

to the horizontal.
The maximum altitude h of the projectile is attained when v
z
= dz/dt = 0
(i.e., when the projectile has just stopped rising and is about to start falling). It
follows from Eq. (3.46) that the maximum altitude occurs at time t
0
= v
0
sinθ/g.
Hence,
h = z(t
0
) =
v
2
0
2 g
sin
2
θ. (3.50)
Obviously, the largest value of h,
h
max
=
v
2
0
2 g
, (3.51)
is obtained when the projectile is launched vertically upwards (i.e., θ = 90

).
3.12 Relative velocity
Suppose that, on a windy day, an airplane moves with constant velocity v
a
with
respect to the air, and that the air moves with constant velocity u with respect
44
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.12 Relative velocity
v
a
v
g
u
Figure 18: Relative velocity
to the ground. What is the vector velocity v
g
of the plane with respect to the
ground? In principle, the answer to this question is very simple:
v
g
= v
a
+u. (3.52)
In other words, the velocity of the plane with respect to the ground is the vector
sum of the plane’s velocity relative to the air and the air’s velocity relative to the
ground. See Fig. 18. Note that, in general, v
g
is parallel to neither v
a
nor u. Let
us now consider how we might implement Eq. (3.52) in practice.
As always, our first task is to set up a suitable Cartesian coordinate system. A
convenient system for dealing with 2-dimensional motion parallel to the Earth’s
surface is illustrated in Fig. 19. The x-axis points northward, whereas the y-axis
points eastward. In this coordinate system, it is conventional to specify a vector r
in term of its magnitude, r, and its compass bearing, φ. As illustrated in Fig. 20, a
compass bearing is the angle subtended between the direction of a vector and the
direction to the North pole: i.e., the x-direction. By convention, compass bearings
run from 0

to 360

. Furthermore, the compass bearings of North, East, South,
and West are 0

, 90

, 180

, and 270

, respectively.
According to Fig. 20, the components of a general vector r, whose magnitude
is r and whose compass bearing is φ, are simply
r = (x, y) = (r cos φ, r sinφ). (3.53)
Note that we have suppressed the z-component of r (which is zero), for ease of
notation. Although, strictly speaking, Fig. 20 only justifies the above expression
for φ in the range 0

to 90

, it turns out that this expression is generally valid:
i.e., it is valid for φ in the full range 0

to 360

.
45
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.12 Relative velocity
W E
S
N
x
y
Figure 19: Coordinates for relative velocity problem
r

c
o
s
φ
r
φ
r
x
y
r sinφ
N
E
Figure 20: A compass bearing
46
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.12 Relative velocity
As an illustration, suppose that the plane’s velocity relative to the air is 300 km/h,
at a compass bearing of 120

, and the air’s velocity relative to the ground is
85 km/h, at a compass bearing of 225

. It follows that the components of v
a
and u (measured in units of km/h) are
v
a
= (300 cos 120

, 300 sin120

) = (−1.500 ×10
2
, 2.598 ×10
2
), (3.54)
u = (85 cos 225

, 85 sin225

) = (−6.010 ×10
1
, −6.010 ×10
1
). (3.55)
According to Eq. (3.52), the components of the plane’s velocity v
g
relative to the
ground are simply the algebraic sums of the corresponding components of v
a
and
u. Hence,
v
g
= (−1.500 ×10
2
− 6.010 ×10
1
, 2.598 ×10
2
− 6.010 ×10
1
)
= (−2.101 ×10
2
, 1.997 ×10
2
). (3.56)
Our final task is to reconstruct the magnitude and compass bearing of vector
v
g
, given its components (v
gx
, v
gy
). The magnitude of v
g
follows from Pythagoras’
theorem [see Eq. (3.6)]:
v
g
=
_
(v
gx
)
2
+ (v
gy
)
2
=
_
(−2.101 ×10
2
)
2
+ (1.997 ×10
2
)
2
= 289.9 km/h. (3.57)
In principle, the compass bearing of v
g
is given by the following formula:
φ = tan
−1
_
_
v
gy
v
gx
_
_
. (3.58)
This follows because v
gx
= v
g
cos φ and v
gy
= v
g
sinφ [see Eq. (3.53)]. Un-
fortunately, the above expression becomes a little difficult to interpret if v
gx
is
negative. An unambiguous pair of expressions for φ is given below:
φ = tan
−1
_
_
v
gy
v
gx
_
_
, (3.59)
if v
gx
≥ 0; or
φ = 180

− tan
−1
_
_
v
gy
|v
gx
|
_
_
, (3.60)
47
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.12 Relative velocity
if v
gx
< 0. These expressions can be derived from simple trigonometry. For the
case in hand, Eq. (3.60) is the relevant expression, hence
φ = 180

− tan
−1
_
_
1.997 ×10
2
2.101 ×10
2
_
_
= 136.5

. (3.61)
Thus, the plane’s velocity relative to the ground is 289.9 km/h at a compass bear-
ing of 136.5

.
Worked example 3.1: Broken play
Question: Major Applewhite receives the snap at the line of scrimmage, takes
a seven step drop (i.e., runs backwards 9 yards), but is then flushed out of the
pocket by a blitzing linebacker. Major subsequently runs parallel to the line of
scrimmage for 12 yards and then gets off a forward pass, 36 yards straight down-
field, to Roy Williams, just prior to being creamed by the linebacker. What is the
magnitude of the football’s resultant displacement (in yards)?
Answer: As illustrated in the diagram, the resultant displacement r of the football
is the sum of vectors a, b, and c, which correspond to the seven step drop, the
run parallel to the line of scrimmage, and the forward pass, respectively. Using
line of scrimmage
y
x
upfield
9 yd
12 yd
36 yd
b
c
a
r
the coordinate system indicated in the diagram, the components of vectors a, b,
and c (measured in yards) are
a = (−9, 0),
48
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.12 Relative velocity
b = (0, 12),
c = (36, 0),
respectively. Hence the components of r are given by
r = (x, y) = (−9 +0 +36, 0 +12 +0) = (27, 12).
It follows that the magnitude of the football’s resultant displacement is
r =
_
x
2
+y
2
=
_
27
2
+12
2
= 29.55 yd.
Worked example 3.2: Gallileo’s experiment
Question: Legend has it that Gallileo tested out his newly developed theory of
projectile motion by throwing weights from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
(No wonder he eventually got into trouble with the authorities!) Suppose that,
one day, Gallileo simultaneously threw two equal weights off the tower from a
height of 100 m above the ground. Suppose, further, that he dropped the first
weight straight down, whereas he threw the second weight horizontally with a
velocity of 5 m/s. Which weight struck the ground first? How long, after it was
thrown, did it take to do this? Finally, what horizontal distance was traveled by
the second weight before it hit the ground? Neglect the effect of air resistance.
Answer: Since both weights start off traveling with the same initial velocities
in the vertical direction (i.e., zero), and both accelerate vertically downwards at
the same rate, it follows that both weights strike the ground simultaneously. The
time of flight of each weight is simply the time taken to fall h = 100 m, starting
from rest, under the influence of gravity. From Eq. (2.17), this time is given by
t =
¸
¸
¸
_
2 h
g
=
¸
¸
¸
_
2 ×100
9.81
= 4.515 s.
The horizontal distance R traveled by the second weight is simply the distance
traveled by a body moving at a constant velocity u = 5 m/s (recall that gravita-
tional acceleration does not affect horizontal motion) during the time taken by
the weight to drop 100m. Thus,
R = ut = 5 ×4.515 = 22.58 m.
49
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.12 Relative velocity
Worked example 3.3: Cannon shot
Question: A cannon placed on a 50m high cliff fires a cannonball over the edge
of the cliff at v = 200 m/s making an angle of θ = 30

to the horizontal. How
long is the cannonball in the air? Neglect air resistance.
Answer: In order to answer this question we need only consider the cannon-
ball’s vertical motion. At t = 0 (i.e., the time of firing) the cannonball’s height
off the ground is z
0
= 50 m and its velocity component in the vertical direction is
v
0
= v sinθ = 200 × sin30

= 100 m/s. Moreover, the cannonball is accelerating
vertically downwards at g = 9.91 m/s
2
. The equation of vertical motion of the
cannonball is written
z = z
0
+v
0
t −
1
2
gt
2
,
where z is the cannonball’s height off the ground at time t. The time of flight of
the cannonball corresponds to the time t at which z = 0. In other words, the time
of flight is the solution of the quadratic equation
0 = z
0
+v
0
t −
1
2
gt
2
.
Hence,
t =
v
0
+
_
v
2
0
+2 gz
0
g
= 20.88 s.
Here, we have neglected the unphysical negative root of our quadratic equation.
Worked example 3.4: Hail Mary pass
Question: The Longhorns are down by 4 points with 5s left in the fourth quarter.
Chris Simms launches a Hail Mary pass into the end-zone, 60 yards away, where
B.J. Johnson is waiting to make the catch. Suppose that Chris throws the ball at
55 miles per hour. At what angle to the horizontal must the ball be launched in
order for it to hit the receiver? Neglect the effect of air resistance.
50
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.12 Relative velocity
Answer: The formula for the horizontal range R of a projectile thrown with initial
velocity v
0
at an angle θ to the horizontal is [see Eq. (3.48)]:
R =
v
2
0
g
sin2θ.
In this case, R = 60 ×3 ×0.3048 = 54.86 m and v
0
= 55 ×5280 ×0.3048/3600 =
24.59 m/s. Hence,
θ =
1
2
sin
−1
_
_
Rg
v
2
0
_
_
=
1
2
sin
−1
_
_
54.86 ×9.81
(24.59)
2
_
_
= 31.45

.
Thus, the ball must be launched at 31.45

to the horizontal. (Actually, 58.56

would work just as well. Why is this?)
Worked example 3.5: Flight UA589
Question: United Airlines flight UA589 from Chicago is 20miles due North of
Austin’s Bergstrom airport. Suppose that the plane is flying at 200 mi/h relative
to the air. Suppose, further, that there is a wind blowing due East at 60 mi/h. To-
wards which compass bearing must the plane steer in order to land at the airport?
Answer: The problem in hand is illustrated in the diagram. The plane’s veloc-
u
v
g
v
a
N
E
α
φ
ity v
g
relative to the ground is the vector sum of its velocity v
a
relative to the
air, and the velocity u of the wind relative to the ground. We know that u is di-
rected due East, and we require v
g
to be directed due South. We also know that
51
3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.12 Relative velocity
|v
a
| = 200 mi/h and |u| = 60 mi/h. Now, from simple trigonometry,
cos α =
|u|
|v
a
|
=
60
200
= 0.3.
Hence,
α = 72.54

.
However, it is clear from the diagram that the compass bearing φ of the plane is
given by
φ = 270

−α = 270

−72.54

= 197.46

.
Thus, in order to land at Bergstrom airport the plane must fly towards compass
bearing 197.46

.
52
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION
4 Newton’s laws of motion
4.1 Introduction
In his Principia, Newton reduced the basic principles of mechanics to three laws:
1. Every body continues in its state of rest, or uniform motion in a straight line,
unless compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.
2. The change of motion of an object is proportional to the force impressed upon it,
and is made in the direction of the straight line in which the force is impressed.
3. To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction; or, the mutual actions
of two bodies upon each other are always equal and directed to contrary parts.
These laws are known as Newton’s first law of motion, Newton’s second law of
motion, and Newton’s third law of motion, respectively. In this section, we shall
examine each of these laws in detail, and then give some simple illustrations of
their use.
4.2 Newton’s first law of motion
Newton’s first law was actually discovered by Galileo and perfected by Descartes
(who added the crucial proviso “in a straight line”). This law states that if the
motion of a given body is not disturbed by external influences then that body
moves with constant velocity. In other words, the displacement r of the body as a
function of time t can be written
r = r
0
+v t, (4.1)
where r
0
and v are constant vectors. As illustrated in Fig. 14, the body’s trajectory
is a straight-line which passes through point r
0
at time t = 0 and runs parallel to
v. In the special case in which v = 0 the body simply remains at rest.
53
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.3 Newton’s second law of motion
Nowadays, Newton’s first law strikes us as almost a statement of the obvious.
However, in Galileo’s time this was far from being the case. From the time of
the ancient Greeks, philosophers—observing that objects set into motion on the
Earth’s surface eventually come to rest—had concluded that the natural state of
motion of objects was that they should remain at rest. Hence, they reasoned,
any object which moves does so under the influence of an external influence, or
force, exerted on it by some other object. It took the genius of Galileo to realize
that an object set into motion on the Earth’s surface eventually comes to rest
under the influence of frictional forces, and that if these forces could somehow
be abstracted from the motion then it would continue forever.
4.3 Newton’s second law of motion
Newton used the word “motion” to mean what we nowadays call momentum.
The momentum p of a body is simply defined as the product of its mass m and
its velocity v: i.e.,
p = mv. (4.2)
Newton’s second law of motion is summed up in the equation
dp
dt
= f, (4.3)
where the vector f represents the net influence, or force, exerted on the object,
whose motion is under investigation, by other objects. For the case of a object
with constant mass, the above law reduces to its more conventional form
f = ma. (4.4)
In other words, the net force exerted on a given object by other objects equals the
product of that object’s mass and its acceleration. Of course, this law is entirely
devoid of content unless we have some independent means of quantifying the
forces exerted between different objects.
54
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.4 Hooke’s law
m
∆ x
f
handle
Figure 21: Hooke’s law
4.4 Hooke’s law
One method of quantifying the force exerted on an object is via Hooke’s law. This
law—discovered by the English scientist Robert Hooke in 1660—states that the
force f exerted by a coiled spring is directly proportional to its extension ∆x. The
extension of the spring is the difference between its actual length and its natural
length (i.e., its length when it is exerting no force). The force acts parallel to the
axis of the spring. Obviously, Hooke’s law only holds if the extension of the spring
is sufficiently small. If the extension becomes too large then the spring deforms
permanently, or even breaks. Such behaviour lies beyond the scope of Hooke’s
law.
Figure 21 illustrates how we might use Hooke’s law to quantify the force we
exert on a body of mass m when we pull on the handle of a spring attached to
it. The magnitude f of the force is proportional to the extension of the spring:
twice the extension means twice the force. As shown, the direction of the force is
towards the spring, parallel to its axis (assuming that the extension is positive).
The magnitude of the force can be quantified in terms of the critical extension
required to impart a unit acceleration (i.e., 1 m/s
2
) to a body of unit mass (i.e.,
1 kg). According to Eq. (4.4), the force corresponding to this extension is 1 new-
ton. Here, a newton (symbol N) is equivalent to a kilogram-meter per second-
squared, and is the mks unit of force. Thus, if the critical extension corresponds
to a force of 1 N then half the critical extension corresponds to a force of 0.5 N,
and so on. In this manner, we can quantify both the direction and magnitude of
the force we exert, by means of a spring, on a given body.
55
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.5 Newton’s third law of motion
f
2
f
2
f
1
f
1
m
f
Figure 22: Addition of forces
Suppose that we apply two forces, f
1
and f
2
(say), acting in different directions,
to a body of mass m by means of two springs. As illustrated in Fig. 22, the body
accelerates as if it were subject to a single force f which is the vector sum of
the individual forces f
1
and f
2
. It follows that the force f appearing in Newton’s
second law of motion, Eq. (4.4), is the resultant of all the external forces to which
the body whose motion is under investigation is subject.
Suppose that the resultant of all the forces acting on a given body is zero.
In other words, suppose that the forces acting on the body exactly balance one
another. According to Newton’s second law of motion, Eq. (4.4), the body does
not accelerate: i.e., it either remains at rest or moves with uniform velocity in
a straight line. It follows that Newton’s first law of motion applies not only to
bodies which have no forces acting upon them but also to bodies acted upon by
exactly balanced forces.
4.5 Newton’s third law of motion
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that there are only two bodies in the Universe.
Let us label these bodies a and b. Suppose that body b exerts a force f
ab
on body
a. According to to Newton’s third law of motion, body a must exert an equal and
opposite force f
ba
= −f
ab
on body b. See Fig. 22. Thus, if we label f
ab
the “action”
56
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.6 Mass and weight
f
ba
f
ab
b
a
Figure 23: Newton’s third law
then, in Newton’s language, f
ba
is the equal and opposed “reaction”.
Suppose, now, that there are many objects in the Universe (as is, indeed, the
case). According to Newton’s third law, if object j exerts a force f
ij
on object i
then object i must exert an equal and opposite force f
ji
= −f
ij
on object j. It
follows that all of the forces acting in the Universe can ultimately be grouped
into equal and opposite action-reaction pairs. Note, incidentally, that an action
and its associated reaction always act on different bodies.
Why do we need Newton’s third law? Actually, it is almost a matter of common
sense. Suppose that bodies a and b constitute an isolated system. If f
ba
= −f
ab
then this system exerts a non-zero net force f = f
ab
+ f
ba
on itself, without the
aid of any external agency. It will, therefore, accelerate forever under its own
steam. We know, from experience, that this sort of behaviour does not occur
in real life. For instance, I cannot grab hold of my shoelaces and, thereby, pick
myself up off the ground. In other words, I cannot self-generate a force which
will spontaneously lift me into the air: I need to exert forces on other objects
around me in order to achieve this. Thus, Newton’s third law essentially acts as
a guarantee against the absurdity of self-generated forces.
4.6 Mass and weight
The terms mass and weight are often confused with one another. However, in
physics their meanings are quite distinct.
A body’s mass is a measure of its inertia: i.e., its reluctance to deviate from
uniform straight-line motion under the influence of external forces. According to
Newton’s second law, Eq. (4.4), if two objects of differing masses are acted upon
57
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.6 Mass and weight
f
W
f
f
g
R
Earth
block
m
Figure 24: Weight
by forces of the same magnitude then the resulting acceleration of the larger mass
is less than that of the smaller mass. In other words, it is more difficult to force
the larger mass to deviate from its preferred state of uniform motion in a straight
line. Incidentally, the mass of a body is an intrinsic property of that body, and,
therefore, does not change if the body is moved to a different place.
Imagine a block of granite resting on the surface of the Earth. See Fig. 24. The
block experiences a downward force f
g
due to the gravitational attraction of the
Earth. This force is of magnitude mg, where m is the mass of the block and g
is the acceleration due to gravity at the surface of the Earth. The block transmits
this force to the ground below it, which is supporting it, and, thereby, preventing
it from accelerating downwards. In other words, the block exerts a downward
force f
W
, of magnitude mg, on the ground immediately beneath it. We usually
refer to this force (or the magnitude of this force) as the weight of the block.
According to Newton’s third law, the ground below the block exerts an upward
reaction force f
R
on the block. This force is also of magnitude mg. Thus, the net
force acting on the block is f
g
+f
R
= 0, which accounts for the fact that the block
remains stationary.
Where, you might ask, is the equal and opposite reaction to the force of grav-
itational attraction f
g
exerted by the Earth on the block of granite? It turns out
that this reaction is exerted at the centre of the Earth. In other words, the Earth
attracts the block of granite, and the block of granite attracts the Earth by an
equal amount. However, since the Earth is far more massive than the block, the
force exerted by the granite block at the centre of the Earth has no observable
consequence.
58
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.6 Mass and weight
a
mg
W
W
Figure 25: Weight in an elevator
So far, we have established that the weight W of a body is the magnitude of
the downward force it exerts on any object which supports it. Thus, W = mg,
where m is the mass of the body and g is the local acceleration due to gravity.
Since weight is a force, it is measured in newtons. A body’s weight is location
dependent, and is not, therefore, an intrinsic property of that body. For instance,
a body weighing 10N on the surface of the Earth will only weigh about 3.8 N
on the surface of Mars, due to the weaker surface gravity of Mars relative to the
Earth.
Consider a block of mass m resting on the floor of an elevator, as shown in
Fig. 25. Suppose that the elevator is accelerating upwards with acceleration a.
How does this acceleration affect the weight of the block? Of course, the block
experiences a downward force mg due to gravity. Let W be the weight of the
block: by definition, this is the size of the downward force exerted by the block
on the floor of the elevator. From Newton’s third law, the floor of the elevator
exerts an upward reaction force of magnitude W on the block. Let us apply
Newton’s second law, Eq. (4.4), to the motion of the block. The mass of the block
is m, and its upward acceleration is a. Furthermore, the block is subject to two
forces: a downward force mg due to gravity, and an upward reaction force W.
59
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.7 Strings, pulleys, and inclines
Hence,
W −mg = ma. (4.5)
This equation can be rearranged to give
W = m(g +a). (4.6)
Clearly, the upward acceleration of the elevator has the effect of increasing the
weight W of the block: for instance, if the elevator accelerates upwards at g =
9.81 m/s
2
then the weight of the block is doubled. Conversely, if the elevator
accelerates downward (i.e., if a becomes negative) then the weight of the block
is reduced: for instance, if the elevator accelerates downward at g/2 then the
weight of the block is halved. Incidentally, these weight changes could easily be
measured by placing some scales between the block and the floor of the elevator.
Suppose that the downward acceleration of the elevator matches the acceler-
ation due to gravity: i.e., a = −g. In this case, W = 0. In other words, the block
becomes weightless! This is the principle behind the so-called “Vomit Comet”
used by NASA’s Johnson Space Centre to train prospective astronauts in the ef-
fects of weightlessness. The “Vomit Comet” is actually a KC-135 (a predecessor of
the Boeing 707 which is typically used for refueling military aircraft). The plane
typically ascends to 30,000ft and then accelerates downwards at g (i.e., drops
like a stone) for about 20s, allowing its passengers to feel the effects of weight-
lessness during this period. All of the weightless scenes in the film Apollo 11 were
shot in this manner.
Suppose, finally, that the downward acceleration of the elevator exceeds the
acceleration due to gravity: i.e., a < −g. In this case, the block acquires a
negative weight! What actually happens is that the block flies off the floor of the
elevator and slams into the ceiling: when things have settled down, the block
exerts an upward force (negative weight) |W| on the ceiling of the elevator.
4.7 Strings, pulleys, and inclines
Consider a block of mass m which is suspended from a fixed beam by means of
a string, as shown in Fig. 26. The string is assumed to be light (i.e., its mass
60
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.7 Strings, pulleys, and inclines
beam
string
block m
mg
T
Figure 26: Block suspended by a string
is negligible compared to that of the block) and inextensible (i.e., its length in-
creases by a negligible amount because of the weight of the block). The string
is clearly being stretched, since it is being pulled at both ends by the block and
the beam. Furthermore, the string must be being pulled by oppositely directed
forces of the same magnitude, otherwise it would accelerate greatly (given that
it has negligible inertia). By Newton’s third law, the string exerts oppositely di-
rected forces of equal magnitude, T (say), on both the block and the beam. These
forces act so as to oppose the stretching of the string: i.e., the beam experiences a
downward force of magnitude T, whereas the block experiences an upward force
of magnitude T. Here, T is termed the tension of the string. Since T is a force,
it is measured in newtons. Note that, unlike a coiled spring, a string can never
possess a negative tension, since this would imply that the string is trying to push
its supports apart, rather than pull them together.
Let us apply Newton’s second law to the block. The mass of the block is m, and
its acceleration is zero, since the block is assumed to be in equilibrium. The block
is subject to two forces, a downward force mg due to gravity, and an upward
force T due to the tension of the string. It follows that
T −mg = 0. (4.7)
In other words, in equilibrium, the tension T of the string equals the weight mg
of the block.
Figure 27 shows a slightly more complicated example in which a block of mass
m is suspended by three strings. The question is what are the tensions, T, T
1
, and
61
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.7 Strings, pulleys, and inclines
mg
T
30
60
T
1
T
2
o
o
m
Figure 27: Block suspended by three strings
T
2
, in these strings, assuming that the block is in equilibrium? Using analogous
arguments to the previous case, we can easily demonstrate that the tension T
in the lowermost string is mg. The tensions in the two uppermost strings are
obtained by applying Newton’s second law of motion to the knot where all three
strings meet. See Fig. 28.
There are three forces acting on the knot: the downward force T due to the
tension in the lower string, and the forces T
1
and T
2
due to the tensions in the
upper strings. The latter two forces act along their respective strings, as indicate
in the diagram. Since the knot is in equilibrium, the vector sum of all the forces
acting on it must be zero.
Consider the horizontal components of the forces acting on the knot. Let com-
ponents acting to the right be positive, and vice versa. The horizontal component
of tension T is zero, since this tension acts straight down. The horizontal compo-
nent of tension T
1
is T
1
cos 60

= T
1
/2, since this force subtends an angle of 60

with respect to the horizontal (see Fig. 16). Likewise, the horizontal component
of tension T
2
is −T
2
cos 30

= −

3 T
2
/2. Since the knot does not accelerate in the
horizontal direction, we can equate the sum of these components to zero:
T
1
2


3 T
2
2
= 0. (4.8)
Consider the vertical components of the forces acting on the knot. Let com-
ponents acting upward be positive, and vice versa. The vertical component of
62
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.7 Strings, pulleys, and inclines
T
1
T
2
T
30
60
o
o
Figure 28: Detail of Fig. 27
tension T is −T = −mg, since this tension acts straight down. The vertical com-
ponent of tension T
1
is T
1
sin60

=

3 T
1
/2, since this force subtends an angle of
60

with respect to the horizontal (see Fig. 16). Likewise, the vertical component
of tension T
2
is T
2
sin30

= T
2
/2. Since the knot does not accelerate in the vertical
direction, we can equate the sum of these components to zero:
−mg +

3 T
1
2
+
T
2
2
= 0. (4.9)
Finally, Eqs. (4.8) and (4.9) yield
T
1
=

3 mg
2
, (4.10)
T
2
=
mg
2
. (4.11)
Consider a block of mass m sliding down a smooth frictionless incline which
subtends an angle θ to the horizontal, as shown in Fig 29. The weight mg of
the block is directed vertically downwards. However, this force can be resolved
into components mg cos θ, acting perpendicular (or normal) to the incline, and
mg sinθ, acting parallel to the incline. Note that the reaction of the incline to
the weight of the block acts normal to the incline, and only matches the normal
component of the weight: i.e., it is of magnitude mg cos θ. This is a general
result: the reaction of any unyielding surface is always locally normal to that
surface, directed outwards (away from the surface), and matches the normal
63
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.7 Strings, pulleys, and inclines
θ
mg
θ mg cos
mg cos θ
mg sinθ
x
y
m
Figure 29: Block sliding down an incline
component of any inward force applied to the surface. The block is clearly in
equilibrium in the direction normal to the incline, since the normal component of
the block’s weight is balanced by the reaction of the incline. However, the block
is subject to the unbalanced force mg sinθ in the direction parallel to the incline,
and, therefore, accelerates down the slope. Applying Newton’s second law to this
problem (with the coordinates shown in the figure), we obtain
m
d
2
x
dt
2
= mg sinθ, (4.12)
which can be solved to give
x = x
0
+v
0
t +
1
2
g sinθt
2
. (4.13)
In other words, the block accelerates down the slope with acceleration g sinθ.
Note that this acceleration is less than the full acceleration due to gravity, g. In
fact, if the incline is fairly gentle (i.e., if θ is small) then the acceleration of the
block can be made much less than g. This was the technique used by Galileo in
his pioneering studies of motion under gravity—by diluting the acceleration due
to gravity, using inclined planes, he was able to obtain motion sufficiently slow
for him to make accurate measurements using the crude time-keeping devices
available in the 17th Century.
Consider two masses, m
1
and m
2
, connected by a light inextensible string.
Suppose that the first mass slides over a smooth, frictionless, horizontal table,
64
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.7 Strings, pulleys, and inclines
whilst the second is suspended over the edge of the table by means of a light fric-
tionless pulley. See Fig. 30. Since the pulley is light, we can neglect its rotational
inertia in our analysis. Moreover, no force is required to turn a frictionless pulley,
so we can assume that the tension T of the string is the same on either side of
the pulley. Let us apply Newton’s second law of motion to each mass in turn. The
first mass is subject to a downward force m
1
g, due to gravity. However, this force
is completely canceled out by the upward reaction force due to the table. The
mass m
1
is also subject to a horizontal force T, due to the tension in the string,
which causes it to move rightwards with acceleration
a =
T
m
1
. (4.14)
The second mass is subject to a downward force m
2
g, due to gravity, plus an
upward force T due to the tension in the string. These forces cause the mass to
move downwards with acceleration
a = g −
T
m
2
. (4.15)
Now, the rightward acceleration of the first mass must match the downward ac-
celeration of the second, since the string which connects them is inextensible.
Thus, equating the previous two expressions, we obtain
T =
m
1
m
2
m
1
+m
2
g, (4.16)
a =
m
2
m
1
+m
2
g. (4.17)
Note that the acceleration of the two coupled masses is less than the full accel-
eration due to gravity, g, since the first mass contributes to the inertia of the
system, but does not contribute to the downward gravitational force which sets
the system in motion.
Consider two masses, m
1
and m
2
, connected by a light inextensible string
which is suspended from a light frictionless pulley, as shown in Fig. 31. Let us
again apply Newton’s second law to each mass in turn. Without being given the
values of m
1
and m
2
, we cannot determine beforehand which mass is going to
move upwards. Let us assume that mass m
1
is going to move upwards: if we are
65
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.7 Strings, pulleys, and inclines
T
T
m
1
2
m g
2
m
Figure 30: Block sliding over a smooth table, pulled by a second block
wrong in this assumption then we will simply obtain a negative acceleration for
this mass. The first mass is subject to an upward force T, due to the tension in the
string, and a downward force m
1
g, due to gravity. These forces cause the mass
to move upwards with acceleration
a =
T
m
1
−g. (4.18)
The second mass is subject to a downward force m
2
g, due to gravity, and an
upward force T, due to the tension in the string. These forces cause the mass to
move downward with acceleration
a = g −
T
m
2
. (4.19)
Now, the upward acceleration of the first mass must match the downward accel-
eration of the second, since they are connected by an inextensible string. Hence,
equating the previous two expressions, we obtain
T =
2 m
1
m
2
m
1
+m
2
g, (4.20)
a =
m
2
−m
1
m
1
+m
2
g. (4.21)
As expected, the first mass accelerates upward (i.e., a > 0) if m
2
> m
1
, and vice
versa. Note that the acceleration of the system is less than the full acceleration
due to gravity, g, since both masses contribute to the inertia of the system, but
66
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.8 Friction
m
T
T
m
1
m g
1
m g
2
2
.
.
Figure 31: An Atwood machine
their weights partially cancel one another out. In particular, if the two masses are
almost equal then the acceleration of the system becomes very much less than g.
Incidentally, the device pictured in Fig. 31 is called an Atwood machine, after
the eighteenth Century English scientist George Atwood, who used it to “slow
down” free-fall sufficiently to make accurate observations of this phenomena us-
ing the primitive time-keeping devices available in his day.
4.8 Friction
When a body slides over a rough surface a frictional force generally develops
which acts to impede the motion. Friction, when viewed at the microscopic level,
is actually a very complicated phenomenon. Nevertheless, physicists and engi-
neers have managed to develop a relatively simple empirical law of force which
allows the effects of friction to be incorporated into their calculations. This law of
force was first proposed by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), and later extended
by Charles Augustin de Coulomb (1736–1806) (who is more famous for discov-
67
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.8 Friction
ering the law of electrostatic attraction). The frictional force exerted on a body
sliding over a rough surface is proportional to the normal reaction R
n
at that sur-
face, the constant of proportionality depending on the nature of the surface. In
other words,
f = µR
n
, (4.22)
where µ is termed the coefficient of (dynamical) friction. For ordinary surfaces, µ
is generally of order unity.
Consider a block of mass m being dragged over a horizontal surface, whose
coefficient of friction is µ, by a horizontal force F. See Fig. 32. The weight
W = mg of the block acts vertically downwards, giving rise to a reaction R = mg
acting vertically upwards. The magnitude of the frictional force f, which impedes
the motion of the block, is simply µ times the normal reaction R = mg. Hence,
f = µmg. The acceleration of the block is, therefore,
a =
F −f
m
=
F
m
−µg, (4.23)
assuming that F > f. What happens if F < f: i.e., if the applied force F is less than
the frictional force f? In this case, common sense suggests that the block simply
remains at rest (it certainly does not accelerate backwards!). Hence, f = µmg
is actually the maximum force which friction can generate in order to impede
the motion of the block. If the applied force F is less than this maximum value
then the applied force is canceled out by an equal and opposite frictional force,
and the block remains stationary. Only if the applied force exceeds the maximum
frictional force does the block start to move.
Consider a block of mass m sliding down a rough incline (coefficient of friction
µ) which subtends an angle θ to the horizontal, as shown in Fig 33. The weight
mg of the block can be resolved into components mg cos θ, acting normal to the
incline, and mg sinθ, acting parallel to the incline. The reaction of the incline
to the weight of the block acts normally outwards from the incline, and is of
magnitude mg cos θ. Parallel to the incline, the block is subject to the downward
gravitational force mg sinθ, and the upward frictional force f (which acts to
prevent the block sliding down the incline). In order for the block to move, the
magnitude of the former force must exceed the maximum value of the latter,
68
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.8 Friction
m g
W
R
f
F
Figure 32: Friction
which is µ time the magnitude of the normal reaction, or µmg cos θ. Hence, the
condition for the weight of the block to overcome friction, and, thus, to cause the
block to slide down the incline, is
mg sinθ > µmg cos θ, (4.24)
or
tanθ > µ. (4.25)
In other words, if the slope of the incline exceeds a certain critical value, which
depends on µ, then the block will start to slide. Incidentally, the above formula
suggests a fairly simple way of determining the coefficient of friction for a given
object sliding over a particular surface. Simply tilt the surface gradually until the
object just starts to move: the coefficient of friction is simply the tangent of the
critical tilt angle (measured with respect to the horizontal).
Up to now, we have implicitly suggested that the coefficient of friction between
an object and a surface is the same whether the object remains stationary or slides
over the surface. In fact, this is generally not the case. Usually, the coefficient of
friction when the object is stationary is slightly larger than the coefficient when
the object is sliding. We call the former coefficient the coefficient of static friction,
µ
s
, whereas the latter coefficient is usually termed the coefficient of kinetic (or
dynamical) friction, µ
k
. The fact that µ
s
> µ
k
simply implies that objects have a
tendency to “stick” to rough surfaces when placed upon them. The force required
to unstick a given object, and, thereby, set it in motion, is µ
s
times the normal
69
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.9 Frames of reference
θ
mg
θ mg cos
mg cos θ
mg sinθ
m
f
Figure 33: Block sliding down a rough slope
reaction at the surface. Once the object has been set in motion, the frictional force
acting to impede this motion falls somewhat to µ
k
times the normal reaction.
4.9 Frames of reference
As discussed in Sect. 1, the laws of physics are assumed to possess objective real-
ity. In other words, it is assumed that two independent observers, studying the
same physical phenomenon, would eventually formulate identical laws of physics
in order to account for their observations. Now, two completely independent
observers are likely to choose different systems of units with which to quantify
physical measurements. However, as we have seen in Sect. 1, the dimensional
consistency of valid laws of physics renders them invariant under transformation
from one system of units to another. Independent observers are also likely to
choose different coordinate systems. For instance, the origins of their separate
coordinate systems might differ, as well as the orientation of the various coordi-
nate axes. Are the laws of physics also invariant under transformation between
coordinate systems possessing different origins, or a different orientation of the
various coordinate axes?
Consider the vector equation
r = r
1
+r
2
, (4.26)
which is represented diagrammatically in Fig. 12. Suppose that we shift the origin
70
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.9 Frames of reference
of our coordinate system, or rotate the coordinate axes. Clearly, in general, the
components of vectors r, r
1
, and r
2
are going to be modified by this change in
our coordinate scheme. However, Fig. 12 still remains valid. Hence, we conclude
that the vector equation (4.26) also remains valid. In other words, although
the individual components of vectors r, r
1
, and r
2
are modified by the change
in coordinate scheme, the interrelation between these components expressed in
Eq. (4.26) remains invariant. This observation suggests that the independence
of the laws of physics from the arbitrary choice of the location of the underlying
coordinate system’s origin, or the equally arbitrary choice of the orientation of
the various coordinate axes, can be made manifest by simply writing these laws
as interrelations between vectors. In particular, Newton’s second law of motion,
f = ma, (4.27)
is clearly invariant under shifts in the origin of our coordinate system, or changes
in the orientation of the various coordinate axes. Note that the quantity m (i.e.,
the mass of the body whose motion is under investigation), appearing in the
above equation, is invariant under any changes in the coordinate system, since
measurements of mass are completely independent of measurements of distance.
We refer to such a quantity as a scalar (this is an improved definition). We con-
clude that valid laws of physics must consist of combinations of scalars and vec-
tors, otherwise they would retain an unphysical dependence on the details of the
chosen coordinate system.
Up to now, we have implicitly assumed that all of our observers are stationary
(i.e., they are all standing still on the surface of the Earth). Let us, now, relax
this assumption. Consider two observers, O and O

, whose coordinate systems
coincide momentarily at t = 0. Suppose that observer O is stationary (on the
surface of the Earth), whereas observer O

moves (with respect to observer O)
with uniform velocity v
0
. As illustrated in Fig. 34, if r represents the displacement
of some body P in the stationary observer’s frame of reference, at time t, then the
corresponding displacement in the moving observer’s frame of reference is simply
r

= r −v
0
t. (4.28)
The velocity of body P in the stationary observer’s frame of reference is defined
71
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.9 Frames of reference
O’
P
O
v
0
t
r
r

Figure 34: A moving observer
as
v =
dr
dt
. (4.29)
Hence, the corresponding velocity in the moving observer’s frame of reference
takes the form
v

=
dr

dt
= v −v
0
. (4.30)
Finally, the acceleration of body P in stationary observer’s frame of reference is
defined as
a =
dv
dt
, (4.31)
whereas the corresponding acceleration in the moving observer’s frame of refer-
ence takes the form
a

=
dv

dt
= a. (4.32)
Hence, the acceleration of body P is identical in both frames of reference.
It is clear that if observer O concludes that body P is moving with constant ve-
locity, and, therefore, subject to zero net force, then observer O

will agree with
this conclusion. Furthermore, if observer O concludes that body P is accelerating,
and, therefore, subject to a force a/m, then observer O

will remain in agreement.
It follows that Newton’s laws of motion are equally valid in the frames of refer-
ence of the moving and the stationary observer. Such frames are termed inertial
frames of reference. There are infinitely many inertial frames of reference—within
72
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.9 Frames of reference
which Newton’s laws of motion are equally valid—all moving with constant ve-
locity with respect to one another. Consequently, there is no universal standard
of rest in physics. Observer O might claim to be at rest compared to observer O

,
and vice versa: however, both points of view are equally valid. Moreover, there
is absolutely no physical experiment which observer O could perform in order to
demonstrate that he/she is at rest whilst observer O

is moving. This, in essence,
is the principle of special relativity, first formulated by Albert Einstein in 1905.
Worked example 4.1: In equilibrium
Question: Consider the diagram. If the system is in equilibrium, and the tension
in string 2 is 50 N, determine the mass M.
40
2
1
M M
3
o
40
o
Answer: It follows from symmetry that the tensions in strings 1 and 3 are equal.
Let T
1
be the tension in string 1, and T
2
the tension in string 2. Consider the
equilibrium of the knot above the leftmost mass. As shown below, this knot
is subject to three forces: the downward force T
4
= Mg due to the tension
in the string which directly supports the leftmost mass, the rightward force T
2
due to the tension in string 2, and the upward and leftward force T
1
due to the
tension in string 1. The resultant of all these forces must be zero, otherwise the
system would not be in equilibrium. Resolving in the horizontal direction (with
rightward forces positive), we obtain
T
2
−T
1
sin40

= 0.
Likewise, resolving in the vertical direction (with upward forces positive) yields
T
1
cos 40

−T
4
= 0.
73
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.9 Frames of reference
Combining the above two expressions, making use of the fact that T
4
= Mg, gives
M =
T
2
g tan40

.
Finally, since T
2
= 50 N and g = 9.81 m/s
2
, we obtain
M =
50
9.81 ×0.8391
= 6.074 kg.
40
T
2
1
T
4
T
o
Worked example 4.2: Block accelerating up a slope
Question: Consider the diagram. Suppose that the block, mass m = 5 kg, is
subject to a horizontal force F = 27 N. What is the acceleration of the block up
the (frictionless) slope?
F
m
25
o
Answer: Only that component of the applied force which is parallel to the incline
has any influence on the block’s motion: the normal component of the applied
force is canceled out by the normal reaction of the incline. The component of
the applied force acting up the incline is F cos 25

. Likewise, the component of
74
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.9 Frames of reference
the block’s weight acting down the incline is mg sin25

. Hence, using Newton’s
second law to determine the acceleration a of the block up the incline, we obtain
a =
F cos 25

−mg sin25

m
.
Since m = 5 kg and F = 27 N, we have
a =
27 ×0.9063 −5 ×9.81 ×0.4226
5
= 0.7483 m/s
2
.
Worked example 4.3: Raising a platform
Question: Consider the diagram. The platform and the attached frictionless pulley
weigh a total of 34N. With what force F must the (light) rope be pulled in order
to lift the platform at 3.2 m/s
2
?
platform
pulley
F
Answer: Let W be the weight of the platform, m = W/g the mass of the platform,
and T the tension in the rope. From Newton’s third law, it is clear that T = F.
Let us apply Newton’s second law to the upward motion of the platform. The
platform is subject to two vertical forces: a downward force W due to its weight,
and an upward force 2 T due to the tension in the rope (the force is 2 T, rather
than T, because both the leftmost and rightmost sections of the rope, emerging
from the pulley, are in tension and exerting an upward force on the pulley). Thus,
75
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.9 Frames of reference
the upward acceleration a of the platform is
a =
2 T −W
m
.
Since T = F and m = W/g, we obtain
F =
W(a/g +1)
2
.
Finally, given that W = 34 N and a = 3.2 m/s
2
, we have
F =
34 (3.2/9.81 +1)
2
= 22.55 N.
Worked example 4.4: Suspended block
Question: Consider the diagram. The mass of block A is 75 kg and the mass
of block B is 15 kg. The coefficient of static friction between the two blocks is
µ = 0.45. The horizontal surface is frictionless. What minimum force F must be
exerted on block A in order to prevent block B from falling?
F
A
B
Answer: Suppose that block A exerts a rightward force R on block B. By New-
ton’s third law, block B exerts an equal and opposite force on block A. Applying
Newton’s second law of motion to the rightward acceleration a of block B, we
obtain
a =
R
m
B
,
where m
B
is the mass of block B. The normal reaction at the interface between
the two blocks is R. Hence, the maximum frictional force that block A can ex-
ert on block B is µR. In order to prevent block B from falling, this maximum
76
4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.9 Frames of reference
frictional force (which acts upwards) must exceed the downward acting weight,
m
B
g, of the block. Hence, we require
µR > m
B
g,
or
a >
g
µ
.
Applying Newton’s second law to the rightward acceleration a of both blocks
(remembering that the equal and opposite forces exerted between the blocks
cancel one another out), we obtain
a =
F
m
A
+m
B
,
where m
A
is the mass of block A. It follows that
F >
(m
A
+m
B
) g
µ
.
Since m
A
= 75 kg, m
B
= 15 kg, and µ = 0.45, we have
F >
(75 +15) ×9.81
0.45
= 1.962 ×10
3
N.
77
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY
5 Conservation of energy
5.1 Introduction
Nowadays, the conservation of energy is undoubtedly the single most important
idea in physics. Strangely enough, although the basic idea of energy conservation
was familiar to scientists from the time of Newton onwards, this crucial concept
only moved to centre-stage in physics in about 1850 (i.e., when scientists first
realized that heat was a form of energy).
According to the ideas of modern physics, energy is the substance from which
all things in the Universe are made up. Energy can take many different forms:
e.g., potential energy, kinetic energy, electrical energy, thermal energy, chemi-
cal energy, nuclear energy, etc. In fact, everything that we observe in the world
around us represents one of the multitudinous manifestations of energy. Now,
there exist processes in the Universe which transform energy from one form into
another: e.g., mechanical processes (which are the focus of this course), thermal
processes, electrical processes, nuclear processes, etc. However, all of these pro-
cesses leave the total amount of energy in the Universe invariant. In other words,
whenever, and however, energy is transformed from one form into another, it
is always conserved. For a closed system (i.e., a system which does not exchange
energy with the rest of the Universe), the above law of universal energy conserva-
tion implies that the total energy of the system in question must remain constant
in time.
5.2 Energy conservation during free-fall
Consider a mass m which is falling vertically under the influence of gravity. We
already know how to analyze the motion of such a mass. Let us employ this
knowledge to search for an expression for the conserved energy during this pro-
cess. (N.B., This is clearly an example of a closed system, involving only the mass
and the gravitational field.) The physics of free-fall under gravity is summarized
by the three equations (2.14)–(2.16). Let us examine the last of these equations:
78
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.2 Energy conservation during free-fall
v
2
= v
2
0
−2 gs. Suppose that the mass falls from height h
1
to h
2
, its initial velocity
is v
1
, and its final velocity is v
2
. It follows that the net vertical displacement of
the mass is s = h
2
− h
1
. Moreover, v
0
= v
1
and v = v
2
. Hence, the previous
expression can be rearranged to give
1
2
mv
2
1
+mgh
1
=
1
2
mv
2
2
+mgh
2
. (5.1)
The above equation clearly represents a conservation law, of some description,
since the left-hand side only contains quantities evaluated at the initial height,
whereas the right-hand side only contains quantities evaluated at the final height.
In order to clarify the meaning of Eq. (5.1), let us define the kinetic energy of the
mass,
K =
1
2
mv
2
, (5.2)
and the gravitational potential energy of the mass,
U = mgh. (5.3)
Note that kinetic energy represents energy the mass possesses by virtue of its
motion. Likewise, potential energy represents energy the mass possesses by virtue
of its position. It follows that Eq. (5.1) can be written
E = K +U = constant. (5.4)
Here, E is the total energy of the mass: i.e., the sum of its kinetic and potential
energies. It is clear that E is a conserved quantity: i.e., although the kinetic and
potential energies of the mass vary as it falls, its total energy remains the same.
Incidentally, the expressions (5.2) and (5.3) for kinetic and gravitational po-
tential energy, respectively, are quite general, and do not just apply to free-fall
under gravity. The mks unit of energy is called the joule (symbol J). In fact, 1
joule is equivalent to 1 kilogram meter-squared per second-squared, or 1 newton-
meter. Note that all forms of energy are measured in the same units (otherwise
the idea of energy conservation would make no sense).
One of the most important lessons which students learn during their studies is
that there are generally many different paths to the same result in physics. Now,
79
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.2 Energy conservation during free-fall
we have already analyzed free-fall under gravity using Newton’s laws of motion.
However, it is illuminating to re-examine this problem from the point of view of
energy conservation. Suppose that a mass m is dropped from rest and falls a
distance h. What is the final velocity v of the mass? Well, according to Eq. (5.1),
if energy is conserved then
∆K = −∆U : (5.5)
i.e., any increase in the kinetic energy of the mass must be offset by a correspond-
ing decrease in its potential energy. Now, the change in potential energy of the
mass is simply ∆U = mgs = −mgh, where s = −h is its net vertical displace-
ment. The change in kinetic energy is simply ∆K = (1/2) mv
2
, where v is the
final velocity. This follows because the initial kinetic energy of the mass is zero
(since it is initially at rest). Hence, the above expression yields
1
2
mv
2
= mgh, (5.6)
or
v =
_
2 gh. (5.7)
Suppose that the same mass is thrown upwards with initial velocity v. What
is the maximum height h to which it rises? Well, it is clear from Eq. (5.3) that
as the mass rises its potential energy increases. It, therefore, follows from energy
conservation that its kinetic energy must decrease with height. Note, however,
from Eq. (5.2), that kinetic energy can never be negative (since it is the product
of the two positive definite quantities, m and v
2
/2). Hence, once the mass has
risen to a height h which is such that its kinetic energy is reduced to zero it can
rise no further, and must, presumably, start to fall. The change in potential energy
of the mass in moving from its initial height to its maximum height is mgh. The
corresponding change in kinetic energy is −(1/2) mv
2
; since (1/2) mv
2
is the
initial kinetic energy, and the final kinetic energy is zero. It follows from Eq. (5.5)
that −(1/2) mv
2
= −mgh, which can be rearranged to give
h =
v
2
2 g
. (5.8)
It should be noted that the idea of energy conservation—although extremely
useful—is not a replacement for Newton’s laws of motion. For instance, in the
80
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.3 Work
previous example, there is no way in which we can deduce how long it takes
the mass to rise to its maximum height from energy conservation alone—this
information can only come from the direct application of Newton’s laws.
5.3 Work
We have seen that when a mass free-falls under the influence of gravity some of
its kinetic energy is transformed into potential energy, or vice versa. Let us now
investigate, in detail, how this transformation is effected. The mass falls because
it is subject to a downwards gravitational force of magnitude mg. It stands to
reason, therefore, that the transformation of kinetic into potential energy is a
direct consequence of the action of this force.
This is, perhaps, an appropriate point at which to note that the concept of
gravitational potential energy—although extremely useful—is, strictly speaking,
fictitious. To be more exact, the potential energy of a body is not an intrinsic
property of that body (unlike its kinetic energy). In fact, the gravitational po-
tential energy of a given body is stored in the gravitational field which surrounds
it. Thus, when the body rises, and its potential energy consequently increases by
an amount ∆U; in reality, it is the energy of the gravitational field surrounding
the body which increases by this amount. Of course, the increase in energy of
the gravitational field is offset by a corresponding decrease in the body’s kinetic
energy. Thus, when we speak of a body’s kinetic energy being transformed into
potential energy, we are really talking about a flow of energy from the body to the
surrounding gravitational field. This energy flow is mediated by the gravitational
force exerted by the field on the body in question.
Incidentally, according to Einstein’s general theory of relativity (1917), the
gravitational field of a mass consists of the local distortion that mass induces in
the fabric of space-time. Fortunately, however, we do not need to understand
general relativity in order to talk about gravitational fields or gravitational po-
tential energy. All we need to know is that a gravitational field stores energy
without loss: i.e., if a given mass rises a certain distance, and, thereby, gives up
a certain amount of energy to the surrounding gravitational field, then that field
81
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.3 Work
will return this energy to the mass—without loss—if the mass falls by the same
distance. In physics, we term such a field a conservative field (see later).
Suppose that a mass m falls a distance h. During this process, the energy of
the gravitational field decreases by a certain amount (i.e., the fictitious potential
energy of the mass decreases by a certain amount), and the body’s kinetic energy
increases by a corresponding amount. This transfer of energy, from the field to
the mass, is, presumably, mediated by the gravitational force −mg (the minus
sign indicates that the force is directed downwards) acting on the mass. In fact,
given that U = mgh, it follows from Eq. (5.5) that
∆K = f ∆h. (5.9)
In other words, the amount of energy transferred to the mass (i.e., the increase in
the mass’s kinetic energy) is equal to the product of the force acting on the mass
and the distance moved by the mass in the direction of that force.
In physics, we generally refer to the amount of energy transferred to a body,
when a force acts upon it, as the amount of work W performed by that force on
the body in question. It follows from Eq. (5.9) that when a gravitational force
f acts on a body, causing it to displace a distance x in the direction of that force,
then the net work done on the body is
W = f x. (5.10)
It turns out that this equation is quite general, and does not just apply to grav-
itational forces. If W is positive then energy is transferred to the body, and its
intrinsic energy consequently increases by an amount W. This situation occurs
whenever a body moves in the same direction as the force acting upon it. Like-
wise, if W is negative then energy is transferred from the body, and its intrinsic
energy consequently decreases by an amount |W|. This situation occurs when-
ever a body moves in the opposite direction to the force acting upon it. Since an
amount of work is equivalent to a transfer of energy, the mks unit of work is the
same as the mks unit of energy: namely, the joule.
In deriving equation (5.10), we have made two assumptions which are not
universally valid. Firstly, we have assumed that the motion of the body upon
82
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.3 Work
which the force acts is both 1-dimensional and parallel to the line of action of the
force. Secondly, we have assumed that the force does not vary with position. Let
us attempt to relax these two assumptions, so as to obtain an expression for the
work W done by a general force f.
Let us start by relaxing the first assumption. Suppose, for the sake of argument,
that we have a mass m which moves under gravity in 2-dimensions. Let us adopt
the coordinate system shown in Fig. 35, with z representing vertical distance,
and x representing horizontal distance. The vector acceleration of the mass is
simply a = (0, −g). Here, we are neglecting the redundant y-component, for the
sake of simplicity. The physics of motion under gravity in more than 1-dimension
is summarized by the three equations (3.35)–(3.37). Let us examine the last of
these equations:
v
2
= v
2
0
+2 a·s. (5.11)
Here, v
0
is the speed at t = 0, v is the speed at t = t, and s = (∆x, ∆z) is the
net displacement of the mass during this time interval. Recalling the definition
of a scalar product [i.e., a·b = (a
x
b
x
+a
y
b
y
+a
z
b
z
)], the above equation can be
rearranged to give
1
2
mv
2

1
2
mv
2
0
= −mg∆z. (5.12)
Since the right-hand side of the above expression is manifestly the increase in the
kinetic energy of the mass between times t = 0 and t = t, the left-hand side must
equal the decrease in the mass’s potential energy during the same time interval.
Hence, we arrive at the following expression for the gravitational potential energy
of the mass:
U = mgz. (5.13)
Of course, this expression is entirely equivalent to our previous expression for
gravitational potential energy, Eq. (5.3). The above expression merely makes
manifest a point which should have been obvious anyway: namely, that the grav-
itational potential energy of a mass only depends on its height above the ground,
and is quite independent of its horizontal displacement.
Let us now try to relate the flow of energy between the gravitational field and
the mass to the action of the gravitational force, f = (0, −mg). Equation (5.12)
83
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.3 Work
z
x
m
Figure 35: Coordinate system for 2-dimensional motion under gravity
can be rewritten
∆K = W = f· s. (5.14)
In other words, the work W done by the force f is equal to the scalar product of f
and the vector displacement s of the body upon which the force acts. It turns out
that this result is quite general, and does not just apply to gravitational forces.
Figure 36 is a visualization of the definition (5.14). The work W performed
by a force f when the object upon which it acts is subject to a displacement s is
W = |f| |s| cos θ. (5.15)
where θ is the angle subtended between the directions of f and s. In other words,
the work performed is the product of the magnitude of the force, |f|, and the
displacement of the object in the direction of that force, |s| cos θ. It follows that
any component of the displacement in a direction perpendicular to the force gen-
erates zero work. Moreover, if the displacement is entirely perpendicular to the
direction of the force (i.e., if θ = 90

) then no work is performed, irrespective
of the nature of the force. As before, if the displacement has a component in
the same direction as the force (i.e., if θ < 90

) then positive work is performed
Likewise, if the displacement has a component in the opposite direction to the
force (i.e., if θ > 90

) then negative work is performed.
Suppose, now, that an object is subject to a force f which varies with position.
What is the total work done by the force when the object moves along some
general trajectory in space between points A and B (say)? See Fig. 37. Well,
one way in which we could approach this problem would be to approximate the
trajectory as a series of N straight-line segments, as shown in Fig. 38. Suppose
84
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.3 Work
s
θ
cos θ
|s|
|f|
f
|s|
Figure 36: Definition of work
that the vector displacement of the ith segment is ∆r
i
. Suppose, further, that N is
sufficiently large that the force f does not vary much along each segment. In fact,
let the average force along the ith segment be f
i
. We shall assume that formula
(5.14)—which is valid for constant forces and straight-line displacements—holds
good for each segment. It follows that the net work done on the body, as it moves
from point A to point B, is approximately
W
N

i=1
f
i
·∆r
i
. (5.16)
We can always improve the level of our approximation by increasing the number
N of the straight-line segments which we use to approximate the body’s trajectory
between points A and B. In fact, if we take the limit N → ∞ then the above
expression becomes exact:
W = lim
N→∞
N

i=1
f
i
·∆r
i
=

B
A
f(r)·dr. (5.17)
Here, r measures vector displacement from the origin of our coordinate system,
and the mathematical construct

B
A
f(r)·dr is termed a line-integral.
The meaning of Eq. (5.17) becomes a lot clearer if we restrict our attention to
1-dimensional motion. Suppose, therefore, that an object moves in 1-dimension,
with displacement x, and is subject to a varying force f(x) (directed along the
x-axis). What is the work done by this force when the object moves from x
A
85
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.3 Work
A
B
Figure 37: Possible trajectory of an object in a variable force-field
A
B
Figure 38: Approximation to the previous trajectory using straight-line segments
86
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.3 Work
x x x ->
A B
f

-
>
Figure 39: Work performed by a 1-dimensional force
to x
B
? Well, a straight-forward application of Eq. (5.17) [with f = (f, 0, 0) and
dr = (dx, 0, 0)] yields
W =

x
B
x
A
f(x) dx. (5.18)
In other words, the net work done by the force as the object moves from displace-
ment x
A
to x
B
is simply the area under the f(x) curve between these two points,
as illustrated in Fig. 39.
Let us, finally, round-off this discussion by re-deriving the so-called work-
energy theorem, Eq. (5.14), in 1-dimension, allowing for a non-constant force.
According to Newton’s second law of motion,
f = m
d
2
x
dt
2
. (5.19)
Combining Eqs. (5.18) and (5.19), we obtain
W =

x
B
x
A
m
d
2
x
dt
2
dx =

t
B
t
A
m
d
2
x
dt
2
dx
dt
dt =

t
B
t
A
d
dt
_
_
m
2
_
dx
dt
_
2
_
_
dt, (5.20)
where x(t
A
) = x
A
and x(t
B
) = x
B
. It follows that
W =
1
2
mv
2
B

1
2
mv
2
A
= ∆K, (5.21)
where v
A
= (dx/dt)
t
A
and v
B
= (dx/dt)
t
B
. Thus, the net work performed on a
body by a non-uniform force, as it moves from point A to point B, is equal to the
87
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.4 Conservative and non-conservative force-fields
net increase in that body’s kinetic energy between these two points. This result
is completely general (at least, for conservative force-fields—see later), and does
not just apply to 1-dimensional motion.
Suppose, finally, that an object is subject to more than one force. How do we
calculate the net work W performed by all these forces as the object moves from
point A to point B? One approach would be to calculate the work done by each
force, taken in isolation, and then to sum the results. In other words, defining
W
i
=

B
A
f
i
(r)·dr (5.22)
as the work done by the ith force, the net work is given by
W =

i
W
i
. (5.23)
An alternative approach would be to take the vector sum of all the forces to find
the resultant force,
f =

i
f
i
, (5.24)
and then to calculate the work done by the resultant force:
W =

B
A
f(r)·dr. (5.25)
It should, hopefully, be clear that these two approaches are entirely equivalent.
5.4 Conservative and non-conservative force-fields
Suppose that a non-uniform force-field f(r) acts upon an object which moves
along a curved trajectory, labeled path 1, from point A to point B. See Fig. 40.
As we have seen, the work W
1
performed by the force-field on the object can be
written as a line-integral along this trajectory:
W
1
=

A→B:path1
f·dr. (5.26)
88
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.4 Conservative and non-conservative force-fields
B
2
1
A
Figure 40: Two alternative paths between points A and B
Suppose that the same object moves along a different trajectory, labeled path
2, between the same two points. In this case, the work W
2
performed by the
force-field is
W
2
=

A→B:path2
f·dr. (5.27)
Basically, there are two possibilities. Firstly, the line-integrals (5.26) and (5.27)
might depend on the end points, A and B, but not on the path taken between
them, in which case W
1
= W
2
. Secondly, the line-integrals (5.26) and (5.27)
might depend both on the end points, A and B, and the path taken between
them, in which case W
1
= W
2
(in general). The first possibility corresponds
to what physicists term a conservative force-field, whereas the second possibility
corresponds to a non-conservative force-field.
What is the physical distinction between a conservative and a non-conservative
force-field? Well, the easiest way of answering this question is to slightly modify
the problem discussed above. Suppose, now, that the object moves from point
A to point B along path 1, and then from point B back to point A along path 2.
What is the total work done on the object by the force-field as it executes this
closed circuit? Incidentally, one fact which should be clear from the definition of
a line-integral is that if we simply reverse the path of a given integral then the
89
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.4 Conservative and non-conservative force-fields
value of that integral picks up a minus sign: in other words,

B
A
f·dr = −

A
B
f·dr, (5.28)
where it is understood that both the above integrals are taken in opposite direc-
tions along the same path. Recall that conventional 1-dimensional integrals obey
an analogous rule: i.e., if we swap the limits of integration then the integral picks
up a minus sign. It follows that the total work done on the object as it executes
the circuit is simply
∆W = W
1
−W
2
, (5.29)
where W
1
and W
2
are defined in Eqs. (5.26) and (5.27), respectively. There is a
minus sign in front of W
2
because we are moving from point B to point A, instead
of the other way around. For the case of a conservative field, we have W
1
= W
2
.
Hence, we conclude that
∆W = 0. (5.30)
In other words, the net work done by a conservative field on an object taken
around a closed loop is zero. This is just another way of saying that a conservative
field stores energy without loss: i.e., if an object gives up a certain amount of
energy to a conservative field in traveling from point A to point B, then the field
returns this energy to the object—without loss—when it travels back to point B.
For the case of a non-conservative field, W
1
= W
2
. Hence, we conclude that
∆W = 0. (5.31)
In other words, the net work done by a non-conservative field on an object taken
around a closed loop is non-zero. In practice, the net work is invariably negative.
This is just another way of saying that a non-conservative field dissipates energy:
i.e., if an object gives up a certain amount of energy to a non-conservative field
in traveling from point A to point B, then the field only returns part, or, perhaps,
none, of this energy to the object when it travels back to point B. The remainder
is usually dissipated as heat.
What are typical examples of conservative and non-conservative fields? Well,
a gravitational field is probably the most well-known example of a conservative
field (see later). A typical example of a non-conservative field might consist of
90
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.4 Conservative and non-conservative force-fields
∆ r
i
f
i
Figure 41: Closed circuit over a rough horizontal surface
an object moving over a rough horizontal surface. Suppose, for the sake of sim-
plicity, that the object executes a closed circuit on the surface which is made up
entirely of straight-line segments, as shown in Fig. 41. Let ∆r
i
represent the vec-
tor displacement of the ith leg of this circuit. Suppose that the frictional force
acting on the object as it executes this leg is f
i
. One thing that we know about a
frictional force is that it is always directed in the opposite direction to the instan-
taneous direction of motion of the object upon which it acts. Hence, f
i
∝ −∆r
i
.
It follows that f
i
·∆r
i
= −|f
i
| |∆r
i
|. Thus, the net work performed by the frictional
force on the object, as it executes the circuit, is given by
∆W =

i
f
i
·∆r
i
= −

i
|f
i
| |∆r
i
| < 0. (5.32)
The fact that the net work is negative indicates that the frictional force continually
drains energy from the object as it moves over the surface. This energy is actu-
ally dissipated as heat (we all know that if we rub two rough surfaces together,
sufficiently vigorously, then they will eventually heat up: this is how mankind
first made fire) and is, therefore, lost to the system. (Generally speaking, the
laws of thermodynamics forbid energy which has been converted into heat from
being converted back to its original form.) Hence, friction is an example of a
non-conservative force, because it dissipates energy rather than storing it.
91
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.5 Potential energy
5.5 Potential energy
Consider a body moving in a conservative force-field f(r). Let us arbitrarily pick
some point O in this field. We can define a function U(r) which possesses a
unique value at every point in the field. The value of this function associated
with some general point R is simply
U(R) = −

R
O
f·dr. (5.33)
In other words, U(R) is just the energy transferred to the field (i.e., minus the
work done by the field) when the body moves from point O to point R. Of
course, the value of U at point O is zero: i.e., U(O) = 0. Note that the above
definition uniquely specifies U(R), since the work done when a body moves be-
tween two points in a conservative force-field is independent of the path taken
between these points. Furthermore, the above definition would make no sense
in a non-conservative field, since the work done when a body moves between
two points in such a field is dependent on the chosen path: hence, U(R) would
have an infinite number of different values corresponding to the infinite number
of different paths the body could take between points O and R.
According to the work-energy theorem,
∆K =

R
O
f·dr. (5.34)
In other words, the net change in the kinetic energy of the body, as it moves from
point O to point R, is equal to the work done on the body by the force-field during
this process. However, comparing with Eq. (5.33), we can see that
∆K = U(O) −U(R) = −∆U. (5.35)
In other words, the increase in the kinetic energy of the body, as it moves from
point O to point R, is equal to the decrease in the function U evaluated between
these same two points. Another way of putting this is
E = K +U = constant : (5.36)
92
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.6 Hooke’s law
i.e., the sumof the kinetic energy and the function Uremains constant as the body
moves around in the force-field. It should be clear, by now, that the function U
represents some form of potential energy.
The above discussion leads to the following important conclusions. Firstly, it
should be possible to associate a potential energy (i.e., an energy a body pos-
sesses by virtue of its position) with any conservative force-field. Secondly, any
force-field for which we can define a potential energy must necessarily be con-
servative. For instance, the existence of gravitational potential energy is proof
that gravitational fields are conservative. Thirdly, the concept of potential en-
ergy is meaningless in a non-conservative force-field (since the potential energy
at a given point cannot be uniquely defined). Fourthly, potential energy is only
defined to within an arbitrary additive constant. In other words, the point in
space at which we set the potential energy to zero can be chosen at will. This im-
plies that only differences in potential energies between different points in space
have any physical significance. For instance, we have seen that the definition of
gravitational potential energy is U = mgz, where z represents height above the
ground. However, we could just as well write U = mg(z − z
0
), where z
0
is the
height of some arbitrarily chosen reference point (e.g., the top of Mount Ever-
est, or the bottom of the Dead Sea). Fifthly, the difference in potential energy
between two points represents the net energy transferred to the associated force-
field when a body moves between these two points. In other words, potential
energy is not, strictly speaking, a property of the body—instead, it is a property
of the force-field within which the body moves.
5.6 Hooke’s law
Consider a mass m which slides over a horizontal frictionless surface. Suppose
that the mass is attached to a light horizontal spring whose other end is anchored
to an immovable object. See Fig. 42. Let x be the extension of the spring: i.e.,
the difference between the spring’s actual length and its unstretched length. Ob-
viously, x can also be used as a coordinate to determine the horizontal displace-
ment of the mass. According to Hooke’s law, the force f that the spring exerts on
93
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.6 Hooke’s law
x = 0
x
m
Figure 42: Mass on a spring
the mass is directly proportional to its extension, and always acts to reduce this
extension. Hence, we can write
f = −k x, (5.37)
where the positive quantity k is called the force constant of the spring. Note that
the minus sign in the above equation ensures that the force always acts to reduce
the spring’s extension: e.g., if the extension is positive then the force acts to the
left, so as to shorten the spring.
According to Eq. (5.18), the work performed by the spring force on the mass
as it moves from displacement x
A
to x
B
is
W =

x
B
x
A
f(x) dx = −k

x
B
x
A
x dx = −
_
1
2
k x
2
B

1
2
k x
2
A
_
. (5.38)
Note that the right-hand side of the above expression consists of the difference
between two factors: the first only depends on the final state of the mass, whereas
the second only depends on its initial state. This is a sure sign that it is possible
to associate a potential energy with the spring force. Equation (5.33), which is
the basic definition of potential energy, yields
U(x
B
) −U(x
A
) = −

x
B
x
A
f(x) dx =
1
2
k x
2
B

1
2
k x
2
A
. (5.39)
94
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.6 Hooke’s law
Hence, the potential energy of the mass takes the form
U(x) =
1
2
k x
2
. (5.40)
Note that the above potential energy actually represents energy stored by the
spring—in the form of mechanical stresses—when it is either stretched or com-
pressed. Incidentally, this energy must be stored without loss, otherwise the con-
cept of potential energy would be meaningless. It follows that the spring force is
another example of a conservative force.
It is reasonable to suppose that the form of the spring potential energy is some-
how related to the form of the spring force. Let us now explicitly investigate this
relationship. If we let x
B
→x and x
A
→0 then Eq. (5.39) gives
U(x) = −

x
0
f(x

) dx

. (5.41)
We can differentiate this expression to obtain
f = −
dU
dx
. (5.42)
Thus, in 1-dimension, a conservative force is equal to minus the derivative (with
respect to displacement) of its associated potential energy. This is a quite general
result. For the case of a spring force: U = (1/2) k x
2
, so f = −dU/dx = −k x.
As is easily demonstrated, the 3-dimensional equivalent to Eq. (5.42) is
f = −
_
∂U
∂x
,
∂U
∂y
,
∂U
∂z
_
. (5.43)
For example, we have seen that the gravitational potential energy of a mass m
moving above the Earth’s surface is U = mgz, where z measures height off the
ground. It follows that the associated gravitational force is
f = (0, 0, −mg). (5.44)
In other words, the force is of magnitude mg, and is directed vertically down-
ward.
95
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.7 Motion in a general 1-dimensional potential
The total energy of the mass shown in Fig. 42 is the sum of its kinetic and
potential energies:
E = K +U = K +
1
2
k x
2
. (5.45)
Of course, E remains constant during the mass’s motion. Hence, the above ex-
pression can be rearranged to give
K = E −
1
2
k x
2
. (5.46)
Since it is impossible for a kinetic energy to be negative, the above expression
suggests that |x| can never exceed the value
x
0
=
¸
¸
¸
_
2 E
k
. (5.47)
Here, x
0
is termed the amplitude of the mass’s motion. Note that when x attains its
maximum value x
0
, or its minimum value −x
0
, the kinetic energy is momentarily
zero (i.e., K = 0).
5.7 Motion in a general 1-dimensional potential
Suppose that the curve U(x) in Fig. 43 represents the potential energy of some
mass m moving in a 1-dimensional conservative force-field. For instance, U(x)
might represent the gravitational potential energy of a cyclist freewheeling in a
hilly region. Note that we have set the potential energy at infinity to zero. This is
a useful, and quite common, convention (recall that potential energy is undefined
to within an arbitrary additive constant). What can we deduce about the motion
of the mass in this potential?
Well, we know that the total energy, E—which is the sum of the kinetic energy,
K, and the potential energy, U—is a constant of the motion. Hence, we can write
K(x) = E −U(x). (5.48)
Now, we also know that a kinetic energy can never be negative, so the above
expression tells us that the motion of the mass is restricted to the region (or
96
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.7 Motion in a general 1-dimensional potential
E
0
x
0
x ->
0
E
E
1
2
x x
1 2
U

-
>
Figure 43: General 1-dimensional potential
regions) in which the potential energy curve U(x) falls below the value E. This
idea is illustrated in Fig. 43. Suppose that the total energy of the system is E
0
.
It is clear, from the figure, that the mass is trapped inside one or other of the
two dips in the potential—these dips are generally referred to as potential wells.
Suppose that we now raise the energy to E
1
. In this case, the mass is free to enter
or leave each of the potential wells, but its motion is still bounded to some extent,
since it clearly cannot move off to infinity. Finally, let us raise the energy to E
2
.
Now the mass is unbounded: i.e., it can move off to infinity. In systems in which it
makes sense to adopt the convention that the potential energy at infinity is zero,
bounded systems are characterized by E < 0, whereas unbounded systems are
characterized by E > 0.
The above discussion suggests that the motion of a mass moving in a potential
generally becomes less bounded as the total energy E of the system increases.
Conversely, we would expect the motion to become more bounded as E decreases.
In fact, if the energy becomes sufficiently small, it appears likely that the system
will settle down in some equilibrium state in which the mass is stationary. Let us
try to identify any prospective equilibrium states in Fig. 43. If the mass remains
stationary then it must be subject to zero force (otherwise it would accelerate).
Hence, according to Eq. (5.42), an equilibrium state is characterized by
dU
dx
= 0. (5.49)
97
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.7 Motion in a general 1-dimensional potential
In other words, a equilibrium state corresponds to either a maximum or a min-
imum of the potential energy curve U(x). It can be seen that the U(x) curve
shown in Fig. 43 has three associated equilibrium states: these are located at
x = x
0
, x = x
1
, and x = x
2
.
Let us now make a distinction between stable equilibrium points and unstable
equilibrium points. When the system is slightly perturbed from a stable equi-
librium point then the resultant force f should always be such as to attempt to
return the system to this point. In other words, if x = x
0
is an equilibrium point,
then we require
df
dx
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
x
0
< 0 (5.50)
for stability: i.e., if the system is perturbed to the right, so that x − x
0
> 0, then
the force must act to the left, so that f < 0, and vice versa. Likewise, if
df
dx
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
x
0
> 0 (5.51)
then the equilibrium point x = x
0
is unstable. It follows, from Eq. (5.42), that
stable equilibrium points are characterized by
d
2
U
dx
2
> 0. (5.52)
In other words, a stable equilibrium point corresponds to a minimum of the po-
tential energy curve U(x). Likewise, an unstable equilibrium point corresponds
to a maximum of the U(x) curve. Hence, we conclude that x = x
0
and x = x
2
are
stable equilibrium points, in Fig. 43, whereas x = x
1
is an unstable equilibrium
point. Of course, this makes perfect sense if we think of U(x) as a gravitational
potential energy curve, in which case U is directly proportional to height. All we
are saying is that it is easy to confine a low energy mass at the bottom of a valley,
but very difficult to balance the same mass on the top of a hill (since any slight
perturbation to the mass will cause it to fall down the hill). Note, finally, that if
dU
dx
=
d
2
U
dx
2
= 0 (5.53)
at any point (or in any region) then we have what is known as a neutral equilib-
rium point. We can move the mass slightly off such a point and it will still remain
98
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.8 Power
x ->
Neutral Equilibrium Unstable Equilibrium Stable Equilibrium
U
(
x
)

-
>
Figure 44: Different types of equilibrium
in equilibrium (i.e., it will neither attempt to return to its initial state, nor will
it continue to move). A neutral equilibrium point corresponds to a flat spot in a
U(x) curve. See Fig. 44.
5.8 Power
Suppose that an object moves in a general force-field f(r). We now know how to
calculate how much energy flows from the force-field to the object as it moves
along a given path between two points. Let us now consider the rate at which
this energy flows. If dW is the amount of work that the force-field performs on
the mass in a time interval dt then the rate of working is given by
P =
dW
dt
. (5.54)
In other words, the rate of working—which is usually referred to as the power—is
simply the time derivative of the work performed. Incidentally, the mks unit of
power is called the watt (symbol W). In fact, 1 watt equals 1 kilogram meter-
squared per second-cubed, or 1 joule per second.
Suppose that the object displaces by dr in the time interval dt. By definition,
the amount of work done on the object during this time interval is given by
dW = f·dr. (5.55)
It follows from Eq. (5.54) that
P = f·v, (5.56)
99
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.8 Power
where v = dr/dt is the object’s instantaneous velocity. Note that power can be
positive or negative, depending on the relative directions of the vectors f and v.
If these two vectors are mutually perpendicular then the power is zero. For the
case of 1-dimensional motion, the above expression reduces to
P = f v. (5.57)
In other words, in 1-dimension, power simply equals force times velocity.
Worked example 5.1: Bucket lifted from a well
Question: A man lifts a 30 kg bucket from a well whose depth is 150 m. Assuming
that the man lifts the bucket at a constant rate, how much work does he perform?
Answer: Let m be the mass of the bucket and h the depth of the well. The gravita-
tional force f

acting on the bucket is of magnitude mg and is directed vertically
downwards. Hence, f

= −mg (where upward is defined to be positive). The net
upward displacement of the bucket is h. Hence, the work W

performed by the
gravitational force is the product of the (constant) force and the displacement of
the bucket along the line of action of that force:
W

= f

h = −mgh.
Note that W

is negative, which implies that the gravitational field surrounding
the bucket gains energy as the bucket is lifted. In order to lift the bucket at a
constant rate, the man must exert a force f on the bucket which balances (and
very slightly exceeds) the force due to gravity. Hence, f = −f

. It follows that the
work W done by the man is
W = f h = mgh = 30 ×150 ×9.81 = 4.415 ×10
4
J.
Note that the work is positive, which implies that the man expends energy whilst
lifting the bucket. Of course, since W = −W

, the energy expended by the man
equals the energy gained by the gravitational field.
100
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.8 Power
F
f
dock
chest
m g
R
θ
Worked example 5.2: Dragging a treasure chest
Question: A pirate drags a 50kg treasure chest over the rough surface of a dock
by exerting a constant force of 95N acting at an angle of 15

above the horizon-
tal. The chest moves 6m in a straight line, and the coefficient of kinetic friction
between the chest and the dock is 0.15. How much work does the pirate perform?
How much energy is dissipated as heat via friction? What is the final velocity of
the chest?
Answer: Referring to the diagram, the force F exerted by the pirate can be re-
solved into a horizontal component F cos θ and a vertical component F sinθ.
Since the chest only moves horizontally, the vertical component of F performs
zero work. The work W performed by the horizontal component is simply the
magnitude of this component times the horizontal distance x moved by the chest:
W = F cos θx = 95 ×cos 15

×6 = 550.6 J.
The chest is subject to the following forces in the vertical direction: the down-
ward force mg due to gravity, the upward reaction force R due to the dock, and
the upward component F sinθ of the force exerted by the pirate. Since the chest
does not accelerate in the vertical direction, these forces must balance. Hence,
R = mg −F sinθ = 50 ×9.81 −95 ×sin15

= 465.9 N.
The frictional force f is the product of the coefficient of kinetic friction µ
k
and the
normal reaction R, so
f = µ
k
R = 0.15 ×465.9 = 69.89 N.
101
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.8 Power
The work W

done by the frictional force is
W

= −f x = −69.89 ×6 = −419.3 J.
Note that there is a minus sign in front of the f because the displacement of
the chest is in the opposite direction to the frictional force. The fact that W

is
negative indicates a loss of energy by the chest: this energy is dissipated as heat
via friction. Hence, the dissipated energy is 419.3 J.
The final kinetic energy K of the chest (assuming that it is initially at rest)
is the difference between the work W done by the pirate and the energy −W

dissipated as heat. Hence,
K = W +W

= 550.6 −419.3 = 131.3 J.
Since K = (1/2) mv
2
, the final velocity of the chest is
v =
¸
¸
¸
_
2 K
m
=
¸
¸
¸
_
2 ×131.3
50
= 2.29 m/s.
Worked example 5.3: Stretching a spring
Question: The force required to slowly stretch a spring varies from 0N to 105N
as the spring is extended by 13cm from its unstressed length. What is the force
constant of the spring? What work is done in stretching the spring? Assume that
the spring obeys Hooke’s law.
Answer: The force f that the spring exerts on whatever is stretching it is f = −k x,
where k is the force constant, and x is the extension of the spring. The minus
sign indicates that the force acts in the opposite direction to the extension. Since
the spring is stretched slowly, the force f

which must be exerted on it is (almost)
equal and opposite to f. Hence, f

= −f = k x. We are told that f

= 105 N when
x = 0.13 m. It follows that
k =
105
0.13
= 807.7 N/m.
102
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.8 Power
A
B
h
1
h
2
The work W

done by the external force in extending the spring from 0 to x is
W

=

x
0
f

dx = k

x
0
x dx =
1
2
k x
2
.
Hence,
W

= 0.5 ×807.7 ×0.13
2
= 6.83 J.
Worked example 5.4: Roller coaster ride
Question: A roller coaster cart of mass m = 300 kg starts at rest at point A, whose
height off the ground is h
1
= 25 m, and a little while later reaches point B, whose
height off the ground is h
2
= 7 m. What is the potential energy of the cart relative
to the ground at point A? What is the speed of the cart at point B, neglecting the
effect of friction?
Answer: The gravitational potential energy of the cart with respect to the ground
at point A is
U
A
= mgh
1
= 300 ×9.81 ×25 = 7.36 ×10
4
J.
Likewise, the potential energy of the cart at point B is
U
B
= mgh
2
= 300 ×9.81 ×7 = 2.06 ×10
4
J.
Hence, the change in the cart’s potential energy in moving from point A to point
B is
∆U = U
B
−U
A
= 2.06 ×10
4
−7.36 ×10
4
= −5.30 ×10
4
J.
103
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.8 Power
By energy conservation, ∆K = −∆U, where K represents kinetic energy. How-
ever, since the initial kinetic energy is zero, the change in kinetic energy ∆K is
equivalent to the final kinetic energy K
B
. Thus,
K
B
= −∆U = 5.30 ×10
4
J.
Now, K
B
= (1/2) mv
2
B
, where v
B
is the final speed. Hence,
v
B
=
¸
¸
¸
_
2 K
B
m
=
¸
¸
¸
_
2 ×5.30 ×10
4
300
= 18.8 m/s.
Worked example 5.5: Sliding down a plane
Question: A block of mass m = 3 kg starts at rest at a height of h = 43 cm on a
plane that has an angle of inclination of θ = 35

with respect to the horizontal.
The block slides down the plane, and, upon reaching the bottom, then slides
along a horizontal surface. The coefficient of kinetic friction of the block on both
surfaces is µ = 0.25. How far does the block slide along the horizontal surface
before coming to rest?
Answer: The normal reaction of the plane to the block’s weight is
R = mg cos θ.
Hence, the frictional force acting on the block when it is sliding down the plane
is
f = µR = 0.25 ×3 ×9.81 ×cos 35

= 6.03 N.
The change in gravitational potential energy of the block as it slides down the
plane is
∆U = −mgh = −3 ×9.81 ×0.43 = −12.65 J.
The work W done on the block by the frictional force during this process is
W = −f x,
104
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.8 Power
where x = h/ sinθ is the distance the block slides. The minus sign indicates that
f acts in the opposite direction to the displacement of the block. Hence,
W = −
6.03 ×0.43
sin35

= −4.52 J.
Now, by energy conservation, the kinetic energy K of the block at the bottom of
the plane equals the decrease in the block’s potential energy plus the amount of
work done on the block:
K = −∆U+W = 12.65 −4.52 = 8.13 J.
The frictional force acting on the block when it slides over the horizontal sur-
face is
f

= µmg = 0.25 ×3 ×9.81 = 7.36 N.
The work done on the block as it slides a distance y over this surface is
W

= −f

y.
By energy conservation, the block comes to rest when the action of the frictional
force has drained all of the kinetic energy from the block: i.e., when W

= −K. It
follows that
y =
K
f

=
8.13
7.36
= 1.10 m.
Worked example 5.6: Driving up an incline
Question: A car of weight 3000N possesses an engine whose maximum power
output is 160kW. The maximum speed of this car on a level road is 35m/s.
Assuming that the resistive force (due to a combination of friction and air re-
sistance) remains constant, what is the car’s maximum speed on an incline of 1
in 20 (i.e., if θ is the angle of the incline with respect to the horizontal, then
sinθ = 1/20)?
Answer: When the car is traveling on a level road at its maximum speed, v, then
all of the power output, P, of its engine is used to overcome the power dissipated
by the resistive force, f. Hence,
P = f v
105
5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.8 Power
θ
h
m
f
where the left-hand side is the power output of the engine, and the right-hand
side is the power dissipated by the resistive force (i.e., minus the rate at which
this force does work on the car). It follows that
f =
P
v
=
160 ×10
3
35
= 4.57 ×10
3
N.
When the car, whose weight is W, is traveling up an incline, whose angle with
respect to the horizontal is θ, it is subject to the additional force f

= W sinθ,
which acts to impede its motion. Of course, this force is just the component of
the car’s weight acting down the incline. Thus, the new power balance equation
is written
P = f v

+W sinθv

,
where v

is the maximum velocity of the car up the incline. Here, the left-hand
side represents the power output of the car, whereas the right-hand side repre-
sents the sum of the power dissipated by the resistive force and the power ex-
pended to overcome the component of the car’s weight acting down the incline.
It follows that
v

=
P
f +W sinθ
=
160 ×10
3
4.57 ×10
3
+3000/20
= 33.90 m/s.
106
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM
6 Conservation of momentum
6.1 Introduction
Up to now, we have only analyzed the behaviour of dynamical systems which
consist of single point masses (i.e., objects whose spatial extent is either negligi-
ble or plays no role in their motion) or arrangements of point masses which are
constrained to move together because they are connected via inextensible cables.
Let us now broaden our approach somewhat in order to take into account systems
of point masses which exert forces on one another, but are not necessarily con-
strained to move together. The classic example of such a multi-component point
mass system is one in which two (or more) freely moving masses collide with one
another. The physical concept which plays the central role in the dynamics of
multi-component point mass systems is the conservation of momentum.
6.2 Two-component systems
The simplest imaginable multi-component dynamical system consists of two point
mass objects which are both constrained to move along the same straight-line.
See Fig. 45. Let x
1
be the displacement of the first object, whose mass is m
1
.
Likewise, let x
2
be the displacement of the second object, whose mass is m
2
.
Suppose that the first object exerts a force f
21
on the second object, whereas the
second object exerts a force f
12
on the first. From Newton’s third law of motion,
we have
f
12
= −f
21
. (6.1)
Suppose, finally, that the first object is subject to an external force (i.e., a force
which originates outside the system) F
1
, whilst the second object is subject to an
external force F
2
.
Applying Newton’s second law of motion to each object in turn, we obtain
m
1
¨ x
1
= f
12
+F
1
, (6.2)
m
2
¨ x
2
= f
21
+F
2
. (6.3)
107
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.2 Two-component systems
Here, ˙ is a convenient shorthand for d/dt. Likewise, ¨ means d
2
/dt
2
.
At this point, it is helpful to introduce the concept of the centre of mass. The
centre of mass is an imaginary point whose displacement x
cm
is defined to be the
mass weighted average of the displacements of the two objects which constitute
the system. In other words,
x
cm
=
m
1
x
1
+m
2
x
2
m
1
+m
2
. (6.4)
Thus, if the two masses are equal then the centre of mass lies half way between
them; if the second mass is three times larger than the first then the centre of
mass lies three-quarters of the way along the line linking the first and second
masses, respectively; if the second mass is much larger than the first then the
centre of mass is almost coincident with the second mass; and so on.
Summing Eqs. (6.2) and (6.3), and then making use of Eqs. (6.1) and (6.4),
we obtain
m
1
¨ x
1
+m
2
¨ x
2
= (m
1
+m
2
) ¨ x
cm
= F
1
+F
2
. (6.5)
Note that the internal forces, f
12
and f
21
, have canceled out. The physical signifi-
cance of this equation becomes clearer if we write it in the following form:
M¨ x
cm
= F, (6.6)
where M = m
1
+ m
2
is the total mass of the system, and F = F
1
+ F
2
is the
net external force acting on the system. Thus, the motion of the centre of mass
is equivalent to that which would occur if all the mass contained in the system
were collected at the centre of mass, and this conglomerate mass were then acted
upon by the net external force. In general, this suggests that the motion of the
centre of mass is simpler than the motions of the component masses, m
1
and m
2
.
x
x
2
f
21
F
1
f
12
x
1
m
1
F
2
m
2
Figure 45: A 1-dimensional dynamical system consisting of two point mass objects
108
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.2 Two-component systems
This is particularly the case if the internal forces, f
12
and f
21
, are complicated in
nature.
Suppose that there are no external forces acting on the system (i.e., F
1
= F
2
=
0), or, equivalently, suppose that the sum of all the external forces is zero (i.e.,
F = F
1
+ F
2
= 0). In this case, according to Eq. (6.6), the motion of the centre
of mass is governed by Newton’s first law of motion: i.e., it consists of uniform
motion in a straight-line. Hence, in the absence of a net external force, the motion
of the centre of mass is almost certainly far simpler than that of the component
masses.
Now, the velocity of the centre of mass is written
v
cm
= ˙ x
cm
=
m
1
˙ x
1
+m
2
˙ x
2
m
1
+m
2
. (6.7)
We have seen that in the absence of external forces v
cm
is a constant of the motion
(i.e., the centre of mass does not accelerate). It follows that, in this case,
m
1
˙ x
1
+m
2
˙ x
2
(6.8)
is also a constant of the motion. Recall, however, from Sect. 4.3, that momentum
is defined as the product of mass and velocity. Hence, the momentum of the first
mass is written p
1
= m
1
˙ x
1
, whereas the momentum of the second mass takes the
form p
2
= m
2
˙ x
2
. It follows that the above expression corresponds to the total
momentum of the system:
P = p
1
+p
2
. (6.9)
Thus, the total momentum is a conserved quantity—provided there is no net
external force acting on the system. This is true irrespective of the nature of the
internal forces. More generally, Eq. (6.6) can be written
dP
dt
= F. (6.10)
In other words, the time derivative of the total momentum is equal to the net
external force acting on the system—this is just Newton’s second law of motion
applied to the system as a whole.
109
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.2 Two-component systems
x
g
x
w
x
cable
gondola
balloon
sandbag
Figure 46: An example two-component system
Let us now try to apply some of the concepts discussed above. Consider the
simple two-component system shown in Fig. 46. A gondola of mass m
g
hangs
from a hot-air balloon whose mass is negligible compared to that of the gondola.
A sandbag of mass m
w
is suspended from the gondola by means of a light inex-
tensible cable. The system is in equilibrium. Suppose, for the sake of consistency
with our other examples, that the x-axis runs vertically upwards. Let x
g
be the
height of the gondola, and x
w
the height of the sandbag. Suppose that the upper
end of the cable is attached to a winch inside the gondola, and that this winch is
used to slowly shorten the cable, so that the sandbag is lifted upwards a distance
∆x
w
. The question is this: does the height of the gondola also change as the cable
is reeled in? If so, by how much?
Let us identify all of the forces acting on the system shown in Fig. 46. The
internal forces are the upward force exerted by the gondola on the sandbag, and
the downward force exerted by the sandbag on the gondola. These forces are
transmitted via the cable, and are equal and opposite (by Newton’s third law of
motion). The external forces are the net downward force due to the combined
weight of the gondola and the sandbag, and the upward force due to the buoy-
ancy of the balloon. Since the system is in equilibrium, these forces are equal
and opposite (it is assumed that the cable is reeled in sufficiently slowly that the
110
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.2 Two-component systems
v
b
cannon cannonball
ground
v
r
Figure 47: Another example two-component system
equilibrium is not upset). Hence, there is zero net external force acting on the
system. It follows, from the previous discussion, that the centre of mass of the
system is subject to Newton’s first law. In particular, since the centre of mass is
clearly stationary before the winch is turned on, it must remain stationary both
during and after the period in which the winch is operated. Hence, the height of
the centre of mass,
x
cm
=
m
g
x
g
+m
w
x
w
m
g
+m
w
, (6.11)
is a conserved quantity.
Suppose that the operation of the winch causes the height of the sandbag to
change by ∆x
w
, and that of the gondola to simultaneously change by ∆x
g
. If x
cm
is a conserved quantity, then we must have
0 = m
g
∆x
g
+m
w
∆x
w
, (6.12)
or
∆x
g
= −
m
w
m
g
∆x
w
. (6.13)
Thus, if the winch is used to raise the sandbag a distance ∆x
w
then the gondola
is simultaneously pulled downwards a distance (m
w
/m
g
) ∆x
w
. It is clear that we
could use a suspended sandbag as a mechanism for adjusting a hot-air balloon’s
altitude: the balloon descends as the sandbag is raised, and ascends as it is low-
ered.
Our next example is pictured in Fig. 47. Suppose that a cannon of mass M
propels a cannonball of mass m horizontally with velocity v
b
. What is the recoil
111
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.3 Multi-component systems
velocity v
r
of the cannon? Let us first identify all of the forces acting on the sys-
tem. The internal forces are the force exerted by the cannon on the cannonball,
as the cannon is fired, and the equal and opposite force exerted by the cannon-
ball on the cannon. These forces are extremely large, but only last for a short
instance in time: in physics, we call these impulsive forces. There are no external
forces acting in the horizontal direction (which is the only direction that we are
considering in this example). It follows that the total (horizontal) momentum
P of the system is a conserved quantity. Prior to the firing of the cannon, the
total momentum is zero (since momentum is mass times velocity, and nothing is
initially moving). After the cannon is fired, the total momentum of the system
takes the form
P = mv
b
+Mv
r
. (6.14)
Since P is a conserved quantity, we can set P = 0. Hence,
v
r
= −
m
M
v
b
. (6.15)
Thus, the recoil velocity of the cannon is in the opposite direction to the velocity
of the cannonball (hence, the minus sign in the above equation), and is of magni-
tude (m/M) v
b
. Of course, if the cannon is far more massive that the cannonball
(i.e., Mm), which is usually the case, then the recoil velocity of the cannon is
far smaller in magnitude than the velocity of the cannonball. Note, however, that
the momentum of the cannon is equal in magnitude to that of the cannonball.
It follows that it takes the same effort (i.e., force applied for a certain period of
time) to slow down and stop the cannon as it does to slow down and stop the
cannonball.
6.3 Multi-component systems
Consider a system of N mutually interacting point mass objects which move in
3-dimensions. See Fig. 48. Let the ith object, whose mass is m
i
, be located at
vector displacement r
i
. Suppose that this object exerts a force f
ji
on the jth object.
By Newton’s third law of motion, the force f
ij
exerted by the jth object on the ith
is given by
f
ij
= −f
ji
. (6.16)
112
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.3 Multi-component systems
r
i
r
j
m
i
j
m
f
i j
f
j i
F
F
i
j
Figure 48: A 3-dimensional dynamical system consisting of many point mass objects.
Finally, suppose that the ith object is subject to an external force F
i
.
Newton’s second law of motion applied to the ith object yields
m
i
¨r
i
=
j=i

j=1,N
f
ij
+F
i
. (6.17)
Note that the summation on the right-hand side of the above equation excludes
the case j = i, since the ith object cannot exert a force on itself. Let us now take
the above equation and sum it over all objects. We obtain

i=1,N
m
i
¨r
i
=
j=i

i,j=1,N
f
ij
+

i=1,N
F
i
. (6.18)
Consider the sum over all internal forces: i.e., the first term on the right-hand
side. Each element of this sum—f
ij
, say—can be paired with another element—
f
ji
, in this case—which is equal and opposite. In other words, the elements of the
sum all cancel out in pairs. Thus, the net value of the sum is zero. It follows that
the above equation can be written
M¨r
cm
= F, (6.19)
113
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.3 Multi-component systems
where M =

N
i=1
m
i
is the total mass, and F =

N
i=1
F
i
is the net external force.
The quantity r
cm
is the vector displacement of the centre of mass. As before, the
centre of mass is an imaginary point whose coordinates are the mass weighted
averages of the coordinates of the objects which constitute the system. Thus,
r
cm
=

N
i=1
m
i
r
i

N
i=1
m
i
. (6.20)
According to Eq. (6.19), the motion of the centre of mass is equivalent to that
which would be obtained if all the mass contained in the system were collected
at the centre of mass, and this conglomerate mass were then acted upon by the
net external force. As before, the motion of the centre of mass is likely to be far
simpler than the motions of the component masses.
Suppose that there is zero net external force acting on the system, so that
F = 0. In this case, Eq. (6.19) implies that the centre of mass moves with uniform
velocity in a straight-line. In other words, the velocity of the centre of mass,
˙r
cm
=

N
i=1
m
i
˙r
i

N
i=1
m
i
, (6.21)
is a constant of the motion. Now, the momentum of the ith object takes the form
p
i
= m
i
˙r
i
. Hence, the total momentum of the system is written
P =
N

i=1
m
i
˙r
i
. (6.22)
A comparison of Eqs. (6.21) and (6.22) suggests that P is also a constant of the
motion when zero net external force acts on the system. Finally, Eq. (6.19) can
be rewritten
dP
dt
= F. (6.23)
In other words, the time derivative of the total momentum is equal to the net
external force acting on the system.
It is clear, from the above discussion, that most of the important results ob-
tained in the previous section, for the case of a two-component system moving in
1-dimension, also apply to a multi-component system moving in 3-dimensions.
114
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.4 Rocket science
trajectory of centre of mass
Krypton
explosion
fragments of Krypton
Figure 49: The unfortunate history of the planet Krypton.
As an illustration of the points raised in the above discussion, let us con-
sider the unfortunate history of the planet Krypton. As you probably all know,
Krypton—Superman’s home planet—eventually exploded. Note, however, that
before, during, and after this explosion the net external force acting on Krypton,
or the fragments of Krypton—namely, the gravitational attraction to Krypton’s
sun—remained the same. In other words, the forces responsible for the explo-
sion can be thought of as large, transitory, internal forces. We conclude that the
motion of the centre of mass of Krypton, or the fragments of Krypton, was un-
affected by the explosion. This follows, from Eq. (6.19), since the motion of the
centre of mass is independent of internal forces. Before the explosion, the planet
Krypton presumably executed a standard elliptical orbit around Krypton’s sun.
We conclude that, after the explosion, the fragments of Krypton (or, to be more
exact, the centre of mass of these fragments) continued to execute exactly the
same orbit. See Fig. 49.
6.4 Rocket science
A rocket engine is the only type of propulsion device that operates effectively in
outer space. As shown in Fig. 50, a rocket works by ejecting a propellant at high
velocity from its rear end. The rocket exerts a backward force on the propellant,
in order to eject it, and, by Newton’s third law, the propellant exerts an equal and
opposite force on the rocket, which propels it forward.
115
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.4 Rocket science
rocket
propellant
Figure 50: A rocket.
M+m
v+dv v
-dm
v-u
M+m+dm
t t+dt
Figure 51: Derivation of the rocket equation.
Let us attempt to find the equation of motion of a rocket. Let M be the fixed
mass of the rocket engine and the payload, and m(t) the total mass of the pro-
pellant contained in the rocket’s fuel tanks at time t. Suppose that the rocket
engine ejects the propellant at some fixed velocity u relative to the rocket. Let
us examine the rocket at two closely spaced instances in time. Suppose that at
time t the rocket and propellant, whose total mass is M + m, are traveling with
instantaneous velocity v. Suppose, further, that between times t and t + dt the
rocket ejects a quantity of propellant of mass −dm (n.b., dm is understood to
be negative, so this represents a positive mass) which travels with velocity v − u
(i.e., velocity −u in the instantaneous rest frame of the rocket). As a result of the
fuel ejection, the velocity of the rocket at time t +dt is boosted to v +dv, and its
total mass becomes M+m+dm. See Fig. 51.
Now, there is zero external force acting on the system, since the rocket is
116
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.4 Rocket science
assumed to be in outer space. It follows that the total momentum of the system is
a constant of the motion. Hence, we can equate the momenta evaluated at times
t and t +dt:
(M+m) v = (M+m+dm) (v +dv) + (−dm) (v −u). (6.24)
Neglecting second order quantities (i.e., dmdv), the above expression yields
0 = (M+m) dv +udm. (6.25)
Rearranging, we obtain
dv
u
= −
dm
M+m
. (6.26)
Let us integrate the above equation between an initial time at which the rocket
is fully fueled—i.e., m = m
p
, where m
p
is the maximum mass of propellant that
the rocket can carry—but stationary, and a final time at which the mass of the
fuel is m and the velocity of the rocket is v. Hence,

v
0
dv
u
= −

m
m
p
dm
M+m
. (6.27)
It follows that
_
v
u
_
v=v
v=0
= − [ln(M+m)]
m=m
m=m
p
, (6.28)
which yields
v = u ln
_
M+m
p
M+m
_
. (6.29)
The final velocity of the rocket (i.e., the velocity attained by the time the rocket
has exhausted its fuel, so that m = 0) is
v
f
= u ln
_
1 +
m
p
M
_
. (6.30)
Note that, unless the initial mass of the fuel exceeds the fixed mass of the rocket
by many orders of magnitude (which is highly unlikely), the final velocity v
f
of
the rocket is similar to the velocity u with which fuel is ejected from the rear
of the rocket in its instantaneous rest frame. This follows because lnx ∼ O(1),
unless x becomes extremely large.
117
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.5 Impulses
Let us now consider the factors which might influence the design of a rocket
for use in interplanetary or interstellar travel. Since the distances involved in
such travel are vast, it is important that the rocket’s final velocity be made as
large as possible, otherwise the journey is going to take an unacceptably long
time. However, as we have just seen, the factor which essentially determines the
final velocity v
f
of a rocket is the speed of ejection u of the propellant relative to
the rocket. Broadly speaking, v
f
can never significantly exceed u. It follows that
a rocket suitable for interplanetary or interstellar travel should have as high an
ejection speed as practically possible. Now, ordinary chemical rockets (the kind
which powered the Apollo moon program) can develop enormous thrusts, but
are limited to ejection velocities below about 5000 m/s. Such rockets are ideal
for lifting payloads out of the Earth’s gravitational field, but their relatively low
ejection velocities render them unsuitable for long distance space travel. A new
type of rocket engine, called an ion thruster, is currently under development:
ion thrusters operate by accelerating ions electrostatically to great velocities, and
then ejecting them. Although ion thrusters only generate very small thrusts, com-
pared to chemical rockets, their much larger ejection velocities (up to 100 times
those of chemical rockets) makes them far more suitable for interplanetary or
interstellar space travel. The first spacecraft to employ an ion thruster was the
Deep Space 1 probe, which was launched from Cape Canaveral on October 24,
1998: this probe successfully encountered the asteroid 9969 Braille in July, 1999.
6.5 Impulses
Suppose that a ball of mass m and speed u
i
strikes an immovable wall normally
and rebounds with speed u
f
. See Fig. 52. Clearly, the momentum of the ball is
changed by the collision with the wall, since the direction of the ball’s velocity
is reversed. It follows that the wall must exert a force on the ball, since force is
the rate of change of momentum. This force is generally very large, but is only
exerted for the short instance in time during which the ball is in physical contact
with the wall. As we have already mentioned, physicists generally refer to such a
force as an impulsive force.
118
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.5 Impulses
before
after
m
+ve
wall
u
u
f
i
Figure 52: A ball bouncing off a wall.
t
1
t
2
t
f

Figure 53: An impulsive force.
119
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.5 Impulses
Figure 53 shows the typical time history of an impulsive force, f(t). It can be
seen that the force is only non-zero in the short time interval t
1
to t
2
. It is helpful
to define a quantity known as the net impulse, I, associated with f(t):
I =

t
2
t
1
f(t) dt. (6.31)
In other words, I is the total area under the f(t) curve shown in Fig. 53.
Consider a object subject to the impulsive force pictured in Fig. 53. Newton’s
second law of motion yields
dp
dt
= f, (6.32)
where p is the momentum of the object. Integrating the above equation, making
use of the definition (6.31), we obtain
∆p = I. (6.33)
Here, ∆p = p
f
− p
i
, where p
i
is the momentum before the impulse, and p
f
is the
momentum after the impulse. We conclude that the net change in momentum
of an object subject to an impulsive force is equal to the total impulse associated
with that force. For instance, the net change in momentum of the ball bouncing
off the wall in Fig. 52 is ∆p = mu
f
− m(−u
i
) = m(u
f
+ u
i
). [Note: The initial
velocity is −u
i
, since the ball is initially moving in the negative direction.] It
follows that the net impulse imparted to the ball by the wall is I = m(u
f
+ u
i
).
Suppose that we know the ball was only in physical contact with the wall for the
short time interval ∆t. We conclude that the average force
¯
f exerted on the ball
during this time interval was
¯
f =
I
∆t
. (6.34)
The above discussion is only relevant to 1-dimensional motion. However, the
generalization to 3-dimensional motion is fairly straightforward. Consider an
impulsive force f(t), which is only non-zero in the short time interval t
1
to t
2
.
The vector impulse associated with this force is simply
I =

t
2
t
1
f(t) dt. (6.35)
120
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.6 Collisions in 1-dimension
v
i1
1
m
2
m
after
before
v
m
2
m
1
v
f1
v
i
f
2
2
Figure 54: A collision in 1-dimension.
The net change in momentum of an object subject to f(t) is
∆p = I. (6.36)
Finally, if t
2
− t
1
= ∆t, then the average force experienced by the object in the
time interval t
1
to t
2
is
¯
f =
I
∆t
. (6.37)
6.6 Collisions in 1-dimension
Consider two objects of mass m
1
and m
2
, respectively, which are free to move
in 1-dimension. Suppose that these two objects collide. Suppose, further, that
both objects are subject to zero net force when they are not in contact with one
another. This situation is illustrated in Fig. 54.
Both before and after the collision, the two objects move with constant velocity.
Let v
i1
and v
i2
be the velocities of the first and second objects, respectively, before
the collision. Likewise, let v
f1
and v
f2
be the velocities of the first and second
objects, respectively, after the collision. During the collision itself, the first object
exerts a large transitory force f
21
on the second, whereas the second object exerts
an equal and opposite force f
12
= −f
21
on the first. In fact, we can model the
collision as equal and opposite impulses given to the two objects at the instant in
time when they come together.
We are clearly considering a system in which there is zero net external force
(the forces associated with the collision are internal in nature). Hence, the total
121
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.6 Collisions in 1-dimension
momentum of the system is a conserved quantity. Equating the total momenta
before and after the collision, we obtain
m
1
v
i1
+m
2
v
i2
= m
1
v
f1
+m
2
v
f2
. (6.38)
This equation is valid for any 1-dimensional collision, irrespective its nature. Note
that, assuming we know the masses of the colliding objects, the above equation
only fully describes the collision if we are given the initial velocities of both ob-
jects, and the final velocity of at least one of the objects. (Alternatively, we could
be given both final velocities and only one of the initial velocities.)
There are many different types of collision. An elastic collision is one in which
the total kinetic energy of the two colliding objects is the same before and after
the collision. Thus, for an elastic collision we can write
1
2
m
1
v
2
i1
+
1
2
m
2
v
2
i2
=
1
2
m
1
v
2
f1
+
1
2
m
2
v
2
f2
, (6.39)
in addition to Eq. (6.38). Hence, in this case, the collision is fully specified once
we are given the two initial velocities of the colliding objects. (Alternatively, we
could be given the two final velocities.)
The majority of collisions occurring in real life are not elastic in nature. Some
fraction of the initial kinetic energy of the colliding objects is usually converted
into some other form of energy—generally heat energy, or energy associated with
the mechanical deformation of the objects—during the collision. Such collisions
are termed inelastic. For instance, a large fraction of the initial kinetic energy of
a typical automobile accident is converted into mechanical energy of deformation
of the two vehicles. Inelastic collisions also occur during squash/racquetball/handball
games: in each case, the ball becomes warm to the touch after a long game,
because some fraction of the ball’s kinetic energy of collision with the walls of
the court has been converted into heat energy. Equation (6.38) remains valid
for inelastic collisions—however, Eq. (6.39) is invalid. Thus, generally speak-
ing, an inelastic collision is only fully characterized when we are given the initial
velocities of both objects, and the final velocity of at least one of the objects.
There is, however, a special case of an inelastic collision—called a totally inelastic
collision—which is fully characterized once we are given the initial velocities of
122
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.6 Collisions in 1-dimension
the colliding objects. In a totally inelastic collision, the two objects stick together
after the collision, so that v
f1
= v
f2
.
Let us, now, consider elastic collisions in more detail. Suppose that we trans-
form to a frame of reference which co-moves with the centre of mass of the
system. The motion of a multi-component system often looks particularly simple
when viewed in such a frame. Since the system is subject to zero net external
force, the velocity of the centre of mass is invariant, and is given by
v
cm
=
m
1
v
i1
+m
2
v
i2
m
1
+m
2
=
m
1
v
f1
+m
2
v
f2
m
1
+m
2
. (6.40)
An object which possesses a velocity v in our original frame of reference—henceforth,
termed the laboratory frame—possesses a velocity v

= v − v
cm
in the centre of
mass frame. It is easily demonstrated that
v

i1
= −
m
2
m
1
+m
2
(v
i2
−v
i1
), (6.41)
v

i2
= +
m
1
m
1
+m
2
(v
i2
−v
i1
), (6.42)
v

f1
= −
m
2
m
1
+m
2
(v
f2
−v
f1
), (6.43)
v

f2
= +
m
1
m
1
+m
2
(v
f2
−v
f1
). (6.44)
The above equations yield
−p

i1
= p

i2
= µ(v
i2
−v
i1
), (6.45)
−p

f1
= p

f2
= µ(v
f2
−v
f1
), (6.46)
where µ = m
1
m
2
/(m
1
+ m
2
) is the so-called reduced mass, and p

i1
= m
1
v

i1
is the initial momentum of the first object in the centre of mass frame, etc. In
other words, when viewed in the centre of mass frame, the two objects approach
one another with equal and opposite momenta before the collision, and diverge
from one another with equal and opposite momenta after the collision. Thus, the
centre of mass momentum conservation equation,
p

i1
+p

i2
= p

f1
+p

f2
, (6.47)
123
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.6 Collisions in 1-dimension
is trivially satisfied, because both the left- and right-hand sides are zero. Inciden-
tally, this result is valid for both elastic and inelastic collisions.
The centre of mass kinetic energy conservation equation takes the form
p
2
i1
2 m
1
+
p
2
i2
2 m
2
=
p
2
f1
2 m
1
+
p
2
f2
2 m
2
. (6.48)
Note, incidentally, that if energy and momentum are conserved in the laboratory
frame then they must also be conserved in the centre of mass frame. A compari-
son of Eqs. (6.45), (6.46), and (6.48) yields
(v
i2
−v
i1
) = −(v
f2
−v
f1
). (6.49)
In other words, the relative velocities of the colliding objects are equal and opposite
before and after the collision. This is true in all frames of reference, since relative
velocities are frame invariant. Note, however, that this result only applies to fully
elastic collisions.
Equations (6.38) and (6.49) can be combined to give the following pair of
equations which fully specify the final velocities (in the laboratory frame) of two
objects which collide elastically, given their initial velocities:
v
f1
=
(m
1
−m
2
)
m
1
+m
2
v
i1
+
2 m
2
m
1
+m
2
v
i2
, (6.50)
v
f2
=
2 m
1
m
1
+m
2
v
i1

(m
1
−m
2
)
m
1
+m
2
v
i2
. (6.51)
Let us, now, consider some special cases. Suppose that two equal mass objects
collide elastically. If m
1
= m
2
then Eqs. (6.50) and (6.51) yield
v
f1
= v
i2
, (6.52)
v
f2
= v
i1
. (6.53)
In other words, the two objects simply exchange velocities when they collide. For
instance, if the second object is stationary and the first object strikes it head-on
with velocity v then the first object is brought to a halt whereas the second object
moves off with velocity v. It is possible to reproduce this effect in pool by striking
124
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.6 Collisions in 1-dimension
the cue ball with great force in such a manner that it slides, rather that rolls, over
the table—in this case, when the cue ball strikes another ball head-on it comes to
a complete halt, and the other ball is propelled forward very rapidly. Incidentally,
it is necessary to prevent the cue ball from rolling, because rolling motion is not
taken into account in our analysis, and actually changes the answer.
Suppose that the second object is much more massive than the first (i.e., m
2

m
1
) and is initially at rest (i.e., v
i2
= 0). In this case, Eqs. (6.50) and (6.51) yield
v
f1
−v
i1
, (6.54)
v
f2
0. (6.55)
In other words, the velocity of the light object is effectively reversed during the
collision, whereas the massive object remains approximately at rest. Indeed, this
is the sort of behaviour we expect when an object collides elastically with an
immovable obstacle: e.g., when an elastic ball bounces off a brick wall.
Suppose, finally, that the second object is much lighter than the first (i.e.,
m
2
m
1
) and is initially at rest (i.e., v
i2
= 0). In this case, Eqs. (6.50) and
(6.51) yield
v
f1
v
i1
, (6.56)
v
f2
2 v
i1
. (6.57)
In other words, the motion of the massive object is essentially unaffected by the
collision, whereas the light object ends up going twice as fast as the massive one.
Let us, now, consider totally inelastic collisions in more detail. In a totally
inelastic collision the two objects stick together after colliding, so they end up
moving with the same final velocity v
f
= v
f1
= v
f2
. In this case, Eq. (6.38)
reduces to
v
f
=
m
1
v
i1
+m
2
v
i2
m
1
+m
2
= v
cm
. (6.58)
In other words, the common final velocity of the two objects is equal to the centre
of mass velocity of the system. This is hardly a surprising result. We have already
seen that in the centre of mass frame the two objects must diverge with equal and
opposite momenta after the collision. However, in a totally inelastic collision these
125
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.6 Collisions in 1-dimension
m
1
m
2
m
2
m
1
v
i1
v
f2
v
f1
x
y
θ
2
θ
1
Figure 55: A collision in 2-dimensions.
two momenta must also be equal (since the two objects stick together). The only
way in which this is possible is if the two objects remain stationary in the centre
of mass frame after the collision. Hence, the two objects move with the centre of
mass velocity in the laboratory frame.
Suppose that the second object is initially at rest (i.e., v
i2
= 0). In this special
case, the common final velocity of the two objects is
v
f
=
m
1
m
1
+m
2
v
i1
. (6.59)
Note that the first object is slowed down by the collision. The fractional loss in
kinetic energy of the system due to the collision is given by
f =
K
i
−K
f
K
i
=
m
1
v
2
i1
− (m
1
+m
2
) v
2
f
m
1
v
2
i1
=
m
2
m
1
+m
2
. (6.60)
The loss in kinetic energy is small if the (initially) stationary object is much lighter
than the moving object (i.e., if m
2
m
1
), and almost 100% if the moving object
is much lighter than the stationary one (i.e., if m
2
m
1
). Of course, the lost
kinetic energy of the system is converted into some other form of energy: e.g.,
heat energy.
126
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions
6.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions
Suppose that an object of mass m
1
, moving with initial speed v
i1
, strikes a second
object, of mass m
2
, which is initially at rest. Suppose, further, that the collision
is not head-on, so that after the collision the first object moves off at an angle
θ
1
to its initial direction of motion, whereas the second object moves off at an
angle θ
2
to this direction. Let the final speeds of the two objects be v
f1
and v
f2
,
respectively. See Fig. 55.
We are again considering a system in which there is zero net external force
(the forces associated with the collision are internal in nature). It follows that the
total momentum of the system is a conserved quantity. However, unlike before,
we must now treat the total momentum as a vector quantity, since we are no
longer dealing with 1-dimensional motion. Note that if the collision takes place
wholly within the x-y plane, as indicated in Fig. 55, then it is sufficient to equate
the x- and y- components of the total momentum before and after the collision.
Consider the x-component of the system’s total momentum. Before the colli-
sion, the total x-momentum is simply m
1
v
i1
, since the second object is initially
stationary, and the first object is initially moving along the x-axis with speed
v
i1
. After the collision, the x-momentum of the first object is m
1
v
f1
cos θ
1
: i.e.,
m
1
times the x-component of the first object’s final velocity. Likewise, the final x-
momentum of the second object is m
2
v
f2
cos θ
2
. Hence, momentum conservation
in the x-direction yields
m
1
v
i1
= m
1
v
f1
cos θ
1
+m
2
v
f2
cos θ
2
. (6.61)
Consider the y-component of the system’s total momentum. Before the colli-
sion, the total y-momentum is zero, since there is initially no motion along the
y-axis. After the collision, the y-momentum of the first object is −m
1
v
f1
sinθ
1
:
i.e., m
1
times the y-component of the first object’s final velocity. Likewise, the
final y-momentum of the second object is m
2
v
f2
sinθ
2
. Hence, momentum con-
servation in the y-direction yields
m
1
v
f1
sinθ
1
= m
2
v
f2
sinθ
2
. (6.62)
127
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions
m + m
1 2
m
1
m
2
v
i2
v
i1
v
f
θ
i
θ
f x
y
Figure 56: A totally inelastic collision in 2-dimensions.
For the special case of an elastic collision, we can equate the total kinetic ener-
gies of the two objects before and after the collision. Hence, we obtain
1
2
m
1
v
2
i1
=
1
2
m
1
v
2
f1
+
1
2
m
2
v
2
f2
. (6.63)
Given the initial conditions (i.e., m
1
, m
2
, and v
i1
), we have a system of three
equations [i.e., Eqs. (6.61), (6.62), and (6.63)] and four unknowns (i.e., θ
1
, θ
2
,
v
f1
, and v
f2
). Clearly, we cannot uniquely solve such a system without being given
additional information: e.g., the direction of motion or speed of one of the objects
after the collision.
Figure 56 shows a 2-dimensional totally inelastic collision. In this case, the
first object, mass m
1
, initially moves along the x-axis with speed v
i1
. On the other
hand, the second object, mass m
2
, initially moves at an angle θ
i
to the x-axis with
speed v
i2
. After the collision, the two objects stick together and move off at an
angle θ
f
to the x-axis with speed v
f
. Momentum conservation along the x-axis
yields
m
1
v
i1
+m
2
v
i2
cos θ
i
= (m
1
+m
2
) v
f
cos θ
f
. (6.64)
Likewise, momentum conservation along the y-axis gives
m
2
v
i2
sinθ
i
= (m
1
+m
2
) v
f
sinθ
f
. (6.65)
Given the initial conditions (i.e., m
1
, m
2
, v
i1
, v
i2
, and θ
i
), we have a system of
128
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions
two equations [i.e., Eqs. (6.64) and (6.65)] and two unknowns (i.e., v
f
and θ
f
).
Clearly, we should be able to find a unique solution for such a system.
Worked example 6.1: Cannon in a railway carriage
Question: A cannon is bolted to the floor of a railway carriage, which is free to
move without friction along a straight track. The combined mass of the cannon
and the carriage is M = 1200 kg. The cannon fires a cannonball, of mass m =
1.2 kg, horizontally with velocity v = 115 m/s. The cannonball travels the length
of the carriage, a distance L = 85 m, and then becomes embedded in the carriage’s
end wall. What is the recoil speed of the carriage right after the cannon is fired?
What is the velocity of the carriage after the cannonball strikes the far wall? What
net distance, and in what direction, does the carriage move as a result of the firing
of the cannon?
L
v
M
m
Answer: Conservation of momentum implies that the net horizontal momentum
of the system is the same before and after the cannon is fired. The momentum
before the cannon is fired is zero, since nothing is initially moving. Hence, we
can also set the momentum after the cannon is fired to zero, giving
0 = Mu +mv,
where u is the recoil velocity of the carriage. It follows that
u = −
m
M
v = −
1.2 ×115
1200
= −0.115 m/s.
The minus sign indicates that the recoil velocity of the carriage is in the opposite
direction to the direction of motion of the cannonball. Hence, the recoil speed of
the carriage is |u| = 0.115 m/s.
129
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions
Suppose that, after the cannonball strikes the far wall of the carriage, both
the cannonball and the carriage move with common velocity w. Conservation of
momentum implies that the net horizontal momentum of the system is the same
before and after the collision. Hence, we can write
Mu +mv = (M+m) w.
However, we have already seen that Mu + mv = 0. It follows that w = 0:
in other words, the carriage is brought to a complete halt when the cannonball
strikes its far wall.
In the frame of reference of the carriage, the cannonball moves with velocity
v −u after the cannon is fired. Hence, the time of flight of the cannonball is
t =
L
v −u
=
85
115 +0.115
= 0.738 s.
The distance moved by the carriage in this time interval is
d = ut = −0.115 ×0.738 = −0.0849 m.
Thus, the carriage moves 8.49 cm in the opposite direction to the direction of
motion of the cannonball.
Worked example 6.2: Hitting a softball
Question: A softball of mass m = 0.35 kg is pitched at a speed of u = 12 m/s. The
batter hits the ball directly back to the pitcher at a speed of v = 21 m/s. The bat
acts on the ball for t = 0.01 s. What impulse is imparted by the bat to the ball?
What average force is exerted by the bat on the ball?
Answer: The initial momentum of the softball is −mu, whereas its final mo-
mentum is mv. Here, the final direction of motion of the softball is taken to be
positive. Thus, the net change in momentum of the softball due to its collision
with the bat is
∆p = mv − (−) mu = 0.35 ×(21 +12) = 11.55 Ns.
130
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions
By definition, the net momentum change is equal to the impulse imparted by the
bat, so
I = ∆p = 11.55 Ns.
The average force exerted by the bat on the ball is simply the net impulse
divided by the time interval over which the ball is in contact with the bat. Hence,
¯
f =
I
t
=
11.55
0.01
= 1155.0 N.
Worked example 6.3: Skater and medicine ball
Question: A skater of mass M = 120 kg is skating across a pond with uniform
velocity v = 8 m/s. One of the skater’s friends, who is standing at the edge of
the pond, throws a medicine ball of mass m = 20 kg with velocity u = 3 m/s to
the skater, who catches it. The direction of motion of the ball is perpendicular
to the initial direction of motion of the skater. What is the final speed of the
skater? What is the final direction of motion of the skater relative to his/her
initial direction of motion? Assume that the skater moves without friction.
y
x
θ
p
1
p
2
p
3
Answer: Suppose that the skater is initially moving along the x-axis, whereas the
initial direction of motion of the medicine ball is along the y-axis. The skater’s
initial momentum is
p
1
= (Mv, 0) = (120 ×8, 0) = (960, 0) Ns.
Likewise, the initial momentum of the medicine ball is
p
2
= (0, mu) = (0, 20 ×3) = (0, 60) Ns.
131
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions
After the skater catches the ball, the combined momentum of the skater and the
ball is
p
3
= p
1
+p
2
= (960, 60) Ns.
This follows from momentum conservation. The final speed of the skater (and
the ball) is
v

=
|p
3
|
M+m
=

960
2
+60
2
120 +20
= 6.87 m/s.
The final direction of motion of the skater is parameterized by the angle θ (see
the above diagram), where
θ = tan
−1
_
_
|p
2
|
|p
1
|
_
_
= tan
−1
_
60
960
_
= 3.58

.
Worked example 6.4: Bullet and block
Question: A bullet of mass m = 12 g strikes a stationary wooden block of mass
M = 5.2 kg standing on a frictionless surface. The block, with the bullet embed-
ded in it, acquires a velocity of v = 1.7 m/s. What was the velocity of the bullet
before it struck the block? What fraction of the bullet’s initial kinetic energy is
lost (i.e., dissipated) due to the collision with the block?
Answer: Let u be the initial velocity of the bullet. Momentum conservation re-
quires the total horizontal momentum of the system to be the same before and
after the bullet strikes the block. The initial momentum of the system is simply
mu, since the block is initially at rest. The final momentum is (M + m) v, since
both the block and the bullet end up moving with velocity v. Hence,
mu = (M+m) v,
giving
u =
M+m
m
v =
(0.012 +5.2) ×1.7
0.012
= 738.4 m/s.
The initial kinetic energy of the bullet is
K
i
=
1
2
mu
2
= 0.5 ×0.012 ×738.4
2
= 3.2714 kJ.
132
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions
The final kinetic energy of the system is
K
f
=
1
2
(M+m) v
2
= 0.5 ×(0.012 +5.2) ×1.7
2
= 7.53 J.
Hence, the fraction of the initial kinetic energy which is dissipated is
f =
K
i
−K
f
K
i
=
3.2714 ×10
3
−7.53
3.2714 ×10
3
= 0.9977.
Worked example 6.5: Elastic collision
Question: An object of mass m
1
= 2 kg, moving with velocity v
i1
= 12 m/s, col-
lides head-on with a stationary object whose mass is m
2
= 6 kg. Given that the
collision is elastic, what are the final velocities of the two objects. Neglect friction.
Answer: Momentum conservation yields
m
1
v
i1
= m
1
v
f1
+m
2
v
f2
,
where v
f1
and v
f2
are the final velocities of the first and second objects, respec-
tively. Since the collision is elastic, the total kinetic energy must be the same
before and after the collision. Hence,
1
2
m
1
v
2
i1
=
1
2
m
1
v
2
f1
+
1
2
m
2
v
2
f2
.
Let x = v
f1
/v
i1
and y = v
f2
/v
i1
. Noting that m
2
/m
1
= 3, the above two
equations reduce to
1 = x +3 y,
and
1 = x
2
+3 y
2
.
Eliminating x between the previous two expressions, we obtain
1 = (1 −3 y)
2
+3 y
2
,
or
6 y(2 y −1) = 0,
133
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions
which has the non-trivial solution y = 1/2. The corresponding solution for x is
x = (1 −3 y) = −1/2.
It follows that the final velocity of the first object is
v
f1
= x v
i1
= −0.5 ×12 = −6 m/s.
The minus sign indicates that this object reverses direction as a result of the
collision. Likewise, the final velocity of the second object is
v
f2
= yv
i1
= 0.5 ×12 = 6 m/s.
Worked example 6.6: 2-dimensional collision
Question: Two objects slide over a frictionless horizontal surface. The first object,
mass m
1
= 5 kg, is propelled with speed v
i1
= 4.5 m/s toward the second object,
mass m
2
= 2.5 kg, which is initially at rest. After the collision, both objects have
velocities which are directed θ = 30

on either side of the original line of motion
of the first object. What are the final speeds of the two objects? Is the collision
elastic or inelastic?
m
1
m
2
m
2
m
1
v
i1
v
f2
x
y
θ
θ
v
f1
Answer: Let us adopt the coordinate system shown in the diagram. Conservation
of momentum along the x-axis yields
m
1
v
i1
= m
1
v
f1
cos θ +m
2
v
f2
cos θ.
Likewise, conservation of momentum along the y-axis yields
m
1
v
f1
sinθ = m
2
v
f2
sinθ.
134
6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions
The above pair of equations can be combined to give
v
f1
=
v
i1
2 cos θ
=
4.5
2 ×cos 30

= 2.5981 m/s,
and
v
f2
=
m
1
m
2
v
f1
=
5 ×2.5981
2.5
= 5.1962 m/s.
The initial kinetic energy of the system is
K
i
=
1
2
m
1
v
2
i1
= 0.5 ×5 ×4.5
2
= 50.63 J.
The final kinetic energy of the system is
K
f
=
1
2
m
1
v
2
f1
+
1
2
m
2
v
2
f2
= 0.5 ×5 ×2.5981
2
+0.5 ×2.5 ×5.1962
2
= 50.63 J.
Since K
i
= K
f
, the collision is elastic.
135
7 CIRCULAR MOTION
7 Circular motion
7.1 Introduction
Up to now, we have basically only considered rectilinear motion: i.e., motion in
a straight-line. Let us now broaden our approach so as to take into account the
most important type of non-rectilinear motion: namely, circular motion.
7.2 Uniform circular motion
Suppose that an object executes a circular orbit of radius r with uniform tan-
gential speed v. The instantaneous position of the object is most conveniently
specified in terms of an angle θ. See Fig. 57. For instance, we could decide that
θ = 0

corresponds to the object’s location at t = 0, in which case we would write
θ(t) = ωt, (7.1)
where ω is termed the angular velocity of the object. For a uniformly rotating
object, the angular velocity is simply the angle through which the object turns in
one second.
r
r
v
v
t = 0
t = t
(t) θ
s
Figure 57: Circular motion.
Consider the motion of the object in the time interval between t = 0 and t = t.
In this interval, the object rotates through an angle θ, and traces out a circular
arc of length s. See Fig. 57. It is fairly obvious that the arc length s is directly
136
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.2 Uniform circular motion
proportional to the angle θ: but, what is the constant of proportionality? Well,
an angle of 360

corresponds to an arc length of 2πr. Hence, an angle θ must
correspond to an arc length of
s =

360

r θ(

). (7.2)
At this stage, it is convenient to define a new angular unit known as a radian
(symbol rad.). An angle measured in radians is related to an angle measured in
degrees via the following simple formula:
θ(rad.) =

360

θ(

). (7.3)
Thus, 360

corresponds to 2 π radians, 180

corresponds to π radians, 90

corre-
sponds to π/2 radians, and 57.296

corresponds to 1 radian. When θ is measured
in radians, Eq. (7.2) simplifies greatly to give
s = r θ. (7.4)
Henceforth, in this course, all angles are measured in radians by default.
Consider the motion of the object in the short interval between times t and
t +δt. In this interval, the object turns through a small angle δθ and traces out a
short arc of length δs, where
δs = r δθ. (7.5)
Now δs/δt (i.e., distance moved per unit time) is simply the tangential velocity
v, whereas δθ/δt (i.e., angle turned through per unit time) is simply the angular
velocity ω. Thus, dividing Eq. (7.5) by δt, we obtain
v = r ω. (7.6)
Note, however, that this formula is only valid if the angular velocity ω is mea-
sured in radians per second. From now on, in this course, all angular velocities
are measured in radians per second by default.
An object that rotates with uniform angular velocity ω turns through ω radi-
ans in 1 second. Hence, the object turns through 2 π radians (i.e., it executes a
complete circle) in
T =
2 π
ω
(7.7)
137
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.3 Centripetal acceleration
seconds. Here, T is the repetition period of the circular motion. If the object
executes a complete cycle (i.e., turns through 360

) in T seconds, then the number
of cycles executed per second is
f =
1
T
=
ω
2 π
. (7.8)
Here, the repetition frequency, f, of the motion is measured in cycles per second—
otherwise known as hertz (symbol Hz).
As an example, suppose that an object executes uniform circular motion, ra-
dius r = 1.2 m, at a frequency of f = 50 Hz (i.e., the object executes a complete
rotation 50 times a second). The repetition period of this motion is simply
T =
1
f
= 0.02 s. (7.9)
Furthermore, the angular frequency of the motion is given by
ω = 2πf = 314.16 rad./s. (7.10)
Finally, the tangential velocity of the object is
v = r ω = 1.2 ×314.16 = 376.99 m/s. (7.11)
7.3 Centripetal acceleration
An object executing a circular orbit of radius r with uniform tangential speed v
possesses a velocity vector v whose magnitude is constant, but whose direction
is continuously changing. It follows that the object must be accelerating, since
(vector) acceleration is the rate of change of (vector) velocity, and the (vector)
velocity is indeed varying in time.
Suppose that the object moves from point P to point Q between times t and
t + δt, as shown in Fig. 58. Suppose, further, that the object rotates through δθ
radians in this time interval. The vector

PX, shown in the diagram, is identical
to the vector

QY. Moreover, the angle subtended between vectors

PZ and

PX is
138
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.3 Centripetal acceleration
r
P
Q
v
v
v
Z
X
δv
δθ
Y
Figure 58: Centripetal acceleration.
simply δθ. The vector

ZX represents the change in vector velocity, δv, between
times t and t +δt. It can be seen that this vector is directed towards the centre of
the circle. From standard trigonometry, the length of vector

ZX is
δv = 2 v sin(δθ/2). (7.12)
However, for small angles sinθ θ, provided that θ is measured in radians.
Hence,
δv v δθ. (7.13)
It follows that
a =
δv
δt
= v
δθ
δt
= v ω, (7.14)
where ω = δθ/δt is the angular velocity of the object, measured in radians per
second. In summary, an object executing a circular orbit, radius r, with uniform
tangential velocity v, and uniform angular velocity ω = v/r, possesses an acceler-
ation directed towards the centre of the circle—i.e., a centripetal acceleration—of
magnitude
a = v ω =
v
2
r
= r ω
2
. (7.15)
139
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.3 Centripetal acceleration
r
v
T
m
weight
cable
Figure 59: Weight on the end of a cable.
Suppose that a weight, of mass m, is attached to the end of a cable, of length
r, and whirled around such that the weight executes a horizontal circle, radius r,
with uniform tangential velocity v. As we have just learned, the weight is subject
to a centripetal acceleration of magnitude v
2
/r. Hence, the weight experiences a
centripetal force
f =
mv
2
r
. (7.16)
What provides this force? Well, in the present example, the force is provided by
the tension T in the cable. Hence, T = mv
2
/r.
Suppose that the cable is such that it snaps whenever the tension in it exceeds
a certain critical value T
max
. It follows that there is a maximum velocity with
which the weight can be whirled around: namely,
v
max
=
¸
¸
¸
_
r T
max
m
. (7.17)
If v exceeds v
max
then the cable will break. As soon as the cable snaps, the weight
will cease to be subject to a centripetal force, so it will fly off—with velocity v
max

along the straight-line which is tangential to the circular orbit it was previously
executing.
140
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.4 The conical pendulum
h
r
θ
m
m g
T
l
Figure 60: A conical pendulum.
7.4 The conical pendulum
Suppose that an object, mass m, is attached to the end of a light inextensible
string whose other end is attached to a rigid beam. Suppose, further, that the
object is given an initial horizontal velocity such that it executes a horizontal
circular orbit of radius r with angular velocity ω. See Fig. 60. Let h be the
vertical distance between the beam and the plane of the circular orbit, and let θ
be the angle subtended by the string with the downward vertical.
The object is subject to two forces: the gravitational force mg which acts ver-
tically downwards, and the tension force T which acts upwards along the string.
The tension force can be resolved into a component T cos θ which acts vertically
upwards, and a component T sinθ which acts towards the centre of the circle.
Force balance in the vertical direction yields
T cos θ = mg. (7.18)
In other words, the vertical component of the tension force balances the weight
of the object.
Since the object is executing a circular orbit, radius r, with angular velocity ω,
it experiences a centripetal acceleration ω
2
r. Hence, it is subject to a centripetal
force mω
2
r. This force is provided by the component of the string tension which
141
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.5 Non-uniform circular motion
acts towards the centre of the circle. In other words,
T sinθ = mω
2
r. (7.19)
Taking the ratio of Eqs. (7.18) and (7.19), we obtain
tanθ =
ω
2
r
g
. (7.20)
However, by simple trigonometry,
tanθ =
r
h
. (7.21)
Hence, we find
ω =
¸
g
h
. (7.22)
Note that if l is the length of the string then h = l cos θ. It follows that
ω =
¸
g
l cos θ
. (7.23)
For instance, if the length of the string is l = 0.2 m and the conical angle is
θ = 30

then the angular velocity of rotation is given by
ω =
¸
¸
¸
_
9.81
0.2 ×cos 30

= 7.526 rad./s. (7.24)
This translates to a rotation frequency in cycles per second of
f =
ω
2 π
= 1.20 Hz. (7.25)
7.5 Non-uniform circular motion
Consider an object which executes non-uniform circular motion, as shown in
Fig. 61. Suppose that the motion is confined to a 2-dimensional plane. We can
specify the instantaneous position of the object in terms of its polar coordinates r
142
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.5 Non-uniform circular motion
r
θ
e
r
e
θ
Figure 61: Polar coordinates.
and θ. Here, r is the radial distance of the object from the origin, whereas θ is
the angular bearing of the object from the origin, measured with respect to some
arbitrarily chosen direction. We imagine that both r and θ are changing in time.
As an example of non-uniform circular motion, consider the motion of the Earth
around the Sun. Suppose that the origin of our coordinate system corresponds to
the position of the Sun. As the Earth rotates, its angular bearing θ, relative to the
Sun, obviously changes in time. However, since the Earth’s orbit is slightly ellipti-
cal, its radial distance r from the Sun also varies in time. Moreover, as the Earth
moves closer to the Sun, its rate of rotation speeds up, and vice versa. Hence, the
rate of change of θ with time is non-uniform.
Let us define two unit vectors, e
r
and e
θ
. Incidentally, a unit vector simply a
vector whose length is unity. As shown in Fig. 61, the radial unit vector e
r
always
points from the origin to the instantaneous position of the object. Moreover, the
tangential unit vector e
θ
is always normal to e
r
, in the direction of increasing θ.
The position vector r of the object can be written
r = r e
r
. (7.26)
In other words, vector r points in the same direction as the radial unit vector e
r
,
and is of length r. We can write the object’s velocity in the form
v = ˙r = v
r
e
r
+v
θ
e
θ
, (7.27)
143
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.5 Non-uniform circular motion
whereas the acceleration is written
a = ˙ v = a
r
e
r
+a
θ
e
θ
. (7.28)
Here, v
r
is termed the object’s radial velocity, whilst v
θ
is termed the tangential ve-
locity. Likewise, a
r
is the radial acceleration, and a
θ
is the tangential acceleration.
But, how do we express these quantities in terms of the object’s polar coordinates
r and θ? It turns out that this is a far from straightforward task. For instance, if
we simply differentiate Eq. (7.26) with respect to time, we obtain
v = ˙r e
r
+r ˙ e
r
, (7.29)
where ˙ e
r
is the time derivative of the radial unit vector—this quantity is non-
zero because e
r
changes direction as the object moves. Unfortunately, it is not
entirely clear how to evaluate ˙ e
r
. In the following, we outline a famous trick for
calculating v
r
, v
θ
, etc. without ever having to evaluate the time derivatives of the
unit vectors e
r
and e
θ
.
Consider a general complex number,
z = x +i y, (7.30)
where x and y are real, and i is the square root of −1 (i.e., i
2
= −1). Here, x is
the real part of z, whereas y is the imaginary part. We can visualize z as a point in
the so-called complex plane: i.e., a 2-dimensional plane in which the real parts of
complex numbers are plotted along one Cartesian axis, whereas the correspond-
ing imaginary parts are plotted along the other axis. Thus, the coordinates of z
in the complex plane are simply (x, y). See Fig. 62. In other words, we can use
a complex number to represent a position vector in a 2-dimensional plane. Note
that the length of the vector is equal to the modulus of the corresponding complex
number. Incidentally, the modulus of z = x +i y is defined
|z| =
_
x
2
+y
2
. (7.31)
Consider the complex number e
i θ
, where θ is real. A famous result in complex
analysis—known as de Moivre’s theorem—allows us to split this number into its
real and imaginary components:
e
i θ
= cos θ +i sinθ. (7.32)
144
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.5 Non-uniform circular motion
I
m
(
z
)
Re(z)
x
y
z
Figure 62: Representation of a complex number in the complex plane.
Now, as we have just discussed, we can think of e
i θ
as representing a vector in
the complex plane: the real and imaginary parts of e
i θ
form the coordinates of
the head of the vector, whereas the tail of the vector corresponds to the origin.
What are the properties of this vector? Well, the length of the vector is given by
¸
¸
¸e
i θ
¸
¸
¸ =
_
cos
2
θ + sin
2
θ = 1. (7.33)
In other words, e
i θ
represents a unit vector. In fact, it is clear from Fig. 63 that e
i θ
represents the radial unit vector e
r
for an object whose angular polar coordinate
(measured anti-clockwise from the real axis) is θ. Can we also find a complex
representation of the corresponding tangential unit vector e
θ
? Actually, we can.
The complex number i e
i θ
can be written
i e
i θ
= −sinθ +i cos θ. (7.34)
Here, we have just multiplied Eq. (7.32) by i, making use of the fact that i
2
= −1.
This number again represents a unit vector, since
¸
¸
¸i e
i θ
¸
¸
¸ =
_
sin
2
θ + cos
2
θ = 1. (7.35)
Moreover, as is clear from Fig. 63, this vector is normal to e
r
, in the direction of
increasing θ. In other words, i e
i θ
represents the tangential unit vector e
θ
.
Consider an object executing non-uniform circular motion in the complex
plane. By analogy with Eq. (7.26), we can represent the instantaneous position
145
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.5 Non-uniform circular motion
θ cos
θ
c
o
s

s
i
n
θ
i θ
i θ
I
m
(
z
)
Re(z)
θ
θ - sin
e
θ
r
e
i e
e
Figure 63: Representation of the unit vectors e
r
and e
θ
in the complex plane.
vector of this object via the complex number
z = r e
i θ
. (7.36)
Here, r(t) is the object’s radial distance from the origin, whereas θ(t) is its angu-
lar bearing relative to the real axis. Note that, in the above formula, we are using
e
i θ
to represent the radial unit vector e
r
. Now, if z represents the position vector
of the object, then ˙ z = dz/dt must represent the object’s velocity vector. Differ-
entiating Eq. (7.36) with respect to time, using the standard rules of calculus, we
obtain
˙ z = ˙r e
i θ
+r
˙
θi e
i θ
. (7.37)
Comparing with Eq. (7.27), recalling that e
i θ
represents e
r
and i e
i θ
represents
e
θ
, we obtain
v
r
= ˙r, (7.38)
v
θ
= r
˙
θ = r ω, (7.39)
where ω = dθ/dt is the object’s instantaneous angular velocity. Thus, as desired,
we have obtained expressions for the radial and tangential velocities of the object
in terms of its polar coordinates, r and θ. We can go further. Let us differentiate
˙ z with respect to time, in order to obtain a complex number representing the
object’s vector acceleration. Again, using the standard rules of calculus, we obtain
¨ z = (¨r −r
˙
θ
2
) e
i θ
+ (r
¨
θ +2˙r
˙
θ) i e
i θ
. (7.40)
146
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.5 Non-uniform circular motion
Comparing with Eq. (7.28), recalling that e
i θ
represents e
r
and i e
i θ
represents
e
θ
, we obtain
a
r
= ¨r −r
˙
θ
2
= ¨r −r ω
2
, (7.41)
a
θ
= r
¨
θ +2˙r
˙
θ = r ˙ ω+2˙r ω. (7.42)
Thus, we now have expressions for the object’s radial and tangential accelerations
in terms of r and θ. The beauty of this derivation is that the complex analysis
has automatically taken care of the fact that the unit vectors e
r
and e
θ
change
direction as the object moves.
Let us now consider the commonly occurring special case in which an object
executes a circular orbit at fixed radius, but varying angular velocity. Since the
radius is fixed, it follows that ˙r = ¨r = 0. According to Eqs. (7.38) and (7.39), the
radial velocity of the object is zero, and the tangential velocity takes the form
v
θ
= r ω. (7.43)
Note that the above equation is exactly the same as Eq. (7.6)—the only difference
is that we have now proved that this relation holds for non-uniform, as well as
uniform, circular motion. According to Eq. (7.41), the radial acceleration is given
by
a
r
= −r ω
2
. (7.44)
The minus sign indicates that this acceleration is directed towards the centre
of the circle. Of course, the above equation is equivalent to Eq. (7.15)—the only
difference is that we have now proved that this relation holds for non-uniform, as
well as uniform, circular motion. Finally, according to Eq. (7.42), the tangential
acceleration takes the form
a
θ
= r ˙ ω. (7.45)
The existence of a non-zero tangential acceleration (in the former case) is the
one difference between non-uniform and uniform circular motion (at constant
radius).
147
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.6 The vertical pendulum
θ
θ
v
v’
mg
mg
θ mg cos
T
B
A
r
r cos
Figure 64: Motion in a vertical circle.
7.6 The vertical pendulum
Let us now examine an example of non-uniform circular motion. Suppose that
an object of mass m is attached to the end of a light rigid rod, or light string, of
length r. The other end of the rod, or string, is attached to a stationary pivot in
such a manner that the object is free to execute a vertical circle about this pivot.
Let θ measure the angular position of the object, measured with respect to the
downward vertical. Let v be the velocity of the object at θ = 0

. How large do we
have to make v in order for the object to execute a complete vertical circle?
Consider Fig. 64. Suppose that the object moves from point A, where its
tangential velocity is v, to point B, where its tangential velocity is v

. Let us,
first of all, obtain the relationship between v and v

. This is most easily achieved
by considering energy conservation. At point A, the object is situated a vertical
distance r below the pivot, whereas at point B the vertical distance below the
pivot has been reduced to r cos θ. Hence, in moving from A to B the object gains
potential energy mgr (1 −cos θ). This gain in potential energy must be offset by
a corresponding loss in kinetic energy. Thus,
1
2
mv
2

1
2
mv

2
= mgr (1 − cos θ), (7.46)
148
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.6 The vertical pendulum
which reduces to
v

2
= v
2
−2 r g(1 − cos θ). (7.47)
Let us now examine the radial acceleration of the object at point B. The ra-
dial forces acting on the object are the tension T in the rod, or string, which
acts towards the centre of the circle, and the component mg cos θ of the object’s
weight, which acts away from the centre of the circle. Since the object is execut-
ing circular motion with instantaneous tangential velocity v

, it must experience
an instantaneous acceleration v

2
/r towards the centre of the circle. Hence, New-
ton’s second law of motion yields
mv

2
r
= T −mg cos θ. (7.48)
Equations (7.47) and (7.48) can be combined to give
T =
mv
2
r
+mg(3 cos θ −2). (7.49)
Suppose that the object is, in fact, attached to the end of a piece of string,
rather than a rigid rod. One important property of strings is that, unlike rigid
rods, they cannot support negative tensions. In other words, a string can only pull
objects attached to its two ends together—it cannot push them apart. Another
way of putting this is that if the tension in a string ever becomes negative then
the string will become slack and collapse. Clearly, if our object is to execute
a full vertical circle then then tension T in the string must remain positive for
all values of θ. It is clear from Eq. (7.49) that the tension attains its minimum
value when θ = 180

(at which point cos θ = −1). This is hardly surprising, since
θ = 180

corresponds to the point at which the object attains its maximum height,
and, therefore, its minimum tangential velocity. It is certainly the case that if the
string tension is positive at this point then it must be positive at all other points.
Now, the tension at θ = 180

is given by
T
0
=
mv
2
r
−5 mg. (7.50)
Hence, the condition for the object to execute a complete vertical circle without
the string becoming slack is T
0
> 0, or
v
2
> 5 r g. (7.51)
149
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.7 Motion on curved surfaces
Note that this condition is independent of the mass of the object.
Suppose that the object is attached to the end of a rigid rod, instead of a piece
of string. There is now no constraint on the tension, since a rigid rod can quite
easily support a negative tension (i.e., it can push, as well as pull, on objects
attached to its two ends). However, in order for the object to execute a complete
vertical circle the square of its tangential velocity v

2
must remain positive at all
values of θ. It is clear from Eq. (7.47) that v

2
attains its minimum value when
θ = 180

. This is, again, hardly surprising. Thus, if v

2
is positive at this point
then it must be positive at all other points. Now, the expression for v

2
at θ = 180

is
(v

2
)
0
= v
2
−4 r g. (7.52)
Hence, the condition for the object to execute a complete vertical circle is (v

2
)
0
>
0, or
v
2
> 4 r g. (7.53)
Note that this condition is slightly easier to satisfy than the condition (7.51). In
other words, it is slightly easier to cause an object attached to the end of a rigid
rod to execute a vertical circle than it is to cause an object attached to the end of
a string to execute the same circle. The reason for this is that the rigidity of the
rod helps support the object when it is situated above the pivot point.
7.7 Motion on curved surfaces
Consider a smooth rigid vertical hoop of internal radius r, as shown in Fig. 65.
Suppose that an object of mass m slides without friction around the inside of this
hoop. What is the motion of this object? Is it possible for the object to execute a
complete vertical circle?
Suppose that the object moves from point A to point B in Fig. 65. In doing so,
it gains potential energy mgr (1 − cos θ), where θ is the angular coordinate of
the object measured with respect to the downward vertical. This gain in potential
energy must be offset by a corresponding loss in kinetic energy. Thus,
1
2
mv
2

1
2
mv

2
= mgr (1 − cos θ), (7.54)
150
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.7 Motion on curved surfaces
θ
θ
v
v’
mg
mg
θ mg cos
B
A
R
r
r cos
Figure 65: Motion on the inside of a vertical hoop.
which reduces to
v

2
= v
2
−2 r g(1 − cos θ). (7.55)
Here, v is the velocity at point A (θ = 0

), and v

is the velocity at point B
(θ = θ

).
Let us now examine the radial acceleration of the object at point B. The radial
forces acting on the object are the reaction R of the vertical hoop, which acts
towards the centre of the hoop, and the component mg cos θ of the object’s
weight, which acts away from the centre of the hoop. Since the object is executing
circular motion with instantaneous tangential velocity v

, it must experience an
instantaneous acceleration v

2
/r towards the centre of the hoop. Hence, Newton’s
second law of motion yields
mv

2
r
= R −mg cos θ. (7.56)
Note, however, that there is a constraint on the reaction R that the hoop can
exert on the object. This reaction must always be positive. In other words, the
hoop can push the object away from itself, but it can never pull it towards itself.
Another way of putting this is that if the reaction ever becomes negative then
151
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.7 Motion on curved surfaces
the object will fly off the surface of the hoop, since it is no longer being pressed
into this surface. It should be clear, by now, that the problem we are considering
is exactly analogous to the earlier problem of an object attached to the end of a
piece of string which is executing a vertical circle, with the reaction R of the hoop
playing the role of the tension T in the string.
Let us imagine that the hoop under consideration is a “loop the loop” segment
in a fairground roller-coaster. The object sliding around the inside of the loop
then becomes the roller-coaster train. Suppose that the fairground operator can
vary the velocity v with which the train is sent into the bottom of the loop (i.e.,
the velocity at θ = 0

). What is the safe range of v? Now, if the train starts at
θ = 0

with velocity v then there are only three possible outcomes. Firstly, the
train can execute a complete circuit of the loop. Secondly, the train can slide
part way up the loop, come to a halt, reverse direction, and then slide back down
again. Thirdly, the train can slide part way up the loop, but then fall off the loop.
Obviously, it is the third possibility that the fairground operator would wish to
guard against.
Using the analogy between this problem and the problem of a mass on the end
of a piece of string executing a vertical circle, the condition for the roller-coaster
train to execute a complete circuit is
v
2
> 5 r g. (7.57)
Note, interestingly enough, that this condition is independent of the mass of the
train.
Equation (7.56) yields
v

2
=
r R
m
−r g cos θ. (7.58)
Now, the condition for the train to reverse direction without falling off the loop
is v

2
= 0 with R > 0. Thus, the train reverses direction when
R = mg cos θ. (7.59)
Note that this equation can only be satisfied for positive R when cos θ > 0. In
other words, the train can only turn around without falling off the loop if the
152
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.7 Motion on curved surfaces
mg
θ
R
mg cos
m
θ
θ
v
r
r cos
Figure 66: A skier on a hemispherical mountain.
turning point lies in the lower half of the loop (i.e., −90

< θ < 90

). The
condition for the train to fall off the loop is
v

2
= −r g cos θ. (7.60)
Note that this equation can only be satisfied for positive v

2
when cos θ < 0. In
other words, the train can only fall off the loop when it is situated in the upper
half of the loop. It is fairly clear that if the train’s initial velocity is not sufficiently
large for it to execute a complete circuit of the loop, and not sufficiently small
for it to turn around before entering the upper half of the loop, then it must
inevitably fall off the loop somewhere in the loop’s upper half. The critical value
of v
2
above which the train executes a complete circuit is 5 r g [see Eq. (7.57)].
The critical value of v
2
at which the train just turns around before entering the
upper half of the loop is 2 r g [this is obtained from Eq. (7.55) by setting v

= 0
and θ = 90

]. Hence, the dangerous range of v
2
is
2 r g < v
2
< 5 r g. (7.61)
For v
2
< 2 r g, the train turns around in the lower half of the loop. For v
2
> 5 r g,
the train executes a complete circuit around the loop. However, for 2 r g < v
2
<
5 r g, the train falls off the loop somewhere in its upper half.
Consider a skier of mass m skiing down a hemispherical mountain of radius r,
as shown in Fig. 66. Let θ be the angular coordinate of the skier, measured with
respect to the upward vertical. Suppose that the skier starts at rest (v = 0) on
top of the mountain (θ = 0

), and slides down the mountain without friction. At
what point does the skier fly off the surface of the mountain?
153
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.7 Motion on curved surfaces
Suppose that the skier has reached angular coordinate θ. At this stage, the
skier has fallen though a height r (1 − cos θ). Thus, the tangential velocity v of
the skier is given by energy conservation:
1
2
mv
2
= mgr (1 − cos θ). (7.62)
Let us now consider the skier’s radial acceleration. The radial forces acting on the
skier are the reaction R exerted by the mountain, which acts radially outwards,
and the component of the skier’s weight mg cos θ, which acts radially inwards.
Since the skier is executing circular motion, radius r, with instantaneous tangen-
tial velocity v, he/she experiences an instantaneous inward radial acceleration
v
2
/r. Hence, Newton’s second law of motion yields
m
v
2
r
= mg cos θ −R. (7.63)
Equations (7.62) and (7.63) can be combined to give
R = mg(3 cos θ −2). (7.64)
As before, the reaction R is constrained to be positive—the mountain can push
outward on the skier, but it cannot pull the skier inward. In fact, as soon as the
reaction becomes negative, the skier flies of the surface of the mountain. This
occurs when cos θ
0
= 2/3, or θ
0
= 48.19

. The height through which the skier
falls before becoming a ski-jumper is h = r (1 − cos θ
0
) = a/3.
Worked example 7.1: A banked curve
Question: Civil engineers generally bank curves on roads in such a manner that
a car going around the curve at the recommended speed does not have to rely
on friction between its tires and the road surface in order to round the curve.
Suppose that the radius of curvature of a given curve is r = 60 m, and that
the recommended speed is v = 40 km/h. At what angle θ should the curve be
banked?
154
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.7 Motion on curved surfaces
centre of curvature
θ
banked curve
mg
car
R
r
Answer: Consider a car of mass m going around the curve. The car’s weight, mg,
acts vertically downwards. The road surface exerts an upward normal reaction R
on the car. The vertical component of the reaction must balance the downward
weight of the car, so
R cos θ = mg.
The horizontal component of the reaction, R sinθ, acts towards the centre of
curvature of the road. This component provides the force mv
2
/r towards the
centre of the curvature which the car experiences as it rounds the curve. In other
words,
R sinθ = m
v
2
r
,
which yields
tanθ =
v
2
r g
,
or
θ = tan
−1
_
_
v
2
r g
_
_
.
Hence,
θ = tan
−1
_
_
(40 ×1000/3600)
2
60 ×9.81
_
_
= 11.8

.
Note that if the car attempts to round the curve at the wrong speed then mv
2
/r =
mg tanθ, and the difference has to be made up by a sideways friction force
exerted between the car’s tires and the road surface. Unfortunately, this does not
always work—especially if the road surface is wet!
155
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.7 Motion on curved surfaces
Worked example 7.2: Circular race track
Question: A car of mass m = 2000 kg travels around a flat circular race track of
radius r = 85 m. The car starts at rest, and its speed increases at the constant rate
a
θ
= 0.6 m/s. What is the speed of the car at the point when its centripetal and
tangential accelerations are equal?
Answer: The tangential acceleration of the car is a
θ
= 0.6 m/s. When the car
travels with tangential velocity v its centripetal acceleration is a
r
= v
2
/r. Hence,
a
r
= a
θ
when
v
2
r
= a
θ
,
or
v =

r a
θ
=

85 ×0.6 = 7.14 m/s.
Worked example 7.3: Amusement park ride
Question: An amusement park ride consists of a vertical cylinder that spins about
a vertical axis. When the cylinder spins sufficiently fast, any person inside it is
held up against the wall. Suppose that the coefficient of static friction between
a typical person and the wall is µ = 0.25. Let the mass of an typical person be
m = 60 kg, and let r = 7 m be the radius of the cylinder. Find the critical angular
velocity of the cylinder above which a typical person will not slide down the
wall. How many revolutions per second is the cylinder executing at this critical
velocity?
Answer: In the vertical direction, the person is subject to a downward force mg
due to gravity, and a maximum upward force f = µR due to friction with the
wall. Here, R is the normal reaction between the person and the wall. In order
for the person not to slide down the wall, we require f > mg. Hence, the critical
case corresponds to
f = µR = mg.
In the radial direction, the person is subject to a single force: namely, the
156
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.7 Motion on curved surfaces
R
mg f
r
reaction R due to the wall, which acts radially inwards. If the cylinder (and,
hence, the person) rotates with angular velocity ω, then this force must provided
the acceleration r ω
2
towards the axis of rotation. Hence,
R = mr ω
2
.
It follows that, in the critical case,
ω =
¸
¸
¸
_
g
µr
=
¸
¸
¸
_
9.81
0.25 ×7
= 2.37 rad/s.
The corresponding number of revolutions per second is
f =
ω
2 π
=
2.37
2 ×3.1415
= 0.38 Hz.
Worked example 7.4: Aerobatic maneuver
Question: A stunt pilot experiences weightlessness momentarily at the top of
a “loop the loop” maneuver. Given that the speed of the stunt plane is v =
500 km/h, what is the radius r of the loop?
Answer: Let m be the mass of the pilot. Consider the radial acceleration of the
pilot at the top of the loop. The pilot is subject to two radial forces: the gravita-
tional force mg, which acts towards the centre of the loop, and the reaction force
R, due to the plane, which acts away from the centre of the loop. Since the pilot
157
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.7 Motion on curved surfaces
mg
R
r
experiences an acceleration v
2
/r towards the centre of the loop, Newton’s second
law of motion yields
m
v
2
r
= mg −R.
Now, the reaction R is equivalent to the apparent weight of the pilot. In partic-
ular, if the pilot is “weightless” then he/she exerts no force on the plane, and,
therefore, the plane exerts no reaction force on the pilot. Hence, if the pilot is
weightless at the top of the loop then R = 0, giving
r =
v
2
g
=
(500 ×1000/3600)
2
9.81
= 1.97 km.
Worked example 7.5: Ballistic pendulum
Question: A bullet of mass m = 10 g strikes a pendulum bob of mass M = 1.3 kg
horizontally with speed v, and then becomes embedded in the bob. The bob is
initially at rest, and is suspended by a stiff rod of length l = 0.6 m and negligible
mass. The bob is free to rotate in the vertical direction. What is the minimum
value of v which causes the bob to execute a complete vertical circle? How does
the answer change if the bob is suspended from a light flexible rod (of the same
length), instead of a stiff rod?
Answer: When the bullet strikes the bob, and then sticks to it, the bullet and bob
move off with a velocity v

which is given by momentum conservation:
mv = (M+m) v

.
158
7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.7 Motion on curved surfaces
Hence,
v

=
mv
M+m
.
Consider the case where the bob is suspended by a rigid rod. If the bob and
bullet only just manage to execute a vertical loop, then their initial kinetic energy
(1/2) (M+m) v

2
must only just be sufficient to lift them from the bottom to the
top of the loop—a distance 2 l. Hence, in this critical case, energy conservation
yields
1
2
(M+m) v

2
= (M+m) 2 gl,
which implies
v

2
= 4 gl,
or
v =
(M+m)

4 gl
m
=
1.31 ×

4 ×9.81 ×0.6
0.01
= 635.6 m/s.
Consider the case where the bob is suspended by a flexible rod. The velocity v

of the bob and bullet at the top of the loop is obtained from energy conservation:
1
2
(M+m) v

2
=
1
2
(M+m) v

2
− (M+m) 2 gl.
If the bob and bullet only just manage to execute a vertical loop, then the tension
in the rod is zero at the top of the loop. Hence, the acceleration due to gravity
g must account exactly for the required acceleration v

2
/l towards the centre of
the loop:
v

2
l
= g.
It follows that, in this critical case,
v

2
= 5 gl,
or
v =
(M+m)

5 gl
m
=
1.31 ×

5 ×9.81 ×0.6
0.01
= 710.7 m/s.
159
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION
8 Rotational motion
8.1 Introduction
Up to now, we have only analyzed the dynamics of point masses (i.e., objects
whose spatial extent is either negligible or plays no role in their motion). Let us
now broaden our approach in order to take extended objects into account. Now,
the only type of motion which a point mass object can exhibit is translational mo-
tion: i.e., motion by which the object moves from one point in space to another.
However, an extended object can exhibit another, quite distinct, type of motion
by which it remains located (more or less) at the same spatial position, but con-
stantly changes its orientation with respect to other fixed points in space. This
new type of motion is called rotation. Let us investigate rotational motion.
8.2 Rigid body rotation
Consider a rigid body executing pure rotational motion (i.e., rotational motion
which has no translational component). It is possible to define an axis of rotation
(which, for the sake of simplicity, is assumed to pass through the body)—this axis
corresponds to the straight-line which is the locus of all points inside the body
which remain stationary as the body rotates. A general point located inside the
body executes circular motion which is centred on the rotation axis, and orien-
tated in the plane perpendicular to this axis. In the following, we tacitly assume
that the axis of rotation remains fixed.
Figure 67 shows a typical rigidly rotating body. The axis of rotation is the line
AB. A general point P lying within the body executes a circular orbit, centred
on AB, in the plane perpendicular to AB. Let the line QP be a radius of this
orbit which links the axis of rotation to the instantaneous position of P at time
t. Obviously, this implies that QP is normal to AB. Suppose that at time t + δt
point P has moved to P

, and the radius QP has rotated through an angle δφ.
160
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.2 Rigid body rotation
B
A
P’
P
δφ
Q
axis of rotation
rigid body
σ
Figure 67: Rigid body rotation.
The instantaneous angular velocity of the body ω(t) is defined
ω = lim
δt→0
δφ
δt
=

dt
. (8.1)
Note that if the body is indeed rotating rigidly, then the calculated value of ω
should be the same for all possible points P lying within the body (except for
those points lying exactly on the axis of rotation, for which ω is ill-defined). The
rotation speed v of point P is related to the angular velocity ω of the body via
v = σω, (8.2)
where σ is the perpendicular distance from the axis of rotation to point P. Thus, in
a rigidly rotating body, the rotation speed increases linearly with (perpendicular)
distance from the axis of rotation.
It is helpful to introduce the angular acceleration α(t) of a rigidly rotating
body: this quantity is defined as the time derivative of the angular velocity. Thus,
α =

dt
=
d
2
φ
dt
2
, (8.3)
where φ is the angular coordinate of some arbitrarily chosen point reference
within the body, measured with respect to the rotation axis. Note that angular
161
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.3 Is rotation a vector?
velocities are conventionally measured in radians per second, whereas angular
accelerations are measured in radians per second squared.
For a body rotating with constant angular velocity, ω, the angular acceleration
is zero, and the rotation angle φ increases linearly with time:
φ(t) = φ
0
+ωt, (8.4)
where φ
0
= φ(t = 0). Likewise, for a body rotating with constant angular accel-
eration, α, the angular velocity increases linearly with time, so that
ω(t) = ω
0
+αt, (8.5)
and the rotation angle satisfies
φ(t) = φ
0

0
t +
1
2
αt
2
. (8.6)
Here, ω
0
= ω(t = 0). Note that there is a clear analogy between the above equa-
tions, and the equations of rectilinear motion at constant acceleration introduced
in Sect. 2.6—rotation angle plays the role of displacement, angular velocity plays
the role of (regular) velocity, and angular acceleration plays the role of (regular)
acceleration.
8.3 Is rotation a vector?
Consider a rigid body which rotates through an angle φ about a given axis. It
is tempting to try to define a rotation “vector” φ which describes this motion.
For example, suppose that φ is defined as the “vector” whose magnitude is the
angle of rotation, φ, and whose direction runs parallel to the axis of rotation.
Unfortunately, this definition is ambiguous, since there are two possible directions
which run parallel to the rotation axis. However, we can resolve this problem by
adopting the following convention—the rotation “vector” runs parallel to the axis
of rotation in the sense indicated by the thumb of the right-hand, when the fingers
of this hand circulate around the axis in the direction of rotation. This convention
is known as the right-hand grip rule. The right-hand grip rule is illustrated in
Fig. 68.
162
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.3 Is rotation a vector?
sense of rotation
direction of rotation vector
Figure 68: The right-hand grip rule.
The rotation “vector” φnow has a well-defined magnitude and direction. But,
is this quantity really a vector? This may seem like a strange question to ask,
but it turns out that not all quantities which have well-defined magnitudes and
directions are necessarily vectors. Let us review some properties of vectors. If a
and b are two general vectors, then it is certainly the case that
a +b = b +a. (8.7)
In other words, the addition of vectors is necessarily commutative (i.e., it is in-
dependent of the order of addition). Is this true for “vector” rotations, as we
have just defined them? Figure 69 shows the effect of applying two successive
90

rotations—one about the x-axis, and the other about the z-axis—to a six-
sided die. In the left-hand case, the z-rotation is applied before the x-rotation,
and vice versa in the right-hand case. It can be seen that the die ends up in two
completely different states. Clearly, the z-rotation plus the x-rotation does not
equal the x-rotation plus the z-rotation. This non-commutative algebra cannot be
represented by vectors. We conclude that, although rotations have well-defined
magnitudes and directions, they are not, in general, vector quantities.
There is a direct analogy between rotation and motion over the Earth’s surface.
After all, the motion of a pointer along the Earth’s equator from longitude 0

W to
163
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.3 Is rotation a vector?
z-axis x-axis
x-axis z-axis
y
z
x
Figure 69: The addition of rotation is non-commutative.
164
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.3 Is rotation a vector?
longitude 90

W could just as well be achieved by keeping the pointer fixed and ro-
tating the Earth through 90

about a North-South axis. The non-commutative na-
ture of rotation “vectors” is a direct consequence of the non-planar (i.e., curved)
nature of the Earth’s surface. For instance, suppose we start off at (0

N, 0

W),
which is just off the Atlantic coast of equatorial Africa, and rotate 90

northwards
and then 90

eastwards. We end up at (0

N, 90

E), which is in the middle of the
Indian Ocean. However, if we start at the same point, and rotate 90

eastwards
and then 90

northwards, we end up at the North pole. Hence, large rotations
over the Earth’s surface do not commute. Let us now repeat this experiment
on a far smaller scale. Suppose that we walk 10m northwards and then 10m
eastwards. Next, suppose that—starting from the same initial position—we walk
10m eastwards and then 10m northwards. In this case, few people would need
much convincing that the two end points are essentially identical. The crucial
point is that for sufficiently small displacements the Earth’s surface is approxi-
mately planar, and vector displacements on a plane surface commute with one
another. This observation immediately suggests that rotation “vectors” which cor-
respond to rotations through small angles must also commute with one another.
In other words, although the quantity φ, defined above, is not a true vector, the
infinitesimal quantity δφ, which is defined in a similar manner but corresponds
to a rotation through an infinitesimal angle δφ, is a perfectly good vector.
We have just established that it is possible to define a true vector δφ which
describes a rotation through a small angle δφ about a fixed axis. But, how is this
definition useful? Well, suppose that vector δφ describes the small rotation that
a given object executes in the infinitesimal time interval between t and t+δt. We
can then define the quantity
ω= lim
δt→0
δφ
δt
=

dt
. (8.8)
This quantity is clearly a true vector, since it is simply the ratio of a true vector
and a scalar. Of course, ωrepresents an angular velocity vector. The magnitude of
this vector, ω, specifies the instantaneous angular velocity of the object, whereas
the direction of the vector indicates the axis of rotation. The sense of rotation
is given by the right-hand grip rule: if the thumb of the right-hand points along
the direction of the vector, then the fingers of the right-hand indicate the sense of
165
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.4 The vector product
rotation. We conclude that, although rotation can only be thought of as a vector
quantity under certain very special circumstances, we can safely treat angular
velocity as a vector quantity under all circumstances.
Suppose, for example, that a rigid body rotates at constant angular velocity
ω
1
. Let us now combine this motion with rotation about a different axis at con-
stant angular velocity ω
2
. What is the subsequent motion of the body? Since we
know that angular velocity is a vector, we can be certain that the combined mo-
tion simply corresponds to rotation about a third axis at constant angular velocity
ω
3
= ω
1

2
, (8.9)
where the sum is performed according to the standard rules of vector addition.
[Note, however, the following important proviso. In order for Eq. (8.9) to be
valid, the rotation axes corresponding to ω
1
and ω
2
must cross at a certain
point—the rotation axis corresponding to ω
3
then passes through this point.]
Moreover, a constant angular velocity
ω= ω
x
^ x +ω
y
^ y +ω
z
^z (8.10)
can be thought of as representing rotation about the x-axis at angular velocity ω
x
,
combined with rotation about the y-axis at angular velocity ω
y
, combined with
rotation about the z-axis at angular velocity ω
z
. [There is, again, a proviso—
namely, that the rotation axis corresponding to ω must pass through the origin.
Of course, we can always shift the origin such that this is the case.] Clearly, the
knowledge that angular velocity is vector quantity can be extremely useful.
8.4 The vector product
We saw earlier, in Sect. 3.10, that it is possible to combine two vectors multi-
plicatively, by means of a scalar product, to form a scalar. Recall that the scalar
product a·b of two vectors a = (a
x
, a
y
, a
z
) and b = (b
x
, b
y
, b
z
) is defined
a·b = a
x
b
x
+a
y
b
y
+a
z
b
z
= |a| |b| cos θ, (8.11)
where θ is the angle subtended between the directions of a and b.
166
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.4 The vector product
a x b
a x b
b
a
θ
| = a b sin θ |
Figure 70: The vector product.
Is it also possible to combine two vector multiplicatively to form a third (non-
coplanar) vector? It turns out that this goal can be achieved via the use of the
so-called vector product. By definition, the vector product, a × b, of two vectors
a = (a
x
, a
y
, a
z
) and b = (b
x
, b
y
, b
z
) is of magnitude
|a ×b| = |a| |b| sinθ. (8.12)
The direction of a ×b is mutually perpendicular to a and b, in the sense given by
the right-hand grip rule when vector a is rotated onto vector b (the direction of
rotation being such that the angle of rotation is less than 180

). See Fig. 70. In
coordinate form,
a ×b = (a
y
b
z
−a
z
b
y
, a
z
b
x
−a
x
b
z
, a
x
b
y
−a
y
b
x
). (8.13)
There are a number of fairly obvious consequences of the above definition.
Firstly, if vector b is parallel to vector a, so that we can write b = λ a, then the
vector product a ×b has zero magnitude. The easiest way of seeing this is to note
that if a and b are parallel then the angle θ subtended between them is zero,
hence the magnitude of the vector product, |a| |b| sinθ, must also be zero (since
sin0

= 0). Secondly, the order of multiplication matters. Thus, b × a is not
equivalent to a ×b. In fact, as can be seen from Eq. (8.13),
b ×a = −a ×b. (8.14)
In other words, b × a has the same magnitude as a × b, but points in diagram-
matically the opposite direction.
167
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.5 Centre of mass
Now that we have defined the vector product of two vectors, let us find a use
for this concept. Figure 71 shows a rigid body rotating with angular velocity ω.
For the sake of simplicity, the axis of rotation, which runs parallel to ω, is as-
sumed to pass through the origin O of our coordinate system. Point P, whose
position vector is r, represents a general point inside the body. What is the veloc-
ity of rotation v at point P? Well, the magnitude of this velocity is simply
v = σω = ωr sinθ, (8.15)
where σ is the perpendicular distance of point P from the axis of rotation, and
θ is the angle subtended between the directions of ω and r. The direction of
the velocity is into the page. Another way of saying this, is that the direction of
the velocity is mutually perpendicular to the directions of ω and r, in the sense
indicated by the right-hand grip rule when ωis rotated onto r (through an angle
less than 180

). It follows that we can write
v = ω×r. (8.16)
Note, incidentally, that the direction of the angular velocity vector ω indicates
the orientation of the axis of rotation—however, nothing actually moves in this
direction; in fact, all of the motion is perpendicular to the direction of ω.
8.5 Centre of mass
The centre of mass—or centre of gravity—of an extended object is defined in much
the same manner as we earlier defined the centre of mass of a set of mutually
interacting point mass objects—see Sect. 6.3. To be more exact, the coordinates
of the centre of mass of an extended object are the mass weighted averages of
the coordinates of the elements which make up that object. Thus, if the object
has net mass M, and is composed of N elements, such that the ith element has
mass m
i
and position vector r
i
, then the position vector of the centre of mass is
given by
r
cm
=
1
M

i=1,N
m
i
r
i
. (8.17)
168
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.5 Centre of mass
ω
O
θ
r
P
v
σ
Figure 71: Rigid rotation.
If the object under consideration is continuous, then
m
i
= ρ(r
i
) V
i
, (8.18)
where ρ(r) is the mass density of the object, and V
i
is the volume occupied by
the ith element. Here, it is assumed that this volume is small compared to the
total volume of the object. Taking the limit that the number of elements goes
to infinity, and the volume of each element goes to zero, Eqs. (8.17) and (8.18)
yield the following integral formula for the position vector of the centre of mass:
r
cm
=
1
M

ρ r dV. (8.19)
Here, the integral is taken over the whole volume of the object, and dV =
dx dydz is an element of that volume. Incidentally, the triple integral sign in-
dicates a volume integral: i.e., a simultaneous integral over three independent
Cartesian coordinates. Finally, for an object whose mass density is constant—
which is the only type of object that we shall be considering in this course—the
above expression reduces to
r
cm
=
1
V

r dV, (8.20)
169
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.5 Centre of mass
where V is the volume of the object. According to Eq. (8.20), the centre of mass
of a body of uniform density is located at the geometric centre of that body.
a
a
a
geometric centre
Figure 72: Locating the geometric centre of a cube.
For many solid objects, the location of the geometric centre follows from sym-
metry. For instance, the geometric centre of a cube is the point of intersection
of the cube’s diagonals. See Fig. 72. Likewise, the geometric centre of a right
cylinder is located on the axis, half-way up the cylinder. See Fig. 73.
h
h/2
geometric centre
axis
Figure 73: Locating the geometric centre of a right cylinder.
As an illustration of the use of formula (8.20), let us calculate the geometric
centre of a regular square-sided pyramid. Figure 74 shows such a pyramid. Let a
be the length of each side. It follows, from simple trigonometry, that the height
of the pyramid is h = a/

2. Suppose that the base of the pyramid lies on the
x-y plane, and the apex is aligned with the z-axis, as shown in the diagram. It
follows, from symmetry, that the geometric centre of the pyramid lies on the z-
axis. It only remains to calculate the perpendicular distance, z
cm
, between the
geometric centre and the base of the pyramid. This quantity is obtained from the
170
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.5 Centre of mass
a
a
y
x
a
cm
z
geometric centre
top view
a
z
x
h
side view
Figure 74: Locating the geometric centre of a regular square-sided pyramid.
z-component of Eq. (8.20):
z
cm
=

z dx dydz

dx dydz
, (8.21)
where the integral is taken over the volume of the pyramid.
In the above integral, the limits of integration for z are z = 0 to z = h, respec-
tively (i.e., from the base to the apex of the pyramid). The corresponding limits of
integration for x and y are x, y = −a(1−z/h)/2 to x, y = +a(1−z/h)/2, respec-
tively (i.e., the limits are x, y = ±a/2 at the base of the pyramid, and x, y = ±0
at the apex). Hence, Eq. (8.21) can be written more explicitly as
z
cm
=

h
0
z dz

+a(1−z/h)/2
−a(1−z/h)/2
dy

+a(1−z/h)/2
−a(1−z/h)/2
dx

h
0
dz

+a(1−z/h)/2
−a(1−z/h)/2
dy

+a(1−z/h)/2
−a(1−z/h)/2
dx
. (8.22)
As indicated above, it makes sense to perform the x- and y- integrals before
the z-integrals, since the limits of integration for the x- and y- integrals are z-
dependent. Performing the x-integrals, we obtain
z
cm
=

h
0
z dz

+a(1−z/h)/2
−a(1−z/h)/2
a(1 −z/h) dy

h
0
dz

+a(1−z/h)/2
−a(1−z/h)/2
a(1 −z/h) dy
. (8.23)
171
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.6 Moment of inertia
Performing the y-integrals, we obtain
z
cm
=

h
0
a
2
z (1 −z/h)
2
dz

h
0
a
2
(1 −z/h)
2
dz
. (8.24)
Finally, performing the z-integrals, we obtain
z
cm
=
a
2
_
z
2
/2 −2 z
3
/(3 h) +z
4
/(4 h
2
)
_
h
0
a
2
[z −z
2
/(h) +z
3
/(3 h)]
h
0
=
a
2
h
2
/12
a
2
h/3
=
h
4
. (8.25)
Thus, the geometric centre of a regular square-sided pyramid is located on the
symmetry axis, one quarter of the way from the base to the apex.
8.6 Moment of inertia
Consider an extended object which is made up of N elements. Let the ith element
possess mass m
i
, position vector r
i
, and velocity v
i
. The total kinetic energy of
the object is written
K =

i=1,N
1
2
m
i
v
2
i
. (8.26)
Suppose that the motion of the object consists merely of rigid rotation at angular
velocity ω. It follows, from Sect. 8.4, that
v
i
= ω×r
i
. (8.27)
Let us write
ω= ωk, (8.28)
where k is a unit vector aligned along the axis of rotation (which is assumed
to pass through the origin of our coordinate system). It follows from the above
equations that the kinetic energy of rotation of the object takes the form
K =

i=1,N
1
2
m
i
|k ×r
i
|
2
ω
2
, (8.29)
or
K =
1
2
I ω
2
. (8.30)
172
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.6 Moment of inertia
Here, the quantity I is termed the moment of inertia of the object, and is written
I =

i=1,N
m
i
|k ×r
i
|
2
=

i=1,N
m
i
σ
2
i
, (8.31)
where σ
i
= |k ×r
i
| is the perpendicular distance from the ith element to the axis
of rotation. Note that for translational motion we usually write
K =
1
2
Mv
2
, (8.32)
where M represents mass and v represents speed. A comparison of Eqs. (8.30)
and (8.32) suggests that moment of inertia plays the same role in rotational
motion that mass plays in translational motion.
For a continuous object, analogous arguments to those employed in Sect. 8.5
yield
I =

ρ σ
2
dV, (8.33)
where ρ(r) is the mass density of the object, σ = |k × r| is the perpendicular
distance from the axis of rotation, and dV is a volume element. Finally, for an
object of constant density, the above expression reduces to
I = M

σ
2
dV

dV
. (8.34)
Here, M is the total mass of the object. Note that the integrals are taken over the
whole volume of the object.
The moment of inertia of a uniform object depends not only on the size and
shape of that object but on the location of the axis about which the object is
rotating. In particular, the same object can have different moments of inertia
when rotating about different axes.
Unfortunately, the evaluation of the moment of inertia of a given body about
a given axis invariably involves the performance of a nasty volume integral. In
fact, there is only one trivial moment of inertia calculation—namely, the moment
of inertia of a thin circular ring about a symmetric axis which runs perpendicular
to the plane of the ring. See Fig. 75. Suppose that M is the mass of the ring, and
173
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.6 Moment of inertia
ring
axis
M
2
I = M b
b
Figure 75: The moment of inertia of a ring about a perpendicular symmetric axis.
b is its radius. Each element of the ring shares a common perpendicular distance
from the axis of rotation—i.e., σ = b. Hence, Eq. (8.34) reduces to
I = Mb
2
. (8.35)
In general, moments of inertia are rather tedious to calculate. Fortunately,
there exist two powerful theorems which enable us to simply relate the moment
of inertia of a given body about a given axis to the moment of inertia of the same
body about another axis. The first of these theorems is called the perpendicular
axis theorem, and only applies to uniform laminar objects. Consider a laminar
object (i.e., a thin, planar object) of uniform density. Suppose, for the sake of
simplicity, that the object lies in the x-y plane. The moment of inertia of the
object about the z-axis is given by
I
z
= M

(x
2
+y
2
) dx dy

dx dy
, (8.36)
where we have suppressed the trivial z-integration, and the integral is taken over
the extent of the object in the x-y plane. Incidentally, the above expression fol-
lows from the observation that σ
2
= x
2
+y
2
when the axis of rotation is coincident
with the z-axis. Likewise, the moments of inertia of the object about the x- and
y- axes take the form
I
x
= M

y
2
dx dy

dx dy
, (8.37)
174
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.6 Moment of inertia
z
y
x
I = I + I
z x y
Figure 76: The perpendicular axis theorem.
I
y
= M

x
2
dx dy

dx dy
, (8.38)
respectively. Here, we have made use of the fact that z = 0 inside the object. It
follows by inspection of the previous three equations that
I
z
= I
x
+I
y
. (8.39)
See Fig. 76.
Let us use the perpendicular axis theorem to find the moment of inertia of a
thin ring about a symmetric axis which lies in the plane of the ring. Adopting the
coordinate system shown in Fig. 77, it is clear, from symmetry, that I
x
= I
y
. Now,
we already know that I
z
= Mb
2
, where M is the mass of the ring, and b is its
radius. Hence, the perpendicular axis theorem tells us that
2 I
x
= I
z
, (8.40)
or
I
x
=
I
z
2
=
1
2
Mb
2
. (8.41)
Of course, I
z
> I
x
, because when the ring spins about the z-axis its elements are,
on average, farther from the axis of rotation than when it spins about the x-axis.
The second useful theorem regarding moments of inertia is called the parallel
axis theorem. The parallel axis theorem—which is quite general—states that if I
is the moment of inertia of a given body about an axis passing through the centre
175
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.6 Moment of inertia
x
y
z
ring
Figure 77: The moment of inertia of a ring about a coplanar symmetric axis.
of mass of that body, then the moment of inertia I

of the same body about a
second axis which is parallel to the first is
I

= I +Md
2
, (8.42)
where M is the mass of the body, and d is the perpendicular distance between
the two axes.
In order to prove the parallel axis theorem, let us choose the origin of our
coordinate system to coincide with the centre of mass of the body in question.
Furthermore, let us orientate the axes of our coordinate system such that the z-
axis coincides with the first axis of rotation, whereas the second axis pieces the
x-y plane at x = d, y = 0. From Eq. (8.20), the fact that the centre of mass is
located at the origin implies that

x dx dydz =

ydx dydz =

z dx dydz = 0, (8.43)
where the integrals are taken over the volume of the body. From Eq. (8.34), the
expression for the first moment of inertia is
I = M

(x
2
+y
2
) dx dydz

dx dydz
, (8.44)
since x
2
+ y
2
is the perpendicular distance of a general point (x, y, z) from the
z-axis. Likewise, the expression for the second moment of inertia takes the form
I

= M

[(x −d)
2
+y
2
] dx dydz

dx dydz
. (8.45)
176
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.6 Moment of inertia
The above equation can be expanded to give
I

= M

[(x
2
+y
2
) −2 dx +d
2
] dx dydz

dx dydz
= M

(x
2
+y
2
) dx dydz

dx dydz
−2 dM

x dx dydz

dx dydz
+d
2
M

dx dydz

dx dydz
. (8.46)
It follows from Eqs. (8.43) and (8.44) that
I

= I +Md
2
, (8.47)
which proves the theorem.
Let us use the parallel axis theorem to calculate the moment of inertia, I

, of
a thin ring about an axis which runs perpendicular to the plane of the ring, and
passes through the circumference of the ring. We knowthat the moment of inertia
of a ring of mass M and radius b about an axis which runs perpendicular to the
plane of the ring, and passes through the centre of the ring—which coincides
with the centre of mass of the ring—is I = Mb
2
. Our new axis is parallel to this
original axis, but shifted sideways by the perpendicular distance b. Hence, the
parallel axis theorem tells us that
I

= I +Mb
2
= 2 Mb
2
. (8.48)
See Fig. 78.
As an illustration of the direct application of formula (8.34), let us calculate
the moment of inertia of a thin circular disk, of mass M and radius b, about an
axis which passes through the centre of the disk, and runs perpendicular to the
plane of the disk. Let us choose our coordinate system such that the disk lies
in the x-y plane with its centre at the origin. The axis of rotation is, therefore,
coincident with the z-axis. Hence, formula (8.34) reduces to
I = M

(x
2
+y
2
) dx dy

dx dy
, (8.49)
177
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.6 Moment of inertia
ring
M
2
ring
axis
M
2
axis
original axis new axis
I = M b
b b
I = 2 M b
Figure 78: An application of the parallel axis theorem.
where the integrals are taken over the area of the disk, and the redundant z-
integration has been suppressed. Let us divide the disk up into thin annuli. Con-
sider an annulus of radius σ =
_
x
2
+y
2
and radial thickness dσ. The area of this
annulus is simply 2πσdσ. Hence, we can replace dx dy in the above integrals by
2πσdσ, so as to give
I = M

b
0
2πσ
3

b
0
2πσdσ
. (8.50)
The above expression yields
I = M
_
2 πσ
4
/4
_
b
0
[2 πσ
2
/2]
b
0
=
1
2
Mb
2
. (8.51)
Similar calculations to the above yield the following standard results:
• The moment of inertia of a thin rod of mass M and length l about an axis
passing through the centre of the rod and perpendicular to its length is
I =
1
12
Ml
2
.
• The moment of inertia of a thin rectangular sheet of mass M and dimensions
a and b about a perpendicular axis passing through the centre of the sheet
is
I =
1
12
M(a
2
+b
2
).
178
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.7 Torque
• The moment of inertia of a solid cylinder of mass M and radius b about the
cylindrical axis is
I =
1
2
Mb
2
.
• The moment of inertia of a thin spherical shell of mass M and radius b about
a diameter is
I =
2
3
Mb
2
.
• The moment of inertia of a solid sphere of mass M and radius b about a
diameter is
I =
2
5
Mb
2
.
8.7 Torque
We have now identified the rotational equivalent of velocity—namely, angular
velocity—and the rotational equivalent of mass—namely, moment of inertia. But,
what is the rotational equivalent of force?
Consider a bicycle wheel of radius b which is free to rotate around a perpen-
dicular axis passing through its centre. Suppose that we apply a force f, which
is coplanar with the wheel, to a point P lying on its circumference. See Fig. 79.
What is the wheel’s subsequent motion?
Let us choose the origin O of our coordinate system to coincide with the pivot
point of the wheel—i.e., the point of intersection between the wheel and the axis
of rotation. Let r be the position vector of point P, and let θ be the angle sub-
tended between the directions of r and f. We can resolve f into two components—
namely, a component f cos θ which acts radially, and a component f sinθ which
acts tangentially. The radial component of f is canceled out by a reaction at the
pivot, since the wheel is assumed to be mounted in such a manner that it can only
rotate, and is prevented from displacing sideways. The tangential component of
f causes the wheel to accelerate tangentially. Let v be the instantaneous rotation
velocity of the wheel’s circumference. Newton’s second law of motion, applied to
179
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.7 Torque
θ
r
O
P
f sinθ
f
b
Figure 79: A rotating bicycle wheel.
the tangential motion of the wheel, yields
M˙v = f sinθ, (8.52)
where M is the mass of the wheel (which is assumed to be concentrated in the
wheel’s rim).
Let us now convert the above expression into a rotational equation of motion.
If ω is the instantaneous angular velocity of the wheel, then the relation between
ω and v is simply
v = bω. (8.53)
Since the wheel is basically a ring of radius b, rotating about a perpendicular
symmetric axis, its moment of inertia is
I = Mb
2
. (8.54)
Combining the previous three equations, we obtain
I ˙ ω = τ, (8.55)
where
τ = f b sinθ. (8.56)
Equation (8.55) is the angular equation of motion of the wheel. It relates the
wheel’s angular velocity, ω, and moment of inertia, I, to a quantity, τ, which is
known as the torque. Clearly, if I is analogous to mass, and ω is analogous to
180
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.7 Torque
O
θ
f
P
l
τ = f l
b
Figure 80: Definition of the length of the level arm, l.
velocity, then torque must be analogous to force. In other words, torque is the
rotational equivalent of force.
It is clear, from Eq. (8.56), that a torque is the product of the magnitude of
the applied force, f, and some distance l = b sinθ. The physical interpretation
of l is illustrated in Fig. 80. If can be seen that l is the perpendicular distance of
the line of action of the force from the axis of rotation. We usually refer to this
distance as the length of the lever arm.
In summary, a torque measures the propensity of a given force to cause the
object upon which it acts to twist about a certain axis. The torque, τ, is simply
the product of the magnitude of the applied force, f, and the length of the lever
arm, l:
τ = f l. (8.57)
Of course, this definition makes a lot of sense. We all know that it is far easier
to turn a rusty bolt using a long, rather than a short, wrench. Assuming that we
exert the same force on the end of each wrench, the torque we apply to the bolt
is larger in the former case, since the perpendicular distance between the line of
action of the force and the bolt (i.e., the length of the wrench) is greater.
181
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.7 Torque
Since force is a vector quantity, it stands to reason that torque must also be
a vector quantity. It follows that Eq. (8.57) defines the magnitude, τ, of some
torque vector, τ. But, what is the direction of this vector? By convention, if a
torque is such as to cause the object upon which it acts to twist about a certain
axis, then the direction of that torque runs along the direction of the axis in the
sense given by the right-hand grip rule. In other words, if the fingers of the right-
hand circulate around the axis of rotation in the sense in which the torque twists
the object, then the thumb of the right-hand points along the axis in the direction
of the torque. It follows that we can rewrite our rotational equation of motion,
Eq. (8.55), in vector form:
I

dt
= I α = τ, (8.58)
where α = dω/dt is the vector angular acceleration. Note that the direction of α
indicates the direction of the rotation axis about which the object accelerates (in
the sense given by the right-hand grip rule), whereas the direction of τ indicates
the direction of the rotation axis about which the torque attempts to twist the
object (in the sense given by the right-hand grip rule). Of course, these two
rotation axes are identical.
Although Eq. (8.58) was derived for the special case of a torque applied to a
ring rotating about a perpendicular symmetric axis, it is, nevertheless, completely
general.
It is important to appreciate that the directions we ascribe to angular velocities,
angular accelerations, and torques are merely conventions. There is actually no
physical motion in the direction of the angular velocity vector—in fact, all of the
motion is in the plane perpendicular to this vector. Likewise, there is no physical
acceleration in the direction of the angular acceleration vector—again, all of the
acceleration is in the plane perpendicular to this vector. Finally, no physical forces
act in the direction of the torque vector—in fact, all of the forces act in the plane
perpendicular to this vector.
Consider a rigid body which is free to pivot in any direction about some fixed
point O. Suppose that a force f is applied to the body at some point P whose
position vector relative to O is r. See Fig. 81. Let θ be the angle subtended
182
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.7 Torque
θ
f
r
P
pivot
O
torque
Figure 81: Torque about a fixed point.
between the directions of r and f. What is the vector torque τ acting on the
object about an axis passing through the pivot point? The magnitude of this
torque is simply
τ = r f sinθ. (8.59)
In Fig. 81, the conventional direction of the torque is out of the page. Another
way of saying this is that the direction of the torque is mutually perpendicular
to both r and f, in the sense given by the right-hand grip rule when vector r is
rotated onto vector f (through an angle less than 180

degrees). It follows that
we can write
τ = r ×f. (8.60)
In other words, the torque exerted by a force acting on a rigid body which pivots
about some fixed point is the vector product of the displacement of the point of
application of the force from the pivot point with the force itself. Equation (8.60)
specifies both the magnitude of the torque, and the axis of rotation about which
the torque twists the body upon which it acts. This axis runs parallel to the
direction of τ, and passes through the pivot point.
183
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.8 Power and work
8.8 Power and work
Consider a mass m attached to the end of a light rod of length l whose other end
is attached to a fixed pivot. Suppose that the pivot is such that the rod is free
to rotate in any direction. Suppose, further, that a force f is applied to the mass,
whose instantaneous angular velocity about an axis of rotation passing through
the pivot is ω.
Let v be the instantaneous velocity of the mass. We know that the rate at which
the force f performs work on the mass—otherwise known as the power—is given
by (see Sect. 5.8)
P = f·v. (8.61)
However, we also know that (see Sect. 8.4)
v = ω×r, (8.62)
where r is the vector displacement of the mass from the pivot. Hence, we can
write
P = ω×r · f (8.63)
(note that a·b = b·a).
Now, for any three vectors, a, b, and c, we can write
a ×b · c = a · b ×c. (8.64)
This theorem is easily proved by expanding the vector and scalar products in
component formusing the definitions (8.11) and (8.13). It follows that Eq. (8.63)
can be rewritten
P = ω· r ×f. (8.65)
However,
τ = r ×f, (8.66)
where τ is the torque associated with force f about an axis of rotation passing
through the pivot. Hence, we obtain
P = τ·ω. (8.67)
184
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.8 Power and work
In other words, the rate at which a torque performs work on the object upon
which it acts is the scalar product of the torque and the angular velocity of the
object. Note the great similarity between Eq. (8.61) and Eq. (8.67).
Now the relationship between work, W, and power, P, is simply
P =
dW
dt
. (8.68)
Likewise, the relationship between angular velocity, ω, and angle of rotation, φ,
is
ω=

dt
. (8.69)
It follows that Eq. (8.67) can be rewritten
dW = τ·dφ. (8.70)
Integration yields
W =

τ·dφ. (8.71)
Note that this is a good definition, since it only involves an infinitesimal rotation
vector, dφ. Recall, from Sect. 8.3, that it is impossible to define a finite rotation
vector. For the case of translational motion, the analogous expression to the
above is
W =

f·dr. (8.72)
Here, f is the force, and dr is an element of displacement of the body upon which
the force acts.
Although Eqs. (8.67) and (8.71) were derived for the special case of the ro-
tation of a mass attached to the end of a light rod, they are, nevertheless, com-
pletely general.
Consider, finally, the special case in which the torque is aligned with the an-
gular velocity, and both are constant in time. In this case, the rate at which the
torque performs work is simply
P = τ ω. (8.73)
185
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.9 Translational motion versus rotational motion
Translational motion Rotational motion
Displacement dr Angular displacement dφ
Velocity v = dr/dt Angular velocity ω= dφ/dt
Acceleration a = dv/dt Angular acceleration α = dω/dt
Mass M Moment of inertia I =

ρ|
^
ω×r|
2
dV
Force f = Ma Torque τ ≡ r ×f = I α
Work W =

f·dr Work W =

τ·dφ
Power P = f·v Power P = τ·ω
Kinetic energy K = Mv
2
/2 Kinetic energy K = I ω
2
/2
Table 3: The analogies between translational and rotational motion.
Likewise, the net work performed by the torque in twisting the body upon which
it acts through an angle ∆φ is just
W = τ ∆φ. (8.74)
8.9 Translational motion versus rotational motion
It should be clear, by now, that there is a strong analogy between rotational mo-
tion and standard translational motion. Indeed, each physical concept used to
analyze rotational motion has its translational concomitant. Likewise, every law
of physics governing rotational motion has a translational equivalent. The analo-
gies between rotational and translational motion are summarized in Table 3.
8.10 The physics of baseball
Baseball players know from experience that there is a “sweet spot” on a baseball
bat, about 17cm from the end of the barrel, where the shock of impact with the
ball, as felt by the hands, is minimized. In fact, if the ball strikes the bat exactly
on the “sweet spot” then the hitter is almost unaware of the collision. Conversely,
if the ball strikes the bat well away from the “sweet spot” then the impact is felt
as a painful jarring of the hands.
186
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.10 The physics of baseball
v
ω
h
b
l
bat
ball
centre of mass
pivot
J’ J’
J J
Figure 82: A schematic baseball bat.
The existence of a “sweet spot” on a baseball bat is just a consequence of ro-
tational dynamics. Let us analyze this problem. Consider the schematic baseball
bat shown in Fig. 82. Let M be the mass of the bat, and let l be its length. Sup-
pose that the bat pivots about a fixed point located at one of its ends. Let the
centre of mass of the bat be located a distance b from the pivot point. Finally,
suppose that the ball strikes the bat a distance h from the pivot point.
The collision between the bat and the ball can be modeled as equal and oppo-
site impulses, J, applied to each object at the time of the collision (see Sect. 6.5).
At the same time, equal and opposite impulses J

are applied to the pivot and the
bat, as shown in Fig. 82. If the pivot actually corresponds to a hitter’s hands then
the latter impulse gives rise to the painful jarring sensation felt when the ball is
not struck properly.
We saw earlier that in a general multi-component system—which includes an
extended body such as a baseball bat—the motion of the centre of mass takes
a particularly simple form (see Sect. 6.3). To be more exact, the motion of the
centre of mass is equivalent to that of the point particle obtained by concentrating
the whole mass of the system at the centre of mass, and then allowing all of the
external forces acting on the system to act upon that mass. Let us use this idea to
187
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.10 The physics of baseball
analyze the effect of the collision with the ball on the motion of the bat’s centre
of mass. The centre of mass of the bat acts like a point particle of mass M which
is subject to the two impulses, J and J

(which are applied simultaneously). If v
is the instantaneous velocity of the centre of mass then the change in momentum
of this point due to the action of the two impulses is simply
M∆v = −J −J

. (8.75)
The minus signs on the right-hand side of the above equation follow from the fact
that the impulses are oppositely directed to v in Fig. 82.
Note that in order to specify the instantaneous state of an extended body we
must do more than just specify the location of the body’s centre of mass. In-
deed, since the body can rotate about its centre of mass, we must also specify its
orientation in space. Thus, in order to follow the motion of an extended body,
we must not only follow the translational motion of its centre of mass, but also
the body’s rotational motion about this point (or any other convenient reference
point located within the body).
Consider the rotational motion of the bat shown in Fig. 82 about a perpendic-
ular (to the bat) axis passing through the pivot point. This motion satisfies
I

dt
= τ, (8.76)
where I is the moment of inertia of the bat, ωis its instantaneous angular velocity,
and τ is the applied torque. The bat is actually subject to an impulsive torque (i.e.,
a torque which only lasts for a short period in time) at the time of the collision
with the ball. Defining the angular impulse K associated with an impulsive torque
τ in much the same manner as we earlier defined the impulse associated with an
impulsive force (see Sect. 6.5), we obtain
K =

t
τ dt. (8.77)
It follows that we can integrate Eq. (8.76) over the time of the collision to find
I ∆ω = K, (8.78)
188
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.10 The physics of baseball
where ∆ω is the change in angular velocity of the bat due to the collision with
the ball.
Now, the torque associated with a given force is equal to the magnitude of the
force times the length of the lever arm. Thus, it stands to reason that the angular
impulse, K, associated with an impulse, J, is simply
K = J x, (8.79)
where x is the perpendicular distance from the line of action of the impulse to the
axis of rotation. Hence, the angular impulses associated with the two impulses,
J and J

, to which the bat is subject when it collides with the ball, are J h and 0,
respectively. The latter angular impulse is zero since the point of application of
the associated impulse coincides with the pivot point, and so the length of the
lever arm is zero. It follows that Eq. (8.78) can be written
I ∆ω = −J h. (8.80)
The minus sign comes from the fact that the impulse J is oppositely directed to
the angular velocity in Fig. 82.
Now, the relationship between the instantaneous velocity of the bat’s centre of
mass and the bat’s instantaneous angular velocity is simply
v = bω. (8.81)
Hence, Eq. (8.75) can be rewritten
Mb∆ω = −J −J

. (8.82)
Equations (8.80) and (8.82) can be combined to yield
J

= −
_
1 −
Mbh
I
_
J. (8.83)
’ The above expression specifies the magnitude of the impulse J

applied to the
hitter’s hands terms of the magnitude of the impulse J applied to the ball.
Let us crudely model the bat as a uniform rod of length l and mass M. It
follows, by symmetry, that the centre of mass of the bat lies at its half-way point:
189
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
i.e.,
b =
l
2
. (8.84)
Moreover, the moment of inertia of the bat about a perpendicular axis passing
through one of its ends is
I =
1
3
Ml
2
(8.85)
(this is a standard result). Combining the previous three equations, we obtain
J

= −
_
1 −
3 h
2 l
_
J = −
_
1 −
h
h
0
_
J, (8.86)
where
h
0
=
2
3
l. (8.87)
Clearly, if h = h
0
then no matter how hard the ball is hit (i.e., no matter how
large we make J) zero impulse is applied to the hitter’s hands. We conclude that
the “sweet spot”—or, in scientific terms, the centre of percussion—of a uniform
baseball bat lies two-thirds of the way down the bat from the hitter’s end. If
we adopt a more realistic model of a baseball bat, in which the bat is tapered
such that the majority of its weight is located at its hitting end, we can easily
demonstrate that the centre of percussion is shifted further away from the hitter
(i.e., it is more that two-thirds of the way along the bat).
8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
In Sect. 4.7, we analyzed the motion of a block sliding down a frictionless incline.
We found that the block accelerates down the slope with uniform acceleration
g sinθ, where θ is the angle subtended by the incline with the horizontal. In this
case, all of the potential energy lost by the block, as it slides down the slope, is
converted into translational kinetic energy (see Sect. 5). In particular, no energy
is dissipated.
There is, of course, no way in which a block can slide over a frictional surface
without dissipating energy. However, we know from experience that a round
190
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
object can roll over such a surface with hardly any dissipation. For instance, it
is far easier to drag a heavy suitcase across the concourse of an airport if the
suitcase has wheels on the bottom. Let us investigate the physics of round objects
rolling over rough surfaces, and, in particular, rolling down rough inclines.
Consider a uniform cylinder of radius b rolling over a horizontal, frictional
surface. See Fig. 83. Let v be the translational velocity of the cylinder’s centre
of mass, and let ω be the angular velocity of the cylinder about an axis running
along its length, and passing through its centre of mass. Consider the point of
contact between the cylinder and the surface. The velocity v

of this point is
made up of two components: the translational velocity v, which is common to
all elements of the cylinder, and the tangential velocity v
t
= −bω, due to the
cylinder’s rotational motion. Thus,
v

= v −v
t
= v −bω. (8.88)
Suppose that the cylinder rolls without slipping. In other words, suppose that
there is no frictional energy dissipation as the cylinder moves over the surface.
This is only possible if there is zero net motion between the surface and the
bottom of the cylinder, which implies v

= 0, or
v = bω. (8.89)
It follows that when a cylinder, or any other round object, rolls across a rough sur-
face without slipping—i.e., without dissipating energy—then the cylinder’s trans-
lational and rotational velocities are not independent, but satisfy a particular
relationship (see the above equation). Of course, if the cylinder slips as it rolls
across the surface then this relationship no longer holds.
Consider, now, what happens when the cylinder shown in Fig. 83 rolls, with-
out slipping, down a rough slope whose angle of inclination, with respect to the
horizontal, is θ. If the cylinder starts from rest, and rolls down the slope a verti-
cal distance h, then its gravitational potential energy decreases by −∆P = Mgh,
where M is the mass of the cylinder. This decrease in potential energy must be
offset by a corresponding increase in kinetic energy. (Recall that when a cylin-
der rolls without slipping there is no frictional energy loss.) However, a rolling
cylinder can possesses two different types of kinetic energy. Firstly, translational
191
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
v
t
v
t
v
ω
centre of mass
surface
cylinder
b
Figure 83: A cylinder rolling over a rough surface.
kinetic energy: K
t
= (1/2) Mv
2
, where v is the cylinder’s translational velocity;
and, secondly, rotational kinetic energy: K
r
= (1/2) I ω
2
, where ω is the cylin-
der’s angular velocity, and I is its moment of inertia. Hence, energy conservation
yields
Mgh =
1
2
Mv
2
+
1
2
I ω
2
. (8.90)
Now, when the cylinder rolls without slipping, its translational and rotational
velocities are related via Eq. (8.89). It follows from Eq. (8.90) that
v
2
=
2 gh
1 +I/Mb
2
. (8.91)
Making use of the fact that the moment of inertia of a uniform cylinder about
its axis of symmetry is I = (1/2) Mb
2
, we can write the above equation more
explicitly as
v
2
=
4
3
gh. (8.92)
Now, if the same cylinder were to slide down a frictionless slope, such that it fell
from rest through a vertical distance h, then its final translational velocity would
satisfy
v
2
= 2 gh. (8.93)
A comparison of Eqs. (8.92) and (8.93) reveals that when a uniform cylinder rolls
down an incline without slipping, its final translational velocity is less than that
obtained when the cylinder slides down the same incline without friction. The
reason for this is that, in the former case, some of the potential energy released
192
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
f
R
θ
slope
cylinder
centre of mass
M g
b
Figure 84: A cylinder rolling down a rough incline.
as the cylinder falls is converted into rotational kinetic energy, whereas, in the
latter case, all of the released potential energy is converted into translational
kinetic energy. Note that, in both cases, the cylinder’s total kinetic energy at the
bottom of the incline is equal to the released potential energy.
Let us examine the equations of motion of a cylinder, of mass M and radius
b, rolling down a rough slope without slipping. As shown in Fig. 84, there are
three forces acting on the cylinder. Firstly, we have the cylinder’s weight, Mg,
which acts vertically downwards. Secondly, we have the reaction, R, of the slope,
which acts normally outwards from the surface of the slope. Finally, we have the
frictional force, f, which acts up the slope, parallel to its surface.
As we have already discussed, we can most easily describe the translational
motion of an extended body by following the motion of its centre of mass. This
motion is equivalent to that of a point particle, whose mass equals that of the
body, which is subject to the same external forces as those that act on the body.
Thus, applying the three forces, Mg, R, and f, to the cylinder’s centre of mass,
and resolving in the direction normal to the surface of the slope, we obtain
R = Mg cos θ. (8.94)
Furthermore, Newton’s second law, applied to the motion of the centre of mass
193
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
parallel to the slope, yields
M˙v = Mg sinθ −f, (8.95)
where ˙v is the cylinder’s translational acceleration down the slope.
Let us, now, examine the cylinder’s rotational equation of motion. First, we
must evaluate the torques associated with the three forces acting on the cylin-
der. Recall, that the torque associated with a given force is the product of the
magnitude of that force and the length of the level arm—i.e., the perpendicular
distance between the line of action of the force and the axis of rotation. Now, by
definition, the weight of an extended object acts at its centre of mass. However,
in this case, the axis of rotation passes through the centre of mass. Hence, the
length of the lever arm associated with the weight Mg is zero. It follows that
the associated torque is also zero. It is clear, from Fig. 84, that the line of action
of the reaction force, R, passes through the centre of mass of the cylinder, which
coincides with the axis of rotation. Thus, the length of the lever arm associated
with R is zero, and so is the associated torque. Finally, according to Fig. 84, the
perpendicular distance between the line of action of the friction force, f, and the
axis of rotation is just the radius of the cylinder, b—so the associated torque is
f b. We conclude that the net torque acting on the cylinder is simply
τ = f b. (8.96)
It follows that the rotational equation of motion of the cylinder takes the form,
I ˙ ω = τ = f b, (8.97)
where I is its moment of inertia, and ˙ ω is its rotational acceleration.
Now, if the cylinder rolls, without slipping, such that the constraint (8.89) is
satisfied at all times, then the time derivative of this constraint implies the follow-
ing relationship between the cylinder’s translational and rotational accelerations:
˙v = b ˙ ω. (8.98)
It follows from Eqs. (8.95) and (8.97) that
˙v =
g sinθ
1 +I/Mb
2
, (8.99)
194
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
f =
Mg sinθ
1 +Mb
2
/I
. (8.100)
Since the moment of inertia of the cylinder is actually I = (1/2) Mb
2
, the above
expressions simplify to give
˙v =
2
3
g sinθ, (8.101)
and
f =
1
3
Mg sinθ. (8.102)
Note that the acceleration of a uniform cylinder as it rolls down a slope, without
slipping, is only two-thirds of the value obtained when the cylinder slides down
the same slope without friction. It is clear from Eq. (8.95) that, in the former
case, the acceleration of the cylinder down the slope is retarded by friction. Note,
however, that the frictional force merely acts to convert translational kinetic en-
ergy into rotational kinetic energy, and does not dissipate energy.
Now, in order for the slope to exert the frictional force specified in Eq. (8.102),
without any slippage between the slope and cylinder, this force must be less than
the maximum allowable static frictional force, µR(= µMg cos θ), where µ is the
coefficient of static friction. In other words, the condition for the cylinder to roll
down the slope without slipping is f < µR, or
tanθ < 3 µ. (8.103)
This condition is easily satisfied for gentle slopes, but may well be violated for ex-
tremely steep slopes (depending on the size of µ). Of course, the above condition
is always violated for frictionless slopes, for which µ = 0.
Suppose, finally, that we place two cylinders, side by side and at rest, at the top
of a frictional slope of inclination θ. Let the two cylinders possess the same mass,
M, and the same radius, b. However, suppose that the first cylinder is uniform,
whereas the second is a hollow shell. Which cylinder reaches the bottom of
the slope first, assuming that they are both released simultaneously, and both
roll without slipping? The acceleration of each cylinder down the slope is given
by Eq. (8.99). For the case of the solid cylinder, the moment of inertia is I =
195
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
(1/2) Mb
2
, and so
˙v
solid
=
2
3
g sinθ. (8.104)
For the case of the hollow cylinder, the moment of inertia is I = Mb
2
(i.e., the
same as that of a ring with a similar mass, radius, and axis of rotation), and so
˙v
hollow
=
1
2
g sinθ. (8.105)
It is clear that the solid cylinder reaches the bottom of the slope before the hollow
one (since it possesses the greater acceleration). Note that the accelerations of
the two cylinders are independent of their sizes or masses. This suggests that a
solid cylinder will always roll down a frictional incline faster than a hollow one,
irrespective of their relative dimensions (assuming that they both roll without
slipping). In fact, Eq. (8.99) suggests that whenever two different objects roll
(without slipping) down the same slope, then the most compact object—i.e., the
object with the smallest I/Mb
2
ratio—always wins the race.
Worked example 8.1: Balancing tires
Question: A tire placed on a balancing machine in a service station starts from
rest and turns through 5.3 revolutions in 2.3 s before reaching its final angular
speed. What is the angular acceleration of the tire (assuming that this quantity
remains constant)? What is the final angular speed of the tire?
Answer: The tire turns through φ = 5.3 × 2 π = 33.30 rad. in t = 2.3 s. The
relationship between φ and t for the case of rotational motion, starting from rest,
with uniform angular acceleration α is
φ =
1
2
αt
2
.
Hence,
α =
2 φ
t
2
=
2 ×33.30
2.3
2
= 12.59 rad./s
2
.
196
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
Given that the tire starts from rest, its angular velocity after t seconds takes
the form
ω = αt = 12.59 ×2.3 = 28.96 rad./s.
Worked example 8.2: Accelerating a wheel
Question: The net work done in accelerating a wheel from rest to an angular
speed of 30 rev./min. is W = 5500 J. What is the moment of inertia of the wheel?
Answer: The final angular speed of the wheel is
ω = 30 ×2 π/60 = 3.142 rad./s.
Assuming that all of the work W performed on the wheel goes to increase its
rotational kinetic energy, we have
W =
1
2
I ω
2
,
where I is the wheel’s moment of inertia. It follows that
I =
2 W
ω
2
=
2 ×5500
3.142
2
= 1114.6 kg m
2
.
Worked example 8.3: Moment of inertia of a rod
Question: A rod of mass M = 3 kg and length L = 1.2 m pivots about an axis,
perpendicular to its length, which passes through one of its ends. What is the
moment of inertia of the rod? Given that the rod’s instantaneous angular velocity
is 60 deg./s, what is its rotational kinetic energy?
Answer: The moment of inertia of a rod of mass M and length L about an axis,
perpendicular to its length, which passes through its midpoint is I = (1/12) ML
2
.
This is a standard result. Using the parallel axis theorem, the moment of inertia
about a parallel axis passing through one of the ends of the rod is
I

= I +M
_
L
2
_
2
=
1
3
ML
2
,
197
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
so
I

=
3 ×1.2
2
3
= 1.44 kg m
2
.
The instantaneous angular velocity of the rod is
ω = 60 ×
π
180
= 1.047 rad./s.
Hence, the rod’s rotational kinetic energy is written
K =
1
2
I

ω
2
= 0.5 ×1.44 ×1.047
2
= 0.789 J.
Worked example 8.4: Weight and pulley
Question: A weight of mass m = 2.6 kg is suspended via a light inextensible
cable which is wound around a pulley of mass M = 6.4 kg and radius b = 0.4 m.
Treating the pulley as a uniform disk, find the downward acceleration of the
weight and the tension in the cable. Assume that the cable does not slip with
respect to the pulley.
T
mg
ω
pulley
weight
b
Answer: Let v be the instantaneous downward velocity of the weight, ω the in-
stantaneous angular velocity of the pulley, and T the tension in the cable. Apply-
ing Newton’s second law to the vertical motion of the weight, we obtain
m˙v = mg −T.
198
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
The angular equation of motion of the pulley is written
I ˙ ω = τ,
where I is its moment of inertia, and τ is the torque acting on the pulley. Now, the
only force acting on the pulley (whose line of action does not pass through the
pulley’s axis of rotation) is the tension in the cable. The torque associated with
this force is the product of the tension, T, and the perpendicular distance from
the line of action of this force to the rotation axis, which is equal to the radius, b,
of the pulley. Hence,
τ = T b.
If the cable does not slip with respect to the pulley, then its downward velocity, v,
must match the tangential velocity of the outer surface of the pulley, bω. Thus,
v = bω.
It follows that
˙v = b ˙ ω.
The above equations can be combined to give
˙v =
g
1 +I/mb
2
,
T =
mg
1 +mb
2
/I
.
Now, the moment of inertia of the pulley is I = (1/2) Mb
2
. Hence, the above
expressions reduce to
˙v =
g
1 +M/2 m
=
9.81
1 +6.4/2 ×2.6
= 4.40 m/s
2
,
T =
mg
1 +2 m/M
=
2.6 ×9.81
1 +2 ×2.6/6.4
= 14.07 N.
Worked example 8.5: Hinged rod
Question: A uniform rod of mass m = 5.3 kg and length l = 1.3 m rotates about a
fixed frictionless pivot located at one of its ends. The rod is released from rest at
199
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
an angle θ = 35

beneath the horizontal. What is the angular acceleration of the
rod immediately after it is released?
m g
θ
l
l/2
x
pivot
rod
Answer: The moment of inertia of a rod of mass m and length l about an axis,
perpendicular to its length, which passes through one of its ends is I = (1/3) ml
2
(see question 8.3). Hence,
I =
5.3 ×1.3
2
3
= 2.986 kg m
2
.
The angular equation of motion of the rod is
I α = τ,
where α is the rod’s angular acceleration, and τ is the net torque exerted on the
rod. Now, the only force acting on the rod (whose line of action does not pass
through the pivot) is the rod’s weight, mg. This force acts at the centre of mass
of the rod, which is situated at the rod’s midpoint. The perpendicular distance x
between the line of action of the weight and the pivot point is simply
x =
l
2
cos θ =
1.3 ×cos 35

2
= 0.532 m.
Thus, the torque acting on the rod is
τ = mgx.
It follows that the rod’s angular acceleration is written
α =
τ
I
=
mgx
I
=
5.3 ×9.81 ×0.532
2.986
= 9.26 rad./s
2
.
200
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
Worked example 8.6: Horsepower of engine
Question: A car engine develops a torque of τ = 500 Nmand rotates at 3000 rev./min..
What horsepower does the engine generate? (1 hp = 746 W).
Answer: The angular speed of the engine is
ω = 3000 ×2 π/60 = 314.12 rad./s.
Thus, the power output of the engine is
P = ωτ = 314.12 ×500 = 1.57 ×10
5
W.
In units of horsepower, this becomes
P =
1.57 ×10
5
746
= 210.5 hp.
Worked example 8.7: Rotating cylinder
Question: A uniform cylinder of radius b = 0.25 m is given an angular speed
of ω
0
= 35 rad./s about an axis, parallel to its length, which passes through its
centre. The cylinder is gently lowered onto a horizontal frictional surface, and
released. The coefficient of friction of the surface is µ = 0.15. How long does it
take before the cylinder starts to roll without slipping? What distance does the
cylinder travel between its release point and the point at which it commences to
roll without slipping?
Answer: Let v be the velocity of the cylinder’s centre of mass, ω the cylinder’s
angular velocity, f the frictional force exerted by the surface on the cylinder, M
the cylinder’s mass, and I the cylinder’s moment of inertia. The cylinder’s trans-
lational equation of motion is written
M˙v = f.
Note that the friction force acts to accelerate the cylinder’s translational motion.
Likewise, the cylinder’s rotational equation of motion takes the form
I ˙ ω = −f b,
201
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
ω
v
f
cylinder
surface
b
since the perpendicular distance between the line of action of f and the axis
of rotation is the radius, b, of the cylinder. Note that the friction force acts to
decelerate the cylinder’s rotational motion. If the cylinder is slipping with respect
to the surface, then the friction force, f, is equal to the coefficient of friction, µ,
times the normal reaction, Mg, at the surface:
f = µMg.
Finally, the moment of inertia of the cylinder is
I =
1
2
Mb
2
.
The above equations can be solved to give
˙v = µg,
b ˙ ω = −2 µg.
Given that v = 0 (i.e., the cylinder is initially at rest) and ω = ω
0
at time t = 0,
the above expressions can be integrated to give
v = µgt,
bω = bω
0
−2 µgt,
which yields
v −bω = −(bω
0
−3 µgt).
Now, the cylinder stops slipping as soon as the “no slip” condition,
v = bω,
202
8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion
is satisfied. This occurs when
t =

0
3 µg
=
0.25 ×35
3 ×0.15 ×9.81
= 1.98 s.
Whilst it is slipping, the cylinder travels a distance
x =
1
2
µgt
2
= 0.5 ×0.15 ×9.81 ×1.98
2
= 2.88 m.
203
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM
9 Angular momentum
9.1 Introduction
Two physical quantities are noticeable by their absence in Table 3. Namely, mo-
mentum, and its rotational concomitant angular momentum. It turns out that
angular momentum is a sufficiently important concept to merit a separate discus-
sion.
9.2 Angular momentum of a point particle
Consider a particle of mass m, position vector r, and instantaneous velocity v,
which rotates about an axis passing through the origin of our coordinate system.
We know that the particle’s linear momentum is written
p = mv, (9.1)
and satisfies
dp
dt
= f, (9.2)
where f is the force acting on the particle. Let us search for the rotational equiv-
alent of p.
Consider the quantity
l = r ×p. (9.3)
This quantity—which is known as angular momentum—is a vector of magnitude
l = r p sinθ, (9.4)
where θ is the angle subtended between the directions of r and p. The direction of
l is defined to be mutually perpendicular to the directions of r and p, in the sense
given by the right-hand grip rule. In other words, if vector r rotates onto vector
p (through an angle less than 180

), and the fingers of the right-hand are aligned
with this rotation, then the thumb of the right-hand indicates the direction of l.
See Fig. 85.
204
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.2 Angular momentum of a point particle
θ
r
p
l = r p sin θ
O
particle
origin
l
Figure 85: Angular momentum of a point particle about the origin.
Let us differentiate Eq. (9.3) with respect to time. We obtain
dl
dt
= ˙r ×p +r × ˙ p. (9.5)
Note that the derivative of a vector product is formed in much the same manner
as the derivative of an ordinary product, except that the order of the various
terms is preserved. Now, we know that ˙r = v = p/m and ˙ p = f. Hence, we obtain
dl
dt
=
p ×p
m
+r ×f. (9.6)
However, p×p = 0, since the vector product of two parallel vectors is zero. Also,
r ×f = τ, (9.7)
where τ is the torque acting on the particle about an axis passing through the
origin. We conclude that
dl
dt
= τ. (9.8)
Of course, this equation is analogous to Eq. (9.2), which suggests that angular
momentum, l, plays the role of linear momentum, p, in rotational dynamics.
For the special case of a particle of mass m executing a circular orbit of ra-
dius r, with instantaneous velocity v and instantaneous angular velocity ω, the
magnitude of the particle’s angular momentum is simply
l = mv r = mωr
2
. (9.9)
205
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.3 Angular momentum of an extended object
9.3 Angular momentum of an extended object
Consider a rigid object rotating about some fixed axis with angular velocity ω.
Let us model this object as a swarm of N particles. Suppose that the ith particle
has mass m
i
, position vector r
i
, and velocity v
i
. Incidentally, it is assumed that
the object’s axis of rotation passes through the origin of our coordinate system.
The total angular momentum of the object, L, is simply the vector sum of the
angular momenta of the N particles from which it is made up. Hence,
L =

i=1,N
m
i
r
i
×v
i
. (9.10)
Now, for a rigidly rotating object we can write (see Sect. 8.4)
v
i
= ω×r
i
. (9.11)
Let
ω= ωk, (9.12)
where k is a unit vector pointing along the object’s axis of rotation (in the sense
given by the right-hand grip rule). It follows that
L = ω

i=1,N
m
i
r
i
×(k ×r
i
). (9.13)
Let us calculate the component of L along the object’s rotation axis—i.e., the
component along the k axis. We can write
L
k
= L · k = ω

i=1,N
m
i
k · r
i
×(k ×r
i
). (9.14)
However, since a · b ×c = a ×b · c, the above expression can be rewritten
L
k
= ω

i=1,N
m
i
(k ×r
i
) · (k ×r
i
) = ω

i=1,N
m
i
|k ×r
i
|
2
. (9.15)
Now,

i=1,N
m
i
|k ×r
i
|
2
= I
k
, (9.16)
206
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.3 Angular momentum of an extended object
where I
k
is the moment of inertia of the object about the k axis. (see Sect. 8.6).
Hence, it follows that
L
k
= I
k
ω. (9.17)
According to the above formula, the component of a rigid body’s angular mo-
mentum vector along its axis of rotation is simply the product of the body’s mo-
ment of inertia about this axis and the body’s angular velocity. Does this result
imply that we can automatically write
L = I ω? (9.18)
Unfortunately, in general, the answer to the above question is no! This conclusion
follows because the body may possess non-zero angular momentum components
about axes perpendicular to its axis of rotation. Thus, in general, the angular
momentum vector of a rotating body is not parallel to its angular velocity vector.
This is a major difference from translational motion, where linear momentum is
always found to be parallel to linear velocity.
For a rigid object rotating with angular velocity ω = (ω
x
, ω
y
, ω
z
), we can
write the object’s angular momentum L = (L
x
, L
y
, L
z
) in the form
L
x
= I
x
ω
x
, (9.19)
L
y
= I
y
ω
y
, (9.20)
L
z
= I
z
ω
z
, (9.21)
where I
x
is the moment of inertia of the object about the x-axis, etc. Here, it is
again assumed that the origin of our coordinate system lies on the object’s axis
of rotation. Note that the above equations are only valid when the x-, y-, and
z-axes are aligned in a certain very special manner—in fact, they must be aligned
along the so-called principal axes of the object (these axes invariably coincide
with the object’s main symmetry axes). Note that it is always possible to find
three, mutually perpendicular, principal axes of rotation which pass through a
given point in a rigid body. Reconstructing L from its components, we obtain
L = I
x
ω
x
^ x +I
y
ω
y
^ y +I
z
ω
z
^z, (9.22)
207
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.3 Angular momentum of an extended object
where ^ x is a unit vector pointing along the x-axis, etc. It is clear, from the above
equation, that the reason L is not generally parallel to ωis because the moments
of inertia of a rigid object about its different possible axes of rotation are not
generally the same. In other words, if I
x
= I
y
= I
z
= I then L = I ω, and the
angular momentum and angular velocity vectors are always parallel. However, if
I
x
= I
y
= I
z
, which is usually the case, then L is not, in general, parallel to ω.
Although Eq. (9.22) suggests that the angular momentum of a rigid object is
not generally parallel to its angular velocity, this equation also implies that there
are, at least, three special axes of rotation for which this is the case. Suppose, for
instance, that the object rotates about the z-axis, so that ω = ω
z
^z. It follows
from Eq. (9.22) that
L = I
z
ω
z
^z = I
z
ω. (9.23)
Thus, in this case, the angular momentumvector is parallel to the angular velocity
vector. The same can be said for rotation about the x- or y- axes. We conclude
that when a rigid object rotates about one of its principal axes then its angular
momentum is parallel to its angular velocity, but not, in general, otherwise.
How can we identify a principal axis of a rigid object? At the simplest level,
a principal axis is one about which the object possesses axial symmetry. The
required type of symmetry is illustrated in Fig. 86. Assuming that the object
can be modeled as a swarm of particles—for every particle of mass m, located
a distance r from the origin, and subtending an angle θ with the rotation axis,
there must be an identical particle located on diagrammatically the opposite side
of the rotation axis. As shown in the diagram, the angular momentum vectors
of such a matched pair of particles can be added together to form a resultant
angular momentum vector which is parallel to the axis of rotation. Thus, if the
object is composed entirely of matched particle pairs then its angular momentum
vector must be parallel to its angular velocity vector. The generalization of this
argument to deal with continuous objects is fairly straightforward. For instance,
symmetry implies that any axis of rotation which passes through the centre of a
uniform sphere is a principal axis of that object. Likewise, a perpendicular axis
which passes through the centre of a uniform disk is a principal axis. Finally, a
perpendicular axis which passes through the centre of a uniform rod is a principal
axis.
208
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system
l
1
l
2
l
1
l
2
ω
r r θ θ
m m
O
axis of rotation
v
1
v
2 l
Figure 86: A principal axis of rotation.
9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system
Consider a system consisting of N mutually interacting point particles. Such
a system might represent a true multi-component system, such as an asteroid
cloud, or it might represent an extended body. Let the ith particle, whose mass is
m
i
, be located at vector displacement r
i
. Suppose that this particle exerts a force
f
ji
on the jth particle. By Newton’s third law of motion, the force f
ij
exerted by
the jth particle on the ith is given by
f
ij
= −f
ji
. (9.24)
Let us assume that the internal forces acting within the system are central forces—
i.e., the force f
ij
, acting between particles i and j, is directed along the line of
centres of these particles. See Fig. 87. In other words,
f
ij
∝ (r
i
−r
j
). (9.25)
Incidentally, this is not a particularly restrictive assumption, since most forces
occurring in nature are central forces. For instance, gravity is a central force,
electrostatic forces are central, and the internal stresses acting within a rigid
body are approximately central. Suppose, finally, that the ith particle is subject
to an external force F
i
.
209
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system
f
i j
f
j i
r
i
r
j
m
i
j
m
F
F
i
j
line of centres
Figure 87: A multi-component system with central internal forces.
The equation of motion of the ith particle can be written
˙ p
i
=
j=i

j=1,N
f
ij
+F
i
. (9.26)
Taking the vector product of this equation with the position vector r
i
, we obtain
r
i
× ˙ p
i
=
j=i

j=1,N
r
i
×f
ij
+r
i
×F
i
. (9.27)
Now, we have already seen that
r
i
× ˙ p
i
=
d(r
i
×p
i
)
dt
. (9.28)
We also know that the total angular momentum, L, of the system (about the
origin) can be written in the form
L =

i=1,N
r
i
×p
i
. (9.29)
Hence, summing Eq. (9.27) over all particles, we obtain
dL
dt
=
i=j

i,j=1,N
r
i
×f
ij
+

i=1,N
r
i
×F
i
. (9.30)
210
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system
Consider the first expression on the right-hand side of Eq. (9.30). A general
term, r
i
× f
ij
, in this sum can always be paired with a matching term, r
j
× f
ji
, in
which the indices have been swapped. Making use of Eq. (9.24), the sum of a
general matched pair can be written
r
i
×f
ij
+r
j
×f
ji
= (r
i
−r
j
) ×f
ij
. (9.31)
However, if the internal forces are central in nature then f
ij
is parallel to (r
i
−r
j
).
Hence, the vector product of these two vectors is zero. We conclude that
r
i
×f
ij
+r
j
×f
ji
= 0, (9.32)
for any values of i and j. Thus, the first expression on the right-hand side of
Eq. (9.30) sums to zero. We are left with
dL
dt
= τ, (9.33)
where
τ =

i=1,N
r
i
×F
i
(9.34)
is the net external torque acting on the system (about an axis passing through
the origin). Of course, Eq. (9.33) is simply the rotational equation of motion for
the system taken as a whole.
Suppose that the system is isolated, such that it is subject to zero net external
torque. It follows from Eq. (9.33) that, in this case, the total angular momentum
of the system is a conserved quantity. To be more exact, the components of the to-
tal angular momentum taken about any three independent axes are individually
conserved quantities. Conservation of angular momentum is an extremely useful
concept which greatly simplifies the analysis of a wide range of rotating systems.
Let us consider some examples.
Suppose that two identical weights of mass m are attached to a light rigid rod
which rotates without friction about a perpendicular axis passing through its mid-
point. Imagine that the two weights are equipped with small motors which allow
them to travel along the rod: the motors are synchronized in such a manner that
the distance of the two weights from the axis of rotation is always the same. Let
211
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system
ω
d d
axle
rod weight
m m
Figure 88: Two movable weights on a rotating rod.
us call this common distance d, and let ω be the angular velocity of the rod. See
Fig. 88. How does the angular velocity ω change as the distance d is varied?
Note that there are no external torques acting on the system. It follows that the
system’s angular momentum must remain constant as the weights move along the
rod. Neglecting the contribution of the rod, the moment of inertia of the system
is written
I = 2 md
2
. (9.35)
Since the system is rotating about a principal axis, its angular momentum takes
the form
L = I ω = 2 md
2
ω. (9.36)
If L is a constant of the motion then we obtain
ωd
2
= constant. (9.37)
In other words, the system spins faster as the weights move inwards towards the
axis of rotation, and vice versa. This effect is familiar from figure skating. When
a skater spins about a vertical axis, her angular momentum is approximately a
conserved quantity, since the ice exerts very little torque on her. Thus, if the
skater starts spinning with outstretched arms, and then draws her arms inwards,
then her rate of rotation will spontaneously increase in order to conserve angular
momentum. The skater can slow her rate of rotation by simply pushing her arms
outwards again.
212
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system
v
d
m
M
rod
bullet
pivot
b
Figure 89: A bullet strikes a pivoted rod.
Suppose that a bullet of mass m and velocity v strikes, and becomes embedded
in, a stationary rod of mass M and length 2 b which pivots about a frictionless
perpendicular axle passing through its mid-point. Let the bullet strike the rod
normally a distance d from its axis of rotation. See Fig. 89. What is the instanta-
neous angular velocity ω of the rod (and bullet) immediately after the collision?
Taking the bullet and the rod as a whole, this is again a system upon which
no external torque acts. Thus, we expect the system’s net angular momentum to
be the same before and after the collision. Before the collision, only the bullet
possesses angular momentum, since the rod is at rest. As is easily demonstrated,
the bullet’s angular momentum about the pivot point is
l = mv d : (9.38)
i.e., the product of its mass, its velocity, and its distance of closest approach to the
point about which the angular momentum is measured—this is a general result
(for a point particle). After the collision, the bullet lodges a distance d from the
pivot, and is forced to co-rotate with the rod. Hence, the angular momentum of
the bullet after the collision is given by
l

= md
2
ω, (9.39)
where ω is the angular velocity of the rod. The angular momentum of the rod
after the collision is
L = I ω, (9.40)
213
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system
where I = (1/12) M(2 b)
2
= (1/3) Mb
2
is the rod’s moment of inertia (about
a perpendicular axis passing through its mid-point). Conservation of angular
momentum yields
l = l

+L, (9.41)
or
ω =
mv d
I +md
2
. (9.42)
Worked example 9.1: Angular momentum of a missile
Question: A missile of mass m = 2.3×10
4
kg flies level to the ground at an altitude
of d = 10, 000 m with constant speed v = 210 m/s. What is the magnitude of the
missile’s angular momentum relative to a point on the ground directly below its
flight path?
r
v
θ
d
r
ground O
Answer: The missile’s angular momentum about point O is
L = mv r sinθ,
where θ is the angle subtended between the missile’s velocity vector and its posi-
tion vector relative to O. However,
r sinθ = d,
where d is the distance of closest approach of the missile to point O. Hence,
L = mv d = (2.3 ×10
4
) ×210 ×(1 ×10
4
) = 4.83 ×10
10
kg m
2
/s.
214
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system
Worked example 9.2: Angular momentum of a sphere
Question: A uniform sphere of mass M = 5 kg and radius a = 0.2 m spins about
an axis passing through its centre with period T = 0.7 s. What is the angular
momentum of the sphere?
Answer: The angular velocity of the sphere is
ω =
2 π
T
=
2 π
0.7
= 8.98 rad./s.
The moment of inertia of the sphere is
I =
2
5
Ma
2
= 0.4 ×5 ×(0.2)
2
= 0.08 kg m
2
.
Hence, the angular momentum of the sphere is
L = I ω = 0.08 ×8.98 = 0.718 kg m
2
/s.
Worked example 9.3: Spinning skater
Question: A skater spins at an initial angular velocity of ω
1
= 11 rad./s with her
arms outstretched. The skater then lowers her arms, thereby decreasing her mo-
ment of inertia by a factor 8. What is the skater’s final angular velocity? Assume
that any friction between the skater’s skates and the ice is negligible.
Answer: Neglecting any friction between the skates and the ice, we expect the
skater to spin with constant angular momentum. The skater’s initial angular
momentum is
L
1
= I
1
ω
1
,
where I
1
is the skater’s initial moment of inertia. The skater’s final angular mo-
mentum is
L
2
= I
2
ω
2
,
where I
2
is the skater’s final moment of inertia, and ω
2
is her final angular veloc-
ity. Conservation of angular momentum yields L
1
= L
2
, or
ω
2
=
I
1
I
2
ω
2
.
215
9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system
Now, we are told that I
1
/I
2
= 8. Hence,
ω
2
= 8 ×11 = 88 rad./s.
216
10 STATICS
10 Statics
10.1 Introduction
Probably the most useful application of the laws of mechanics is the study of situ-
ations in which nothing moves—this discipline is known as statics. The principles
of statics are employed by engineers whenever they design stationary structures,
such as buildings, bridges, and tunnels, in order to ensure that these structures
do not collapse.
10.2 The principles of statics
Consider a general extended body which is subject to a number of external forces.
Let us model this body as a swarm of N point particles. In the limit that N →∞,
this model becomes a fully accurate representation of the body’s dynamics.
In Sect. 6.3 we determined that the overall translational equation of motion of
a general N-component system can be written in the form
dP
dt
= F. (10.1)
Here, P is the total linear momentum of the system, and
F =

i=1,N
F
i
(10.2)
is the resultant of all the external forces acting on the system. Note that F
i
is the
external force acting on the ith component of the system.
Equation (10.1) effectively determines the translational motion of the system’s
centre of mass. Note, however, that in order to fully determine the motion of the
system we must also follow its rotational motion about its centre of mass (or any
other convenient reference point). In Sect. 9.4 we determined that the overall
rotational equation of motion of a general N-component system (with central
217
10 STATICS 10.2 The principles of statics
internal forces) can be written in the form
dL
dt
= τ. (10.3)
Here, L is the total angular momentum of the system (about the origin of our
coordinate scheme), and
τ =

i=1,N
r
i
×F
i
(10.4)
is the resultant of all the external torques acting on the system (about the origin
of our coordinate scheme). In the above, r
i
is the vector displacement of the ith
component of the system.
What conditions must be satisfied by the various external forces and torques
acting on the system if it is to remain stationary in time? Well, if the system
does not evolve in time then its net linear momentum, P, and its net angular
momentum, L, must both remain constant. In other words, dP/dt = dL/dt = 0.
It follows from Eqs. (10.1) and (10.3) that
F = 0, (10.5)
τ = 0. (10.6)
In other words, the net external force acting on system must be zero, and the net
external torque acting on the system must be zero. To be more exact:
The components of the net external force acting along any three independent
directions must all be zero;
and
The magnitudes of the net external torques acting about any three indepen-
dent axes (passing through the origin of the coordinate system) must all be
zero.
In a nutshell, these are the principles of statics.
218
10 STATICS 10.2 The principles of statics
It is clear that the above principles are necessary conditions for a general phys-
ical system not to evolve in time. But, are they also sufficient conditions? In other
words, is it necessarily true that a general system which satisfies these conditions
does not exhibit any time variation? The answer to this question is as follows: if
the system under investigation is a rigid body, such that the motion of any com-
ponent of the body necessarily implies the motion of the whole body, then the
above principles are necessary and sufficient conditions for the existence of an
equilibrium state. On the other hand, if the system is not a rigid body, so that
some components of the body can move independently of others, then the above
conditions only guarantee that the system remains static in an average sense.
Before we attempt to apply the principles of statics, there are a couple of
important points which need clarification. Firstly, does it matter about which
point we calculate the net torque acting on the system? To be more exact, if
we determine that the net torque acting about a given point is zero does this
necessarily imply that the net torque acting about any other point is also zero?
Well,
τ =

i=1,N
r
i
×F
i
(10.7)
is the net torque acting on the system about the origin of our coordinate scheme.
The net torque about some general point r
0
is simply
τ

=

i=1,N
(r
i
−r
0
) ×F
i
. (10.8)
However, we can rewrite the above expression as
τ

=

i=1,N
r
i
×F
i
−r
0
×
_
_
_

i=1,N
F
i
_
_
_ = τ +r
0
×F. (10.9)
Now, if the system is in equilibrium then F = τ = 0. Hence, it follows from the
above equation that
τ

= 0. (10.10)
In other words, for a system in equilibrium, the determination that the net torque
acting about a given point is zero necessarily implies that the net torque acting
about any other point is also zero. Hence, we can choose the point about which
219
10 STATICS 10.3 Equilibrium of a laminar object in a gravitational field
we calculate the net torque at will—this choice is usually made so as to simplify
the calculation.
Another question which needs clarification is as follows. At which point should
we assume that the weight of the system acts in order to calculate the contribu-
tion of the weight to the net torque acting about a given point? Actually, in
Sect. 8.11, we effectively answered this question by assuming that the weight
acts at the centre of mass of the system. Let us now justify this assumption. The
external force acting on the ith component of the system due to its weight is
F
i
= m
i
g, (10.11)
where g is the acceleration due to gravity (which is assumed to be uniform
throughout the system). Hence, the net gravitational torque acting on the system
about the origin of our coordinate scheme is
τ =

i=1,N
r
i
×m
i
g =
_
_
_

i=1,N
m
i
r
i
_
_
_ ×g = r
cm
×Mg, (10.12)
where M =

i=1,N
m
i
is the total mass of the system, and r
cm
=

i=1,N
m
i
r
i
/M
is the position vector of its centre of mass. It follows, from the above equation,
that the net gravitational torque acting on the system about a given point can be
calculated by assuming that the total mass of the system is concentrated at its
centre of mass.
10.3 Equilibrium of a laminar object in a gravitational field
Consider a general laminar object which is free to pivot about a fixed perpendic-
ular axis. Assuming that the object is placed in a uniform gravitational field (such
as that on the surface of the Earth), what is the object’s equilibrium configuration
in this field?
Let O represent the pivot point, and let C be the centre of mass of the ob-
ject. See Fig. 90. Suppose that r represents the distance between points O and
C, whereas θ is the angle subtended between the line OC and the downward
220
10 STATICS 10.3 Equilibrium of a laminar object in a gravitational field
d
h
θ
r
Mg
C
O
Figure 90: A laminar object pivoting about a fixed point in a gravitational field.
vertical. There are two external forces acting on the object. First, there is the
downward force, Mg, due to gravity, which acts at the centre of mass. Second,
there is the reaction, R, due to the pivot, which acts at the pivot point. Here, M
is the mass of the object, and g is the acceleration due to gravity.
Two conditions must be satisfied in order for a given configuration of the object
shown in Fig. 90 to represent an equilibrium configuration. First, there must be
zero net external force acting on the object. This implies that the reaction, R, is
equal and opposite to the gravitational force, Mg. In other words, the reaction
is of magnitude Mg and is directed vertically upwards. The second condition
is that there must be zero net torque acting about the pivot point. Now, the
reaction, R, does not generate a torque, since it acts at the pivot point. Moreover,
the torque associated with the gravitational force, Mg, is simply the magnitude
of this force times the length of the lever arm, d (see Fig. 90). Hence, the net
torque acting on the system about the pivot point is
τ = Mgd = Mgr sinθ. (10.13)
Setting this torque to zero, we obtain sinθ = 0, which implies that θ = 0

. In
other words, the equilibrium configuration of a general laminar object (which is
free to rotate about a fixed perpendicular axis in a uniform gravitational field) is
that in which the centre of mass of the object is aligned vertically below the pivot
point.
221
10 STATICS 10.3 Equilibrium of a laminar object in a gravitational field
Incidentally, we can use the above result to experimentally determine the cen-
tre of mass of a given laminar object. We would need to suspend the object from
two different pivot points, successively. In each equilibrium configuration, we
would mark a line running vertically downward from the pivot point, using a
plumb-line. The crossing point of these two lines would indicate the position of
the centre of mass.
Our discussion of the equilibrium configuration of the laminar object shown in
Fig. 90 is not quite complete. We have determined that the condition which must
be satisfied by an equilibrium state is sinθ = 0. However, there are, in fact, two
physical roots of this equation. The first, θ = 0

, corresponds to the case where
the centre of mass of the object is aligned vertically below the pivot point. The
second, θ = 180

, corresponds to the case where the centre of mass is aligned
vertically above the pivot point. Of course, the former root is far more important
than the latter, since the former root corresponds to a stable equilibrium, whereas
the latter corresponds to an unstable equilibrium. We recall, from Sect. 5.7, that
when a system is slightly disturbed from a stable equilibrium then the forces and
torques which act upon it tend to return it to this equilibrium, and vice versa for an
unstable equilibrium. The easiest way to distinguish between stable and unstable
equilibria, in the present case, is to evaluate the gravitational potential energy of
the system. The potential energy of the object shown in Fig. 90, calculated using
the height of the pivot as the reference height, is simply
U = −Mgh = −Mgr cos θ. (10.14)
(Note that the gravitational potential energy of an extended object can be calcu-
lated by imagining that all of the mass of the object is concentrated at its centre
of mass.) It can be seen that θ = 0

corresponds to a minimum of this poten-
tial, whereas θ = 180

corresponds to a maximum. This is in accordance with
Sect. 5.7, where it was demonstrated that whenever an object moves in a con-
servative force-field (such as a gravitational field), the stable equilibrium points
correspond to minima of the potential energy associated with this field, whereas
the unstable equilibrium points correspond to maxima.
222
10 STATICS 10.4 Rods and cables
10.4 Rods and cables
Consider a uniform rod of mass M and length l which is suspended horizontally
via two vertical cables. Let the points of attachment of the two cables be located
distances x
1
and x
2
from one of the ends of the rod, labeled A. It is assumed that
x
2
> x
1
. See Fig. 91. What are the tensions, T
1
and T
2
, in the cables?
Let us first locate the centre of mass of the rod, which is situated at the rod’s
mid-point, a distance l/2 from reference point A (see Fig. 91). There are three
forces acting on the rod: the gravitational force, Mg, and the two tension forces,
T
1
and T
2
. Each of these forces is directed vertically. Thus, the condition that zero
net force acts on the system reduces to the condition that the net vertical force is
zero, which yields
T
1
+T
2
−Mg = 0. (10.15)
Consider the torques exerted by the three above-mentioned forces about point
A. Each of these torques attempts to twist the rod about an axis perpendicular
to the plane of the diagram. Hence, the condition that zero net torque acts on
the system reduces to the condition that the net torque at point A, about an
axis perpendicular to the plane of the diagram, is zero. The contribution of each
force to this torque is simply the product of the magnitude of the force and the
length of the associated lever arm. In each case, the length of the lever arm is
equivalent to the distance of the point of action of the force from A, measured
along the length of the rod. Hence, setting the net torque to zero, we obtain
x
1
T
1
+x
2
T
2

l
2
Mg = 0. (10.16)
Note that the torque associated with the gravitational force, Mg, has a minus sign
in front, because this torque obviously attempts to twist the rod in the opposite
direction to the torques associated with the tensions in the cables.
The previous two equations can be solved to give
T
1
=
_
_
x
2
−l/2
x
2
−x
1
_
_
Mg, (10.17)
223
10 STATICS 10.4 Rods and cables
x
2
T
1
T
2
l/2
1
x
M g
A
Figure 91: A horizontal rod suspended by two vertical cables.
T
2
=
_
_
l/2 −x
1
x
2
−x
1
_
_
Mg. (10.18)
Recall that tensions in flexible cables can never be negative, since this would
imply that the cables in question were being compressed. Of course, when cables
are compressed they simply collapse. It is clear, from the above expressions, that
in order for the tensions T
1
and T
2
to remain positive (given that x
2
> x
1
), the
following conditions must be satisfied:
x
1
<
l
2
, (10.19)
x
2
>
l
2
. (10.20)
In other words, the attachment points of the two cables must straddle the centre
of mass of the rod.
Consider a uniform rod of mass M and length l which is free to rotate in the
vertical plane about a fixed pivot attached to one of its ends. The other end of
the rod is attached to a fixed cable. We can imagine that both the pivot and the
cable are anchored in the same vertical wall. See Fig. 92. Suppose that the rod is
level, and that the cable subtends an angle θ with the horizontal. Assuming that
the rod is in equilibrium, what is the magnitude of the tension, T, in the cable,
and what is the direction and magnitude of the reaction, R, at the pivot?
224
10 STATICS 10.4 Rods and cables
wall
M g
l
θ
rod
cable
T
pivot
φ
R
Figure 92: A rod suspended by a fixed pivot and a cable.
As usual, the centre of mass of the rod lies at its mid-point. There are three
forces acting on the rod: the reaction, R; the weight, Mg; and the tension, T.
The reaction acts at the pivot. Let φ be the angle subtended by the reaction with
the horizontal, as shown in Fig. 92. The weight acts at the centre of mass of the
rod, and is directed vertically downwards. Finally, the tension acts at the end of
the rod, and is directed along the cable.
Resolving horizontally, and setting the net horizontal force acting on the rod
to zero, we obtain
R cos φ −T cos θ = 0. (10.21)
Likewise, resolving vertically, and setting the net vertical force acting on the rod
to zero, we obtain
R sinφ +T sinθ −Mg = 0. (10.22)
The above constraints are sufficient to ensure that zero net force acts on the rod.
Let us evaluate the net torque acting at the pivot point (about an axis perpen-
dicular to the plane of the diagram). The reaction, R, does not contribute to this
torque, since it acts at the pivot point. The length of the lever arm associated
with the weight, Mg, is l/2. Simple trigonometry reveals that the length of the
lever arm associated with the tension, T, is l sinθ. Hence, setting the net torque
225
10 STATICS 10.5 Ladders and walls
about the pivot point to zero, we obtain
Mg
l
2
−T l sinθ = 0. (10.23)
Note that there is a minus sign in front of the second torque, since this torque
clearly attempts to twist the rod in the opposite sense to the first.
Equations (10.21) and (10.22) can be solved to give
T =
cos φ
sin(θ +φ)
Mg, (10.24)
R =
cos θ
sin(θ +φ)
Mg. (10.25)
Substituting Eq. (10.24) into Eq. (10.23), we obtain
sin(θ +φ) = 2 sinθ cos φ. (10.26)
The physical solution of this equation is φ = θ (recall that sin2 θ = 2 sinθ cos θ),
which determines the direction of the reaction at the pivot. Finally, Eqs. (10.24)
and (10.25) yield
T = R =
Mg
2 sinθ
, (10.27)
which determines both the magnitude of the tension in the cable and that of the
reaction at the pivot.
One important point to note about the above solution is that if φ = θ then the
lines of action of the three forces—R, Mg, and T—intersect at the same point,
as shown in Fig. 92. This is an illustration of a general rule. Namely, whenever a
rigid body is in equilibrium under the action of three forces, then these forces are
either mutually parallel, as shown in Fig. 91, or their lines of action pass through
the same point, as shown in Fig. 92.
10.5 Ladders and walls
Suppose that a ladder of length l and negligible mass is leaning against a vertical
wall, making an angle θ with the horizontal. A workman of mass M climbs
226
10 STATICS 10.5 Ladders and walls
x
l
M g
θ
S
R
wall
ladder
ground
f
workman
Figure 93: A ladder leaning against a vertical wall.
a distance x along the ladder, measured from the bottom. See Fig. 93. Suppose
that the wall is completely frictionless, but that the ground possesses a coefficient
of static friction µ. How far up the ladder can the workman climb before it slips
along the ground? Is it possible for the workman to climb to the top of the ladder
without any slippage occurring?
There are four forces acting on the ladder: the weight, Mg, of the workman;
the reaction, S, at the wall; the reaction, R, at the ground; and the frictional
force, f, due to the ground. The weight acts at the position of the workman, and
is directed vertically downwards. The reaction, S, acts at the top of the ladder,
and is directed horizontally (i.e., normal to the surface of the wall). The reaction,
R, acts at the bottom of the ladder, and is directed vertically upwards (i.e., normal
to the ground). Finally, the frictional force, f, also acts at the bottom of the ladder,
and is directed horizontally.
Resolving horizontally, and setting the net horizontal force acting on the ladder
to zero, we obtain
S −f = 0. (10.28)
Resolving vertically, and setting the net vertically force acting on the ladder to
zero, we obtain
R −Mg = 0. (10.29)
Evaluating the torque acting about the point where the ladder touches the ground,
we note that only the forces Mg and S contribute. The lever arm associated with
the force Mg is x cos θ. The lever arm associated with the force S is l sinθ. Fur-
227
10 STATICS 10.6 Jointed rods
thermore, the torques associated with these two forces act in opposite directions.
Hence, setting the net torque about the bottom of the ladder to zero, we obtain
Mgx cos θ −Sl sinθ = 0. (10.30)
The above three equations can be solved to give
R = Mg, (10.31)
and
f = S =
x
l tanθ
Mg. (10.32)
Now, the condition for the ladder not to slip with respect to the ground is
f < µR. (10.33)
This condition reduces to
x < l µ tanθ. (10.34)
Thus, the furthest distance that the workman can climb along the ladder before
it slips is
x
max
= l µ tanθ. (10.35)
Note that if tanθ > 1/µ then the workman can climb all the way along the ladder
without any slippage occurring. This result suggests that ladders leaning against
walls are less likely to slip when they are almost vertical (i.e., when θ →90

).
10.6 Jointed rods
Suppose that three identical uniform rods of mass M and length l are joined
together to form an equilateral triangle, and are then suspended from a cable, as
shown in Fig. 94. What is the tension in the cable, and what are the reactions at
the joints?
Let X
1
, X
2
, and X
3
be the horizontal reactions at the three joints, and let Y
1
, Y
2
,
and Y
3
be the corresponding vertical reactions, as shown in Fig. 94. In drawing
this diagram, we have made use of the fact that the rods exert equal and opposite
228
10 STATICS 10.6 Jointed rods
M g
M g M g
X
X
Y
Y
X
X
Y
Y
X
Y
Y
X
1
1
1
1
2 2
2
2
3
3
3
3
θ θ
θ
T
cable
rod
l
A B
C
Figure 94: Three identical jointed rods.
reactions on one another, in accordance with Newton’s third law. Let T be the
tension in the cable.
Setting the horizontal and vertical forces acting on rod AB to zero, we obtain
X
1
−X
3
= 0, (10.36)
T +Y
1
+Y
3
−Mg = 0, (10.37)
respectively. Setting the horizontal and vertical forces acting on rod AC to zero,
we obtain
X
2
−X
1
= 0, (10.38)
Y
2
−Y
1
−Mg = 0, (10.39)
respectively. Finally, setting the horizontal and vertical forces acting on rod BC
to zero, we obtain
X
3
−X
2
= 0, (10.40)
−Y
2
−Y
3
−Mg = 0, (10.41)
respectively. Incidentally, it is clear, from symmetry, that X
1
= X
3
and Y
1
= Y
3
.
Thus, the above equations can be solved to give
T = 3 Mg, (10.42)
229
10 STATICS 10.6 Jointed rods
Y
2
= 0, (10.43)
X
1
= X
2
= X
3
= X, (10.44)
Y
1
= Y
3
= −Mg. (10.45)
There now remains only one unknown, X.
Now, it is clear, from symmetry, that there is zero net torque acting on rod AB.
Let us evaluate the torque acting on rod AC about point A. (By symmetry, this is
the same as the torque acting on rod BC about point B). The two forces which
contribute to this torque are the weight, Mg, and the reaction X
2
= X. (Recall
that the reaction Y
2
is zero). The lever arms associated with these two torques
(which act in the same direction) are (l/2) cos θ and l sinθ, respectively. Thus,
setting the net torque to zero, we obtain
Mg(l/2) cos θ +Xl sinθ = 0, (10.46)
which yields
X = −
Mg
2 tanθ
= −
Mg
2

3
, (10.47)
since θ = 60

, and tan60

=

3. We have now fully determined the tension in
the cable, and all the reactions at the joints.
Worked example 10.1: Equilibrium of two rods
Question: Suppose that two uniform rods (of negligible thickness) are welded
together at right-angles, as shown in the diagram below. Let the first rod be
of mass m
1
= 5.2 kg and length l
1
= 1.3 m. Let the second rod be of mass
m
2
= 3.4 kg and length l
2
= 0.7 m. Suppose that the system is suspended from
a pivot point located at the free end of the first rod, and then allowed to reach
a stable equilibrium state. What angle θ does the first rod subtend with the
downward vertical in this state?
Answer: Let us adopt a coordinate system in which the x-axis runs parallel to the
second rod, whereas the y-axis runs parallel to the first. Let the origin of our
230
10 STATICS 10.6 Jointed rods
l
2
1
l
pivot
y
x
coordinate system correspond to the pivot point. The centre of mass of the first
rod is situated at its mid-point, whose coordinates are
(x
1
, y
1
) = (0, l
1
/2).
Likewise, the centre of mass of the second rod is situated at its mid-point, whose
coordinates are
(x
2
, y
2
) = (l
2
/2, l
1
).
It follows that the coordinates of the centre of mass of the whole system are given
by
x
cm
=
m
1
x
1
+m
2
x
2
m
1
+m
2
=
1
2
m
2
l
2
m
1
+m
2
=
3.4 ×0.7
2 ×8.6
= 0.138 m,
and
y
cm
=
m
1
y
1
+m
2
y
2
m
1
+m
2
=
m
1
l
1
/2 +m
2
l
1
m
1
+m
2
=
5.2 ×1.3/2 +3.4 ×1.3
8.6
= 0.907 m.
The angle θ subtended between the line joining the pivot point and the overall
centre of mass, and the first rod is simply
θ = tan
−1
_
x
cm
y
cm
_
= tan
−1
0.152 = 8.65

.
When the system reaches a stable equilibrium state then its centre of mass is
aligned directly below the pivot point. This implies that the first rod subtends an
angle θ = 8.65

with the downward vertical.
231
10 STATICS 10.6 Jointed rods
Worked example 10.2: Rod supported by a cable
Question: A uniform rod of mass m = 15 kg and length l = 3 m is supported in
a horizontal position by a pin and a cable, as shown in the figure below. Masses
m
1
= 36 kg and m
2
= 24 kg are suspended from the rod at positions l
1
= 0.5 m
and l
2
= 2.3 m. The angle θ is 40

. What is the tension T in the cable?
θ
l
1
l
2
m
m
1
2
rod
cable
pin
l
Answer: Consider the torque acting on the rod about the pin. Note that the
reaction at the pin makes no contribution to this torque (since the length of the
associated lever arm is zero). The torque due to the weight of the rod is mgl/2
(i.e., the weight times the length of the lever arm). Note that the weight of the
rod acts at its centre of mass, which is located at the rod’s mid-point. The torque
due to the weight of the first mass is m
1
gl
1
. The torque due to the weight of
the second mass is m
2
gl
2
. Finally, the torque due to the tension in the cable is
−T l sinθ (this torque is negative since it twists the rod in the opposite sense to
the other three torques). Hence, setting the net torque to zero, we obtain
mg
l
2
+m
1
gl
1
+m
2
gl
2
−T l sinθ = 0,
or
T =
[m/2 +m
1
(l
1
/l) +m
2
(l
2
/l)] g
sinθ
=
[0.5 ×15 +36 ×(0.5/3) +24 ×(2.3/3)] ×9.81
sin40

= 486.84 N.
232
10 STATICS 10.6 Jointed rods
Worked example 10.3: Leaning ladder
Question: A uniform ladder of mass m = 40 kg and length l = 10 m is leaned
against a smooth vertical wall. A person of mass M = 80 kg stands on the ladder
a distance x = 7 m from the bottom, as measured along the ladder. The foot of
the ladder is d = 1.2 m from the bottom of the wall. What is the force exerted
by the wall on the ladder? What is the normal force exerted by the floor on the
ladder?
x
M g
θ
S
R
wall
ladder
ground
f
l
m g
d
person
Answer: The angle θ subtended by the ladder with the ground satisfies
θ = cos
−1
(d/l) = cos
−1
(1.2/10) = 83.11

.
Let S be the normal reaction at the wall, let R be the normal reaction at the
ground, and let f be the frictional force exerted by the ground on the ladder,
as shown in the diagram. Consider the torque acting on the ladder about the
point where it meets the ground. Only three forces contribute to this torque:
the weight, mg, of the ladder, which acts half-way along the ladder; the weight,
Mg, of the person, which acts a distance x along the ladder; and the reaction, S,
at the wall, which acts at the top of the ladder. The lever arms associated with
these three forces are (l/2) cos θ, x cos θ, and l sinθ, respectively. Note that the
reaction force acts to twist the ladder in the opposite sense to the two weights.
Hence, setting the net torque to zero, we obtain
mg
l
2
cos θ +Mgx cos θ −Sl sinθ = 0,
233
10 STATICS 10.6 Jointed rods
which yields
S =
(mg/2 +Mgx/l)
tanθ
=
(0.5 ×40 ×9.81 +80 ×9.81 ×7/10)
tan83.11

= 90.09 N.
The condition that zero net vertical force acts on the ladder yields
R −mg −Mg = 0.
Hence,
R = (m+M) g = (40 +80) ×9.81 = 1177.2 N.
Worked example 10.4: Truck crossing a bridge
Question: A truck of mass M = 5000 kg is crossing a uniform horizontal bridge
of mass m = 1000 kg and length l = 100 m. The bridge is supported at its two
end-points. What are the reactions at these supports when the truck is one third
of the way across the bridge?
m g M g
S R
l
truck
bridge
l/3
Answer: Let R and S be the reactions at the bridge supports. Here, R is the
reaction at the support closest to the truck. Setting the net vertical force acting
on the bridge to zero, we obtain
R +S −Mg −mg = 0.
Setting the torque acting on the bridge about the left-most support to zero, we
get
Mgl/3 +mgl/2 −Sl = 0.
234
10 STATICS 10.6 Jointed rods
Here, we have made use of the fact that centre of mass of the bridge lies at its
mid-point. It follows from the above two equations that
S = Mg/3 +mg/2 = 5000 ×9.81/3 +1000 ×9.81/2 = 2.13 ×10
4
N,
and
R = Mg +mg −S = (5000 +1000) ×9.81 −2.13 ×10
4
= 3.76 ×10
4
N.
Worked example 10.5: Rod supported by a strut
Question: A uniform horizontal rod of mass m = 15 kg is attached to a vertical
wall at one end, and is supported, from below, by a light rigid strut at the other.
The strut is attached to the rod at one end, and the wall at the other, and subtends
an angle of θ = 30

with the rod. Find the horizontal and vertical reactions at the
point where the strut is attached to the rod, and the points where the rod and the
strut are attached to the wall.
X
1
θ
X
3 2
X
3
X
Y
1
Y
2
Y
3
Y
3
m g
rod
wall
strut
Answer: Let us call the vertical reactions at the joints X
1
, X
2
, and X
3
. Let the
corresponding horizontal reactions be Y
1
, Y
2
, and Y
3
. See the diagram. Here, we
have made use of the fact that the strut and the rod exert equal and opposite
reactions on one another, in accordance with Newton’s third law. Setting the net
vertical force on the rod to zero yields
X
1
+X
3
−mg = 0.
235
10 STATICS 10.6 Jointed rods
Setting the net horizontal force on the rod to zero gives
Y
1
+Y
3
= 0.
Setting the net vertical force on the strut to zero yields
X
2
−X
3
= 0.
Finally, setting the net horizontal force on the strut to zero yields
Y
2
−Y
3
= 0.
The above equations can be solved to give
−Y
1
= Y
2
= Y
3
= Y,
and
X
2
= X
3
= X,
with
X
1
= mg −X.
There now remain only two unknowns, X and Y.
Setting the net torque acting on the rod about the point where it is connected
to the wall to zero, we obtain
mgl/2 −X
3
l = 0,
where l is the length of the rod. Here, we have used the fact that the centre of
gravity of the rod lies at its mid-point. The above equation implies that
X
3
= X = mg/2 = 15 ×9.81/2 = 73.58 N.
We also have X
1
= mg − X = 73.58 N. Setting the net torque acting on the strut
about the point where it is connected to the wall to zero, we find
Y
3
h sinθ −X
3
h cos θ = 0,
where h is the length of the strut. Thus,
Y
3
= Y =
X
tanθ
=
73.58
tan30

= 127.44 N.
In summary, the vertical reactions are X
1
= X
2
= X
3
= 73.58 N, and the hori-
zontal reactions are −Y
1
= Y
2
= Y
3
= 127.44 N.
236
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION
11 Oscillatory motion
11.1 Introduction
We have seen previously (for instance, in Sect. 10.3) that when systems are per-
turbed from a stable equilibrium state they experience a restoring force which acts
to return them to that state. In many cases of interest, the magnitude of the
restoring force is directly proportional to the displacement from equilibrium. In
this section, we shall investigate the motion of systems subject to such a force.
11.2 Simple harmonic motion
Let us reexamine the problem of a mass on a spring (see Sect. 5.6). Consider
a mass m which slides over a horizontal frictionless surface. Suppose that the
mass is attached to a light horizontal spring whose other end is anchored to an
immovable object. See Fig. 42. Let x be the extension of the spring: i.e., the dif-
ference between the spring’s actual length and its unstretched length. Obviously,
x can also be used as a coordinate to determine the horizontal displacement of
the mass.
The equilibrium state of the system corresponds to the situation where the
mass is at rest, and the spring is unextended (i.e., x = 0). In this state, zero net
force acts on the mass, so there is no reason for it to start to move. If the system
is perturbed from this equilibrium state (i.e., if the mass is moved, so that the
spring becomes extended) then the mass experiences a restoring force given by
Hooke’s law:
f = −k x. (11.1)
Here, k > 0 is the force constant of the spring. The negative sign indicates that
f is indeed a restoring force. Note that the magnitude of the restoring force
is directly proportional to the displacement of the system from equilibrium (i.e.,
f ∝ x). Of course, Hooke’s law only holds for small spring extensions. Hence,
the displacement from equilibrium cannot be made too large. The motion of this
237
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.2 Simple harmonic motion
system is representative of the motion of a wide range of systems when they are
slightly disturbed from a stable equilibrium state.
Newton’s second law gives following equation of motion for the system:
m¨ x = −k x. (11.2)
This differential equation is known as the simple harmonic equation, and its solu-
tion has been known for centuries. In fact, the solution is
x = a cos(ωt −φ), (11.3)
where a, ω, and φ are constants. We can demonstrate that Eq. (11.3) is in-
deed a solution of Eq. (11.2) by direct substitution. Substituting Eq. (11.3) into
Eq. (11.2), and recalling fromcalculus that d(cos θ)/dθ = −sinθ and d(sinθ)/dθ =
cos θ, we obtain
−mω
2
a cos(ωt −φ) = −k a cos(ωt −φ). (11.4)
It follows that Eq. (11.3) is the correct solution provided
ω =
¸
¸
¸
_
k
m
. (11.5)
Figure 95 shows a graph of x versus t obtained from Eq. (11.3). The type
of motion shown here is called simple harmonic motion. It can be seen that the
displacement x oscillates between x = −a and x = +a. Here, a is termed the
amplitude of the oscillation. Moreover, the motion is periodic in time (i.e., it
repeats exactly after a certain time period has elapsed). In fact, the period is
T =
2 π
ω
. (11.6)
This result is easily obtained from Eq. (11.3) by noting that cos θ is a periodic
function of θ with period 2 π. The frequency of the motion (i.e., the number of
oscillations completed per second) is
f =
1
T
=
ω
2 π
. (11.7)
238
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.2 Simple harmonic motion
ωt −φ 0

90

180

270

x +a 0 −a 0
˙ x 0 −ωa 0 +ωa
¨ x −ω
2
a 0 +ω
2
a 0
Table 4: Simple harmonic motion.
Figure 95: Simple harmonic motion.
It can be seen that ω is the motion’s angular frequency (i.e., the frequency f
converted into radians per second). Finally, the phase angle φ determines the
times at which the oscillation attains its maximum amplitude, x = a: in fact,
t
max
= T
_
n +
φ
2 π
_
. (11.8)
Here, n is an arbitrary integer.
Table 4 lists the displacement, velocity, and acceleration of the mass at various
phases of the simple harmonic cycle. The information contained in this table can
easily be derived from the simple harmonic equation, Eq. (11.3). Note that all
of the non-zero values shown in this table represent either the maximum or the
minimum value taken by the quantity in question during the oscillation cycle.
We have seen that when a mass on a spring is disturbed from equilibrium it
239
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.2 Simple harmonic motion
executes simple harmonic motion about its equilibrium state. In physical terms,
if the initial displacement is positive (x > 0) then the restoring force overcom-
pensates, and sends the system past the equilibrium state (x = 0) to negative
displacement states (x < 0). The restoring force again overcompensates, and
sends the system back through x = 0 to positive displacement states. The motion
then repeats itself ad infinitum. The frequency of the oscillation is determined by
the spring stiffness, k, and the system inertia, m, via Eq. (11.5). In contrast, the
amplitude and phase angle of the oscillation are determined by the initial condi-
tions. Suppose that the instantaneous displacement and velocity of the mass at
t = 0 are x
0
and v
0
, respectively. It follows from Eq. (11.3) that
x
0
= x(t = 0) = a cos φ, (11.9)
v
0
= ˙ x(t = 0) = aω sinφ. (11.10)
Here, use has been made of the well-known identities cos(−θ) = cos θ and
sin(−θ) = −sinθ. Hence, we obtain
a =
_
x
2
0
+ (v
0
/ω)
2
, (11.11)
and
φ = tan
−1
_
v
0
ωx
0
_
, (11.12)
since sin
2
θ + cos
2
θ = 1 and tanθ = sinθ/ cos θ.
The kinetic energy of the system is written
K =
1
2
m˙ x
2
=
ma
2
ω
2
sin
2
(ωt −φ)
2
. (11.13)
Recall, from Sect. 5.6, that the potential energy takes the form
U =
1
2
k x
2
=
k a
2
cos
2
(ωt −φ)
2
. (11.14)
Hence, the total energy can be written
E = K +U =
a
2
k
2
, (11.15)
240
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.3 The torsion pendulum
torsion wire
disk
fixed support
θ
Figure 96: A torsion pendulum.
since mω
2
= k and sin
2
θ +cos
2
θ = 1. Note that the total energy is a constant of
the motion, as expected for an isolated system. Moreover, the energy is propor-
tional to the amplitude squared of the motion. It is clear, from the above expres-
sions, that simple harmonic motion is characterized by a constant backward and
forward flow of energy between kinetic and potential components. The kinetic
energy attains its maximum value, and the potential energy attains it minimum
value, when the displacement is zero (i.e., when x = 0). Likewise, the potential
energy attains its maximum value, and the kinetic energy attains its minimum
value, when the displacement is maximal (i.e., when x = ±a). Note that the
minimum value of K is zero, since the system is instantaneously at rest when the
displacement is maximal.
11.3 The torsion pendulum
Consider a disk suspended from a torsion wire attached to its centre. See Fig. 96.
This setup is known as a torsion pendulum. A torsion wire is essentially inexten-
sible, but is free to twist about its axis. Of course, as the wire twists it also causes
the disk attached to it to rotate in the horizontal plane. Let θ be the angle of
rotation of the disk, and let θ = 0 correspond to the case in which the wire is
untwisted.
Any twisting of the wire is inevitably associated with mechanical deformation.
The wire resists such deformation by developing a restoring torque, τ, which acts
241
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.4 The simple pendulum
to restore the wire to its untwisted state. For relatively small angles of twist, the
magnitude of this torque is directly proportional to the twist angle. Hence, we
can write
τ = −k θ, (11.16)
where k > 0 is the torque constant of the wire. The above equation is essentially
a torsional equivalent to Hooke’s law. The rotational equation of motion of the
system is written
I
¨
θ = τ, (11.17)
where I is the moment of inertia of the disk (about a perpendicular axis through
its centre). The moment of inertia of the wire is assumed to be negligible. Com-
bining the previous two equations, we obtain
I
¨
θ = −k θ. (11.18)
Equation (11.18) is clearly a simple harmonic equation [cf., Eq. (11.2)]. Hence,
we can immediately write the standard solution [cf., Eq. (11.3)]
θ = a cos(ωt −φ), (11.19)
where [cf., Eq. (11.5)]
ω =
¸
¸
¸
_
k
I
. (11.20)
We conclude that when a torsion pendulumis perturbed fromits equilibriumstate
(i.e., θ = 0), it executes torsional oscillations about this state at a fixed frequency,
ω, which depends only on the torque constant of the wire and the moment of
inertia of the disk. Note, in particular, that the frequency is independent of the
amplitude of the oscillation [provided θ remains small enough that Eq. (11.16)
still applies]. Torsion pendulums are often used for time-keeping purposes. For
instance, the balance wheel in a mechanical wristwatch is a torsion pendulum in
which the restoring torque is provided by a coiled spring.
11.4 The simple pendulum
Consider a mass m suspended from a light inextensible string of length l, such
that the mass is free to swing from side to side in a vertical plane, as shown in
242
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.4 The simple pendulum
θ
l
fixed support
pivot point
m g
m
T
Figure 97: A simple pendulum.
Fig. 97. This setup is known as a simple pendulum. Let θ be the angle subtended
between the string and the downward vertical. Obviously, the equilibrium state of
the simple pendulum corresponds to the situation in which the mass is stationary
and hanging vertically down (i.e., θ = 0). The angular equation of motion of the
pendulum is simply
I
¨
θ = τ, (11.21)
where I is the moment of inertia of the mass, and τ is the torque acting on the
system. For the case in hand, given that the mass is essentially a point particle,
and is situated a distance l from the axis of rotation (i.e., the pivot point), it is
easily seen that I = ml
2
.
The two forces acting on the mass are the downward gravitational force, mg,
and the tension, T, in the string. Note, however, that the tension makes no con-
tribution to the torque, since its line of action clearly passes through the pivot
point. From simple trigonometry, the line of action of the gravitational force
passes a distance l sinθ from the pivot point. Hence, the magnitude of the grav-
itational torque is mgl sinθ. Moreover, the gravitational torque is a restoring
torque: i.e., if the mass is displaced slightly from its equilibrium state (i.e., θ = 0)
then the gravitational force clearly acts to push the mass back toward that state.
243
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.4 The simple pendulum
Thus, we can write
τ = −mgl sinθ. (11.22)
Combining the previous two equations, we obtain the following angular equation
of motion of the pendulum:
l
¨
θ = −g sinθ. (11.23)
Unfortunately, this is not the simple harmonic equation. Indeed, the above equa-
tion possesses no closed solution which can be expressed in terms of simple func-
tions.
Suppose that we restrict our attention to relatively small deviations from the
equilibrium state. In other words, suppose that the angle θ is constrained to take
fairly small values. We know, from trigonometry, that for |θ| less than about 6

it
is a good approximation to write
sinθ θ. (11.24)
Hence, in the small angle limit, Eq. (11.23) reduces to
l
¨
θ = −gθ, (11.25)
which is in the familiar form of a simple harmonic equation. Comparing with
our original simple harmonic equation, Eq. (11.2), and its solution, we conclude
that the angular frequency of small amplitude oscillations of a simple pendulum
is given by
ω =
¸
g
l
. (11.26)
In this case, the pendulum frequency is dependent only on the length of the
pendulum and the local gravitational acceleration, and is independent of the
mass of the pendulum and the amplitude of the pendulum swings (provided that
sinθ θ remains a good approximation). Historically, the simple pendulum
was the basis of virtually all accurate time-keeping devices before the advent of
electronic clocks. Simple pendulums can also be used to measure local variations
in g.
244
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.5 The compound pendulum
θ
M g
R
Pivot point
Centre of mass
C
P
d
Figure 98: A compound pendulum.
11.5 The compound pendulum
Consider an extended body of mass M with a hole drilled though it. Suppose that
the body is suspended from a fixed peg, which passes through the hole, such that
it is free to swing from side to side, as shown in Fig. 98. This setup is known as a
compound pendulum.
Let P be the pivot point, and let C be the body’s centre of mass, which is located
a distance d from the pivot. Let θ be the angle subtended between the downward
vertical (which passes through point P) and the line PC. The equilibrium state of
the compound pendulum corresponds to the case in which the centre of mass lies
vertically below the pivot point: i.e., θ = 0. See Sect. 10.3. The angular equation
of motion of the pendulum is simply
I
¨
θ = τ, (11.27)
where I is the moment of inertia of the body about the pivot point, and τ is the
torque. Using similar arguments to those employed for the case of the simple
pendulum (recalling that all the weight of the pendulum acts at its centre of
mass), we can write
τ = −Mgd sinθ. (11.28)
245
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.6 Uniform circular motion
Note that the reaction, R, at the peg does not contribute to the torque, since
its line of action passes through the pivot point. Combining the previous two
equations, we obtain the following angular equation of motion of the pendulum:
I
¨
θ = −Mgd sinθ. (11.29)
Finally, adopting the small angle approximation, sinθ θ, we arrive at the simple
harmonic equation:
I
¨
θ = −Mgdθ. (11.30)
It is clear, by analogy with our previous solutions of such equations, that the
angular frequency of small amplitude oscillations of a compound pendulum is
given by
ω =
¸
¸
¸
_
Mgd
I
. (11.31)
It is helpful to define the length
L =
I
Md
. (11.32)
Equation (11.31) reduces to
ω =
¸
g
L
, (11.33)
which is identical in form to the corresponding expression for a simple pendulum.
We conclude that a compound pendulum behaves like a simple pendulum with
effective length L.
11.6 Uniform circular motion
Consider an object executing uniform circular motion of radius a. Let us set up a
cartesian coordinate system whose origin coincides with the centre of the circle,
and which is such that the motion is confined to the x-y plane. As illustrated in
Fig. 99, the instantaneous position of the object can be conveniently parameter-
ized in terms of an angle θ.
246
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.6 Uniform circular motion
θ
a
a cos θ
a sinθ
x
y
ω
Figure 99: Uniform circular motion.
Since the object is executing uniform circular motion, we expect the angle θ to
increase linearly with time. In other words, we can write
θ = ωt, (11.34)
where ω is the angular rotation frequency (i.e., the number of radians through
which the object rotates per second). Here, it is assumed that θ = 0 at t = 0, for
the sake of convenience.
From simple trigonometry, the x- and y-coordinates of the object can be writ-
ten
x = a cos θ, (11.35)
y = a sinθ, (11.36)
respectively. Hence, combining the previous equations, we obtain
x = a cos(ωt), (11.37)
y = a cos(ωt −π/2). (11.38)
Here, use has been made of the trigonometric identity sinθ = cos(θ − π/2). A
comparison of the above two equations with the standard equation of simple har-
monic motion, Eq. (11.3), reveals that our object is executing simple harmonic
247
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.6 Uniform circular motion
motion simultaneously along both the x- and the y -axes. Note, however, that
these two motions are 90

(i.e., π/2 radians) out of phase. Moreover, the am-
plitude of the motion equals the radius of the circle. Clearly, there is a close
relationship between simple harmonic motion and circular motion.
Worked example 11.1: Piston in steam engine
Question: A piston in a stream engine executes simple harmonic motion. Given
that the maximum displacement of the piston from its centre-line is ±7 cm, and
that the mass of the piston is 4 kg, find the maximum velocity of the piston when
the steam engine is running at 4000rev./min. What is the maximum accelera-
tion?
Answer: We are told that the amplitude of the oscillation is a = 0.07 m. Moreover,
when converted to cycles per second (i.e., hertz), the frequency of the oscillation
becomes
f =
4000
60
= 66.6666 Hz.
Hence, the angular frequency is
ω = 2 πf = 418.88 rad./sec.
Consulting Tab. 4, we note that the maximum velocity of an object executing
simple harmonic motion is v
max
= aω. Hence, the maximum velocity is
v
max
= aω = 0.07 ×418.88 = 29.32 m/s.
Likewise, according to Tab. 4, the maximum acceleration is given by
a
max
= aω
2
= 0.07 ×418.88 ×418.88 = 1.228 ×10
4
m/s
2
.
Worked example 11.2: Block and spring
Question: A block attached to a spring executes simple harmonic motion in a
horizontal plane with an amplitude of 0.25 m. At a point 0.15 m away from the
248
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.6 Uniform circular motion
equilibrium position, the velocity of the block is 0.75 m/s. What is the period of
oscillation of the block?
Answer: The equation of simple harmonic motion is
x = a cos(ωt −φ),
where x is the displacement, and a is the amplitude. We are told that a = 0.25 m.
The velocity of the block is obtained by taking the time derivative of the above
expression:
˙ x = −aω sin(ωt −φ).
We are told that at t = 0 (say), x = 0.15 m and ˙ x = 0.75 m/s. Hence,
0.15 = 0.25 cos(φ),
0.75 = 0.25 ω sin(φ).
The first equation gives φ = cos
−1
(0.15/0.25) = 53.13

. The second equation
yields
ω =
0.75
0.25 ×sin(53.13

)
= 3.75 rad./s.
Hence, the period of the motion is
T =
2 π
ω
= 1.676 s.
Worked example 11.3: Block and two springs
Question: A block of mass m = 3 kg is attached to two springs, as shown below,
and slides over a horizontal frictionless surface. Given that the force constants
of the two springs are k
1
= 1200 N/m and k
2
= 400 N/m, find the period of
oscillation of the system.
Answer: Let x
1
and x
2
represent the extensions of the first and second springs,
respectively. The net displacement x of the mass from its equilibrium position is
then given by
x = x
1
+x
2
.
249
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.6 Uniform circular motion
m
k
1
k
2
Let f
1
= k
1
x
1
and f
2
= k
2
x
2
be the magnitudes of the forces exerted by the
first and second springs, respectively. Since the springs (presumably) possess
negligible inertia, they must exert equal and opposite forces on one another. This
implies that f
1
= f
2
, or
k
1
x
1
= k
2
x
2
.
Finally, if f is the magnitude of the restoring force acting on the mass, then force
balance implies that f = f
1
= f
2
, or
f = k
eff
x = k
1
x
1
.
Here, k
eff
is the effective force constant of the two springs. The above equations
can be combined to give
k
eff
=
k
1
x
1
x
1
+x
2
=
k
1
1 +k
1
/k
2
=
k
1
k
2
k
1
+k
2
.
Thus, the problem reduces to that of a block of mass m = 3 kg attached to a
spring of effective force constant
k
eff
=
k
1
k
2
k
1
+k
2
=
1200 ×400
1200 +400
= 300 N/m.
The angular frequency of oscillation is immediately given by the standard formula
ω =
¸
¸
¸
_
k
eff
m
=
¸
¸
¸
_
300
3
= 10 rad./s.
Hence, the period of oscillation is
T =
2 π
ω
= 0.6283 s.
250
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.6 Uniform circular motion
Worked example 11.4: Energy in simple harmonic motion
Question: A block of mass m = 4 kg is attached to a spring, and undergoes simple
harmonic motion with a period of T = 0.35 s. The total energy of the system is
E = 2.5 J. What is the force constant of the spring? What is the amplitude of the
motion?
Answer: The angular frequency of the motion is
ω =
2 π
T
=
2 π
0.35
= 17.95 rad./s.
Now, ω =
_
k/m for a mass on a spring. Rearrangement of this formula yields
k = mω
2
= 4 ×17.95 ×17.95 = 1289.1 N/m.
The total energy of a system executing simple harmonic motion is E = a
2
k/2.
Rearrangement of this formula gives
a =
¸
¸
¸
_
2 E
k
=
¸
¸
¸
_
2 ×2.5
1289.1
= 0.06228 m.
Thus, the force constant is 1289.1 N/m and the amplitude is 0.06228 m.
Worked example 11.5: Gravity on a new planet
Question: Having landed on a newly discovered planet, an astronaut sets up a
simple pendulum of length 0.6 m, and finds that it makes 51 complete oscillations
in 1 minute. The amplitude of the oscillations is small compared to the length of
the pendulum. What is the surface gravitational acceleration on the planet?
Answer: The frequency of the oscillations is
f =
51
60
= 0.85 Hz.
Hence, the angular frequency is
ω = 2 πf = 2 ×π ×1.833 = 5.341 rad./s.
251
11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.6 Uniform circular motion
Now, ω =
_
g/l for small amplitude oscillations of a simple pendulum. Rear-
rangement off this formula gives
g = ω
2
l = 5.341 ×5.341 ×0.6 = 17.11 m/s
2
.
Hence, the surface gravitational acceleration is 17.11 m/s
2
.
Worked example 11.6: Oscillating disk
Question: A uniform disk of radius r = 0.8 m and mass M = 3 kg is freely sus-
pended from a horizontal pivot located a radial distance d = 0.25 m from its
centre. Find the angular frequency of small amplitude oscillations of the disk.
Answer: The moment of inertia of the disk about a perpendicular axis passing
through its centre is I = (1/2) Mr
2
. From the parallel axis theorem, the moment
of inertia of the disk about the pivot point is
I

= I +Md
2
=
3 ×0.8 ×0.8
2
+3 ×0.25 ×0.25 = 1.1475 kg m
2
.
The angular frequency of small amplitude oscillations of a compound pendulum
is given by
ω =
¸
¸
¸
_
Mgd
I

=
¸
¸
¸
_
3 ×9.81 ×0.25
1.1475
= 2.532 rad./s.
Hence, the answer is 2.532 rad./s.
252
12 ORBITAL MOTION
12 Orbital motion
12.1 Introduction
We have spent this course exploring the theory of motion first outlined by Sir
Isaac Newton in his Principia (1687). It is, therefore, interesting to discuss
the particular application of this theory which made Newton an international
celebrity, and which profoundly and permanently changed humankind’s outlook
on the Universe. This application is, of course, the motion of the Solar System.
12.2 Historical background
Humankind has always been fascinated by the night sky, and, in particular, by
the movements of the Sun, the Moon, and the objects which the ancient Greeks
called plantai (“wanderers”), and which we call planets. In ancient times, much
of this interest was of a practical nature. The Sun and the Moon were impor-
tant for determining the calendar, and also for navigation. Moreover, the planets
were vital to astrology: i.e., the belief—almost universally prevalent in the an-
cient world—that the positions of the planets in the sky could be used to foretell
important events.
Actually, there were only seven “wandering” heavenly bodies visible to ancient
peoples: the Sun, the Moon, and the five planets—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter,
and Saturn. The ancients believed that the stars were fixed to a “celestial sphere”
which formed the outer boundary of the Universe. However, it was recognized
that the wandering bodies were located within this sphere: e.g., because the
Moon clearly passes in front of, and blocks the light from, stars in its path. It
was also recognized that some bodies were closer to the Earth than others. For
instance, ancient astronomers noted that the Moon occasionally passes in front
of the Sun and each of the planets. Moreover, Mercury and Venus can sometimes
be seen to transit in front of the Sun.
The first scientific model of the Solar Systemwas outlined by the Greek philoso-
253
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.2 Historical background
pher Eudoxas of Cnidus (409–356BC). According to this model, the Sun, the
Moon, and the planets all execute uniform circular orbits around the Earth—
which is fixed, and non-rotating. The order of the orbits is as follows: Moon,
Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn—with the Moon closest to the Earth.
For obvious reasons, Eudoxas’ model became known as the geocentric model of
the Solar System. Note that orbits are circular in this model for philosophical
reasons. The ancients believed the heavens to be the realm of perfection. Since
a circle is the most “perfect” imaginable shape, it follows that heavenly objects
must execute circular orbits.
A second Greek philosopher, Aristarchus of Samos (310–230BC), proposed an
alternative model in which the Earth and the planets execute uniform circular
orbits around the Sun—which is fixed. Moreover, the Moon orbits around the
Earth, and the Earth rotates daily about a North-South axis. The order of the
planetary orbits is as follows: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn—with
Mercury closest to the Sun. This model became known as the heliocentric model
of the Solar System.
The heliocentric model was generally rejected by the ancient philosophers for
three main reasons:
1. If the Earth is rotating about its axis, and orbiting around the Sun, then the
Earth must be in motion. However, we cannot “feel” this motion. Nor does
this motion give rise to any obvious observational consequences. Hence, the
Earth must be stationary.
2. If the Earth is executing a circular orbit around the Sun then the positions of
the stars should be slightly different when the Earth is on opposite sides of
the Sun. This effect is known as parallax. Since no stellar parallax is observ-
able (at least, with the naked eye), the Earth must be stationary. In order
to appreciate the force of this argument, it is important to realize that an-
cient astronomers did not suppose the stars to be significantly further away
from the Earth than the planets. The celestial sphere was assumed to lie just
beyond the orbit of Saturn.
3. The geocentric model is far more philosophically attractive than the helio-
254
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.2 Historical background
+
deferant
Earth
equant
planet
epicycle
centre of deferant
E
P
C
Figure 100: The Ptolemaic system.
centric model, since in the former model the Earth occupies a privileged
position in the Universe.
The geocentric model was first converted into a proper scientific theory, ca-
pable of accurate predictions, by the Alexandrian philosopher Claudius Ptolemy
(85–165AD). The theory that Ptolemy proposed in his famous book, now known
as the Almagest, remained the dominant scientific picture of the Solar System for
over a millennium. Basically, Ptolemy acquired and extended the extensive set
of planetary observations of his predecessor Hipparchus, and then constructed a
geocentric model capable of accounting for them. However, in order to fit the
observations, Ptolemy was forced to make some significant modifications to the
original model of Eudoxas. Let us discuss these modifications.
First, we need to introduce some terminology. As shown in Fig. 100, deferants
are large circles centred on the Earth, and epicyles are small circles whose cen-
tres move around the circumferences of the deferants. In the Ptolemaic system,
instead of traveling around deferants, the planets move around the circumfer-
ence of epicycles, which, in turn, move around the circumference of deferants.
Ptolemy found, however, that this modification was insufficient to completely ac-
count for all of his data. Ptolemy’s second modification to Eudoxas’ model was
255
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.2 Historical background
to displace the Earth slightly from the common centre of the deferants. More-
over, Ptolemy assumed that the Sun, Moon, and planets rotate uniformly about
an imaginary point, called the equant, which is displaced an equal distance in the
opposite direction to the Earth from the centre of the deferants. In other words,
Ptolemy assumed that the line EP, in Fig. 100, rotates uniformly, rather than the
line CP.
Figure 101 shows more details of the Ptolemaic model.
2
Note that this dia-
gram is not drawn to scale, and the displacement of the Earth from the centre
of the deferants has been omitted for the sake of clarity. It can be seen that the
Moon and the Sun do not possess epicyles. Moreover, the motions of the inferior
planets (i.e., Mercury and Venus) are closely linked to the motion of the Sun. In
fact, the centres of the inferior planet epicycles move on an imaginary line con-
necting the Earth and the Sun. Furthermore, the radius vectors connecting the
superior planets (i.e., Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) to the centres of their epicycles
are always parallel to the geometric line connecting the Earth and the Sun. Note
that, in addition to the motion indicated in the diagram, all of the heavenly bodies
(including the stars) rotate clockwise (assuming that we are looking down on the
Earth’s North pole in Fig. 101) with a period of 1 day. Finally, there are epicycles
within the epicycles shown in the diagram. In fact, some planets need as many
as 28 epicycles to account for all the details of their motion. These subsidiary
epicycles are not shown in the diagram, for the sake of clarity.
As is quite apparent, the Ptolemaic model of the Solar System is extremely
complicated. However, it successfully accounted for the relatively crude naked
eye observations made by the ancient Greeks. The Sun-linked epicyles of the
inferior planets are needed to explain why these objects always remain close to
the Sun in the sky. The epicycles of the superior planets are needed to account for
their occasional bouts of retrograde motion: i.e., motion in the opposite direction
to their apparent direction of rotation around the Earth. Finally, the displacement
of the Earth from the centre of the deferants, as well as the introduction of the
equant as the centre of uniform rotation, is needed to explain why the planets
speed up slightly when they are close to the Earth (and, hence, appear brighter
in the night sky), and slow down when they are further away.
2
R.A. Hatch, University of Florida, http://web.clas.ufl.edu/users/rhatch/
256
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.2 Historical background
Earth Sun
Jupiter
Saturn
Mars
1 y
1 y
1 y
27 1/3 d
Mercury
Venus
Moon
88 d
225 d
1 y
1 y
1 y
29.46 y
11.86 y
1.88 y
Stars
Figure 101: The Ptolemaic model of the Solar System.
257
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.2 Historical background
Ptolemy’s model of the Solar System was rescued from the wreck of ancient
European civilization by the Roman Catholic Church, which, unfortunately, con-
verted it into a minor article of faith, on the basis of a few references in the Bible
which seemed to imply that the Earth is stationary and the Sun is moving (e.g.,
Joshua 10:12-13, Habakkuk 3:11). Consequently, this model was not subject to
proper scientific criticism for over a millennium. Having said this, few medieval
or renaissance philosophers were entirely satisfied with Ptolemy’s model. Their
dissatisfaction focused, not on the many epicycles (which to the modern eye seem
rather absurd), but on the displacement of the Earth from the centre of the defer-
ants, and the introduction of the equant as the centre of uniform rotation. Recall,
that the only reason planetary orbits are constructed from circles in Ptolemy’s
model is to preserve the assumed ideal symmetry of the heavens. Unfortunately,
this symmetry is severely compromised when the Earth is displaced from the
apparent centre of the Universe. This problem so perplexed the Polish priest-
astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) that he eventually decided to re-
ject the geocentric model, and revive the heliocentric model of Aristarchus. After
many years of mathematical calculations, Copernicus published a book entitled
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the revolutions of the celestial spheres)
in 1543 which outlined his new heliocentric theory.
Copernicus’ model is illustrated in Fig. 102. Again, this diagram is not to scale.
The planets execute uniform circular orbits about the Sun, and the Moon orbits
about the Earth. Finally, the Earth revolves about its axis daily. Note that there is
no displacement of the Sun from the centres of the planetary orbits, and there is
no equant. Moreover, in this model, the inferior planets remain close to the Sun
in the sky without any special synchronization of their orbits. Furthermore, the
occasional retrograde motion of the superior planets has a more natural explana-
tion than in Ptolemy’s model. Since the Earth orbits more rapidly than the supe-
rior planets, it occasionally “overtakes” them, and they appear to move backward
in the night sky, in much the same manner that slow moving cars on a freeway
appears to move backward to a driver overtaking them. Copernicus accounted
for the lack of stellar parallax, due to the Earth’s motion, by postulating that the
stars were a lot further away than had previously been supposed, rendering any
parallax undetectably small. Unfortunately, Copernicus insisted on retaining uni-
258
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.2 Historical background
29.46 y
11.86 y
1.88 y
Jupiter
Mars
Saturn
Earth
Sun
Venus
Mercury
Moon
225 d
1 y
88 d
Stars
27 1/3 d
Figure 102: The Copernican model of the Solar System.
259
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.2 Historical background
form circular motion in his model (after all, he was trying to construct a more
symmetric model than that of Ptolemy). Consequently, Copernicus also had to
resort to epicycles to fit the data. In fact, Copernicus’ model ended up with more
epicycles than Ptolemy’s!
The real breakthrough in the understanding of planetary motion occurred—as
most breakthroughs in physics occur—when better data became available. The
data in question was produced by the Dane Tycho Brahe (1546–1601), who de-
voted his life to making naked eye astronomical observations of unprecedented
accuracy and detail. This data was eventually inherited by Brahe’s pupil and assis-
tant, the German scientist Johannes Kepler (1571–1630). Kepler fully accepted
Copernicus’ heliocentric theory of the Solar System. Moreover, he was just as
firm a believer as Copernicus in the perfection of the heavens, and the conse-
quent need for circular motion of planetary bodies. The main difference was that
Kepler’s observational data was considerably better than Copernicus’. After years
of fruitless effort, Kepler eventually concluded that no combination of circular
deferants and epicycles could completely account for his data. At this stage, he
started to think the unthinkable. Maybe, planetary motion was not circular after
all? After more calculations, Kepler was eventually able to formulate three ex-
traordinarily simple laws which completely accounted for Brahe’s observations.
These laws are as follows:
1. The planets move in elliptical orbits with the Sun at one focus.
2. A line from the Sun to any given planet sweeps out equal areas in equal time
intervals.
3. The square of a planet’s period is proportional to the cube of the planet’s
mean distance from the Sun.
Note that there are no epicyles or equants in Kepler’s model of the Solar System.
Figure 103 illustrates Kepler’s second law. Here, the ellipse represents a plan-
etary orbit, and S represents the Sun, which is located at one of the focii of the
ellipse. Suppose that the planet moves from point A to point B in the same time
it takes to move from point C to point D. According the Kepler’s second law,
260
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.2 Historical background
A
B
C
D
S
Figure 103: Kepler’s second law.
Planet a(AU) T(yr) a
3
/T
2
Mercury 0.387 0.241 0.998
Venus 0.723 0.615 0.999
Earth 1.000 1.000 1.000
Mars 1.524 1.881 1.000
Jupiter 5.203 11.862 1.001
Saturn 9.516 29.458 0.993
Table 5: Kepler’s third law. Here, a is the mean distance from the Sun, measured in Astronomical
Units (1 AU is the mean Earth-Sun distance), and T is the orbital period, measured in years.
the areas of the elliptic segments ASB and CSD are equal. Note that this law
basically mandates that planets speed up when they move closer to the Sun.
Table 5 illustrates Kepler’s third law. The mean distance, a, and orbital period,
T, as well as the ratio a
3
/T
2
, are listed for each of the first six planets in the Solar
System. It can be seen that the ratio a
3
/T
2
is indeed constant from planet to
planet.
Since we have now definitely adopted a heliocentric model of the Solar Sys-
tem, let us discuss the ancient Greek objections to such a model, listed earlier.
We have already dealt with the second objection (the absence of stellar parallax)
by stating that the stars are a lot further away from the Earth than the ancient
Greeks supposed. The third objection (that it is philosophically more attractive
to have the Earth at the centre of the Universe) is not a valid scientific criticism.
What about the first objection? If the Earth is rotating about its axis, and also
261
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.3 Gravity
orbiting the Sun, why do we not “feel” this motion? At first sight, this objec-
tion appears to have some force. After all, the rotation velocity of the Earth’s
surface is about 460 m/s. Moreover, the Earth’s orbital velocity is approximately
30 km/s. Surely, we would notice if we were moving this rapidly? Of course, this
reasoning is faulty because we know, from Newton’s laws of motion, that we only
“feel” the acceleration associated with motion, not the motion itself. It turns out
that the acceleration at the Earth’s surface due to its axial rotation is only about
0.034 m/s
2
. Moreover, the Earth’s acceleration due to its orbital motion is only
0.0059 m/s
2
. Nowadays, we can detect such small accelerations, but the ancient
Greeks certainly could not.
Kepler correctly formulated the three laws of planetary motion in 1619. Al-
most seventy years later, in 1687, Isaac Newton published his Principia, in which
he presented, for the first time, a universal theory of motion. Newton then went
on to illustrate his theory by using it to deriving Kepler’s laws from first principles.
Let us now discuss Newton’s monumental achievement in more detail.
12.3 Gravity
There is one important question which we have avoided discussing until now.
Why do objects fall towards the surface of the Earth? The ancient Greeks had
a very simple answer to this question. According to Aristotle, all objects have
a natural tendency to fall towards the centre of the Universe. Since the centre
of the Earth coincides with the centre of the Universe, all objects also tend to
fall towards the Earth’s surface. So, an ancient Greek might ask, why do the
planets not fall towards the Earth? Well, according to Aristotle, the planets are
embedded in crystal spheres which rotate with them whilst holding them in place
in the firmament. Unfortunately, Ptolemy seriously undermined this explanation
by shifting the Earth slightly from the centre of the Universe. However, the coup
de grace was delivered by Copernicus, who converted the Earth into just another
planet orbiting the Sun.
So, why do objects fall towards the surface of the Earth? The first person,
after Aristotle, to seriously consider this question was Sir Isaac Newton. Since
262
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.3 Gravity
1
m
−f
m
2
f
r
f = G m m / r
1 2
2
Figure 104: Newton’s law of gravity.
the Earth is not located in a special place in the Universe, Newton reasoned,
objects must be attracted toward the Earth itself. Moreover, since the Earth is just
another planet, objects must be attracted towards other planets as well. In fact,
all objects must exert a force of attraction on all other objects in the Universe.
What intrinsic property of objects causes them to exert this attractive force—
which Newton termed gravity—on other objects? Newton decided that the crucial
property was mass. After much thought, he was eventually able to formulate his
famous law of universal gravitation:
Every particle in the Universe attracts every other particle with a force directly
proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the
square of the distance between them. The direction of the force is along the
line joining the particles.
Incidentally, Newton adopted an inverse square law because he knew that this
was the only type of force law which was consistent with Kepler’s third law of
planetary motion.
Consider two point objects of masses m
1
and m
2
, separated by a distance r.
As illustrated in Fig. 104, the magnitude of the force of attraction between these
objects is
f = G
m
1
m
2
r
2
. (12.1)
The direction of the force is along the line joining the two objects.
263
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.3 Gravity
Let r
1
and r
2
be the vector positions of the two objects, respectively. The vector
gravitational force exerted by object 2 on object 1 can be written
f
12
= G
r
2
−r
1
|r
2
−r
1
|
3
. (12.2)
Likewise, the vector gravitational force exerted by object 1 on object 2 takes the
form
f
21
= G
r
1
−r
2
|r
1
−r
2
|
3
= −f
21
. (12.3)
The constant of proportionality, G, appearing in the above formulae is called
the gravitational constant. Newton could only estimate the value of this quantity,
which was first directly measured by Henry Cavendish in 1798. The modern
value of G is
G = 6.6726 ×10
−11
Nm
2
/kg
2
. (12.4)
Note that the gravitational constant is numerically extremely small. This implies
that gravity is an intrinsically weak force. In fact, gravity usually only becomes
significant if at least one of the masses involved is of astronomical dimensions
(e.g., it is a planet, or a star).
Let us use Newton’s law of gravity to account for the Earth’s surface gravity.
Consider an object of mass m close to the surface of the Earth, whose mass and
radius are M

= 5.97 × 10
24
kg and R

= 6.378 × 10
6
m, respectively. Newton
proved, after considerable effort, that the gravitational force exerted by a spher-
ical body (outside that body) is the same as that exerted by an equivalent point
mass located at the body’s centre. Hence, the gravitational force exerted by the
Earth on the object in question is of magnitude
f = G
mM

R
2

, (12.5)
and is directed towards the centre of the Earth. It follows that the equation of
motion of the object can be written
m¨r = −G
mM

R
2

^z, (12.6)
264
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.4 Gravitational potential energy
where ^z is a unit vector pointing straight upwards (i.e., away from the Earth’s
centre). Canceling the factor m on either side of the above equation, we obtain
¨r = −g

^z, (12.7)
where
g

=
GM

R
2

=
(6.673 ×10
−11
) ×(5.97 ×10
24
)
(6.378 ×10
6
)
2
= 9.79 m/s
2
. (12.8)
Thus, we conclude that all objects on the Earth’s surface, irrespective of their
mass, accelerate straight down (i.e., towards the Earth’s centre) with a constant
acceleration of 9.79 m/s
2
. This estimate for the acceleration due to gravity is
slightly off the conventional value of 9.81 m/s
2
because the Earth is actually not
quite spherical.
Since Newton’s law of gravitation is universal, we immediately conclude that
any spherical body of mass M and radius R possesses a surface gravity g given by
the following formula:
g
g

=
M/M

(R/R

)
2
. (12.9)
Table 6 shows the surface gravity of various bodies in the Solar System, estimated
using the above expression. It can be seen that the surface gravity of the Moon is
only about one fifth of that of the Earth. No wonder Apollo astronauts were able
to jump so far on the Moon’s surface! Prospective Mars colonists should note that
they will only weigh about a third of their terrestrial weight on Mars.
12.4 Gravitational potential energy
We saw earlier, in Sect. 5.5, that gravity is a conservative force, and, therefore,
has an associated potential energy. Let us obtain a general formula for this energy.
Consider a point object of mass m, which is a radial distance r from another point
object of mass M. The gravitational force acting on the first mass is of magnitude
f = GM/r
2
, and is directed towards the second mass. Imagine that the first
mass moves radially away from the second mass, until it reaches infinity. What
265
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.4 Gravitational potential energy
Body M/M

R/R

g/g

Sun 3.33 ×10
5
109.0 28.1
Moon 0.0123 0.273 0.17
Mercury 0.0553 0.383 0.38
Venus 0.816 0.949 0.91
Earth 1.000 1.000 1.000
Mars 0.108 0.533 0.38
Jupiter 318.3 11.21 2.5
Saturn 95.14 9.45 1.07
Table 6: The mass, M, radius, R, and surface gravity, g, of various bodies in the Solar System. All
quantities are expressed as fractions of the corresponding terrestrial quantity.
is the change in the potential energy of the first mass associated with this shift?
According to Eq. (5.33),
U(∞) −U(r) = −


r
[−f(r)] dr. (12.10)
There is a minus sign in front of f because this force is oppositely directed to the
motion. The above expression can be integrated to give
U(r) = −
GMm
r
. (12.11)
Here, we have adopted the convenient normalization that the potential energy
at infinity is zero. According to the above formula, the gravitational potential
energy of a mass m located a distance r from a mass M is simply −GMm/r.
Consider an object of mass mmoving close to the Earth’s surface. The potential
energy of such an object can be written
U = −
GM

m
R

+z
, (12.12)
where M

and R

are the mass and radius of the Earth, respectively, and z is the
vertical height of the object above the Earth’s surface. In the limit that z R

,
the above expression can be expanded using the binomial theorem to give
U −
GM

m
R

+
GM

m
R
2

z, (12.13)
266
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.4 Gravitational potential energy
Since potential energy is undetermined to an arbitrary additive constant, we
could just as well write
U mgz, (12.14)
where g = GM

/R
2

is the acceleration due to gravity at the Earth’s surface
[see Eq. (12.8)]. Of course, the above formula is equivalent to the formula (5.3)
derived earlier on in this course.
For an object of mass m and speed v, moving in the gravitational field of a
fixed object of mass M, we expect the total energy,
E = K +U, (12.15)
to be a constant of the motion. Here, the kinetic energy is written K = (1/2) mv
2
,
whereas the potential energy takes the form U = −GMm/r. Of course, r is the
distance between the two objects. Suppose that the fixed object is a sphere of
radius R. Suppose, further, that the second object is launched from the surface
of this sphere with some velocity v
esc
which is such that it only just escapes the
sphere’s gravitational influence. After the object has escaped, it is a long way
away from the sphere, and hence U = 0. Moreover, if the object only just escaped,
then we also expect K = 0, since the object will have expended all of its initial
kinetic energy escaping from the sphere’s gravitational well. We conclude that
our object possesses zero net energy: i.e., E = K+U = 0. Since E is a constant of
the motion, it follows that at the launch point
E =
1
2
mv
2
esc

GMm
R
= 0. (12.16)
This expression can be rearranged to give
v
esc
=
¸
¸
¸
_
2 GM
R
. (12.17)
The quantity v
esc
is known as the escape velocity. Objects launched from the sur-
face of the sphere with velocities exceeding this value will eventually escape from
the sphere’s gravitational influence. Otherwise, the objects will remain in orbit
around the sphere, and may eventually strike its surface. Note that the escape
velocity is independent of the object’s mass and launch direction (assuming that
it is not straight into the sphere).
267
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.5 Satellite orbits
The escape velocity for the Earth is
v
esc
=
¸
¸
¸
_
2 GM

R

=
¸
¸
¸
_
2 ×(6.673 ×10
−11
) ×(5.97 ×10
24
)
6.378 ×10
6
= 11.2 km/s. (12.18)
Clearly, NASA must launch deep space probes from the surface of the Earth with
velocities which exceed this value if they are to have any hope of eventually
reaching their targets.
12.5 Satellite orbits
Consider an artificial satellite executing a circular orbit of radius r around the
Earth. Let ω be the satellite’s orbital angular velocity. The satellite experiences
an acceleration towards the Earth’s centre of magnitude ω
2
r. Of course, this
acceleration is provided by the gravitational attraction between the satellite and
the Earth, which yields an acceleration of magnitude GM

/r
2
. It follows that
ω
2
r =
GM

r
2
. (12.19)
Suppose that the satellite’s orbit lies in the Earth’s equatorial plane. Moreover,
suppose that the satellite’s orbital angular velocity just matches the Earth’s angu-
lar velocity of rotation. In this case, the satellite will appear to hover in the same
place in the sky to a stationary observer on the Earth’s surface. A satellite with
this singular property is known as a geostationary satellite.
Virtually all of the satellites used to monitor the Earth’s weather patterns are
geostationary in nature. Communications satellites also tend to be geostationary.
Of course, the satellites which beam satellite-TV to homes across the world must
be geostationary—otherwise, you would need to install an expensive tracking
antenna on top of your house in order to pick up the transmissions. Incidentally,
the person who first envisaged rapid global telecommunication via a network of
geostationary satellites was the science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke in 1945.
Let us calculate the orbital radius of a geostationary satellite. The angular
268
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.6 Planetary orbits
velocity of the Earth’s rotation is
ω =
2 π
24 ×60 ×60
= 7.27 ×10
−5
rad./s. (12.20)
It follows from Eq. (12.19) that
r
geo
=
_
GM

ω
2
_
1/3
=
_
_
(6.673 ×10
−11
) ×(5.97 ×10
24
)
(7.27 ×10
−5
)
2
_
_
1/3
= 4.22 ×10
7
m = 6.62 R

. (12.21)
Thus, a geostationary satellite must be placed in a circular orbit whose radius is
exactly 6.62 times the Earth’s radius.
12.6 Planetary orbits
Let us now see whether we can use Newton’s universal laws of motion to derive
Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. Consider a planet orbiting around the Sun. It
is convenient to specify the planet’s instantaneous position, with respect to the
Sun, in terms of the polar coordinates r and θ. As illustrated in Fig. 105, r is the
radial distance between the planet and the Sun, whereas θ is the angular bearing
of the planet, from the Sun, measured with respect to some arbitrarily chosen
direction.
Let us define two unit vectors, e
r
and e
θ
. (A unit vector is simply a vector
whose length is unity.) As shown in Fig. 105, the radial unit vector e
r
always
points from the Sun towards the instantaneous position of the planet. Moreover,
the tangential unit vector e
θ
is always normal to e
r
, in the direction of increasing
θ. In Sect. 7.5, we demonstrated that when acceleration is written in terms of
polar coordinates, it takes the form
a = a
r
e
r
+a
θ
e
θ
, (12.22)
where
a
r
= ¨r −r
˙
θ
2
, (12.23)
a
θ
= r
¨
θ +2˙r
˙
θ. (12.24)
269
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.6 Planetary orbits
Sun
e
r
θ
e
θ
Planet
r
Figure 105: A planetary orbit.
These expressions are more complicated that the corresponding cartesian expres-
sions because the unit vectors e
r
and e
θ
change direction as the planet changes
position.
Now, the planet is subject to a single force: i.e., the force of gravitational
attraction exerted by the Sun. In polar coordinates, this force takes a particularly
simple form (which is why we are using polar coordinates):
f = −
GM

m
r
2
e
r
. (12.25)
The minus sign indicates that the force is directed towards, rather than away
from, the Sun.
According to Newton’s second law, the planet’s equation of motion is written
ma = f. (12.26)
The above four equations yield
¨r −r
˙
θ
2
= −
GM

r
2
, (12.27)
r
¨
θ +2˙r
˙
θ = 0. (12.28)
270
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.6 Planetary orbits
S
P
P’
δθ
r
Figure 106: The origin of Kepler’s second law.
Equation (12.28) reduces to
d
dt
(r
2
˙
θ) = 0, (12.29)
or
r
2
˙
θ = h, (12.30)
where h is a constant of the motion. What is the physical interpretation of h?
Recall, from Sect. 9.2, that the angular momentum vector of a point particle can
be written
l = mr ×v. (12.31)
For the case in hand, r = r e
r
and v = ˙r e
r
+r
˙
θe
θ
[see Sect. 7.5]. Hence,
l = mr v
θ
= mr
2
˙
θ, (12.32)
yielding
h =
l
m
. (12.33)
Clearly, h represents the angular momentum (per unit mass) of our planet around
the Sun. Angular momentum is conserved (i.e., h is constant) because the force
of gravitational attraction between the planet and the Sun exerts zero torque on
the planet. (Recall, from Sect. 9, that torque is the rate of change of angular mo-
mentum.) The torque is zero because the gravitational force is radial in nature:
i.e., its line of action passes through the Sun, and so its associated lever arm is of
length zero.
The quantity h has another physical interpretation. Consider Fig. 106. Sup-
pose that our planet moves from P to P

in the short time interval δt. Here, S
271
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.6 Planetary orbits
represents the position of the Sun. The lines SP and SP

are both approximately
of length r. Moreover, using simple trigonometry, the line PP

is of length r δθ,
where δθ is the small angle through which the line joining the Sun and the planet
rotates in the time interval δt. The area of the triangle PSP

is approximately
δA =
1
2
×r δθ ×r : (12.34)
i.e., half its base times its height. Of course, this area represents the area swept
out by the line joining the Sun and the planet in the time interval δt. Hence, the
rate at which this area is swept is given by
lim
δt→0
δA
δt
=
1
2
r
2
lim
δt→0
δθ
δt
=
r
2
˙
θ
2
=
h
2
. (12.35)
Clearly, the fact that h is a constant of the motion implies that the line joining the
planet and the Sun sweeps out area at a constant rate: i.e., the line sweeps equal
areas in equal time intervals. But, this is just Kepler’s second law. We conclude
that Kepler’s second law of planetary motion is a direct manifestation of angular
momentum conservation.
Let
r =
1
u
, (12.36)
where u(t) ≡ u(θ) is a new radial variable. Differentiating with respect to t, we
obtain
˙r = −
˙ u
u
2
= −
˙
θ
u
2
du

= −h
du

. (12.37)
The last step follows from the fact that
˙
θ = hu
2
. Differentiating a second time
with respect to t, we obtain
¨r = −h
d
dt
_
du

_
= −h
˙
θ
d
2
u

2
= −h
2
u
2
d
2
u

2
. (12.38)
Equations (12.27) and (12.38) can be combined to give
d
2
u

2
+u =
GM

h
2
. (12.39)
272
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.6 Planetary orbits
This equation possesses the fairly obvious general solution
u = A cos(θ −θ
0
) +
GM

h
2
, (12.40)
where A and θ
0
are arbitrary constants.
The above formula can be inverted to give the following simple orbit equation
for our planet:
r =
1
A cos(θ −θ
0
) +GM

/h
2
. (12.41)
The constant θ
0
merely determines the orientation of the orbit. Since we are only
interested in the orbit’s shape, we can set this quantity to zero without loss of
generality. Hence, our orbit equation reduces to
r = r
0
1 +e
1 +e cos θ
, (12.42)
where
e =
Ah
2
GM

, (12.43)
and
r
0
=
h
2
GM

(1 +e)
. (12.44)
Formula (12.42) is the standard equation of an ellipse (assuming e < 1), with
the origin at a focus. Hence, we have now proved Kepler’s first law of planetary
motion. It is clear that r
0
is the radial distance at θ = 0. The radial distance at
θ = π is written
r
1
= r
0
1 +e
1 −e
. (12.45)
Here, r
0
is termed the perihelion distance (i.e., the closest distance to the Sun)
and r
1
is termed the aphelion distance (i.e., the furthest distance from the Sun).
The quantity
e =
r
1
−r
0
r
1
+r
0
(12.46)
is termed the eccentricity of the orbit, and is a measure of its departure from
circularity. Thus, e = 0 corresponds to a purely circular orbit, whereas e →
273
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.6 Planetary orbits
Planet e
Mercury 0.206
Venus 0.007
Earth 0.017
Mars 0.093
Jupiter 0.048
Saturn 0.056
Table 7: The orbital eccentricities of various planets in the Solar System.
1 corresponds to a highly elongated orbit. As specified in Tab. 7, the orbital
eccentricities of all of the planets (except Mercury) are fairly small.
According to Eq. (12.35), a line joining the Sun and an orbiting planet sweeps
area at the constant rate h/2. Let T be the planet’s orbital period. We expect the
line to sweep out the whole area of the ellipse enclosed by the planet’s orbit in
the time interval T. Since the area of an ellipse is πab, where a and b are the
semi-major and semi-minor axes, we can write
T =
πab
h/2
. (12.47)
Incidentally, Fig. 107 illustrates the relationship between the aphelion distance,
the perihelion distance, and the semi-major and semi-minor axes of a planetary
orbit. It is clear, from the figure, that the semi-major axis is just the mean of the
aphelion and perihelion distances: i.e.,
a =
r
0
+r
1
2
. (12.48)
Thus, a is essentially the planet’s mean distance from the Sun. Finally, the rela-
tionship between a, b, and the eccentricity, e, is given by the well-known formula
b
a
=
_
1 −e
2
. (12.49)
This formula can easily be obtained from Eq. (12.42).
Equations (12.44), (12.45), and (12.48) can be combined to give
a =
h
2
2 GM

_
1
1 +e
+
1
1 −e
_
=
h
2
GM

(1 −e
2
)
. (12.50)
274
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.6 Planetary orbits
a
r
r
0
1
b
focus
Figure 107: Anatomy of a planetary orbit.
It follows, from Eqs. (12.47), (12.49), and (12.50), that the orbital period can be
written
T =


GM

a
3/2
. (12.51)
Thus, the orbital period of a planet is proportional to its mean distance from
the Sun to the power 3/2—the constant of proportionality being the same for all
planets. Of course, this is just Kepler’s third law of planetary motion.
Worked example 12.1: Gravity on Callisto
Question: Callisto is the eighth of Jupiter’s moons: its mass and radius are
M = 1.08 × 10
23
kg and R = 2403 km, respectively. What is the gravitational
acceleration on the surface of this moon?
Answer: The surface gravitational acceleration on a spherical body of mass M
and radius R is simply
g =
GM
R
2
.
Hence,
g =
(6.673 ×10
−11
) ×(1.08 ×10
23
)
(2.403 ×10
6
)
2
= 1.25 m/s
2
.
275
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.6 Planetary orbits
Worked example 12.2: Acceleration of a rocket
Question: A rocket is located a distance 3.5 times the radius of the Earth above
the Earth’s surface. What is the rocket’s free-fall acceleration?
Answer: Let R

be the Earth’s radius. The distance of the rocket from the centre
of the Earth is r
1
= (3.5 +1) R

= 4.5 R

. We know that the free-fall acceleration
of the rocket when its distance from the Earth’s centre is r
0
= R

(i.e., when it is
at the Earth’s surface) is g
0
= 9.81 m/s
2
. Moreover, we know that gravity is an
inverse-square law (i.e., g ∝ 1/r
2
). Hence, the rocket’s acceleration is
g
1
= g
0
_
r
0
r
1
_
2
=
9.81 ×1
(4.5)
2
= 0.484 m/s
2
.
Worked example 12.3: Circular Earth orbit
Question: A satellite moves in a circular orbit around the Earth with speed v =
6000 m/s. Determine the satellite’s altitude above the Earth’s surface. Determine
the period of the satellite’s orbit. The Earth’s mass and radius are M

= 5.97 ×
10
24
kg and R

= 6.378 ×10
6
m, respectively.
Answer: The acceleration of the satellite towards the centre of the Earth is v
2
/r,
where r is its orbital radius. This acceleration must be provided by the accelera-
tion GM

/r
2
due to the Earth’s gravitational attraction. Hence,
v
2
r
=
GM

r
2
.
The above expression can be rearranged to give
r =
GM

v
2
=
(6.673 ×10
−11
) ×(5.97 ×10
24
)
(6000)
2
= 1.107 ×10
7
m.
Thus, the satellite’s altitude above the Earth’s surface is
h = r −R

= 1.107 ×10
7
−6.378 ×10
6
= 4.69 ×10
6
m.
276
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.6 Planetary orbits
The satellite’s orbital period is simply
T =
2 πr
v
=
2 ×π ×(1.107 ×10
7
)
6000
= 3.22 hours.
Worked example 12.4: Halley’s comet
Question: The distance of closest approach of Halley’s comet to the Sun is 0.57 AU.
(1 AU is the mean Earth-Sun distance.) The greatest distance of the comet from
the Sun is 35AU. The comet’s speed at closest approach is 54 km/s. What is its
speed when it is furthest from the Sun?
Answer: At perihelion and aphelion, the comet’s velocity is perpendicular to its
position vector from the Sun. Hence, at these two special points, the comet’s
angular momentum (around the Sun) takes the particularly simple form
l = mr u.
Here, m is the comet’s mass, r is its distance from the Sun, and u is its speed.
According to Kepler’s second law, the comet orbits the Sun with constant angular
momentum. Hence, we can write
r
0
u
0
= r
1
u
1
,
where r
0
and u
0
are the perihelion distance and speed, respectively, and r
1
and
u
1
are the corresponding quantities at aphelion. We are told that r
0
= 0.57 AU,
r
1
= 35 AU, and u
0
= 54 km/s. It follows that
u
1
=
u
0
r
0
r
1
=
54 ×0.57
35
= 0.879 km/s.
Worked example 12.5: Mass of star
Question: A planet is in circular orbit around a star. The period and radius of the
orbit are T = 4.3 × 10
7
s and r = 2.34 × 10
11
m, respectively. Calculate the mass
of the star.
277
12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.6 Planetary orbits
Answer: Let ω be the planet’s orbital angular velocity. The planet accelerates
towards the star with acceleration ω
2
r. The acceleration due to the star’s gravi-
tational attraction is GM

/r
2
, where M

is the mass of the star. Equating these
accelerations, we obtain
ω
2
r =
GM

r
2
.
Now,
T =
2 π
ω
.
Hence, combining the previous two expressions, we get
M

=
4 π
2
r
3
GT
2
.
Thus, the mass of the star is
M

=
4 ×π
2
×(2.34 ×10
11
)
3
(6.673 ×10
−11
) ×(4.3 ×10
7
)
2
= 4.01 ×10
30
kg.
Worked example 12.6: Launch energy
Question: What is the minimum energy required to launch a probe of mass m =
120 kg into outer space? The Earth’s mass and radius are M

= 5.97 × 10
24
kg
and R

= 6.378 ×10
6
m, respectively.
Answer: The energy which must be given to the probe should just match the
probe’s gain in potential energy as it travels from the Earth’s surface to outer
space. By definition, the probe’s potential energy in outer space is zero. The
potential energy of the probe at the Earth’s surface is
U = −
GM

m
R

=
(6.673 ×10
−11
) ×(5.97 ×10
24
) ×120
(6.378 ×10
6
)
= −7.495 ×10
9
J.
Thus, the gain in potential energy, which is the same as the minimum launch
energy, is 7.495 ×10
9
J.
278
13 WAVE MOTION
13 Wave motion
13.1 Introduction
Waves are small amplitude perturbations which propagate through continuous
media: e.g., gases, liquids, solids, or—in the special case of electromagnetic
waves—a vacuum. Wave motion is a combination of oscillatory and translational
motion. Waves are important because they are the means through which virtually
all information regarding the outside world is transmitted to us. For instance, we
hear things via sound waves propagating through the air, and we see things via
light waves. Now, the physical mechanisms which underlie sound and light wave
propagation are completely different. Nevertheless, sound and light waves pos-
sesses a number of common properties which are intrinsic to wave motion itself.
In this section, we shall concentrate on the common properties of waves, rather
than those properties which are peculiar to particular wave types.
13.2 Waves on a stretched string
Probably the simplest type of wave is that which propagates down a stretched
string. Consider a straight string which is stretched such that it is under uniform
tension T. Let the string run along the x-axis. Suppose that the string is subject
to a small amplitude displacement, in the y-direction, which can vary along its
length. Let y(x, t) be the string’s displacement at position x and time t. What is
the equation of motion for y(x, t)?
Consider an infinitesimal segment of the string which extends from x − δx/2
to x + δx/2. As shown in Fig. 108, this segment is subject to opposing tension
forces, T, at its two ends, which act along the local tangent line to the string.
Here, we are assuming that the string displacement remains sufficiently small
that the tension does not vary in magnitude along the string. Suppose that the
local tangent line to the string subtends angles δθ
1
and δθ
2
with the x-axis at
x − δx/2 and x + δx/2, respectively—as shown in Fig. 108. Note that these
angles are written as infinitesimal quantities because the string displacement is
279
13 WAVE MOTION 13.2 Waves on a stretched string
y


>
x −> δ
δ
δθ
2
1
δθ
T
x − x/2 x + x/2
T
Figure 108: Forces acting on a segment of a stretched string.
assumed to be infinitesimally small, which implies that the string is everywhere
almost parallel with the x-axis (the string displacement is greatly exaggerated in
Fig. 108, for the sake of clarity).
Consider the y-component of the string segment’s equation of motion. The net
force acting on the segment in the y-direction takes the form
f
y
(x, t) = T sinδθ
2
−T sinδθ
1
T (δθ
2
−δθ
1
), (13.1)
since sinθ θ when θ is small. Now, from calculus,
∂y(x −δx/2, t)
∂x
= tanδθ
1
δθ
1
, (13.2)
∂y(x +δx/2, t)
∂x
= tanδθ
2
δθ
2
, (13.3)
since the gradient, dy(x)/dx, of the curve y(x) is equal to the tangent of the angle
subtended by this curve with the x-axis. Note that tanθ θ when θ is small. The
quantity ∂y(x, t)/∂x refers to the derivative of y(x, t) with respect to x, keeping
t constant—such a derivative is known as a partial derivative. Equations (13.1)–
(13.3) can be combined to give
f
y
(x, t) = T
_
_
∂y(x +δx/2, t)
∂x

∂y(x −δx/2, t)
∂x
_
_
= T δx

2
y(x, t)
∂x
2
. (13.4)
280
13 WAVE MOTION 13.2 Waves on a stretched string
Here, ∂
2
y(x, t)/∂x
2
is the second derivative of y(x, t) with respect to x, keeping t
constant.
Suppose that the string has a mass per unit length µ. It follows that the y
equation of motion of our string segment takes the form
µδx

2
y(x, t)
∂t
2
= f
y
(x, t), (13.5)
Here, ∂
2
y(x, t)/∂t
2
—the second derivative of y(x, t) with respect to t, keeping
x constant—is the y-acceleration of the string segment at position x and time t.
Equations (13.4) and (13.5) yield the final expression for the string’s equation of
motion:

2
y
∂t
2
=
T
µ

2
y
∂x
2
. (13.6)
Equation (13.6) is an example of a wave equation. In fact, all small amplitude
waves satisfy an equation of motion of this basic form. A particular solution of
this type of equation has been known for centuries: i.e.,
y(x, t) = y
0
cos (k x −ωt), (13.7)
where y
0
, k, and ω are constants. We can demonstrate that (13.7) satisfies (13.6)
by direct substitution. Thus,
∂y
∂t
= y
0
ω sin(k x −ωt), (13.8)

2
y
∂t
2
= −y
0
ω
2
cos (k x −ωt), (13.9)
and
∂y
∂x
= −y
0
k sin(k x −ωt), (13.10)

2
y
∂x
2
= −y
0
k
2
cos (k x −ωt). (13.11)
Substituting Eqs. (13.9) and (13.11) into Eq. (13.6), we find that the latter equa-
tion is satisfied provided
ω
2
k
2
=
T
µ
. (13.12)
281
13 WAVE MOTION 13.2 Waves on a stretched string
Equation (13.7) describes a pattern of motion which is periodic in both space
and time. This periodicity follows from the well-known periodicity property of the
cosine function: namely, cos(θ + 2 π) = cos θ. Thus, the wave pattern is periodic
in space,
y(x +λ, t) = y(x, t), (13.13)
with periodicity length
λ =
2 π
k
. (13.14)
Here, λ is known as the wavelength, whereas k is known as the wavenumber. The
wavelength is the distance between successive wave peaks. The wave pattern is
periodic in time,
y(x, t +T) = y(x, t), (13.15)
with period
T =
2 π
ω
. (13.16)
The wave period is the oscillation period of the wave disturbance at a given point
in space. The wave frequency (i.e., the number of cycles per second the wave
pattern executes at a given point in space) is written
f =
1
T
=
ω
2 π
. (13.17)
The quantity ω is termed the angular frequency of the wave. Finally, at any given
point in space, the displacement y oscillates between +y
0
and −y
0
(since the
maximal values of cos θ are ±1). Hence, y
0
corresponds to the wave amplitude.
Equation (13.7) also describes a sinusoidal pattern which propagates along the
x-axis without changing shape. We can see this by examining the motion of the
wave peaks, y = +y
0
, which correspond to
k x −ωt = n2 π, (13.18)
where n is an integer. Differentiating the above expression with respect to time,
we obtain
dx
dt
=
ω
k
. (13.19)
282
13 WAVE MOTION 13.2 Waves on a stretched string
v
Figure 109: A sinusoidal wave propagating down the x-axis. The solid, dotted, dashed, and dot-
dashed curves show the wave displacement at four successive and equally spaced times.
In other words, the wave peaks all propagate along the x-axis with uniform speed
v =
ω
k
. (13.20)
It is easily demonstrated that the wave troughs, y = −y
0
, propagate with the
same speed. Thus, it is fairly clear that the whole wave pattern moves with speed
v—see Fig. 109. Equations (13.14), (13.17), and (13.20) yield
v = f λ : (13.21)
i.e., a wave’s speed is the product of its frequency and its wavelength. This is true
for all types of (sinusoidal) wave.
Equations (13.12) and (13.20) imply that
v =
¸
¸
¸
_
T
µ
. (13.22)
In other words, all waves that propagate down a stretched string do so with the
same speed. This common speed is determined by the properties of the string: i.e.,
its tension and mass per unit length. Note, from Eq. (13.7), that the wavelength
283
13 WAVE MOTION 13.3 General waves
λ is arbitrary. However, once the wavelength is specified, the wave frequency
f is fixed via Eqs. (13.21) and (13.22). It follows that short wavelength waves
possess high frequencies, and vice versa.
13.3 General waves
By analogy with the previous discussion, a general wave disturbance propagating
along the x-axis satisfies

2
y
∂t
2
= v
2

2
y
∂x
2
, (13.23)
where v is the common wave speed. In general, v is determined by the properties
of the medium through which the wave propagates. Thus, for waves propagating
along a string, the wave speed is determined by the string tension and mass
per unit length; for sound waves propagating through a gas, the wave speed
is determined by the gas pressure and density; and for electromagnetic waves
propagating through a vacuum, the wave speed is a constant of nature: i.e.,
c = 3 ×10
8
m/s
2
.
One solution of Eq. (13.23) is
y(x, t) = y
0
cos [k (x −v t)]. (13.24)
This is interpreted as a (sinusoidal) wave of amplitude y
0
and wavelength λ =
2 π/k which propagates in the +x direction with speed v. It is easily demonstrated
that another equally good solution of Eq. (13.23) is
y(x, t) = y
0
cos [k (x +v t)]. (13.25)
This is interpreted as a (sinusoidal) wave of amplitude y
0
and wavelength λ =
2 π/k which propagates in the −x direction with speed v.
Equation (13.23) is a linear partial differential equation (PDE): i.e., it is in-
variant under the transformation y → ay + b, where a and b are arbitrary
constants. One important mathematical property of linear PDEs is that their so-
lutions are superposable: i.e., they can be added together and still remain solu-
tions. Thus, if y
1
(x, t) and y
2
(x, t) are two distinct solutions of Eq. (13.23) then
284
13 WAVE MOTION 13.4 Wave-pulses
x −>
v
Figure 110: A wave-pulse propagating down the x-axis. The solid, dotted, and dashed curves show
the wave displacement at three successive and equally spaced times.
ay
1
(x, t) +by
2
(x, t) (where a and b are arbitrary constants) is also a solution—
this can be seen from inspection of Eq. (13.23). To be more exact, if
y
1
(x, t) = a
1
cos [k
1
(x −v t)] (13.26)
represents a wave of amplitude a
1
and wavenumber k
1
which propagates in the
+x direction, and
y
2
(x, t) = a
2
cos [k
2
(x +v t)] (13.27)
represents a wave of amplitude a
2
and wavenumber k
2
which propagates in the
−x direction, then
y(x, t) = y
1
(x, t) +y
2
(x, t) (13.28)
is a valid solution of the wave equation, and represents the two aforementioned
waves propagating in the same region without affecting one another.
13.4 Wave-pulses
As is easily demonstrated, the most general solution of the wave equation (13.23)
is written
F(x −v t), (13.29)
285
13 WAVE MOTION 13.4 Wave-pulses
where F(p) is an arbitrary function. The above solution is interpreted as a pulse
of arbitrary shape which propagates in the +x direction with speed v, without
changing shape—see Fig. 110. Likewise,
G(x +v t) (13.30)
represents another arbitrary pulse which propagates in the −x direction with
speed v, without changing shape. Note that, unlike our previous sinusoidal wave
solutions, a general wave-pulse possesses a definite propagation speed but does
not possess a definite wavelength or frequency.
What is the relationship between these new wave-pulse solutions and our pre-
vious sinusoidal wave solutions? It turns out that any wave-pulse can be built up
from a suitable linear superposition of sinusoidal waves. For instance, if F(x −v t)
represents a wave-pulse propagating down the x-axis, then we can write
F(x −v t) =


0
¯
F(k) cos [k (x −v t)] dk, (13.31)
where we have assumed that F(−p) = F(p), for the sake of simplicity. The above
formula is basically a recipe for generating the propagating wave-pulse F(x −v t)
from a suitable admixture of sinusoidal waves of definite wavelength and fre-
quency:
¯
F(k) specifies the required amplitude of the wavelength λ = 2 π/k com-
ponent. How do we determine
¯
F(k) for a given wave-pulse? Well, a mathematical
result known as Fourier’s theorem yields
¯
F(k) =
2
π


0
F(p) cos (k p) dp, (13.32)
The above expression essentially tells us the strength of the wavenumber k com-
ponent of the wave-pulse F(x − v t). Note that the function
¯
F(k) is known as the
Fourier spectrum of the wave-pulse F(x −v t).
Figures 111 and 112 show two different wave-pulses and their associated
Fourier spectra. Note how, by combining sinusoidal waves of varying wavenum-
ber in different proportions, it is possible to build up wave-pulses of completely
different shape.
286
13 WAVE MOTION 13.4 Wave-pulses
Figure 111: A propagating wave-pulse, F(x −v t), and its associated Fourier spectrum,
¯
F(k).
287
13 WAVE MOTION 13.4 Wave-pulses
Figure 112: A propagating wave-pulse, F(x −v t), and its associated Fourier spectrum,
¯
F(k).
288
13 WAVE MOTION 13.5 Standing waves
13.5 Standing waves
Up to now, all of the wave solutions that we have investigated have been propa-
gating solutions. Is it possible to construct a wave solution which does not prop-
agate? Suppose we combine a sinusoidal wave of amplitude y
0
and wavenumber
k which propagates in the +x direction,
y
1
(x, t) = y
0
cos (k x −ωt), (13.33)
with a second sinusoidal wave of amplitude y
0
and wavenumber k which propa-
gates in the −x direction,
y
2
(x, t) = y
0
cos (k x +ωt). (13.34)
The net result is
y(x, t) = y
1
(x, t) +y
2
(x, t) = y
0
[cos (k x −ωt) + cos (k x +ωt)] . (13.35)
Making use of the standard trigonometric identity
cos x + cos y = 2 cos
_
x +y
2
_
cos
_
x −y
2
_
, (13.36)
we obtain
y(x, t) = 2 y
0
cos (k x) cos (ωt). (13.37)
The pattern of motion specified by the above expression is illustrated in Fig. 113.
It can be seen that the wave pattern does not propagate along the x-axis. Note,
however, that the amplitude of the wave now varies with position. At certain
points, called nodes, the amplitude is zero. At other points, called anti-nodes,
the amplitude is maximal. The nodes are halfway between successive anti-nodes,
and both nodes and anti-nodes are evenly spaced half a wavelength apart.
The standing wave shown in Fig. 113 can be thought of as the interference
pattern generated by combining the two traveling wave solutions y
1
(x, t) and
y
2
(x, t). At the anti-nodes, the waves reinforce one another, so that the oscillation
amplitude becomes double that associated with each wave individually—this is
termed constructive interference. At the nodes, the waves completely cancel one
another out—this is termed destructive interference.
289
13 WAVE MOTION 13.5 Standing waves
node
anti−node
Figure 113: A standing wave. The various curves show the wave displacement at different times.
Most musical instruments work by exciting standing waves. For instance,
stringed instruments excite standing waves on strings, whereas wind instruments
excite standing waves in columns of air. Consider a guitar string of length L.
Suppose that the string runs along the x-axis, and extends from x = 0 to x = L.
Since the ends of the string are fixed, any wave excited on the string must satisfy
the constraints
y(0, t) = y(L, t) = 0. (13.38)
It is fairly clear that no propagating wave solution of the form y
0
cos [k (x ±
v t)] can satisfy these constraints. However, a standing wave can easily satisfy
the constraints, provided two of its nodes coincide with the ends of the string.
Since the nodes in a standing wave pattern are spaced half a wavelength apart,
it follows that the wave frequency must be adjusted such that an integer number
of half-wavelengths fit on the string. In other words,
L = n
λ
2
, (13.39)
where n = 1, 2, 3, . . .. Now, from Eqs. (13.21) and (13.22),
f λ =
¸
¸
¸
_
T
µ
, (13.40)
290
13 WAVE MOTION 13.6 The Doppler effect
where T and µ are the tension and mass per unit length of the string, respectively.
The above two equations can be combined to give
f =
n
2 L
¸
¸
¸
_
T
µ
. (13.41)
Thus, the standing waves that can be excited on a guitar string have frequencies
f
0
, 2 f
0
, 3 f
0
, etc., which are integer multiples of
f
0
=
1
2 L
¸
¸
¸
_
T
µ
. (13.42)
These frequencies are transmitted to our ear, via sound waves which oscillate in
sympathy with the guitar string, and are interpreted as musical notes. To be more
exact, the frequencies correspond to notes spaced an octave apart. The frequency
f
0
is termed the fundamental frequency, whereas the frequencies 2 f
0
, 3 f
0
, etc. are
termed the overtone harmonic frequencies. When a guitar string is plucked an
admixture of standing waves, consisting predominantly of the fundamental har-
monic wave, is excited on the string. The fundamental harmonic determines the
musical note which the guitar string plays. However, it is the overtone harmonics
which give the note its peculiar timbre. Thus, a trumpet sounds different to a
guitar, even when they are both playing the same note, because a trumpet excites
a different mix of overtone harmonics than a guitar.
13.6 The Doppler effect
Consider a sinusoidal wave of wavenumber k and angular frequency ω propagat-
ing in the +x direction:
y(x, t) = y
0
cos (k x −ωt). (13.43)
The wavelength and frequency of the wave, as seen by a stationary observer, are
λ = 2 π/k and f = ω/2 π, respectively. Consider a second observer moving with
uniform speed v
o
in the +x direction. What are the wavelength and frequency of
the wave, as seen by the second observer? Well, the x-coordinate in the moving
observer’s frame of reference is x

= x − v
0
t (see Sect. 4.9). Of course, both
291
13 WAVE MOTION 13.6 The Doppler effect
observers measure the same time. Hence, in the second observer’s frame of ref-
erence the wave takes the form
y(x

, t) = y
0
cos (k x

−ω

t), (13.44)
where
ω

= ω−k v
o
. (13.45)
Here, we have simply replaced x by x

+ v
o
t in Eq. (13.43). Clearly, the moving
observer sees a wave possessing the same wavelength (i.e., the same k) but a
different frequency (i.e., a different ω) to that seen by the stationary observer.
This phenomenon is called the Doppler effect. Since v = ω/k, it follows that the
wave speed is also shifted in the moving observer’s frame of reference. In fact,
v

= v −v
o
, (13.46)
where v

is the wave speed seen by the moving observer. Finally, since v = f λ,
and the wavelength is the same in both the moving and stationary observers’
frames of reference, the wave frequency experienced by the moving observer is
f

=
_
1 −
v
o
v
_
f. (13.47)
Thus, the moving observer sees a lower frequency wave than the stationary ob-
server. This occurs because the moving observer is traveling in the same direction
as the wave, and is therefore effectively trying to catch it up. It is easily demon-
strated that an observer moving in the opposite direction to a wave sees a higher
frequency than a stationary observer. Hence, the general Doppler shift formula
(for a moving observer and a stationary wave source) is
f

=
_
1 ∓
v
o
v
_
f, (13.48)
where the upper/lower signs correspond to the observer moving in the same/opposite
direction to the wave.
Consider a stationary observer measuring a wave emitted by a source which is
moving towards the observer with speed v
s
. Let v be the propagation speed of the
wave. Consider two neighbouring wave crests emitted by the source. Suppose
292
13 WAVE MOTION 13.6 The Doppler effect
that the first is emitted at time t = 0, and the second at time t = T, where
T = 1/f is the wave period in the frame of reference of the source. At time t, the
first wave crest has traveled a distance d
1
= v t towards the observer, whereas
the second wave crest has traveled a distance d
2
= v (t − T) + v
s
T (measured
from the position of the source at t = 0). Here, we have taken into account the
fact that the source is a distance v
s
T closer to the observer when the second wave
crest is emitted. The effective wavelength, λ

, seen by the observer is the distance
between neighbouring wave crests. Hence,
λ

= d
1
−d
2
= (v −v
s
) T. (13.49)
Since v = f

λ

, the effective frequency f

seen by the observer is
f

=
f
1 −v
s
/v
, (13.50)
where f is the wave frequency in the frame of reference of the source. We con-
clude that if the source is moving towards the observer then the wave frequency
is shifted upwards. Likewise, if the source is moving away from the observer
then the frequency is shifted downwards. This manifestation of the Doppler effect
should be familiar to everyone. When an ambulance passes us on the street, its
siren has a higher pitch (i.e., a high frequency) when it is coming towards us than
when it is moving away from us. Of course, the oscillation frequency of the siren
never changes. It is the Doppler shift induced by the motion of the siren with
respect to a stationary listener which causes the frequency change.
The general formula for the shift in a wave’s frequency induced by relative
motion of the observer and the source is
f

=
_
_
1 ∓v
o
/v
1 ±v
s
/v
_
_
f, (13.51)
where v
o
is the speed of the observer, and v
s
is the speed of the source. The
upper/lower signs correspond to relative motion by which the observer and the
source move apart/together.
Probably the most notorious use of the Doppler effect in everyday life is in
police speed traps. In a speed trap, a policeman fires radar waves (i.e., electro-
magnetic waves of centimeter wavelength) of fixed frequency at an oncoming
293
13 WAVE MOTION 13.6 The Doppler effect
car. These waves reflect off the car, which effectively becomes a moving source.
Hence, by measuring the frequency increase of the reflected waves, the policeman
can determine the car’s speed.
Worked example 13.1: Piano range
Question: A piano emits sound waves whose frequencies range from f
l
= 28 Hz to
f
h
= 4200 Hz. What range of wavelengths is spanned by these waves? The speed
of sound in air is v = 343 m/s.
Answer: The relationship between a wave’s frequency, f, wavelength, λ, and
speed, v, is
v = f λ.
Hence, λ = v/f. The shortest wavelength (which corresponds to the highest
frequency) is
λ
l
=
v
f
h
=
343
4200
= 8.1667 ×10
−2
m.
The longest wavelength (which corresponds to the lowest frequency) is
λ
h
=
v
f
l
=
343
28
= 12.250 m.
Worked example 13.2: Middle C
Question: A steel wire in a piano has a length of L = 0.9 m and a mass of m =
5.4 g. To what tension T must this wire be stretched so that its fundamental
vibration corresponds to middle C: i.e., the vibration possess a frequency f =
261.6 Hz.
Answer: The fundamental standing wave on a stretched wire is such that the
length L of the wire corresponds to half the wavelength λ of the wave. Hence,
λ = 2 L = 1.80 m.
294
13 WAVE MOTION 13.6 The Doppler effect
The propagation speed of waves on the wire is given by
v = f λ = 261.6 ×1.80 = 470.88 m/s.
Furthermore, the string’s mass per unit length is
µ =
m
L
=
5.4 ×10
−3
0.9
= 6.00 ×10
−3
kg/m.
Now, the relationship between the wave propagation speed, v, the mass per unit
length, µ, and the tension, T, of a stretched wire is
v =
¸
¸
¸
_
T
µ
.
Thus,
T = v
2
µ = (470.88)
2
×6.00 ×10
−3
= 1.330 ×10
3
N.
Worked example 13.3: Sinusoidal wave
Question: A wave is described by
y = A sin(k x −ωt),
where A = 4 cm, k = 2.65 rad./m, and ω = 4.78 rad./s. Moreover, x is in meters
and t is in seconds. What are the wavelength, frequency, and propagation speed
of the wave?
Answer: We identify A as the wave amplitude, k as the wavenumber, and ω as
the angular frequency. Now, k = 2 π/λ, where λ is the wavelength. Hence,
λ =
2 π
k
=
2 ×π
2.65
= 2.371 m.
Furthermore, ω = 2 πf, where f is the frequency. Hence,
f =
ω
2 π
=
4.78
2 ×π
= 0.7608 Hz.
Finally, v = f λ, where v is the propagation speed. Thus,
v = 0.7608 ×2.371 = 1.804 m/s.
295
13 WAVE MOTION 13.6 The Doppler effect
Worked example 13.4: Truck passing stationary siren
Question: A truck, moving at v
o
= 80 km/hr, passes a stationary police car whose
siren has a frequency of f = 500 Hz. What is the frequency change heard by the
truck driver as the truck passes the police car? The speed of sound is v = 343 m/s.
Answer: The truck’s speed is
v
o
=
80 ×1000
3600
= 22.22 m/s.
When the truck is moving towards the police car, the siren’s apparent frequency
is
f
1
=
_
1 +
v
o
v
_
f =
_
1 +
22.22
343
_
×500 = 532.39 Hz.
When the truck is moving away from the police car, the siren’s apparent frequency
is
f
2
=
_
1 −
v
o
v
_
f =
_
1 −
22.22
343
_
×500 = 467.61 Hz.
Hence, the frequency shift is
∆f = f
1
−f
2
= 532.39 −467.61 = 64.79 Hz.
Worked example 13.5: Ambulance and car
Question: An ambulance is traveling down a straight road at speed v
s
= 42 m/s.
The ambulance approaches a car which is traveling on the same road, in the same
direction, at speed v
o
= 33 m/s. The ambulance driver hears his/her siren at a
frequency of f = 500 Hz. At what frequency does the driver of the car hear the
siren? The speed of sound is v = 343 m/s.
Answer: The apparent frequency f

of a sound wave is given by
f

=
_
_
1 −v
o
/v
1 −v
s
/v
_
_
f,
where v
o
is the speed of the observer (i.e., the car driver), v
s
is the speed of the
source (i.e., the ambulance), v is the speed of sound, and f is the wave frequency
296
13 WAVE MOTION 13.6 The Doppler effect
in the frame of reference of the source. We have chosen a minus sign in the
numerator of the above formula because the observer is moving away from the
source, leading to a downward Doppler shift. We have chosen a minus sign in
the denominator of the above formula because the source is moving towards the
observer, leading to a upward Doppler shift. Hence,
f

=
_
_
1 −33/343
1 −42/343
_
_
×500 = 514.95 Hz.
297

Contents
1 Introduction 1.1 Major sources: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.2 What is classical mechanics? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.3 mks units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 7 7 9

1.4 Standard prefixes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 1.5 Other units . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 1.6 Precision and significant figures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 1.7 Dimensional analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 2 Motion in 1 dimension 18

2.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 2.2 Displacement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 2.3 Velocity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 2.4 Acceleration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 2.5 Motion with constant velocity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 2.6 Motion with constant acceleration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

2.7 Free-fall under gravity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 3 Motion in 3 dimensions 32

3.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 3.2 Cartesian coordinates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

3.3 Vector displacement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 3.4 Vector addition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 3.5 Vector magnitude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 2

3.6 Scalar multiplication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 3.7 Diagonals of a parallelogram . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36

3.8 Vector velocity and vector acceleration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 3.9 Motion with constant velocity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 3.10 Motion with constant acceleration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

3.11 Projectile motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 3.12 Relative velocity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 53

4 Newton’s laws of motion

4.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 4.2 Newton’s first law of motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 4.3 Newton’s second law of motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 4.4 Hooke’s law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 4.5 Newton’s third law of motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 4.6 Mass and weight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 4.7 Strings, pulleys, and inclines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 4.8 Friction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 4.9 Frames of reference . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 5 Conservation of energy 78

5.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 5.2 Energy conservation during free-fall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 5.3 Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 5.4 Conservative and non-conservative force-fields . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 5.5 Potential energy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92

3

5.6 Hooke’s law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93 5.7 Motion in a general 1-dimensional potential . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 5.8 Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99 6 Conservation of momentum 107

6.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107 6.2 Two-component systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107 6.3 Multi-component systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112 6.4 Rocket science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115

6.5 Impulses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118 6.6 Collisions in 1-dimension . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121

6.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127 7 Circular motion 136

7.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136 7.2 Uniform circular motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136 7.3 Centripetal acceleration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138 7.4 The conical pendulum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141 7.5 Non-uniform circular motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 7.6 The vertical pendulum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148 7.7 Motion on curved surfaces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150 8 Rotational motion 160

8.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160 8.2 Rigid body rotation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160 8.3 Is rotation a vector? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162 4

8.4 The vector product . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166 8.5 Centre of mass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168 8.6 Moment of inertia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172

8.7 Torque . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179 8.8 Power and work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184

8.9 Translational motion versus rotational motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186 8.10 The physics of baseball . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190 9 Angular momentum 204

9.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204 9.2 Angular momentum of a point particle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204 9.3 Angular momentum of an extended object . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206 9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209 10 Statics 217

10.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217 10.2 The principles of statics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217 10.3 Equilibrium of a laminar object in a gravitational field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220 10.4 Rods and cables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223 10.5 Ladders and walls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226 10.6 Jointed rods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 228 11 Oscillatory motion 237

11.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237 11.2 Simple harmonic motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237 5

. . .2 Waves on a stretched string . . . . . . . . .3 Gravity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Introduction . . . . . . 284 13. . . . . . . . . . . 245 11. . . . 279 13. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11. . . . . . . . . . 242 11.3 The torsion pendulum . . . 285 13. . . . . 262 12. . . . . . . 268 12. . . . . . . . . .2 Historical background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 Planetary orbits . . . . . . .1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 291 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 The Doppler effect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253 12. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253 12. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 289 13. . . . . . . .4 Gravitational potential energy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 Uniform circular motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 241 11. . 246 12 Orbital motion 253 12. . . . . .4 The simple pendulum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 General waves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279 13. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 269 13 Wave motion 279 13. . . . . .5 Standing waves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265 12. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 Satellite orbits . . . . . . .4 Wave-pulses . .5 The compound pendulum . . . . . . . .

. and R. Classical mechanics is also of great significance outside the realm of science. such as Astronomy (e. and Descartes.. the sequence of events leading to the discovery of classical mechanics—starting with the ground-breaking work of Copernicus. Orlando FL. Physics for scientists and engineers: R. 1994). the equilibrium and stability of structures). Serway. generated by earthquakes. Chemistry (e. and Engineering (e.. continuing with the researches of Galileo. 1 (John Wiley & Sons. celestial mechanics). D.1 INTRODUCTION 1 Introduction 1. commonly known as the Principia.A. Resnick. Halliday. New York NY. the dynamics of molecular collisions). Geology (e. classical mechanics has many important applications in other areas of science. Beichner. Vol. & Winston. Classical mechanics was the first branch of Physics to be discovered. New York NY.g. Fowles.g.g. After all. and culminating in the monumental achievements 7 . Third edition (Holt.g. through the Earth’s crust).J. Fifth edition.2 What is classical mechanics? Classical mechanics is the study of the motion of bodies (including the special case in which bodies remain at rest) in accordance with the general principles first enunciated by Sir Isaac Newton in his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687). 2000). Krane.1 Major sources: The sources which I consulted most frequently whilst developing this course are: Analytical Mechanics: G. 1 (Saunders College Publishing. 1977). Encyclopædia Brittanica: Fifteenth edition (Encyclopædia Brittanica.. Rinehart. Physics: R. Vol.S. Kepler. and K. Fourth edition. Chicago IL. Moreover. 1992). and is the foundation upon which all other branches of Physics are built. the propagation of seismic waves. 1.R.

. the motion of a pendulum in a grandfather clock). so as to ensure that it does not collapse.. Rotational motion—motion by which an extended body changes orientation. and its replacement by a recognizably modern picture in which humankind no longer played a privileged role..g..g. the above mentioned types of motion are not entirely distinct: e.. these different types of motion can be combined: for instance.1 INTRODUCTION 1. the motion of a bullet fired from a gun).g. without changing position (e. We shall also study statics: i. including: Translational motion—motion by which a body shifts from one point in space to another (e. Furthermore.2 What is classical mechanics? of Newton—involved the complete overthrow of the Aristotelian picture of the Universe. the principles of statics were used to design the building in which this lecture is taking place. In our investigation of classical mechanics we shall study many different types of motion. the motion of a spinning top). whereas wave propagation is a combination of translational and oscillatory motion. Circular motion—motion by which a body executes a circular orbit about another fixed body [e..g. Of course. 8 . the subdivision of mechanics which is concerned with the forces that act on bodies at rest and in equilibrium. which had previously prevailed for more than a millennium. circular motion contains elements of both rotational and oscillatory motion. the (approximate) motion of the Earth about the Sun]. the motion of a properly bowled bowling ball consists of a combination of translational and rotational motion. Statics is obviously of great importance in civil engineering: for instance.e. with respect to other bodies in space.g. Oscillatory motion—motion which continually repeats in time with a fixed period (e.

but is now defined as the e distance occupied by 1..e. the kilogram. 770 oscillations associated with the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the isotope Cesium 133. 2. the meter. e The mks unit of time is the second (symbol s). The mks unit of mass is the kilogram (symbol kg).e. mass. which is defined as the mass of a platinum-iridium alloy cylinder kept at the International Bureau of Metric Standard in S`vres. In mechanics there are three fundamental quantities which are subject to measurement: 1. and time. and the second. possessed by various bodies. Intervals in space: i. which was formerly defined in terms of the Earth’s rotation.1 INTRODUCTION 1. is called the mks system—after the first initials of the names of the units of length. 763. angular mo9 .3 mks units 1. 631. Each of the three fundamental quantities—length. 650. Any other type of measurement in mechanics can be reduced to some combination of measurements of these three quantities. and time—is measured with respect to some convenient standard.73 wavelengths of light of the orange-red spectral line of the isotope Krypton 86 in vacuum. 3. such as velocity. but is now defined as the time for 9. France. Quantities of inertia. respectively. The system of units currently used by all scientists. lengths. which was formerly the distance between two scratches on a platinum-iridium alloy bar kept at the International Bureau of Metric Standard in S`vres. and most engineers.3 mks units The first principle of any exact science is measurement. in this system: i. acceleration. Intervals in time. In addition to the three fundamental quantities. classical mechanics also deals with derived quantities. The mks unit of length is the meter (symbol m). or mass. mass. France. momentum. 192..

the mks units of momentum are kilogram-meters per second: [p] = [M][v] = [M][L] = kg m s−1 . [T ] (1. p stands for a momentum. the mks units of velocity are meters per second: [v] = [L] = m s−1 . Hence. Thus. 1. the mks units of all derived quantities appearing in classical dynamics can easily be obtained. of the quantity contained within the brackets.g. mks units tend to become rather unwieldy when dealing with motions on very small scales (e. The standard prefixes can also be used to modify the units of derived quantities.2) Here. the motion of stars in the Galaxy). and a femtosecond (fs) represents 10−15 s. which allow the mks units of length..1) Here. For instance. mass. etc. or dimensions. a nanometer (nm) represents 10−9 m. and M for a mass. whereas the operator [· · ·] represents the units. therefore. a kilometer (km) represents 103 m. Unfortunately. a set of standard prefixes has been devised. the corresponding combinations of the mks units of length. In this manner. a velocity can be reduced to a length divided by a time. the motions of molecules) or very large scales (e. and time.4 Standard prefixes mentum. The mks units of these derived quantities are. [T ] (1. Momentum can be reduced to a mass times a velocity.1 INTRODUCTION 1. Hence.4 Standard prefixes mks units are specifically designed to conveniently describe those motions which occur in everyday life. 1. 10 . In order to help cope with this problem. v stands for a velocity. Each of these derived quantities can be reduced to some particular combination of length. and time to be modified so as to deal more easily with very small and very large quantities: these prefixes are specified in Tab. L for a length. and time.g. and T for a time. mass.. mass.

and the metric ton (1 tonne = 1. 558. 464 s). the hour (1 hr = 3. the day (1 da = 86. perfectly straightforward.26 da = 31. rather confusingly (unless you are an engineer in the US!). 000 lb. cgs. Table 2 specifies the various conversion factors between mks. the yard (1 ya = 3 ft).h deka. 1 ton = 2. 280 ft).P 10−2 10−3 teraT gigaG 10−6 10−9 mega. but. although their continued employment is now strongly discouraged in science and engineering (except in the US!). 400 s). 240 lb). Note that. in principle. and the mile (1 mi = 5. a frequent source of error. and the year (1 yr = 365. 000 kg).5 Other units Table 1: Standard prefixes 1.M kilok 10−12 10−15 hecto. additional non-standard units of time include the minute (1 min = 60 s). a pound is a unit of force. Witness. in the UK. the obsolete cgs (centimeter-gram-second) system and the even more obsolete fps (foot-pound-second) system are still in use today.1 INTRODUCTION Factor 1018 1015 1012 109 106 103 102 101 Prefix Symbol Factor exaE 10−1 peta. 11 . 1 ton = 2. and fps units. 600 s). Finally. the recent loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter because the engineers who designed its rocket engine used fps units whereas the NASA mission controllers employed mks units. Additional non-standard units of mass include the ton (in the US. Unfortunately. for example. Additional non-standard units of length include the inch (1 ft = 12 in).da 10−18 Prefix decicentimillimicronanopicofemtoattoSymbol d c m µ n p f a 1. in practice. Conversion between different systems of units is.5 Other units The mks system is not the only system of units in existence. rather than mass.

It. If one of the quantities in your calculation turns out to the the small difference between two much larger numbers. mass. (1. then you may need to keep more than four significant figures.59 kg 1. length. 1.. you are strongly urged to use scientific notation in all of your calculations: the use of non-scientific notation is generally a major source of error in this course.448 N 14. cannot possibly be correct.7 Dimensional analysis As we have already mentioned.e. (1.6 Precision and significant figures Table 2: Conversion factors 1.e.3) where m is a mass and l is a length. is to note that this equation is dependent on the adopted system of units: i. if m = l in mks units. One easy way of seeing that Eq. In other words. If your calculators are capable of operating in a mode in which all numbers (not just very small or very large numbers) are displayed in scientific form then you are advised to perform your calculations in this mode.3) is invalid (as a law of physics). makes no sense for a prospective law of physics to express an equality between (say) a length and a mass. and time are three fundamentally different quantities which are measured in three completely independent units. to three significant figures.6 Precision and significant figures In this course. you are expected to perform calculations to a relative accuracy of 1%: i. the easiest way in which to achieve this accuracy is to perform all intermediate calculations to four significant figures. then m = l 12 . Since rounding errors tend to accumulate during lengthy calculations.. the example law m = l. therefore.1 INTRODUCTION 1 cm 1g 1 ft 1 lb 1 slug = = = = = 10−2 m 10−3 kg 0. Incidentally. and then to round the final result down to three significant figures.3048 m 4.

Had Einstein proposed E = m c. Hence. In order to achieve this. A dimensionally consistent equation naturally takes the same form in all possible systems of units. the use of the idea of dimensional consistency to guess the forms of simple laws of physics. (1. It should be noted that dimensional analysis is of fairly limited applicability. in cgs units.4) is indeed dimensionally consistent. the quantities on the left. One immediate consequence of this assumption is that a law of physics must take the same form in all possible systems of units that a prospective observer might choose to employ. dimensionally consistent way of combining an energy. In fact. then his error would have been immediately apparent to other physicists.e. and in any other sensible set of units. E is the energy of a body.4) Here. Suppose that a special effects studio wants to film a scene in which the Leaning Tower of Pisa topples to the ground.7 Dimensional analysis in fps units. and the dimensions of velocity are [L]/[T ]. nevertheless. m is its mass... the laws of physics are the same for all observers. whereas the dimensions of the right-hand side are [M] ([L]/[T ]) 2 = [M][L2 ]/[T 2 ]. which 13 . the studio might make a scale model of the tower.. The dimensions of energy are [M][L2 ]/[T 2 ]. or E = m c3 . since these prospective laws are not dimensionally consistent. a mass. and the velocity of light in a law of physics. E = m c2 holds good in mks units.and right-hand sides of the equality sign in any given law of physics must have the same dimensions (i.and right-hand sides differ. As an example. The only way in which this can be the case is if all laws of physics are dimensionally consistent: i. E = m c2 represents the only simple.e. it is occasionally useful. Physicists hold very strongly to the assumption that the laws of physics possess objective reality: in other words. It follows that Eq. and is a poor substitute for analysis employing the actual laws of physics. because the conversion factors which must be applied to the left. and c is the velocity of light in vacuum. since the same conversion factors are applied to both sides of the equation when transforming from one system to another. let us consider what is probably the most famous equation in physics: E = m c2 . the same combinations of length. (1. and time). Thus. the dimensions of the left-hand side are [M][L 2 ]/[T 2 ]. in fps units. The last comment leads naturally to the subject of dimensional analysis: i. mass.1 INTRODUCTION 1.e.

the dimensions of an acceleration are [L]/[T 2 ]. the height of the tower. The studio could easily fix this problem by slowing the film down. In other words. and then film the model falling over.1 INTRODUCTION 1. (1. make some educated guesses as to what factors the time tf required for this process to occur depends on. and x.5) where C is a dimensionless constant. we do not know how to apply the laws of physics to the problem of a tower falling over. The question is by what factor should the film be slowed down in order to make it look realistic? Although. t f = C m x h y gz . (1. equating the dimensions of both sides of Eq.5). at least. y. we can. at this stage. we obtain  z [L]  [T ] = [M]x [L]y  2 . In fact. h. g. The exponents x. The only problem is that the resulting footage would look completely unrealistic. it seems reasonable to suppose that tf depends principally on the mass of the tower. Hence. (1. and the acceleration due to gravity.6) [T ] 14 . 1. y. Incidentally. because the model tower would fall over too quickly. and z are unknown exponents. m.7 Dimensional analysis h g m Figure 1: The Leaning Tower of Pisa is (say) 1 m tall. See Fig. and z can be determined by the requirement that the above equation be dimensionally consistent.

It follows that since the tf ∝ h (g is the same for both the real and the model tower) then the 1 m high model tower falls over a factor of 100/1 = 10 times faster than the real tower.047 × 103 m2 . Thus.560 square feet. √ actual tower of Pisa is approximately 100 m tall. 0 = x. and z = −1/2. Now.609 × 103 m. y = 1/2. the film must be slowed down by a factor 10 in order to make it look realistic. 1 = −2 z. Hence. It follows that the length of the fence is D = 4 × 1. g (1.047 × 103 = 1.619 × 105 = 1. Thus. 0 = y + z. and [T ] on either side of the above expression: these exponents must all match in order for Eq.1: Conversion of units Question: Farmer Jones has recently brought a 40 acre field and wishes to replace the fence surrounding it. Worked example 1.10) (1. tf = C h . 1 acre equals 43. 2) then 1 acre = 43560 × (0. the area of the field in mks units is A = 40 × 4. [M]. Given that the field is square. 15 .9) Now.619 × 105 m2 .7 Dimensional analysis We can now compare the exponents of [L]. Thus.8) (1. what length of fencing (in meters) should Farmer Jones purchase? Incidentally.1 INTRODUCTION 1. (1.3048 m (see Tab.3048)2 = 4.560 ft2 and 1 ft equals 0. Answer: If 1 acre equals 43. a square field with sides of length l has an area A = l2 and a circumference √ D = 4l.5) to be dimensionally consistent. D = 4 A.7) (1. Hence. It immediately follows that x = 0.

7 Dimensional analysis Worked example 1.3048 m (see Tab. the density ρ.448 Newtons (the standard SI unit of force). 1 pound equals 4. and z in the formula v = C p x ρy V z .3: Dimensional analysis Question: The speed of sound v in a gas might plausibly depend on the pressure p. Use dimensional analysis to determine the exponents x. y. = [T ] [T 2 ][L] [L3 ] A comparison of the exponents of [L]. and [T ] on either side of the above expression yields 1 = −x − 3y + 3z.2: Tire pressure Question: The recommended tire pressure in a Honda Civic is 28 psi (pounds per square inch). where C is a dimensionless constant.93 atmospheres. and the volume V of the gas.1 INTRODUCTION 1.3048)2 = 1. the mks units of pressure are kilograms per meter per second squared. and 1 foot equals 0. 2). P = 4032 × (4. Answer: Equating the dimensions of both sides of the above equation. Now.93 × 105 Nm−2 . 0 = x + y. −1 = −2x. Hence. It follows that 28 psi is equivalent to 1. Incidentally. 16 .448)/(0. [M]. What is this pressure in atmospheres (1 atmosphere is 105 N m−2 )? Answer: First. we obtain x  y  [L]  [M]   [M]  3 z [L ] . Worked example 1. 28 pounds per square inch is the same as 28 × (12)2 = 4032 pounds per square foot (the standard fps unit of pressure).

Hence. the first equation gives z = 0. v=C p .1 INTRODUCTION 1. finally. ρ 17 .7 Dimensional analysis The third equation immediately gives x = 1/2. the second equation then yields y = −1/2.

Indeed. This point is known as the origin of our coordinate system. a train traveling down a straight railroad track. whereas a negative x value implies that the body is located |x| meters to the left of the origin. and acceleration.g. Here.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2 Motion in 1 dimension 2.1 Introduction The purpose of this section is to introduce the concepts of displacement. A positive x value implies that the body is located x meters to the right of the origin. 2. As is often the case. our observers report the distance x of the body from some arbitrarily chosen reference point located on the track on which it is constrained to move.g.1) 2 4 18 . x is termed the displacement of the body from the origin. 3 is t2 t4 x=1+t+ − .. we shall restrict our attention to 1dimensional motion. 2. Suppose that we have a team of observers who continually report the location of this body to us as time progresses. Of course. its centre of mass) from the origin. See Fig. It is usually illuminating to graph these points. To be more exact.2 Displacement Consider a body moving in 1 dimension: e. Our information regarding the body’s motion consists of a set of data points. velocity. it is possible to fit the data points appearing in this graph using a relatively simple analytic curve. if the body is extended then our observers will have to report the displacement x of some conveniently chosen reference point on the body (e. (2. Figure 3 shows an example of such a graph. For the sake of simplicity. or a truck driving down an interstate in Kansas. the curve associated with Fig.. each specifying the displacement x of the body at some time t.

This ensures that no matter how rapidly v varies with time. If ∆t is made too large then formula (2. The conventional definition of velocity is as follows: Velocity is the rate of change of displacement with time.2) as ∆t approaches zero. 3 and formula (2. v= How should we choose the time interval ∆t appearing in Eq. ∆t must be kept sufficiently small that the body’s velocity does not change appreciably between times t and t + ∆t. however. (2.1) effectively specify the location of the body whose motion we are studying as time progresses. as is generally the case. and ∆x is the change in displacement of the body between times t and t + ∆t. in the simple case in which the body is moving with constant velocity. Suppose.2)? Obviously.3 Velocity Both Fig. Suppose that we require a general expression for instantaneous velocity which is valid irrespective of how rapidly or slowly the body’s velocity changes in time.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.2) becomes invalid. We can achieve this goal by taking the limit of Eq. Let us now consider how we can use this information to determine the body’s instantaneous velocity as a function of time. (2. and it will not affect the value of v. we can make ∆t as large or small as we like. the velocity of the track origin displacement x body x=0 Figure 2: Motion in 1 dimension 19 . In this situation. This definition implies that ∆x .3 Velocity 2. that v is constantly changing in time.2) ∆t where v is the body’s velocity at time t. (2.

.3) where dx/dt represents the derivative of x with respect to t. when v = 0 the body is instantaneously at rest. 20 . The conventional definition of speed is that it is the magnitude of velocity (i. v= The terms velocity and speed are often confused with one another. Thus.e. A velocity can be either positive or negative.e.e. depending on the direction of motion. x is increasing in time). Finally. v = lim ∆x dx = . it is v with the sign stripped off). (2. Note that when v is positive the body is moving to the right (i. Likewise. It follows that a body can never possess a negative speed. because it allows us to immediately evaluate the instantaneous velocity v(t) via the rules of calculus.1) then dx = 1 + t − t3 . if x(t) is given by formula (2.4) dt Figure 4 shows the graph of v versus t obtained from the above expression. ∆t→0 ∆t dt (2.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2. x is decreasing in time). Thus.. when v is negative the body is moving to the left (i. The above definition is particularly useful if we can represent x(t) as an analytic function..3 Velocity Figure 3: Graph of displacement versus time body is always approximately constant in the interval t to t + ∆t.

a= How should we choose the time interval ∆t appearing in Eq.4 Acceleration Figure 4: Graph of instantaneous velocity versus time associated with the motion specified in Fig. ∆t must be kept sufficiently small that the body’s acceleration does not change appreciably between times t and t + ∆t. A general expression for instantaneous acceleration.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2. can be obtained 21 . Suppose. (2. In this situation. and it will not affect the value of a. (2. we can make ∆t as large or small as we like. however. in the simple case in which the body is moving with constant acceleration.4 Acceleration The conventional definition of acceleration is as follows: Acceleration is the rate of change of velocity with time. as is generally the case. that a is constantly changing in time. 3 2. This definition implies that ∆v . which is valid irrespective of how rapidly or slowly the body’s acceleration changes in time. and ∆v is the change in velocity of the body between times t and t + ∆t.5)? Again.5) ∆t where a is the body’s acceleration at time t.

v is decreasing in time). (2. ∆t→0 ∆t dt dt (2. since this quantity does not appear in Newton’s laws of motion.1) then d2 x a = 2 = 1 − 3t2 .. Fortunately. 22 . Likewise.7) Figure 5 shows the graph of a versus time obtained from the above expression. Note that when a is positive the body is accelerating to the right (i. dt (2.4 Acceleration Figure 5: Graph of instantaneous acceleration versus time associated with the motion specified in Fig.5) as ∆t approaches zero: a = lim ∆v dv d2 x = = 2.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2..e.6) The above definition is particularly useful if we can represent x(t) as an analytic function. Thus. if x(t) is given by formula (2. it is generally not necessary to evaluate the rate of change of acceleration with time.e. because it allows us to immediately evaluate the instantaneous acceleration a(t) via the rules of calculus. when a is negative the body is decelerating (i. v is increasing in time). 3 by taking the limit of Eq.

the ratio ∆x/∆t.8) Here.e. It can be seen that the graph consists of a straight-line. low friction surface: e. Fig.g. v = dx/dt is the constant velocity of the body: this quantity can be determined from the graph as the gradient of the straight-line (i. 6 shows the graph of displacement versus time for a body moving with constant velocity. Fig.5 Motion with constant velocity x x0 ∆t ∆x 0 0 t Figure 6: Graph of displacement versus time for a body moving with constant velocity 2. Note that a = d2 x/dt2 = 0. as shown). This type of motion occurs in everyday life whenever an object slides over a horizontal. The body in question moves to the right 23 .. x0 is the displacement at time t = 0: this quantity can be determined from the graph as the intercept of the straight-line with the x-axis. Likewise. (2. a puck sliding across a hockey rink.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.. 7 shows a displacement versus time graph for a slightly more complicated case of motion with constant velocity. This line can be represented algebraically as x = x0 + v t.5 Motion with constant velocity The simplest type of motion (excluding the trivial case in which the body under investigation remains at rest) consists of motion with constant velocity. as expected.

The body then moves to the right (since x is still increasing in time) with a somewhat larger constant velocity (since the graph is again a straight line. Fig.81 m s −2 . It can be seen that the displacementtime graph consists of a curved-line whose gradient (slope) is increasing in time. 2.6 Motion with constant acceleration x 0 A B C t D E Figure 7: Graph of displacement versus time (since x is clearly increasing with t) with a constant velocity (since the graph is a straight-line) between times A and B. The body remains at rest (since the graph is horizontal) between times C and D. 8 shows the graphs of displacement versus time and velocity versus time for a body moving with constant acceleration. the body moves to the left (since x is decreasing with t) with a constant velocity (since the graph is a straight-line) between times D and E.6 Motion with constant acceleration Motion with constant acceleration occurs in everyday life whenever an object is dropped: the object moves downward with the constant acceleration 9.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2. under the influence of gravity. Finally. 24 . but possesses a larger gradient than before) between times B and C.

6 Motion with constant acceleration x x0 0 0 t v v0 ∆t ∆v 0 0 t Figure 8: Graphs of displacement versus time and velocity versus time for a body moving with constant acceleration This line can be represented algebraically as x = x0 + v0 t + 1 2 at . x0 is the displacement at time t = 0: this quantity can be determined from the graph as the intercept of the curved-line with the x-axis. 2 (2. Likewise.10) dt 25 . The velocity-time graph consists of a straight-line which can be represented algebraically as dx v= = v0 + a t.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.9) Here. v 0 is the body’s instantaneous velocity at time t = 0. (2.

The acceleration at the poles is about 9.13) 2.e. the body decelerates [since the gradient (slope) of the graph is decreasing in time] between times C and D.. or a basketball). 9 shows a displacement versus time graph for a slightly more complicated case of accelerated motion. The average acceleration is 9. 1 26 . Actually. Note that dv/dt = a.780 m s−2 . the ratio ∆v/∆t. as expected.81 m s−2 . or a bullet fired from a pistol).g.834 m s −2 . s = v0 t + Here. Fig. a golf-ball. 2 v2 = v0 + 2 a s. all bodies in free-fall close to the Earth’s surface accelerate vertically downwards with the same acceleration: namely.10) can be rearranged to give the following set of three useful formulae which characterize motion with constant acceleration: 1 2 at . s = x − x0 is the net distance traveled after t seconds.81 m s−2 . neglecting the effect of air resistance.. but becomes a poor approximation for small objects which travel relatively rapidly (e. the acceleration due to gravity varies slightly over the Earth’s surface because of the combined effects of the Earth’s rotation and the Earth’s slightly flattened shape. as shown). whereas the acceleration at the equator is only 9. The quantity a is the constant acceleration: this can be determined graphically as the gradient of the straight-line (i. a shot-putt. Equations (2. The body then moves to the right (since x is increasing in time) with a constant velocity (since the graph is a straight line) between times B and C. (2. Finally.12) (2.1 The neglect of air resistance is a fairly good approximation for large objects which travel relatively slowly (e.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2. The body in question accelerates to the right [since the gradient (slope) of the graph is increasing in time] between times A and B. g = 9..9) and (2.g. 2 v = v0 + a t.7 Free-fall under gravity Galileo Galilei was the first scientist to appreciate that.11) (2.7 Free-fall under gravity The quantity v0 is determined from the graph as the intercept of the straightline with the x-axis.

according to Eq.17) . Suppose that a ball is released from rest and allowed to fall under the influence of gravity. g = 9.14) [with v0 = 0 (since the ball is released from rest). 2 v = v0 − g t.14)–(2. v is the object’s instantaneous velocity at time t.11)–(2. Let us illustrate the use of Eqs. h = g t2 /2. s = v0 t − (2. so the time of fall is t= 2h .15) (2. 2 v2 = v0 − 2 g s.16).81 m s−2 is the downward acceleration due to gravity. and v0 is the object’s instantaneous velocity at t = 0. s is the distance the object has moved vertically between times t = 0 and t (if s > 0 then the object has risen s meters.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.7 Free-fall under gravity x 0 A B C t D Figure 9: Graph of displacement versus time Equations (2.14) (2. (2. Finally. and s = −h (since we wish the ball to fall h meters)].16) Here. g 27 (2. else if s < 0 then the object has fallen |s| meters).13) can easily be modified to deal with the special case of an object free-falling under gravity: 1 2 gt . (2. How long does it take the ball to fall h meters? Well.

Since the ascent and decent phases of the ball’s trajectory are clearly symmetric. It follows from Eq.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.1: Velocity-time graph 8 v (m/s) 4 0 0 4 t (s) 28 8 12 16 . According to Eq.19) Worked example 2. (2. g (2. 2g (2. t= 2u .15) (with v0 = u).16) (with v0 = u and t > 0) that v = −u.18) When the ball strikes the ground it has traveled zero net meters vertically. the ball hits the ground with an equal and opposite velocity to that with which it was thrown into the air. (2. It follows from Eqs. To what height does the ball rise.15) and (2.e. this occurs at time t = u/g. when v = 0). and t = u/g) that the maximum height of the ball is given by h= u2 . the ball’s time of flight is simply twice the time required for the ball to attain its maximum height: i. (2. how long does it remain in the air. so s = 0.14) (with v0 = u. In other words.e.. and with what velocity does it strike the ground? The ball attains its maximum height when it is momentarily at rest (i.7 Free-fall under gravity Suppose that a ball is thrown vertically upwards from ground level with velocity u..

1. x(16) − x(0) = 4 × 25 = 100 m. evaluated between these two times. What is the acceleration of the object between times t = 0 and t = 2? 2. The area of each grid-square is 2×2 = 4 m.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2. the number of grid-squares under the v-t curve is 25. ∆t 12 − 10 2 The negative sign indicates that the object is decelerating. The v-t graph is a straight-line between t = 10 and t = 12. the net displacement between times t = 0 and t = 16 equals the area under the v-t curve. so 16 x(16) − x(0) = 0 v(t) dt. a= ∆v v(t = 2) − v(t = 0) 8 − 0 = = = 4 m s−2 . The v-t graph is a straight-line between t = 0 and t = 2. In other words. Hence. Hence.7 Free-fall under gravity Question: Consider the motion of the object whose velocity-time graph is given in the diagram. Recalling that the area of a triangle is half its width times its height. Hence. ∆t 2−0 2 2. indicating constant acceleration during this time period. v = dx/dt. 29 . a= ∆v v(t = 12) − v(t = 10) 4 − 8 = = = −2 m s−2 . 3. indicating constant acceleration during this time period. What is the net displacement of the object between times t = 0 and t = 16? Answer: 1. What is the acceleration of the object between times t = 10 and t = 12? 3. Now.

two pressure-activated strips are placed 120 m apart on a highway on which the speed limit is 85 km/h. ¯ v 85 × (1000/3600) Here. and let ∆t be the time taken by the car to travel from one strip to the other.73 m s−2 . the required deceleration is 2. and surviving. Let ∆x = 120 m be the distance between the two strips. Steve Brodie achieved notoriety by allegedly jumping off the recently completed Brooklyn bridge. Hence.082 s.73 m s−2 . Now. assuming that the acceleration a of the car is uniform.2: Speed trap Question: In a speed trap.082) 1 a (∆t)2 . 2 2 (∆t) (5. ∆t We need this velocity to be 85 km/h. Worked example 2.7 Free-fall under gravity Worked example 2. A driver going 110 km/h notices a police car just as he/she activates the first strip. The average velocity of the car is ¯= v ∆x .3: The Brooklyn bridge Question: In 1886. we have ∆x = v1 ∆t + which can be rearranged to give a= 2 (∆x − v1 ∆t) 2 (120 − 110 × (1000/3600) × 5.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2. and immediately slows down. we have changed units from km/h to m/s. 2 Hence. Given that the 30 . What deceleration is needed so that the car’s average speed is within the speed limit when the car crosses the second strip? Answer: Let v1 = 110 km/h be the speed of the car at the first strip. for a bet. we require ∆t = ∆x 120 = = 5.082) = = −2.

6 mi/h ! Clearly. 9. Mr. how long would Mr.41 m s−1 .7 Free-fall under gravity bridge rises 135 ft over the East River.3048 = −41.15 = 2.896 = −28. Brodie’s story should be taken with a pinch of salt. You may neglect air resistance. the speed with which he plunged into the East River was 28. or 63.896 s.15 m. Brodie have been in the air. 2 where t was his time of flight.41 m s−1 . Hence. 1 h = − g t2 .81 × 2. −2 h = g 2 × 41. Assuming that his initial velocity was zero.2 MOTION IN 1 DIMENSION 2.81 31 . t= His final velocity was v = −g t = −9. Answer: Mr. and with what speed would he have struck the water? Give all answers in mks units. Brodie’s net vertical displacement was h = −135×0. Thus.

y-.1 Introduction The purpose of this section is to generalize the previously introduced concepts of displacement. the index finger. the orientation of these axes is such that when the index finger. A Cartesian coordinate system consists e of three mutually perpendicular axes. The point of intersection of the three coordinate axes is termed the origin of the coordinate system. See Fig. and the thumb of the right-hand are configured so as to be mutually perpendicular. velocity. Such a coordinate system is termed right-handed. and the thumb can be aligned along the x-. respectively. (thumb) z (middle finger) y x (index finger) Figure 10: A right-handed Cartesian coordinate system 32 . when dealing with 3-dimensional motion. 10. By convention.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3 Motion in 3 dimensions 3. the middle finger. the middle finger. y-. and acceleration in order to deal with motion in 3 dimensions. and z-axes. 3. the x-.2 Cartesian coordinates Our first task. The most straight-forward type of coordinate system is called a Cartesian system. is to set up a suitable coordinate system. and z-axes (say). after Ren´ Descartes.

. The body’s instantaneous position is most conveniently specified by giving its displacement from the origin of our coordinate system. By contrast.and z-axes). vectors are usually under-lined (e. Mass and time are scalar quantities. displacement is a vector. then move y meters along the y-axis (perpendicular to both the x. The vector displacement r can also be specified in terms of its coordinates: r = (x. However.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS R z 3.. in general.3 Vector displacement r y O x Figure 11: A vector displacement 3. first move x meters along the x-axis (perpendicular to both the y. that in 3 dimensions such a displacement possesses both magnitude and direction. 11. In other words. y.1) The above expression is interpreted as follows: in order to get from point O to point R.g.g. The vector displacement r of some point R from the origin O can be visualized as an arrow running from point O to point R. a quantity which possesses only magnitude is termed a scalar.3 Vector displacement Consider the motion of a body moving in 3 dimensions. Note. we not only have to specify how far the body is situated from the origin. See Fig. r).and 33 . (3. however. Note that in typeset documents vector quantities are conventionally written in a bold-faced font (e. z). we also have to specify in which direction it lies. A quantity which possesses both magnitude and direction is termed a vector. In free-hand notation. r) to distinguish them from scalar quantities.

3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS S r 2 R r 1 r 3. Vector r is termed the resultant of adding vectors r1 and r2 . The net result is the same as if we had moved from point O directly to point R along vector r. In other words. Note that we have two ways of specifying the vector displacement of point S from the origin: we can either write r1 or r − r2 . 3. The expression r − r2 is interpreted as follows: starting at the origin. and so on. we first move from point O to point S along vector r1 .2) Figure 12 illustrates how this expression is interpreted diagrammatically: in order to get from point O to point R.and y-axes). move along vector r in the direction of the arrow. whereas a negative x value is interpreted as an instruction to move |x| meters along the x-axis in the opposite direction. a minus sign in front of a vector indicates that we should move along that vector in the opposite direction to its arrow.4 Vector addition O Figure 12: Vector addition z-axes). and we then move from point S to point R along vector r2 . (3. 34 . finally move z meters along the z-axis (perpendicular to both the x. then move along vector r2 in the opposite direction to the arrow. Note that a positive x value is interpreted as an instruction to move x meters along the x-axis in the direction of increasing x.4 Vector addition Suppose that the vector displacement r of some point R from the origin O is specified as follows: r = r 1 + r2 .

7). in general. y. what is the length.4) (3. (3. z1 ) and (x2 . z) of the resultant vector r = r1 + r2 are x = x1 + x2 .5 Vector magnitude Suppose that the components of vectors r1 and r2 are (x1 . 3.6 Scalar multiplication Suppose that s = λ r. of vector r. z) represents the vector displacement of point R from the origin. although we have moved a total distance of 2 m. the components of the sum of two vectors are simply the algebraic sums of the components of the individual vectors. |r| ≤ |r1 | + |r2 |.6) r = x2 + y 2 + z 2 . According to inequality (3.7) 3. (3.5 Vector magnitude If r = (x. It follows from a 3-dimensional generalization of Pythagoras’ theorem that (3. z2 ). or magnitude. respectively. the magnitudes of vectors cannot. but the length of the former vector is λ times 35 . y1 . what is the distance between these two points? In other words. Note that if r = r1 + r2 then In other words. y = y1 + y2 . This expression is interpreted as follows: vector s points in the same direction as vector r. this is just common sense. our net distance from the starting point is less than 2 m—of course. y.3) (3. r = |r|. the components (x. y2 . z = z 1 + z2 . if we move 1 m to the North (say) and next move 1 m to the West (say) then. be added algebraically. The only exception to this rule (represented by the equality sign in the above expression) occurs when the vectors in question all point in the same direction.5) In other words.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3. As is easily demonstrated.

. Suppose that the quadrilateral ABCD in Fig. 3. 13 can be represented vectorially as d = b − a. Note that Fig. Likewise. they possess no intrinsic position information. (3.e. when we multiply a vector by a scalar then the components of the resultant vector are obtained by multiplying all the components of the original vector by the scalar. It follows that the opposite sides of ABCD can be represented by the same vectors. they point in the same direction). y. z) = (λ x. and the length of the former vector is |λ| times that of the latter. Note that if λ is negative then vector s points in the opposite direction to vector r. a and b: this merely indicates that these sides are of equal length and are parallel (i. Although vectors possess both a magnitude (length) and a direction.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS B X b c d A b 3. λ y. 13 is a parallelogram. Thus. despite the fact that they are in different places on the diagram. The displacement x (say) of the 36 .7 Diagonals of a parallelogram The use of vectors is very well illustrated by the following rather famous proof that the diagonals of a parallelogram mutually bisect one another. In terms of components: s = λ (x. 13 illustrates an important point regarding vectors. The diagonal BD in Fig.8) In other words.7 Diagonals of a parallelogram C a a D Figure 13: A parallelogram that of the latter. the diagonal AC can be written c = a + b. since sides AB and DC are parallel and of equal length. they can be represented by the same vector a. λ z).

x. is if the coefficients of a and b match on either side of the equality sign.13) It follows that λ = µ = 1/2. then move along diagonal BD (along vector d) for an unknown fraction λ of its length. y. (3. we obtain 1 − λ = 1 − µ. progresses. 37 (3. (3. The vector displacement of the body is given by r(t) = [x(t). then move to point C (along vector a). first move to point B (along vector a). Let us consider how we can use this information to determine the body’s instantaneous velocity and acceleration as functions of time. Since X represents the same point in Eqs. (3. Equation (3. (3. Suppose that we know the Cartesian coordinates.10) Equation (3. we can equate these two expressions to give a + λ (b − a) = b + a − µ (a + b). first move to point D (along vector b). x = b + a − µ c.9) (3. In other words. and z. of this body as time.9) is interpreted as follows: in order to get from point A to point X. λ = 1 − µ. Thus.10) is interpreted as follows: in order to get from point A to point X. the centroid X is located at the halfway points of diagonals BD and AC: i.8 Vector velocity and vector acceleration Consider a body moving in 3 dimensions. in general. finally move along diagonal CA (along vector −c) for an unknown fraction µ of its length.9) and (3.10)..8 Vector velocity and vector acceleration centroid X from point A can be written in one of two different ways: x = a + λ d. z(t)]. t. equating coefficients of a and b. y(t). the diagonals mutually bisect one another.11) Now vectors a and b point in different directions.12) (3.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.e. 3. so the only way in which the above expression can be satisfied.14) .

17) vy = dt dz . (3.23) (3.21) (3. az ) is simply the derivative of v with respect to t. vy . (3. (3.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3. ay . and so on. the x-component of velocity is simply the time derivative of the x-coordinate.22) the x- (3. dt dt dvz d2 z az = = 2. the above definition yields d2 x dvx = 2. the above definition yields v(t) = lim vx = (3. v(t + ∆t) − v(t) dv d2 r a(t) = lim = = 2.24) (3. suppose that the coordinates of the body are given by x = sin t. By analogy with the 1-dimensional equation (2. the body’s vector acceleration a = (ax . z = 3 t. vz ) is simply the derivative of r with respect to t. (3. dt dt Thus. and so on. the body’s vector velocity v = (vx .15) dx .18) vz = dt Thus.19) ∆t→0 ∆t dt dt When written in component form.3). In other words. ax = dt dt dvy d2 y ay = = 2. In other words.8 Vector velocity and vector acceleration By analogy with the 1-dimensional equation (2.25) . y = cos t.20) (3. As an example. 38 (3. the x-component of acceleration is simply the time derivative of component of velocity. ∆t→0 ∆t dt When written in component form. r(t + ∆t) − r(t) dr = .6).16) dt dy .

dt dy = = − sin t.9 Motion with constant velocity An object moving in 3 dimensions with constant velocity v possesses a vector displacement of the form r(t) = r0 + v t. = dt (3.10 Motion with constant acceleration An object moving in 3 dimensions with constant acceleration a possesses a vector displacement of the form r(t) = r0 + v0 t + 39 1 2 at . As illustrated in Fig. = dt dvz = = 0. dt dz = 3.30) (3. 3. 2 (3.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3. dt dvy = − cos t. as expected.33) .32) where the constant vector r0 is the displacement at time t = 0. the object’s trajectory is a straight-line which passes through point r0 at time t = 0 and runs parallel to vector v. (3.31) 3. 14. Note that dr/dt = v and d2 r/dt2 = 0.28) whilst the components of the body’s acceleration are given by ax = ay az dvx = − sin t.26) (3.9 Motion with constant velocity The corresponding components of the body’s velocity are then simply vx = vy vz dx = cos t.27) (3. dt (3.29) (3.

15. (3. the vector equivalents of Eqs. (2. the constant vectors r 0 and v0 are the object’s displacement and velocity at time t = 0.36) (3.34) Note that dv/dt = a. which is illustrated in Fig. respectively. In the above.35) (3.10 Motion with constant acceleration v t=t trajectory t=0 r r 0 Figure 14: Motion with constant velocity Hence.13) are: 1 2 at . Here. (3.37). s = r − r0 is the net displacement of the object between times t = 0 and t. s = v0 t + (3. appearing in Eq. and is defined a·s = ax sx + ay sy + az sz .3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3. The quantity a·s. 2 v2 = v0 + 2 a·s. is termed the scalar product of vectors a and s. |s| is the magnitude of 40 . the object’s velocity is given by v(t) = dr = v0 + a t. dt (3. 2 v = v0 + a t. As is easily demonstrated. If |a| is the magnitude (or length) of vector a. as expected.11)–(2.38) The above formula has a simple geometric interpretation.37) These equation fully characterize 3-dimensional motion with constant acceleration.

40) It is also apparent from Eq. making an angle θ with the horizontal. and θ is the angle subtended between these two vectors.38) that a· s = s· a. Incidentally.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS s |s| 3. Suppose that a projectile is launched upward from ground level. the scalar product of a vector with itself is simply the magnitude squared of that vector [this is immediately apparent from Eq. (3. It immediately follows that if two vectors are mutually perpendicular (i..11 Projectile motion As a simple illustration of the concepts introduced in the previous subsections. taking the scalar product of Eq.36) with itself. what is the subsequent trajectory of the projectile? 41 . 3. and a·(b + c) = a·b + a·c. s = |a| |s| cos θ θ |a| |s| cos θ a Figure 15: The scalar product vector s. (3.11 Projectile motion a . (3.39) In other words. θ = 90◦ ) then their scalar product is zero. and then eliminating t. (3.e. Neglecting the effect of air resistance. (3. and a·(λs) = λ(a· s). with speed v0 . the scalar product of vectors a and s equals the product of the length of vector a times the length of that component of vector s which lies in the same direction as vector a. (3. (3.35) with a.38)]: a·a = |a|2 = a2 . let us examine the following problem. then a·s = |a| |s| cos θ.37) is obtained by taking the scalar product of Eq. Eq. Furthermore.

v0 sin θ). upwards). the projectile is subject to a constant acceleration g = 9. A convenient system is illustrated in Fig. What is the initial vector velocity v0 with which the projectile is launched into the air at (say) t = 0? As illustrated in Fig.11 Projectile motion z v0 sin θ v0 θ v0 cos θ v0 x Figure 16: Coordinates for the projectile problem Our first task is to set up a suitable Cartesian coordinate system.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3. Thus. 16. due to gravity. Since the projectile moves with constant acceleration. (3.. Neglecting air resistance. whereas the x-axis points along the projectile’s initial direction of horizontal motion.42) Note that v0 has zero component along the y-axis. 0. the origin of our coordinate system corresponds to the launch point.81 m s−1 . Thus. the minus sign indicates that the acceleration is in the minus z-direction (i.41) Here. (3. Furthermore. its horizontal component is directed along the x-axis. −g).. the projectile’s vector acceleration is written a = (0. as opposed to the plus z-direction (i. 16.e. The z-axis points vertically upwards (this is a standard convention). 0. the components of v0 take the form v0 = (v0 cos θ. 16.e. z = 0 corresponds to ground level. which points into the paper in Fig. which is directed vertically downwards. given that the magnitude of this velocity is v0 . downwards). and its direction subtends an angle θ with this axis. its vector displacement 42 .

46) can be rearranged to give 1 g x2 2 z = x tan θ − 2 sec θ.45) 1 2 gt . z) from its launch point satisfies [see Eq. that the projectile’s vertical motion is entirely decoupled from its horizontal motion. further.. z = v0 sin θ t − (3.11 Projectile motion s = (x. y = 0. (3. the initial vertical velocity component of the first projectile)—both projectiles will reach the same maximum altitude at the same time. This is hardly surprising. the projectile’s vertical motion is identical to that of a second projectile launched vertically upwards. The horizontal range R of the projectile corresponds to its x-coordinate when it strikes the ground (i.41) and (3. Note. 2 v0 (3.e. the projectile’s trajectory is 2-dimensional. (3.46) 2 respectively. and will subsequently strike the ground simultaneously. In other words. Note.47) As was first pointed out by Galileo. y.35)] 1 2 at . v x = dx/dt = v0 cos θ.e. in the x-direction (i. the x-. Equations (3.48) 43 . and the projectile’s initial velocity also has zero component along this axis. Note that the projectile moves with constant velocity. R= g g (3. at t = 0. y-. when z = 0).42). horizontally). this is the equation of a parabola.e.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3. 17. (3. and is illustrated in Fig. finally.43) 2 Making use of Eqs.44) and (3. (3. that since there is zero component of the projectile’s acceleration along the y-axis. and z-components of the above equation are written s = v0 t + x = v0 cos θ t. It follows from the above expression (neglecting the trivial result x = 0) that 2 2 v0 2 v0 sin θ cos θ = sin 2θ.. since there is zero component of the projectile’s acceleration along the x-axis. lying entirely within the x-z plane. In other words.44) (3. the projectile never moves in the y-direction.. with the initial velocity v 0 sin θ (i.

In other words. (3.. on a windy day.49) when θ = 45◦ . 3.e. g (3. = 2g (3. the largest value of h. an airplane moves with constant velocity v a with respect to the air. It follows from Eq..3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.12 Relative velocity h z x θ R Figure 17: The parabolic trajectory of a projectile Note that the range attains its maximum value. The maximum altitude h of the projectile is attained when vz = dz/dt = 0 (i. and that the air moves with constant velocity u with respect 44 .12 Relative velocity Suppose that.e. neglecting air resistance. (3. 2 v0 sin2 θ.51) is obtained when the projectile is launched vertically upwards (i. a projectile travels furthest when it is launched into the air at 45◦ to the horizontal. θ = 90 ◦ ).50) h = z(t0 ) = 2g Obviously. hmax 2 v0 .46) that the maximum altitude occurs at time t0 = v0 sin θ/g. when the projectile has just stopped rising and is about to start falling). Rmax = 2 v0 . Hence.

φ. As always.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3. Let us now consider how we might implement Eq. the velocity of the plane with respect to the ground is the vector sum of the plane’s velocity relative to the air and the air’s velocity relative to the ground. vg is parallel to neither va nor u.e. whereas the y-axis points eastward. r. 90◦ . the components of a general vector r.. Although. 19. What is the vector velocity vg of the plane with respect to the ground? In principle. in general. Furthermore. respectively. The x-axis points northward. and 270◦ . for ease of notation. compass bearings run from 0◦ to 360◦ . whose magnitude is r and whose compass bearing is φ. are simply r = (x. Note that. By convention. r sin φ). As illustrated in Fig.12 Relative velocity vg va u Figure 18: Relative velocity to the ground. a compass bearing is the angle subtended between the direction of a vector and the direction to the North pole: i.e. (3. (3. 20. our first task is to set up a suitable Cartesian coordinate system.. 18. A convenient system for dealing with 2-dimensional motion parallel to the Earth’s surface is illustrated in Fig. According to Fig. 180◦ . it is valid for φ in the full range 0◦ to 360◦ . In this coordinate system. 20. East. 20 only justifies the above expression for φ in the range 0◦ to 90◦ . it turns out that this expression is generally valid: i.53) Note that we have suppressed the z-component of r (which is zero). the compass bearings of North.52) In other words. 45 . and its compass bearing. strictly speaking. South.52) in practice. See Fig. it is conventional to specify a vector r in term of its magnitude. y) = (r cos φ. the x-direction. and West are 0◦ . the answer to this question is very simple: vg = va + u. (3. Fig.

12 Relative velocity N x W y E S Figure 19: Coordinates for relative velocity problem N r x r cos φ φ r y r sinφ E Figure 20: A compass bearing 46 .3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.

and the air’s velocity relative to the ground is 85 km/h.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3. the components of the plane’s velocity vg relative to the ground are simply the algebraic sums of the corresponding components of va and u. vg = (−1. (3. vg x if vg x ≥ 0. the compass bearing of vg is given by the following formula: (3. (3.010 × 101 ) = (−2.58) This follows because vg x = vg cos φ and vg y = vg sin φ [see Eq.53)].997 × 102 ). Unfortunately.010 × 101 .6)]: vg = = (vg x )2 + (vg y )2 (−2. the above expression becomes a little difficult to interpret if v g x is negative. φ = tan−1  vg x   (3. at a compass bearing of 120◦ .55) According to Eq.54) u = (85 cos 225◦ .500 × 102 . (3.57) In principle.598 × 102 ). or vg y  . An unambiguous pair of expressions for φ is given below: vg y  φ = tan−1  . 2. (3.598 × 102 − 6. The magnitude of vg follows from Pythagoras’ theorem [see Eq. Hence.997 × 102 )2 = 289.010 × 101 ).010 × 101 .56) Our final task is to reconstruct the magnitude and compass bearing of vector vg . 1. −6. suppose that the plane’s velocity relative to the air is 300 km/h. (3. at a compass bearing of 225◦ . It follows that the components of va and u (measured in units of km/h) are va = (300 cos 120◦ .101 × 102 . φ = 180◦ − tan−1  |vg x | 47     (3.12 Relative velocity As an illustration. 300 sin 120◦ ) = (−1.9 km/h. (3.500 × 102 − 6.59) (3. 2.52).60) . vg y ). 85 sin 225◦ ) = (−6.101 × 102 )2 + (1. vg y  . given its components (vg x .

(3. which correspond to the seven step drop. 48 . 0). but is then flushed out of the pocket by a blitzing linebacker. just prior to being creamed by the linebacker.. and the forward pass. takes a seven step drop (i. respectively. Eq.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.60) is the relevant expression.61) Thus. hence 1. b. What is the magnitude of the football’s resultant displacement (in yards)? Answer: As illustrated in the diagram.12 Relative velocity if vg x < 0. the plane’s velocity relative to the ground is 289. the run parallel to the line of scrimmage.e. the components of vectors a.9 km/h at a compass bearing of 136. For the case in hand.101 × 10   (3.1: Broken play Question: Major Applewhite receives the snap at the line of scrimmage. and c (measured in yards) are a = (−9. to Roy Williams. Using upfield x r c y 9 yd a b 12 yd 36 yd line of scrimmage the coordinate system indicated in the diagram. Worked example 3.997 × 102  = 136. b. and c. the resultant displacement r of the football is the sum of vectors a. runs backwards 9 yards). φ = 180◦ − tan−1  2 2. These expressions can be derived from simple trigonometry.5◦ . 36 yards straight downfield.5◦ . Major subsequently runs parallel to the line of scrimmage for 12 yards and then gets off a forward pass.

further. did it take to do this? Finally. Suppose. Thus. after it was thrown.17). it follows that both weights strike the ground simultaneously. (2. t= R = u t = 5 × 4. Which weight struck the ground first? How long.. Worked example 3. this time is given by 2h 2 × 100 = = 4. (No wonder he eventually got into trouble with the authorities!) Suppose that. The time of flight of each weight is simply the time taken to fall h = 100 m. under the influence of gravity. It follows that the magnitude of the football’s resultant displacement is r = x2 + y2 = 272 + 122 = 29.e. y) = (−9 + 0 + 36. whereas he threw the second weight horizontally with a velocity of 5 m/s.55 yd. Gallileo simultaneously threw two equal weights off the tower from a height of 100 m above the ground. one day. c = (36. 0). starting from rest. zero). respectively.58 m. From Eq. 12). that he dropped the first weight straight down. Answer: Since both weights start off traveling with the same initial velocities in the vertical direction (i.515 s. what horizontal distance was traveled by the second weight before it hit the ground? Neglect the effect of air resistance.515 = 22. 12). 0 + 12 + 0) = (27.12 Relative velocity b = (0. Hence the components of r are given by r = (x. g 9. and both accelerate vertically downwards at the same rate.2: Gallileo’s experiment Question: Legend has it that Gallileo tested out his newly developed theory of projectile motion by throwing weights from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. 49 .3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.81 The horizontal distance R traveled by the second weight is simply the distance traveled by a body moving at a constant velocity u = 5 m/s (recall that gravitational acceleration does not affect horizontal motion) during the time taken by the weight to drop 100 m.

Answer: In order to answer this question we need only consider the cannonball’s vertical motion.12 Relative velocity Worked example 3.. where B. 2 where z is the cannonball’s height off the ground at time t. we have neglected the unphysical negative root of our quadratic equation. the cannonball is accelerating vertically downwards at g = 9. How long is the cannonball in the air? Neglect air resistance.J. The equation of vertical motion of the cannonball is written 1 z = z 0 + v 0 t − g t2 . the time of firing) the cannonball’s height off the ground is z0 = 50 m and its velocity component in the vertical direction is v0 = v sin θ = 200 × sin 30◦ = 100 m/s.91 m/s2 .4: Hail Mary pass Question: The Longhorns are down by 4 points with 5 s left in the fourth quarter. Moreover. In other words. The time of flight of the cannonball corresponds to the time t at which z = 0.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3. Suppose that Chris throws the ball at 55 miles per hour. 2 v0 + v0 + 2 g z 0 t= = 20. g Here. At what angle to the horizontal must the ball be launched in order for it to hit the receiver? Neglect the effect of air resistance.3: Cannon shot Question: A cannon placed on a 50 m high cliff fires a cannonball over the edge of the cliff at v = 200 m/s making an angle of θ = 30◦ to the horizontal.e. Chris Simms launches a Hail Mary pass into the end-zone. 50 . At t = 0 (i. Johnson is waiting to make the catch. the time of flight is the solution of the quadratic equation 0 = z0 + v0 t − Hence. 1 2 gt .88 s. 60 yards away. 2 Worked example 3.

56◦ would work just as well.3048/3600 = 24.81  θ = sin−1  2  = sin−1  = 31. the ball must be launched at 31. Suppose. and the velocity u of the wind relative to the ground.3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3. Hence. 1 1 Rg 54.45◦ to the horizontal. R= g In this case.59 m/s. further.48)]: 2 v0 sin 2θ. We also know that 51 .45◦ . We know that u is directed due East. 58. R = 60 × 3 × 0.5: Flight UA 589 Question: United Airlines flight UA 589 from Chicago is 20 miles due North of Austin’s Bergstrom airport.3048 = 54.59)     Thus.86 × 9. that there is a wind blowing due East at 60 mi/h. (Actually. 2 2 v0 2 (24.12 Relative velocity Answer: The formula for the horizontal range R of a projectile thrown with initial velocity v0 at an angle θ to the horizontal is [see Eq. and we require vg to be directed due South. (3.86 m and v0 = 55 × 5280 × 0. The plane’s veloc- N vg E u α va φ ity vg relative to the ground is the vector sum of its velocity va relative to the air. Why is this?) Worked example 3. Suppose that the plane is flying at 200 mi/h relative to the air. Towards which compass bearing must the plane steer in order to land at the airport? Answer: The problem in hand is illustrated in the diagram.

it is clear from the diagram that the compass bearing φ of the plane is given by φ = 270◦ − α = 270◦ − 72. Thus. |va | 200 52 . Now. in order to land at Bergstrom airport the plane must fly towards compass bearing 197. from simple trigonometry. α = 72. cos α = Hence.3.46◦ .12 Relative velocity |va | = 200 mi/h and |u| = 60 mi/h.46◦ .3 MOTION IN 3 DIMENSIONS 3.54◦ = 197. However. 60 |u| = = 0.54◦ .

respectively. and then give some simple illustrations of their use. 14. 2. These laws are known as Newton’s first law of motion. the displacement r of the body as a function of time t can be written r = r0 + v t. 4. the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal and directed to contrary parts.1) where r0 and v are constant vectors. This law states that if the motion of a given body is not disturbed by external influences then that body moves with constant velocity. In the special case in which v = 0 the body simply remains at rest. In this section. Newton’s second law of motion. Newton reduced the basic principles of mechanics to three laws: 1. or uniform motion in a straight line. The change of motion of an object is proportional to the force impressed upon it. unless compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it. we shall examine each of these laws in detail. or.1 Introduction In his Principia. Every body continues in its state of rest.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4 Newton’s laws of motion 4. (4.2 Newton’s first law of motion Newton’s first law was actually discovered by Galileo and perfected by Descartes (who added the crucial proviso “in a straight line”). As illustrated in Fig. In other words. and Newton’s third law of motion. and is made in the direction of the straight line in which the force is impressed. 3. the body’s trajectory is a straight-line which passes through point r0 at time t = 0 and runs parallel to v. To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction. 53 .

(4. or force. It took the genius of Galileo to realize that an object set into motion on the Earth’s surface eventually comes to rest under the influence of frictional forces. The momentum p of a body is simply defined as the product of its mass m and its velocity v: i. Newton’s first law strikes us as almost a statement of the obvious. For the case of a object with constant mass. 4.4) In other words. the net force exerted on a given object by other objects equals the product of that object’s mass and its acceleration. whose motion is under investigation. exerted on the object.3 Newton’s second law of motion Nowadays.. any object which moves does so under the influence of an external influence. Hence. p = m v.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4. in Galileo’s time this was far from being the case. the above law reduces to its more conventional form f = m a.e.3) where the vector f represents the net influence. or force. by other objects. philosophers—observing that objects set into motion on the Earth’s surface eventually come to rest—had concluded that the natural state of motion of objects was that they should remain at rest.2) Newton’s second law of motion is summed up in the equation dp = f. exerted on it by some other object. dt (4. they reasoned. this law is entirely devoid of content unless we have some independent means of quantifying the forces exerted between different objects. and that if these forces could somehow be abstracted from the motion then it would continue forever.3 Newton’s second law of motion Newton used the word “motion” to mean what we nowadays call momentum. However. 54 . Of course. (4. From the time of the ancient Greeks.

and so on. we can quantify both the direction and magnitude of the force we exert. the force corresponding to this extension is 1 newton. Such behaviour lies beyond the scope of Hooke’s law.e. Obviously. a newton (symbol N) is equivalent to a kilogram-meter per secondsquared. Figure 21 illustrates how we might use Hooke’s law to quantify the force we exert on a body of mass m when we pull on the handle of a spring attached to it. by means of a spring. the direction of the force is towards the spring. Hooke’s law only holds if the extension of the spring is sufficiently small. parallel to its axis (assuming that the extension is positive). According to Eq. and is the mks unit of force... 1 m/s2 ) to a body of unit mass (i. on a given body. In this manner.e. The extension of the spring is the difference between its actual length and its natural length (i. Thus. (4. The magnitude of the force can be quantified in terms of the critical extension required to impart a unit acceleration (i. As shown.4 Hooke’s law m f handle ∆x Figure 21: Hooke’s law 4. if the critical extension corresponds to a force of 1 N then half the critical extension corresponds to a force of 0. If the extension becomes too large then the spring deforms permanently. 1 kg).. or even breaks. The magnitude f of the force is proportional to the extension of the spring: twice the extension means twice the force.4 Hooke’s law One method of quantifying the force exerted on an object is via Hooke’s law. its length when it is exerting no force). Here.5 N.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.e. 55 . The force acts parallel to the axis of the spring. This law—discovered by the English scientist Robert Hooke in 1660—states that the force f exerted by a coiled spring is directly proportional to its extension ∆x.4).

the body accelerates as if it were subject to a single force f which is the vector sum of the individual forces f1 and f2 . f1 and f2 (say). Let us label these bodies a and b. 22. Suppose that body b exerts a force fab on body a. 4. it either remains at rest or moves with uniform velocity in a straight line. for the sake of argument.4). to a body of mass m by means of two springs. 22. Thus. acting in different directions. Suppose that the resultant of all the forces acting on a given body is zero. As illustrated in Fig. if we label fab the “action” 56 . the body does not accelerate: i.e. is the resultant of all the external forces to which the body whose motion is under investigation is subject. (4. It follows that the force f appearing in Newton’s second law of motion. Eq.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION f f 1 4. Eq. It follows that Newton’s first law of motion applies not only to bodies which have no forces acting upon them but also to bodies acted upon by exactly balanced forces.4). According to Newton’s second law of motion.. According to to Newton’s third law of motion. that there are only two bodies in the Universe. See Fig. suppose that the forces acting on the body exactly balance one another. body a must exert an equal and opposite force fba = −fab on body b. In other words.5 Newton’s third law of motion Suppose.5 Newton’s third law of motion 2 f f 2 f1 m Figure 22: Addition of forces Suppose that we apply two forces. (4.

4.6 Mass and weight a fab b f ba Figure 23: Newton’s third law then. incidentally.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4. For instance. Why do we need Newton’s third law? Actually. I cannot grab hold of my shoelaces and. Thus.. Eq. fba is the equal and opposed “reaction”. Newton’s third law essentially acts as a guarantee against the absurdity of self-generated forces. It will. indeed. if object j exerts a force fij on object i then object i must exert an equal and opposite force fji = −fij on object j. It follows that all of the forces acting in the Universe can ultimately be grouped into equal and opposite action-reaction pairs. that this sort of behaviour does not occur in real life. I cannot self-generate a force which will spontaneously lift me into the air: I need to exert forces on other objects around me in order to achieve this. accelerate forever under its own steam. pick myself up off the ground.4). Suppose that bodies a and b constitute an isolated system. from experience. that an action and its associated reaction always act on different bodies. therefore. According to Newton’s second law. it is almost a matter of common sense. without the aid of any external agency.6 Mass and weight The terms mass and weight are often confused with one another. its reluctance to deviate from uniform straight-line motion under the influence of external forces. that there are many objects in the Universe (as is. In other words. in physics their meanings are quite distinct. Suppose. If fba = −fab then this system exerts a non-zero net force f = fab + fba on itself. the case).e. if two objects of differing masses are acted upon 57 . We know. (4. in Newton’s language. A body’s mass is a measure of its inertia: i. According to Newton’s third law. thereby. now. Note. However.

preventing it from accelerating downwards. The block transmits this force to the ground below it. the force exerted by the granite block at the centre of the Earth has no observable consequence. therefore. This force is of magnitude m g. thereby.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION block m f R 4. In other words. and. According to Newton’s third law. Where. does not change if the body is moved to a different place.6 Mass and weight fg Earth f W Figure 24: Weight by forces of the same magnitude then the resulting acceleration of the larger mass is less than that of the smaller mass. In other words. Imagine a block of granite resting on the surface of the Earth. of magnitude m g. and the block of granite attracts the Earth by an equal amount. it is more difficult to force the larger mass to deviate from its preferred state of uniform motion in a straight line. is the equal and opposite reaction to the force of gravitational attraction fg exerted by the Earth on the block of granite? It turns out that this reaction is exerted at the centre of the Earth. 24. However. This force is also of magnitude m g. Thus. on the ground immediately beneath it. which is supporting it. the ground below the block exerts an upward reaction force fR on the block. the block exerts a downward force fW . the net force acting on the block is fg + fR = 0. Incidentally. where m is the mass of the block and g is the acceleration due to gravity at the surface of the Earth. you might ask. the mass of a body is an intrinsic property of that body. since the Earth is far more massive than the block. 58 . and. In other words. See Fig. which accounts for the fact that the block remains stationary. the Earth attracts the block of granite. The block experiences a downward force fg due to the gravitational attraction of the Earth. We usually refer to this force (or the magnitude of this force) as the weight of the block.

it is measured in newtons. Thus. Suppose that the elevator is accelerating upwards with acceleration a. we have established that the weight W of a body is the magnitude of the downward force it exerts on any object which supports it.8 N on the surface of Mars. a body weighing 10 N on the surface of the Earth will only weigh about 3. the block is subject to two forces: a downward force m g due to gravity. Let W be the weight of the block: by definition. to the motion of the block. due to the weaker surface gravity of Mars relative to the Earth. How does this acceleration affect the weight of the block? Of course. and its upward acceleration is a. as shown in Fig. For instance. therefore. and an upward reaction force W.6 Mass and weight a W mg W Figure 25: Weight in an elevator So far. The mass of the block is m. Furthermore. the block experiences a downward force m g due to gravity. this is the size of the downward force exerted by the block on the floor of the elevator.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4. Consider a block of mass m resting on the floor of an elevator. W = m g. 25. From Newton’s third law. (4. A body’s weight is location dependent. 59 .4). Since weight is a force. where m is the mass of the body and g is the local acceleration due to gravity. and is not. an intrinsic property of that body. Let us apply Newton’s second law. the floor of the elevator exerts an upward reaction force of magnitude W on the block. Eq.

W − m g = m a. a < −g. its mass 60 . a = −g. if the elevator accelerates downward at g/2 then the weight of the block is halved. pulleys. 4.5) Clearly. The plane typically ascends to 30. In this case. (4.e..e. 26. The “Vomit Comet” is actually a KC-135 (a predecessor of the Boeing 707 which is typically used for refueling military aircraft). the block acquires a negative weight! What actually happens is that the block flies off the floor of the elevator and slams into the ceiling: when things have settled down. Incidentally. In other words. these weight changes could easily be measured by placing some scales between the block and the floor of the elevator.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.e. In this case. if the elevator accelerates downward (i. as shown in Fig. Suppose that the downward acceleration of the elevator matches the acceleration due to gravity: i. allowing its passengers to feel the effects of weightlessness during this period. if a becomes negative) then the weight of the block is reduced: for instance.7 Strings.. that the downward acceleration of the elevator exceeds the acceleration due to gravity: i. if the elevator accelerates upwards at g = 9.. All of the weightless scenes in the film Apollo 11 were shot in this manner.7 Strings.000 ft and then accelerates downwards at g (i. and inclines Consider a block of mass m which is suspended from a fixed beam by means of a string. the block becomes weightless! This is the principle behind the so-called “Vomit Comet” used by NASA’s Johnson Space Centre to train prospective astronauts in the effects of weightlessness. Suppose. The string is assumed to be light (i. drops like a stone) for about 20 s.. the block exerts an upward force (negative weight) |W| on the ceiling of the elevator. pulleys.6) (4. Conversely. W = 0.e..81 m/s2 then the weight of the block is doubled.e. and inclines Hence. finally. This equation can be rearranged to give W = m (g + a). the upward acceleration of the elevator has the effect of increasing the weight W of the block: for instance.

and 61 . These forces act so as to oppose the stretching of the string: i. whereas the block experiences an upward force of magnitude T . and its acceleration is zero.7) In other words. The block is subject to two forces. since it is being pulled at both ends by the block and the beam. It follows that T − m g = 0. the tension T of the string equals the weight m g of the block.e. the beam experiences a downward force of magnitude T . pulleys. its length increases by a negligible amount because of the weight of the block).4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION beam string m mg 4.. (4.e. The question is what are the tensions. and inclines T block Figure 26: Block suspended by a string is negligible compared to that of the block) and inextensible (i. T 1 . The mass of the block is m. T (say).. Note that. a downward force m g due to gravity. the string exerts oppositely directed forces of equal magnitude. Since T is a force. it is measured in newtons. Furthermore.7 Strings. and an upward force T due to the tension of the string. Figure 27 shows a slightly more complicated example in which a block of mass m is suspended by three strings. a string can never possess a negative tension. unlike a coiled spring. the string must be being pulled by oppositely directed forces of the same magnitude. The string is clearly being stretched. T . By Newton’s third law. Let us apply Newton’s second law to the block. on both the block and the beam. Here. since this would imply that the string is trying to push its supports apart. since the block is assumed to be in equilibrium. T is termed the tension of the string. otherwise it would accelerate greatly (given that it has negligible inertia). in equilibrium. rather than pull them together.

and vice versa.8) 2 2 Consider the vertical components of the forces acting on the knot. There are three forces acting on the knot: the downward force T due to the tension in the lower string. we can easily demonstrate that the tension T in the lowermost string is m g. 28. The vertical component of 62 . The horizontal component of tension T1 is T1 cos 60◦ = T1 /2. assuming that the block is in equilibrium? Using analogous arguments to the previous case. See Fig. pulleys. and inclines 30 o 60 o T 2 T m T 1 mg Figure 27: Block suspended by three strings T2 . since this tension acts straight down. the horizontal component √ of tension T2 is −T2 cos 30◦ = − 3 T2 /2. the vector sum of all the forces acting on it must be zero. The latter two forces act along their respective strings. Let components acting to the right be positive. Consider the horizontal components of the forces acting on the knot. Since the knot does not accelerate in the horizontal direction. we can equate the sum of these components to zero: √ T1 3 T2 − = 0. Since the knot is in equilibrium. since this force subtends an angle of 60◦ with respect to the horizontal (see Fig. and the forces T1 and T2 due to the tensions in the upper strings. The tensions in the two uppermost strings are obtained by applying Newton’s second law of motion to the knot where all three strings meet. Likewise. 16). Let components acting upward be positive. and vice versa. The horizontal component of tension T is zero.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4. in these strings. (4.7 Strings. as indicate in the diagram.

(4. and inclines T 2 30 o T 1 60 o T Figure 28: Detail of Fig. This is a general result: the reaction of any unyielding surface is always locally normal to that surface. as shown in Fig 29. 16). it is of magnitude m g cos θ. Note that the reaction of the incline to the weight of the block acts normal to the incline.9) 2 2 Finally. However. since this force subtends an angle of 60◦ with respect to the horizontal (see Fig. 27 tension T is −T = −m g.11) Consider a block of mass m sliding down a smooth frictionless incline which subtends an angle θ to the horizontal. pulleys. directed outwards (away from the surface).e. we can equate the sum of these components to zero: √ 3 T 1 T2 − mg + + = 0.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4. this force can be resolved into components m g cos θ. Since the knot does not accelerate in the vertical direction.9) yield T1 T2 √ 3mg . Likewise. = 2 mg = . the vertical component of tension T2 is T2 sin 30◦ = T2 /2. (4.. and m g sin θ. acting parallel to the incline.7 Strings. and matches the normal 63 . acting perpendicular (or normal) to the incline.8) and (4. The weight m g of the block is directed vertically downwards. and only matches the normal component of the weight: i.10) (4. Eqs. since this tension acts straight down. The vertical com√ ponent of tension T1 is T1 sin 60◦ = 3 T1 /2. 2 (4.

g. the block is subject to the unbalanced force m g sin θ in the direction parallel to the incline. Note that this acceleration is less than the full acceleration due to gravity. Consider two masses. and inclines mg θ Figure 29: Block sliding down an incline component of any inward force applied to the surface. dt which can be solved to give x = x0 + v0 t + 1 g sin θ t2 . 2 (4. horizontal table.e. The block is clearly in equilibrium in the direction normal to the incline. if the incline is fairly gentle (i. we obtain d2 x m 2 = m g sin θ.7 Strings. using inclined planes. However. This was the technique used by Galileo in his pioneering studies of motion under gravity—by diluting the acceleration due to gravity. Suppose that the first mass slides over a smooth.12) In other words. therefore. frictionless.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION y mg cos θ x m mg sin θ mg cos θ 4. 64 . In fact.13) (4. pulleys. and. m1 and m2 . the block accelerates down the slope with acceleration g sin θ. since the normal component of the block’s weight is balanced by the reaction of the incline. Applying Newton’s second law to this problem (with the coordinates shown in the figure). accelerates down the slope. connected by a light inextensible string.. he was able to obtain motion sufficiently slow for him to make accurate measurements using the crude time-keeping devices available in the 17th Century. if θ is small) then the acceleration of the block can be made much less than g.

Thus. we cannot determine beforehand which mass is going to move upwards. which causes it to move rightwards with acceleration a= T . no force is required to turn a frictionless pulley. but does not contribute to the downward gravitational force which sets the system in motion. Let us apply Newton’s second law of motion to each mass in turn. Let us again apply Newton’s second law to each mass in turn.17) m1 + m 2 Note that the acceleration of the two coupled masses is less than the full acceleration due to gravity. due to gravity. Since the pulley is light. the rightward acceleration of the first mass must match the downward acceleration of the second. However. plus an upward force T due to the tension in the string. Moreover. These forces cause the mass to move downwards with acceleration T . g. so we can assume that the tension T of the string is the same on either side of the pulley. 31. since the first mass contributes to the inertia of the system. and inclines whilst the second is suspended over the edge of the table by means of a light frictionless pulley. pulleys. this force is completely canceled out by the upward reaction force due to the table. connected by a light inextensible string which is suspended from a light frictionless pulley. (4.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.16) m1 + m 2 m2 a = g.7 Strings. equating the previous two expressions. (4. due to the tension in the string. m1 and m2 .14) The second mass is subject to a downward force m2 g. Let us assume that mass m1 is going to move upwards: if we are 65 . m1 (4. The mass m1 is also subject to a horizontal force T . See Fig. due to gravity. Consider two masses. we can neglect its rotational inertia in our analysis. as shown in Fig. 30.15) a=g− m2 Now. (4. we obtain m1 m2 T = g. since the string which connects them is inextensible. Without being given the values of m1 and m2 . The first mass is subject to a downward force m1 g.

pulled by a second block wrong in this assumption then we will simply obtain a negative acceleration for this mass.20) (4. since they are connected by an inextensible string. m1 + m 2 m2 − m 1 g.21) As expected. m1 (4.18) The second mass is subject to a downward force m2 g. and a downward force m1 g.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION m1 T 4. the upward acceleration of the first mass must match the downward acceleration of the second. since both masses contribute to the inertia of the system. pulleys. the first mass accelerates upward (i. due to the tension in the string. and vice versa. we obtain 2 m 1 m2 g.. and an upward force T . The first mass is subject to an upward force T .e. due to gravity. Note that the acceleration of the system is less than the full acceleration due to gravity. These forces cause the mass to move upwards with acceleration a= T − g.7 Strings. Hence. equating the previous two expressions. g. and inclines T m 2 m2 g Figure 30: Block sliding over a smooth table. These forces cause the mass to move downward with acceleration a=g− T .19) Now. m2 (4. due to the tension in the string. a > 0) if m2 > m1 . due to gravity. but 66 . a = m1 + m 2 T = (4.

8 Friction When a body slides over a rough surface a frictional force generally develops which acts to impede the motion. Friction. Nevertheless. after the eighteenth Century English scientist George Atwood. the device pictured in Fig. 4. In particular. m1 m g 2 m1 g Figure 31: An Atwood machine their weights partially cancel one another out. who used it to “slow down” free-fall sufficiently to make accurate observations of this phenomena using the primitive time-keeping devices available in his day. physicists and engineers have managed to develop a relatively simple empirical law of force which allows the effects of friction to be incorporated into their calculations. is actually a very complicated phenomenon. when viewed at the microscopic level. and later extended by Charles Augustin de Coulomb (1736–1806) (who is more famous for discov67 .4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4. Incidentally. . if the two masses are almost equal then the acceleration of the system becomes very much less than g. This law of force was first proposed by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519). 31 is called an Atwood machine.8 Friction T T m2 .

a= F F−f = − µ g. The reaction of the incline to the weight of the block acts normally outwards from the incline.23) assuming that F > f. The acceleration of the block is. and the block remains stationary. Only if the applied force exceeds the maximum frictional force does the block start to move. f = µ Rn . and m g sin θ. See Fig. Hence. the constant of proportionality depending on the nature of the surface. Hence. and is of magnitude m g cos θ. Consider a block of mass m being dragged over a horizontal surface. In other words. therefore.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4. whose coefficient of friction is µ. and the upward frictional force f (which acts to prevent the block sliding down the incline). if the applied force F is less than the frictional force f? In this case. Consider a block of mass m sliding down a rough incline (coefficient of friction µ) which subtends an angle θ to the horizontal. as shown in Fig 33. acting parallel to the incline. 68 . In order for the block to move. 32. The magnitude of the frictional force f. The weight m g of the block can be resolved into components m g cos θ. giving rise to a reaction R = m g acting vertically upwards.e. µ is generally of order unity. The weight W = m g of the block acts vertically downwards. the block is subject to the downward gravitational force m g sin θ. the magnitude of the former force must exceed the maximum value of the latter.22) where µ is termed the coefficient of (dynamical) friction. f = µ m g. which impedes the motion of the block. Parallel to the incline. by a horizontal force F. m m (4.. common sense suggests that the block simply remains at rest (it certainly does not accelerate backwards!). (4.8 Friction ering the law of electrostatic attraction). is simply µ times the normal reaction R = m g. acting normal to the incline. f = µ m g is actually the maximum force which friction can generate in order to impede the motion of the block. For ordinary surfaces. The frictional force exerted on a body sliding over a rough surface is proportional to the normal reaction R n at that surface. What happens if F < f: i. If the applied force F is less than this maximum value then the applied force is canceled out by an equal and opposite frictional force.

is m g sin θ > µ m g cos θ. Up to now. Hence. whereas the latter coefficient is usually termed the coefficient of kinetic (or dynamical) friction. then the block will start to slide.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4. In fact. Incidentally. thereby. We call the former coefficient the coefficient of static friction.25) In other words. and. (4. The fact that µs > µk simply implies that objects have a tendency to “stick” to rough surfaces when placed upon them. is µ s times the normal 69 (4.8 Friction R F f mg W Figure 32: Friction which is µ time the magnitude of the normal reaction. Simply tilt the surface gradually until the object just starts to move: the coefficient of friction is simply the tangent of the critical tilt angle (measured with respect to the horizontal). µs . Usually. and. we have implicitly suggested that the coefficient of friction between an object and a surface is the same whether the object remains stationary or slides over the surface. The force required to unstick a given object. to cause the block to slide down the incline. or tan θ > µ. µk . the above formula suggests a fairly simple way of determining the coefficient of friction for a given object sliding over a particular surface. set it in motion. this is generally not the case. thus. if the slope of the incline exceeds a certain critical value. which depends on µ. the condition for the weight of the block to overcome friction. the coefficient of friction when the object is stationary is slightly larger than the coefficient when the object is sliding.24) . or µ m g cos θ.

12.26) which is represented diagrammatically in Fig. In other words. Independent observers are also likely to choose different coordinate systems. 4. two completely independent observers are likely to choose different systems of units with which to quantify physical measurements. the laws of physics are assumed to possess objective reality. studying the same physical phenomenon. For instance. 1. Once the object has been set in motion. Suppose that we shift the origin 70 . the frictional force acting to impede this motion falls somewhat to µk times the normal reaction. would eventually formulate identical laws of physics in order to account for their observations. Are the laws of physics also invariant under transformation between coordinate systems possessing different origins. or a different orientation of the various coordinate axes? Consider the vector equation r = r 1 + r2 .9 Frames of reference mg cos θ f m mg sin θ mg cos θ mg θ Figure 33: Block sliding down a rough slope reaction at the surface. However. as we have seen in Sect.9 Frames of reference As discussed in Sect. the dimensional consistency of valid laws of physics renders them invariant under transformation from one system of units to another. Now. (4. 1. it is assumed that two independent observers. the origins of their separate coordinate systems might differ. as well as the orientation of the various coordinate axes.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.

34. Consider two observers. (4. 12 still remains valid. the mass of the body whose motion is under investigation). O and O .e. Up to now.9 Frames of reference of our coordinate system. or rotate the coordinate axes. However..4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4. and r2 are going to be modified by this change in our coordinate scheme. at time t. in general. then the corresponding displacement in the moving observer’s frame of reference is simply r = r − v0 t.e. relax this assumption. (4. otherwise they would retain an unphysical dependence on the details of the chosen coordinate system. the interrelation between these components expressed in Eq. f = m a. Newton’s second law of motion. whereas observer O moves (with respect to observer O) with uniform velocity v0 . we conclude that the vector equation (4. whose coordinate systems coincide momentarily at t = 0. In other words. although the individual components of vectors r. Clearly. We refer to such a quantity as a scalar (this is an improved definition).26) also remains valid. appearing in the above equation.. and r2 are modified by the change in coordinate scheme. Let us. In particular. Suppose that observer O is stationary (on the surface of the Earth). As illustrated in Fig.28) The velocity of body P in the stationary observer’s frame of reference is defined 71 . is invariant under any changes in the coordinate system. or changes in the orientation of the various coordinate axes. Hence. can be made manifest by simply writing these laws as interrelations between vectors. Note that the quantity m (i. we have implicitly assumed that all of our observers are stationary (i.27) is clearly invariant under shifts in the origin of our coordinate system. if r represents the displacement of some body P in the stationary observer’s frame of reference. r1 . they are all standing still on the surface of the Earth). We conclude that valid laws of physics must consist of combinations of scalars and vectors.26) remains invariant. now. This observation suggests that the independence of the laws of physics from the arbitrary choice of the location of the underlying coordinate system’s origin. or the equally arbitrary choice of the orientation of the various coordinate axes. (4. Fig. the components of vectors r. since measurements of mass are completely independent of measurements of distance. r1 .

(4. (4. Such frames are termed inertial frames of reference. (4. then observer O will agree with this conclusion. if observer O concludes that body P is accelerating.31) a= dt whereas the corresponding acceleration in the moving observer’s frame of reference takes the form dv a = = a. There are infinitely many inertial frames of reference—within as 72 . subject to zero net force. the acceleration of body P in stationary observer’s frame of reference is defined as dv . subject to a force a/m. and. the corresponding velocity in the moving observer’s frame of reference takes the form dr v = = v − v0 .32) dt Hence.29) dt Hence.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION P r’ r O’ v0 t O 4. then observer O will remain in agreement. and.9 Frames of reference Figure 34: A moving observer dr .30) dt Finally. therefore. v= It is clear that if observer O concludes that body P is moving with constant velocity. It follows that Newton’s laws of motion are equally valid in the frames of reference of the moving and the stationary observer. Furthermore. therefore. the acceleration of body P is identical in both frames of reference. (4.

This. in essence.1: In equilibrium Question: Consider the diagram. the rightward force T 2 due to the tension in string 2. first formulated by Albert Einstein in 1905. there is absolutely no physical experiment which observer O could perform in order to demonstrate that he/she is at rest whilst observer O is moving. As shown below. 73 . and vice versa: however. is the principle of special relativity. Resolving in the horizontal direction (with rightward forces positive). and the upward and leftward force T1 due to the tension in string 1. The resultant of all these forces must be zero. this knot is subject to three forces: the downward force T4 = M g due to the tension in the string which directly supports the leftmost mass.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4. Likewise. If the system is in equilibrium. there is no universal standard of rest in physics. both points of view are equally valid. Consequently. Let T1 be the tension in string 1. Moreover. we obtain T2 − T1 sin 40◦ = 0. Consider the equilibrium of the knot above the leftmost mass. and the tension in string 2 is 50 N. 1 40 o 3 2 40 o M M Answer: It follows from symmetry that the tensions in strings 1 and 3 are equal. otherwise the system would not be in equilibrium.9 Frames of reference which Newton’s laws of motion are equally valid—all moving with constant velocity with respect to one another. and T2 the tension in string 2. Worked example 4. resolving in the vertical direction (with upward forces positive) yields T1 cos 40◦ − T4 = 0. Observer O might claim to be at rest compared to observer O . determine the mass M.

is subject to a horizontal force F = 27 N. Suppose that the block. the component of 74 .9 Frames of reference Combining the above two expressions. gives M= T2 .81 × 0. g tan 40◦ Finally. Likewise.074 kg.2: Block accelerating up a slope Question: Consider the diagram.8391 T 1 40 o T 2 T 4 Worked example 4. The component of the applied force acting up the incline is F cos 25◦ . since T2 = 50 N and g = 9. What is the acceleration of the block up the (frictionless) slope? F 25 o m Answer: Only that component of the applied force which is parallel to the incline has any influence on the block’s motion: the normal component of the applied force is canceled out by the normal reaction of the incline. we obtain M= 50 = 6.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.81 m/s2 . 9. making use of the fact that T 4 = M g. mass m = 5 kg.

m = W/g the mass of the platform. m Since m = 5 kg and F = 27 N.3: Raising a platform Question: Consider the diagram. The platform and the attached frictionless pulley weigh a total of 34 N. and an upward force 2 T due to the tension in the rope (the force is 2 T . emerging from the pulley. we obtain F cos 25◦ − m g sin 25◦ a= . and T the tension in the rope.7483 m/s2 . The platform is subject to two vertical forces: a downward force W due to its weight.81 × 0. we have a= 27 × 0.9063 − 5 × 9. Let us apply Newton’s second law to the upward motion of the platform.2 m/s2 ? pulley F platform Answer: Let W be the weight of the platform. are in tension and exerting an upward force on the pulley). because both the leftmost and rightmost sections of the rope. With what force F must the (light) rope be pulled in order to lift the platform at 3. 5 Worked example 4. Hence. From Newton’s third law.9 Frames of reference the block’s weight acting down the incline is m g sin 25◦ . 75 .4226 = 0. rather than T .4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4. using Newton’s second law to determine the acceleration a of the block up the incline. Thus. it is clear that T = F.

4: Suspended block Question: Consider the diagram. The mass of block A is 75 kg and the mass of block B is 15 kg. Applying Newton’s second law of motion to the rightward acceleration a of block B. the maximum frictional force that block A can exert on block B is µ R. By Newton’s third law. this maximum 76 . given that W = 34 N and a = 3. we obtain R .81 + 1) = 22. What minimum force F must be exerted on block A in order to prevent block B from falling? F A B Answer: Suppose that block A exerts a rightward force R on block B. The normal reaction at the interface between the two blocks is R. block B exerts an equal and opposite force on block A. In order to prevent block B from falling. we have F= 34 (3.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4.9 Frames of reference the upward acceleration a of the platform is a= Since T = F and m = W/g. 2 Worked example 4. 2 2T − W .2/9. The coefficient of static friction between the two blocks is µ = 0. we obtain F= W (a/g + 1) . Hence. The horizontal surface is frictionless.2 m/s2 . a= mB where mB is the mass of block B. m Finally.55 N.45.

0. and µ = 0.9 Frames of reference frictional force (which acts upwards) must exceed the downward acting weight. of the block. µ Applying Newton’s second law to the rightward acceleration a of both blocks (remembering that the equal and opposite forces exerted between the blocks cancel one another out).81 = 1.962 × 103 N.4 NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION 4. mB g.45. mA + m B or where mA is the mass of block A. It follows that F> (mA + mB ) g . we require µ R > mB g. g . we obtain a> a= F . we have F> (75 + 15) × 9. mB = 15 kg.45 77 . Hence. µ Since mA = 75 kg.

. In other words. electrical energy. this crucial concept only moved to centre-stage in physics in about 1850 (i. although the basic idea of energy conservation was familiar to scientists from the time of Newton onwards. and however. chemical energy.e. (N. whenever.. energy is the substance from which all things in the Universe are made up. there exist processes in the Universe which transform energy from one form into another: e. Let us examine the last of these equations: 78 .2 Energy conservation during free-fall Consider a mass m which is falling vertically under the influence of gravity. This is clearly an example of a closed system.. Energy can take many different forms: e.) The physics of free-fall under gravity is summarized by the three equations (2.. Strangely enough. However. etc. involving only the mass and the gravitational field. nuclear energy. According to the ideas of modern physics. kinetic energy. a system which does not exchange energy with the rest of the Universe). We already know how to analyze the motion of such a mass.e. when scientists first realized that heat was a form of energy).g. In fact. Now. 5.14)–(2. everything that we observe in the world around us represents one of the multitudinous manifestations of energy. Let us employ this knowledge to search for an expression for the conserved energy during this process. the above law of universal energy conservation implies that the total energy of the system in question must remain constant in time.B. nuclear processes. For a closed system (i. energy is transformed from one form into another. the conservation of energy is undoubtedly the single most important idea in physics. it is always conserved. potential energy.g. electrical processes.. all of these processes leave the total amount of energy in the Universe invariant. thermal processes.1 Introduction Nowadays. mechanical processes (which are the focus of this course). etc.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5 Conservation of energy 5.16). thermal energy.

E is the total energy of the mass: i. although the kinetic and potential energies of the mass vary as it falls.. (5. It follows that the net vertical displacement of the mass is s = h2 − h1 . the expressions (5. The mks unit of energy is called the joule (symbol J). and do not just apply to free-fall under gravity. In order to clarify the meaning of Eq.1) The above equation clearly represents a conservation law. In fact. (5. the sum of its kinetic and potential energies.4) Here. since the left-hand side only contains quantities evaluated at the initial height. Note that all forms of energy are measured in the same units (otherwise the idea of energy conservation would make no sense). 79 . its initial velocity is v1 . whereas the right-hand side only contains quantities evaluated at the final height. 1 joule is equivalent to 1 kilogram meter-squared per second-squared. of some description. Likewise. One of the most important lessons which students learn during their studies is that there are generally many different paths to the same result in physics. its total energy remains the same. It follows that Eq. It is clear that E is a conserved quantity: i.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5. respectively.e.e. Moreover. are quite general. (5.. U = m g h. Hence. 1 K = m v2 . Now.1). Suppose that the mass falls from height h1 to h2 . v0 = v1 and v = v2 . Incidentally. the previous expression can be rearranged to give 1 1 2 2 m v1 + m g h 1 = m v2 + m g h 2 . (5.1) can be written E = K + U = constant. (5.2 Energy conservation during free-fall 2 v2 = v0 −2 g s. potential energy represents energy the mass possesses by virtue of its position.2) 2 and the gravitational potential energy of the mass.3) Note that kinetic energy represents energy the mass possesses by virtue of its motion.2) and (5. 2 2 (5. let us define the kinetic energy of the mass. or 1 newtonmeter.3) for kinetic and gravitational potential energy. and its final velocity is v2 .

It follows from Eq. (5. The corresponding change in kinetic energy is −(1/2) m v2 . if energy is conserved then ∆K = −∆U : (5. The change in potential energy of the mass in moving from its initial height to its maximum height is m g h. which can be rearranged to give h= v2 . (5. Suppose that a mass m is dropped from rest and falls a distance h. and the final kinetic energy is zero.e. (5. that kinetic energy can never be negative (since it is the product of the two positive definite quantities. where v is the final velocity.6) 2 or v = 2 g h. m and v2 /2). This follows because the initial kinetic energy of the mass is zero (since it is initially at rest). 2g (5. since (1/2) m v2 is the initial kinetic energy. The change in kinetic energy is simply ∆K = (1/2) m v2 . once the mass has risen to a height h which is such that its kinetic energy is reduced to zero it can rise no further.2 Energy conservation during free-fall we have already analyzed free-fall under gravity using Newton’s laws of motion.1).8) It should be noted that the idea of energy conservation—although extremely useful—is not a replacement for Newton’s laws of motion. the change in potential energy of the mass is simply ∆U = m g s = −m g h.5) that −(1/2) m v2 = −m g h. For instance. from Eq. therefore. (5.2). What is the maximum height h to which it rises? Well.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5. in the 80 . It.. follows from energy conservation that its kinetic energy must decrease with height. where s = −h is its net vertical displacement. presumably. Note. Hence.3) that as the mass rises its potential energy increases. However. however. Hence.5) i. (5. (5. according to Eq. any increase in the kinetic energy of the mass must be offset by a corresponding decrease in its potential energy. start to fall. it is clear from Eq. Now. and must. it is illuminating to re-examine this problem from the point of view of energy conservation. the above expression yields 1 m v2 = m g h.7) Suppose that the same mass is thrown upwards with initial velocity v. What is the final velocity v of the mass? Well.

the increase in energy of the gravitational field is offset by a corresponding decrease in the body’s kinetic energy.3 Work previous example. that the transformation of kinetic into potential energy is a direct consequence of the action of this force. however. we are really talking about a flow of energy from the body to the surrounding gravitational field. according to Einstein’s general theory of relativity (1917). the gravitational field of a mass consists of the local distortion that mass induces in the fabric of space-time. therefore. It stands to reason. if a given mass rises a certain distance. 5. This energy flow is mediated by the gravitational force exerted by the field on the body in question.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5. or vice versa. Let us now investigate. in detail. an appropriate point at which to note that the concept of gravitational potential energy—although extremely useful—is. Thus.3 Work We have seen that when a mass free-falls under the influence of gravity some of its kinetic energy is transformed into potential energy. perhaps. and its potential energy consequently increases by an amount ∆U. when we speak of a body’s kinetic energy being transformed into potential energy. how this transformation is effected. fictitious. Fortunately. To be more exact. then that field 81 . Of course. The mass falls because it is subject to a downwards gravitational force of magnitude m g. Incidentally. we do not need to understand general relativity in order to talk about gravitational fields or gravitational potential energy. and.. strictly speaking. there is no way in which we can deduce how long it takes the mass to rise to its maximum height from energy conservation alone—this information can only come from the direct application of Newton’s laws. the potential energy of a body is not an intrinsic property of that body (unlike its kinetic energy). Thus. All we need to know is that a gravitational field stores energy without loss: i. the gravitational potential energy of a given body is stored in the gravitational field which surrounds it. gives up a certain amount of energy to the surrounding gravitational field. This is. when the body rises. it is the energy of the gravitational field surrounding the body which increases by this amount.e. in reality. In fact. thereby.

given that U = m g h.. In deriving equation (5.10) It turns out that this equation is quite general.e.5) that ∆K = f ∆h. This situation occurs whenever a body moves in the opposite direction to the force acting upon it. This transfer of energy. In physics. from the field to the mass. causing it to displace a distance x in the direction of that force. mediated by the gravitational force −m g (the minus sign indicates that the force is directed downwards) acting on the mass. if W is negative then energy is transferred from the body. it follows from Eq. During this process.. when a force acts upon it. Since an amount of work is equivalent to a transfer of energy. This situation occurs whenever a body moves in the same direction as the force acting upon it. the mks unit of work is the same as the mks unit of energy: namely.9) In other words. In physics. (5. If W is positive then energy is transferred to the body. Firstly. Likewise. we generally refer to the amount of energy transferred to a body. we have assumed that the motion of the body upon 82 . the fictitious potential energy of the mass decreases by a certain amount).5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5. then the net work done on the body is W = f x. and its intrinsic energy consequently increases by an amount W. the energy of the gravitational field decreases by a certain amount (i. and does not just apply to gravitational forces.9) that when a gravitational force f acts on a body. the joule. we have made two assumptions which are not universally valid. (5. presumably. In fact.e. (5.3 Work will return this energy to the mass—without loss—if the mass falls by the same distance.10). the amount of energy transferred to the mass (i. and its intrinsic energy consequently decreases by an amount |W|. we term such a field a conservative field (see later). as the amount of work W performed by that force on the body in question. the increase in the mass’s kinetic energy) is equal to the product of the force acting on the mass and the distance moved by the mass in the direction of that force. and the body’s kinetic energy increases by a corresponding amount. (5. Suppose that a mass m falls a distance h. is. It follows from Eq.

so as to obtain an expression for the work W done by a general force f. 35. ∆z) is the net displacement of the mass during this time interval. Hence.e.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5. and is quite independent of its horizontal displacement.37).. Suppose. Secondly. we are neglecting the redundant y-component. Let us examine the last of these equations: 2 v2 = v0 + 2 a·s. The physics of motion under gravity in more than 1-dimension is summarized by the three equations (3. Let us start by relaxing the first assumption. f = (0. the above equation can be rearranged to give 1 1 2 (5. (5. Let us now try to relate the flow of energy between the gravitational field and the mass to the action of the gravitational force. The vector acceleration of the mass is simply a = (0. v0 is the speed at t = 0. Eq. Here.11) Here. that we have a mass m which moves under gravity in 2-dimensions. we arrive at the following expression for the gravitational potential energy of the mass: U = m g z.3 Work which the force acts is both 1-dimensional and parallel to the line of action of the force. (5.12) 83 . and x representing horizontal distance. that the gravitational potential energy of a mass only depends on its height above the ground. the left-hand side must equal the decrease in the mass’s potential energy during the same time interval. Equation (5.3).13) Of course. The above expression merely makes manifest a point which should have been obvious anyway: namely. −g). Let us adopt the coordinate system shown in Fig. −m g). Recalling the definition of a scalar product [i. v is the speed at t = t. 2 2 Since the right-hand side of the above expression is manifestly the increase in the kinetic energy of the mass between times t = 0 and t = t. and s = (∆x. for the sake of simplicity.35)–(3. we have assumed that the force does not vary with position. a·b = (ax bx + ay by + az bz )]. for the sake of argument. Let us attempt to relax these two assumptions. (5. this expression is entirely equivalent to our previous expression for gravitational potential energy.12) m v2 − m v0 = −m g ∆z. with z representing vertical distance.

if θ < 90◦ ) then positive work is performed Likewise. if θ > 90◦ ) then negative work is performed. Suppose 84 . It follows that any component of the displacement in a direction perpendicular to the force generates zero work. Suppose. (5.15) where θ is the angle subtended between the directions of f and s. Moreover. What is the total work done by the force when the object moves along some general trajectory in space between points A and B (say)? See Fig. |s| cos θ. and the displacement of the object in the direction of that force. now.e. In other words. Well.14).5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.3 Work z m x Figure 35: Coordinate system for 2-dimensional motion under gravity can be rewritten ∆K = W = f· s. Figure 36 is a visualization of the definition (5. (5.e. one way in which we could approach this problem would be to approximate the trajectory as a series of N straight-line segments. irrespective of the nature of the force. if θ = 90◦ ) then no work is performed. 38.. and does not just apply to gravitational forces.14) In other words. if the displacement has a component in the same direction as the force (i... 37. as shown in Fig. It turns out that this result is quite general. the work performed is the product of the magnitude of the force. that an object is subject to a force f which varies with position. the work W done by the force f is equal to the scalar product of f and the vector displacement s of the body upon which the force acts.e. if the displacement is entirely perpendicular to the direction of the force (i. As before. |f|. if the displacement has a component in the opposite direction to the force (i. The work W performed by a force f when the object upon which it acts is subject to a displacement s is W = |f| |s| cos θ.

3 Work θ |f| |s| cos θ f Figure 36: Definition of work that the vector displacement of the ith segment is ∆ri .16) We can always improve the level of our approximation by increasing the number N of the straight-line segments which we use to approximate the body’s trajectory between points A and B. therefore. In fact. with displacement x. In fact. The meaning of Eq. B and the mathematical construct A f(r)·dr is termed a line-integral. let the average force along the ith segment be fi . that an object moves in 1-dimension. A (5. (5. r measures vector displacement from the origin of our coordinate system. is approximately N W i=1 fi ·∆ri . Suppose.17) becomes a lot clearer if we restrict our attention to 1-dimensional motion. that N is sufficiently large that the force f does not vary much along each segment. (5. as it moves from point A to point B. further. What is the work done by this force when the object moves from x A 85 . Suppose. if we take the limit N → ∞ then the above expression becomes exact: N B W = lim N→∞ i=1 fi ·∆ri = f(r)·dr. and is subject to a varying force f(x) (directed along the x-axis). It follows that the net work done on the body.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY s |s| 5. We shall assume that formula (5.17) Here.14)—which is valid for constant forces and straight-line displacements—holds good for each segment.

5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.3 Work B A Figure 37: Possible trajectory of an object in a variable force-field B A Figure 38: Approximation to the previous trajectory using straight-line segments 86 .

Let us. allowing for a non-constant force. (5.3 Work f -> xA xB x -> Figure 39: Work performed by a 1-dimensional force to xB ? Well. round-off this discussion by re-deriving the so-called workenergy theorem. 39. as it moves from point A to point B. 0) and dr = (dx.17) [with f = (f. a straight-forward application of Eq. dt2 tB tA 2 (5. Eq. is equal to the 87 .21) where vA = (dx/dt)tA and vB = (dx/dt)tB .19) Combining Eqs. (5. in 1-dimension. the net work performed on a body by a non-uniform force. (5.14). 0. the net work done by the force as the object moves from displacement xA to xB is simply the area under the f(x) curve between these two points. (5.20) where x(tA ) = xA and x(tB ) = xB .18) and (5. 0)] yields xB W= xA f(x) dx. (5. f=m d2 x . finally. 0.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.18) In other words. It follows that W= 1 1 2 2 m vB − m vA = ∆K.19). Thus. According to Newton’s second law of motion. 2 2 (5. we obtain d2 x m 2 dx = W= dt xA xB d2 x dx m 2 dt = dt dt tA tB d  m dx dt 2 dt    dt. as illustrated in Fig.

(5. 40. (5. be clear that these two approaches are entirely equivalent. Suppose.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5. and does not just apply to 1-dimensional motion. (5. f= fi . the net work is given by W= i Wi . taken in isolation. 5. the work W1 performed by the force-field on the object can be written as a line-integral along this trajectory: W1 = A→B:path1 f·dr.23) An alternative approach would be to take the vector sum of all the forces to find the resultant force.4 Conservative and non-conservative force-fields Suppose that a non-uniform force-field f(r) acts upon an object which moves along a curved trajectory.24) i and then to calculate the work done by the resultant force: B W= A f(r)·dr. and then to sum the results.22) as the work done by the ith force. This result is completely general (at least. In other words. that an object is subject to more than one force. defining B Wi = A fi (r)·dr (5. for conservative force-fields—see later).25) It should. How do we calculate the net work W performed by all these forces as the object moves from point A to point B? One approach would be to calculate the work done by each force.4 Conservative and non-conservative force-fields net increase in that body’s kinetic energy between these two points. 88 (5. from point A to point B.26) . As we have seen. See Fig. finally. labeled path 1. hopefully.

Suppose. whereas the second possibility corresponds to a non-conservative force-field. What is the physical distinction between a conservative and a non-conservative force-field? Well. in which case W1 = W2 .27) might depend both on the end points. the line-integrals (5. and the path taken between them. What is the total work done on the object by the force-field as it executes this closed circuit? Incidentally.27) W2 = f·dr.27) might depend on the end points. but not on the path taken between them.4 Conservative and non-conservative force-fields B 1 A Figure 40: Two alternative paths between points A and B Suppose that the same object moves along a different trajectory. In this case. A and B. A→B:path2 Basically. the line-integrals (5. in which case W1 = W2 (in general). one fact which should be clear from the definition of a line-integral is that if we simply reverse the path of a given integral then the 89 . Firstly. and then from point B back to point A along path 2. the easiest way of answering this question is to slightly modify the problem discussed above. A and B. Secondly. now. The first possibility corresponds to what physicists term a conservative force-field. the work W2 performed by the force-field is (5.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 2 5. between the same two points. that the object moves from point A to point B along path 1. labeled path 2. there are two possibilities.26) and (5.26) and (5.

What are typical examples of conservative and non-conservative fields? Well. a gravitational field is probably the most well-known example of a conservative field (see later). A typical example of a non-conservative field might consist of 90 . we conclude that ∆W = 0. (5.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5. (5. then the field only returns part.26) and (5. none. the net work is invariably negative. (5.31) In other words. the net work done by a conservative field on an object taken around a closed loop is zero.e. It follows that the total work done on the object as it executes the circuit is simply ∆W = W1 − W2 . or.30) In other words. W1 = W2 . Hence. if we swap the limits of integration then the integral picks up a minus sign. we have W1 = W2 . Hence.28) where it is understood that both the above integrals are taken in opposite directions along the same path.e.29) where W1 and W2 are defined in Eqs. the net work done by a non-conservative field on an object taken around a closed loop is non-zero.. For the case of a conservative field. perhaps. This is just another way of saying that a non-conservative field dissipates energy: i. Recall that conventional 1-dimensional integrals obey an analogous rule: i.. instead of the other way around. B A f·dr = − A B f·dr. (5.e. we conclude that ∆W = 0. (5. The remainder is usually dissipated as heat. if an object gives up a certain amount of energy to a conservative field in traveling from point A to point B.4 Conservative and non-conservative force-fields value of that integral picks up a minus sign: in other words. In practice. This is just another way of saying that a conservative field stores energy without loss: i. respectively. There is a minus sign in front of W2 because we are moving from point B to point A. then the field returns this energy to the object—without loss—when it travels back to point B. of this energy to the object when it travels back to point B.27).. if an object gives up a certain amount of energy to a non-conservative field in traveling from point A to point B. For the case of a non-conservative field.

Hence. the laws of thermodynamics forbid energy which has been converted into heat from being converted back to its original form. One thing that we know about a frictional force is that it is always directed in the opposite direction to the instantaneous direction of motion of the object upon which it acts. the net work performed by the frictional force on the object. 91 .5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5. because it dissipates energy rather than storing it. f i ∝ −∆ri .) Hence. for the sake of simplicity. This energy is actually dissipated as heat (we all know that if we rub two rough surfaces together. as shown in Fig. lost to the system.4 Conservative and non-conservative force-fields f i ∆r i Figure 41: Closed circuit over a rough horizontal surface an object moving over a rough horizontal surface. then they will eventually heat up: this is how mankind first made fire) and is. Thus. that the object executes a closed circuit on the surface which is made up entirely of straight-line segments. i (5. therefore. is given by ∆W = i fi ·∆ri = − |fi | |∆ri | < 0. Suppose that the frictional force acting on the object as it executes this leg is fi . (Generally speaking.32) The fact that the net work is negative indicates that the frictional force continually drains energy from the object as it moves over the surface. friction is an example of a non-conservative force. Suppose. 41. as it executes the circuit. It follows that fi ·∆ri = −|fi | |∆ri |. sufficiently vigorously. Let ∆ri represent the vector displacement of the ith leg of this circuit.

minus the work done by the field) when the body moves from point O to point R. R ∆K = O f·dr. U(R) would have an infinite number of different values corresponding to the infinite number of different paths the body could take between points O and R.33).e.36) . (5. (5. Of course. is equal to the decrease in the function U evaluated between these same two points. However..5 Potential energy Consider a body moving in a conservative force-field f(r). (5. The value of this function associated with some general point R is simply R U(R) = − O f·dr. Note that the above definition uniquely specifies U(R).5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5..e. Furthermore. since the work done when a body moves between two points in such a field is dependent on the chosen path: hence. the increase in the kinetic energy of the body. Another way of putting this is E = K + U = constant : 92 (5. Let us arbitrarily pick some point O in this field.5 Potential energy 5. as it moves from point O to point R. comparing with Eq. the net change in the kinetic energy of the body. (5. since the work done when a body moves between two points in a conservative force-field is independent of the path taken between these points. U(O) = 0.35) In other words. According to the work-energy theorem. the above definition would make no sense in a non-conservative field. we can see that ∆K = U(O) − U(R) = −∆U. We can define a function U(r) which possesses a unique value at every point in the field.34) In other words. U(R) is just the energy transferred to the field (i. is equal to the work done on the body by the force-field during this process. as it moves from point O to point R.33) In other words. the value of U at point O is zero: i.

by now..g. Let x be the extension of the spring: i. However. where z represents height above the ground. we have seen that the definition of gravitational potential energy is U = m g z. In other words.6 Hooke’s law Consider a mass m which slides over a horizontal frictionless surface.e.. the point in space at which we set the potential energy to zero can be chosen at will. potential energy is only defined to within an arbitrary additive constant. It should be clear.. the difference in potential energy between two points represents the net energy transferred to the associated forcefield when a body moves between these two points. the difference between the spring’s actual length and its unstretched length. The above discussion leads to the following important conclusions. In other words.6 Hooke’s law i. x can also be used as a coordinate to determine the horizontal displacement of the mass. Suppose that the mass is attached to a light horizontal spring whose other end is anchored to an immovable object. any force-field for which we can define a potential energy must necessarily be conservative. Secondly. an energy a body possesses by virtue of its position) with any conservative force-field. 42. it is a property of the force-field within which the body moves. Obviously. strictly speaking.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5. where z0 is the height of some arbitrarily chosen reference point (e. we could just as well write U = m g (z − z0 ). the top of Mount Everest. This implies that only differences in potential energies between different points in space have any physical significance. the force f that the spring exerts on 93 . potential energy is not. According to Hooke’s law. Fourthly. For instance. that the function U represents some form of potential energy.. a property of the body—instead. For instance. or the bottom of the Dead Sea). Fifthly. See Fig. the concept of potential energy is meaningless in a non-conservative force-field (since the potential energy at a given point cannot be uniquely defined). Thirdly. the existence of gravitational potential energy is proof that gravitational fields are conservative.e. Firstly. 5. the sum of the kinetic energy and the function U remains constant as the body moves around in the force-field. it should be possible to associate a potential energy (i.e.

5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY

5.6 Hooke’s law

x m

x=0
Figure 42: Mass on a spring

the mass is directly proportional to its extension, and always acts to reduce this extension. Hence, we can write f = −k x, (5.37)

where the positive quantity k is called the force constant of the spring. Note that the minus sign in the above equation ensures that the force always acts to reduce the spring’s extension: e.g., if the extension is positive then the force acts to the left, so as to shorten the spring. According to Eq. (5.18), the work performed by the spring force on the mass as it moves from displacement xA to xB is
xB xB

W=
xA

f(x) dx = −k
xA

x dx = −

1 1 2 2 k xB − k xA . 2 2

(5.38)

Note that the right-hand side of the above expression consists of the difference between two factors: the first only depends on the final state of the mass, whereas the second only depends on its initial state. This is a sure sign that it is possible to associate a potential energy with the spring force. Equation (5.33), which is the basic definition of potential energy, yields
xB

U(xB ) − U(xA ) = −
xA

f(x) dx =
94

1 1 2 2 k xB − k xA . 2 2

(5.39)

5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY

5.6 Hooke’s law

Hence, the potential energy of the mass takes the form U(x) = 1 2 kx . 2 (5.40)

Note that the above potential energy actually represents energy stored by the spring—in the form of mechanical stresses—when it is either stretched or compressed. Incidentally, this energy must be stored without loss, otherwise the concept of potential energy would be meaningless. It follows that the spring force is another example of a conservative force. It is reasonable to suppose that the form of the spring potential energy is somehow related to the form of the spring force. Let us now explicitly investigate this relationship. If we let xB → x and xA → 0 then Eq. (5.39) gives
x

U(x) = −

f(x ) dx .

(5.41)

0

We can differentiate this expression to obtain f=− dU . dx (5.42)

Thus, in 1-dimension, a conservative force is equal to minus the derivative (with respect to displacement) of its associated potential energy. This is a quite general result. For the case of a spring force: U = (1/2) k x2 , so f = −dU/dx = −k x. As is easily demonstrated, the 3-dimensional equivalent to Eq. (5.42) is f=− ∂U ∂U ∂U . , , ∂x ∂y ∂z (5.43)

For example, we have seen that the gravitational potential energy of a mass m moving above the Earth’s surface is U = m g z, where z measures height off the ground. It follows that the associated gravitational force is f = (0, 0, −m g). (5.44)

In other words, the force is of magnitude m g, and is directed vertically downward.
95

5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY

5.7 Motion in a general 1-dimensional potential

The total energy of the mass shown in Fig. 42 is the sum of its kinetic and potential energies: 1 (5.45) E = K + U = K + k x2 . 2 Of course, E remains constant during the mass’s motion. Hence, the above expression can be rearranged to give K=E− 1 2 kx . 2 (5.46)

Since it is impossible for a kinetic energy to be negative, the above expression suggests that |x| can never exceed the value x0 = 2E . k (5.47)

Here, x0 is termed the amplitude of the mass’s motion. Note that when x attains its maximum value x0 , or its minimum value −x0 , the kinetic energy is momentarily zero (i.e., K = 0).

5.7 Motion in a general 1-dimensional potential Suppose that the curve U(x) in Fig. 43 represents the potential energy of some mass m moving in a 1-dimensional conservative force-field. For instance, U(x) might represent the gravitational potential energy of a cyclist freewheeling in a hilly region. Note that we have set the potential energy at infinity to zero. This is a useful, and quite common, convention (recall that potential energy is undefined to within an arbitrary additive constant). What can we deduce about the motion of the mass in this potential? Well, we know that the total energy, E—which is the sum of the kinetic energy, K, and the potential energy, U—is a constant of the motion. Hence, we can write K(x) = E − U(x). (5.48)

Now, we also know that a kinetic energy can never be negative, so the above expression tells us that the motion of the mass is restricted to the region (or
96

5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY
U ->

5.7 Motion in a general 1-dimensional potential
E2 x -> E1

0

E0

x0

x1

x2

Figure 43: General 1-dimensional potential

regions) in which the potential energy curve U(x) falls below the value E. This idea is illustrated in Fig. 43. Suppose that the total energy of the system is E0 . It is clear, from the figure, that the mass is trapped inside one or other of the two dips in the potential—these dips are generally referred to as potential wells. Suppose that we now raise the energy to E1 . In this case, the mass is free to enter or leave each of the potential wells, but its motion is still bounded to some extent, since it clearly cannot move off to infinity. Finally, let us raise the energy to E 2 . Now the mass is unbounded: i.e., it can move off to infinity. In systems in which it makes sense to adopt the convention that the potential energy at infinity is zero, bounded systems are characterized by E < 0, whereas unbounded systems are characterized by E > 0. The above discussion suggests that the motion of a mass moving in a potential generally becomes less bounded as the total energy E of the system increases. Conversely, we would expect the motion to become more bounded as E decreases. In fact, if the energy becomes sufficiently small, it appears likely that the system will settle down in some equilibrium state in which the mass is stationary. Let us try to identify any prospective equilibrium states in Fig. 43. If the mass remains stationary then it must be subject to zero force (otherwise it would accelerate). Hence, according to Eq. (5.42), an equilibrium state is characterized by dU = 0. dx
97

(5.49)

5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY

5.7 Motion in a general 1-dimensional potential

In other words, a equilibrium state corresponds to either a maximum or a minimum of the potential energy curve U(x). It can be seen that the U(x) curve shown in Fig. 43 has three associated equilibrium states: these are located at x = x0 , x = x1 , and x = x2 . Let us now make a distinction between stable equilibrium points and unstable equilibrium points. When the system is slightly perturbed from a stable equilibrium point then the resultant force f should always be such as to attempt to return the system to this point. In other words, if x = x0 is an equilibrium point, then we require df <0 (5.50) dx x0 for stability: i.e., if the system is perturbed to the right, so that x − x 0 > 0, then the force must act to the left, so that f < 0, and vice versa. Likewise, if df dx >0
x0

(5.51)

then the equilibrium point x = x0 is unstable. It follows, from Eq. (5.42), that stable equilibrium points are characterized by d2 U > 0. (5.52) dx2 In other words, a stable equilibrium point corresponds to a minimum of the potential energy curve U(x). Likewise, an unstable equilibrium point corresponds to a maximum of the U(x) curve. Hence, we conclude that x = x0 and x = x2 are stable equilibrium points, in Fig. 43, whereas x = x1 is an unstable equilibrium point. Of course, this makes perfect sense if we think of U(x) as a gravitational potential energy curve, in which case U is directly proportional to height. All we are saying is that it is easy to confine a low energy mass at the bottom of a valley, but very difficult to balance the same mass on the top of a hill (since any slight perturbation to the mass will cause it to fall down the hill). Note, finally, that if dU d2 U = =0 (5.53) dx dx2 at any point (or in any region) then we have what is known as a neutral equilibrium point. We can move the mass slightly off such a point and it will still remain
98

It follows from Eq. (5. 44. By definition. (5. 5. the mks unit of power is called the watt (symbol W). 99 U(x) -> (5. or 1 joule per second. Incidentally.56) .8 Power x -> Figure 44: Different types of equilibrium in equilibrium (i.55) (5.8 Power Suppose that an object moves in a general force-field f(r).e. See Fig. In fact. If dW is the amount of work that the force-field performs on the mass in a time interval dt then the rate of working is given by dW . the amount of work done on the object during this time interval is given by dW = f·dr. nor will it continue to move). it will neither attempt to return to its initial state.54) that P = f·v. Let us now consider the rate at which this energy flows.. Suppose that the object displaces by dr in the time interval dt. We now know how to calculate how much energy flows from the force-field to the object as it moves along a given path between two points.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY Stable Equilibrium Unstable Equilibrium Neutral Equilibrium 5.54) P= dt In other words. the rate of working—which is usually referred to as the power—is simply the time derivative of the work performed. 1 watt equals 1 kilogram metersquared per second-cubed. A neutral equilibrium point corresponds to a flat spot in a U(x) curve.

In other words. The net upward displacement of the bucket is h. Assuming that the man lifts the bucket at a constant rate. Note that W is negative. If these two vectors are mutually perpendicular then the power is zero. the energy expended by the man equals the energy gained by the gravitational field. how much work does he perform? Answer: Let m be the mass of the bucket and h the depth of the well. f = −f . since W = −W . Of course.415 × 104 J. Hence. depending on the relative directions of the vectors f and v.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5. Hence. (5.8 Power where v = dr/dt is the object’s instantaneous velocity. It follows that the work W done by the man is W = f h = m g h = 30 × 150 × 9. In order to lift the bucket at a constant rate. For the case of 1-dimensional motion. the above expression reduces to P = f v. the work W performed by the gravitational force is the product of the (constant) force and the displacement of the bucket along the line of action of that force: W = f h = −m g h.81 = 4. the man must exert a force f on the bucket which balances (and very slightly exceeds) the force due to gravity. which implies that the gravitational field surrounding the bucket gains energy as the bucket is lifted. f = −m g (where upward is defined to be positive). power simply equals force times velocity. which implies that the man expends energy whilst lifting the bucket. 100 .57) Worked example 5. The gravitational force f acting on the bucket is of magnitude m g and is directed vertically downwards.1: Bucket lifted from a well Question: A man lifts a 30 kg bucket from a well whose depth is 150 m. Note that power can be positive or negative. Note that the work is positive. Hence. in 1-dimension.

these forces must balance.15 × 465.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY R F θ f chest dock 5. The chest is subject to the following forces in the vertical direction: the downward force m g due to gravity. the upward reaction force R due to the dock.89 N. R = m g − F sin θ = 50 × 9.9 = 69. The work W performed by the horizontal component is simply the magnitude of this component times the horizontal distance x moved by the chest: W = F cos θ x = 95 × cos 15◦ × 6 = 550. The frictional force f is the product of the coefficient of kinetic friction µ k and the normal reaction R.6 J. so f = µk R = 0.81 − 95 × sin 15◦ = 465. and the coefficient of kinetic friction between the chest and the dock is 0. 101 .9 N.8 Power mg Worked example 5. How much work does the pirate perform? How much energy is dissipated as heat via friction? What is the final velocity of the chest? Answer: Referring to the diagram. Since the chest only moves horizontally.2: Dragging a treasure chest Question: A pirate drags a 50 kg treasure chest over the rough surface of a dock by exerting a constant force of 95 N acting at an angle of 15◦ above the horizontal. The chest moves 6 m in a straight line. the vertical component of F performs zero work. and the upward component F sin θ of the force exerted by the pirate. Since the chest does not accelerate in the vertical direction. Hence.15. the force F exerted by the pirate can be resolved into a horizontal component F cos θ and a vertical component F sin θ.

13 m. Hence. The final kinetic energy K of the chest (assuming that it is initially at rest) is the difference between the work W done by the pirate and the energy −W dissipated as heat.3 = 131.13 102 .3: Stretching a spring Question: The force required to slowly stretch a spring varies from 0 N to 105 N as the spring is extended by 13 cm from its unstressed length. the force f which must be exerted on it is (almost) equal and opposite to f. the final velocity of the chest is v= 2K = m 2 × 131. where k is the force constant.8 Power The work W done by the frictional force is W = −f x = −69. Answer: The force f that the spring exerts on whatever is stretching it is f = −k x. Since K = (1/2) m v2 .6 − 419. What is the force constant of the spring? What work is done in stretching the spring? Assume that the spring obeys Hooke’s law. f = −f = k x.3 = 2. and x is the extension of the spring.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5.7 N/m. We are told that f = 105 N when x = 0. The fact that W is negative indicates a loss of energy by the chest: this energy is dissipated as heat via friction. Note that there is a minus sign in front of the f because the displacement of the chest is in the opposite direction to the frictional force. the dissipated energy is 419. Since the spring is stretched slowly. 50 Worked example 5.3 J. K = W + W = 550.89 × 6 = −419. 0. Hence.29 m/s. It follows that k= 105 = 807. The minus sign indicates that the force acts in the opposite direction to the extension.3 J. Hence.3 J.

06 × 104 − 7. and a little while later reaches point B. the change in the cart’s potential energy in moving from point A to point B is ∆U = UB − UA = 2. What is the potential energy of the cart relative to the ground at point A? What is the speed of the cart at point B. the potential energy of the cart at point B is .5 × 807. neglecting the effect of friction? Answer: The gravitational potential energy of the cart with respect to the ground at point A is UA = m g h1 = 300 × 9.81 × 7 = 2. UB = m g h2 = 300 × 9.8 Power B h1 h2 The work W done by the external force in extending the spring from 0 to x is x x W = 0 f dx = k 0 x dx = 1 2 kx . Worked example 5.132 = 6.81 × 25 = 7.30 × 104 J.7 × 0. W = 0.36 × 104 J. 2 Hence.36 × 104 = −5. 103 Likewise.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY A 5. whose height off the ground is h1 = 25 m. Hence.4: Roller coaster ride Question: A roller coaster cart of mass m = 300 kg starts at rest at point A. whose height off the ground is h2 = 7 m.06 × 104 J.83 J.

81 × cos 35◦ = 6. The coefficient of kinetic friction of the block on both surfaces is µ = 0.30 × 104 = 18.25 × 3 × 9. Hence.81 × 0. ∆K = −∆U. then slides along a horizontal surface. How far does the block slide along the horizontal surface before coming to rest? Answer: The normal reaction of the plane to the block’s weight is R = m g cos θ. Thus. where vB is the final speed.8 m/s. However.30 × 104 J. KB = (1/2) m vB . the change in kinetic energy ∆K is equivalent to the final kinetic energy KB .25.43 = −12.65 J. Hence.03 N. since the initial kinetic energy is zero. The work W done on the block by the frictional force during this process is 104 . W = −f x. 300 Worked example 5. and.8 Power By energy conservation. the frictional force acting on the block when it is sliding down the plane is f = µ R = 0. upon reaching the bottom. The change in gravitational potential energy of the block as it slides down the plane is ∆U = −m g h = −3 × 9. The block slides down the plane. KB = −∆U = 5.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5. 2 Now.5: Sliding down a plane Question: A block of mass m = 3 kg starts at rest at a height of h = 43 cm on a plane that has an angle of inclination of θ = 35◦ with respect to the horizontal. vB = 2 KB = m 2 × 5. where K represents kinetic energy.

It follows that 8. the block comes to rest when the action of the frictional force has drained all of the kinetic energy from the block: i.13 J. W = −f y.36 N..81 = 7.13 K = 1. if θ is the angle of the incline with respect to the horizontal. when W = −K. then all of the power output.6: Driving up an incline Question: A car of weight 3000 N possesses an engine whose maximum power output is 160 kW.52 J.65 − 4.25 × 3 × 9. v.10 m.03 × 0. y= = f 7.e. The frictional force acting on the block when it slides over the horizontal surface is f = µ m g = 0. 6. sin 35◦ Now. Hence. P. Hence..36 Worked example 5.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY 5. the kinetic energy K of the block at the bottom of the plane equals the decrease in the block’s potential energy plus the amount of work done on the block: K = −∆U + W = 12. The maximum speed of this car on a level road is 35 m/s.8 Power where x = h/ sin θ is the distance the block slides.e.43 W=− = −4. of its engine is used to overcome the power dissipated by the resistive force.52 = 8. The minus sign indicates that f acts in the opposite direction to the displacement of the block. Assuming that the resistive force (due to a combination of friction and air resistance) remains constant. By energy conservation. P = fv 105 The work done on the block as it slides a distance y over this surface is . what is the car’s maximum speed on an incline of 1 in 20 (i. f. by energy conservation. then sin θ = 1/20)? Answer: When the car is traveling on a level road at its maximum speed.

whose angle with respect to the horizontal is θ.57 × 103 + 3000/20 106 . whereas the right-hand side represents the sum of the power dissipated by the resistive force and the power expended to overcome the component of the car’s weight acting down the incline. minus the rate at which this force does work on the car).e. Here.. whose weight is W.90 m/s. the new power balance equation is written P = f v + W sin θ v . f= = v 35 When the car.57 × 103 N. Of course. It follows that P 160 × 103 = = 33. It follows that 160 × 103 P = 4. is traveling up an incline.8 Power m h θ where the left-hand side is the power output of the engine. the left-hand side represents the power output of the car. it is subject to the additional force f = W sin θ. Thus.5 CONSERVATION OF ENERGY f 5. which acts to impede its motion. v = f + W sin θ 4. and the right-hand side is the power dissipated by the resistive force (i. this force is just the component of the car’s weight acting down the incline. where v is the maximum velocity of the car up the incline.

but are not necessarily constrained to move together.. Likewise.e. whereas the second object exerts a force f12 on the first. we have only analyzed the behaviour of dynamical systems which consist of single point masses (i.3) . 6.e. a force which originates outside the system) F1 . we have f12 = −f21 . (6. Let us now broaden our approach somewhat in order to take into account systems of point masses which exert forces on one another.1 Introduction Up to now. let x2 be the displacement of the second object. Suppose that the first object exerts a force f21 on the second object. The classic example of such a multi-component point mass system is one in which two (or more) freely moving masses collide with one another. From Newton’s third law of motion. ¨ 107 (6. ¨ m2 x2 = f21 + F2 . we obtain m1 x1 = f12 + F1 . Let x1 be the displacement of the first object. See Fig. The physical concept which plays the central role in the dynamics of multi-component point mass systems is the conservation of momentum. 45.2 Two-component systems The simplest imaginable multi-component dynamical system consists of two point mass objects which are both constrained to move along the same straight-line. whose mass is m1 . finally. Applying Newton’s second law of motion to each object in turn. objects whose spatial extent is either negligible or plays no role in their motion) or arrangements of point masses which are constrained to move together because they are connected via inextensible cables. whilst the second object is subject to an external force F2 .2) (6.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6 Conservation of momentum 6. that the first object is subject to an external force (i.. whose mass is m2 .1) Suppose.

m1 + m 2 (6.5) Note that the internal forces. and this conglomerate mass were then acted upon by the net external force. and F = F1 + F2 is the net external force acting on the system. if the second mass is three times larger than the first then the centre of mass lies three-quarters of the way along the line linking the first and second masses.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.4). it is helpful to introduce the concept of the centre of mass. the motion of the centre of mass is equivalent to that which would occur if all the mass contained in the system were collected at the centre of mass. Thus. ¨ (6. In other words. (6.4) Thus. and so on. if the second mass is much larger than the first then the centre of mass is almost coincident with the second mass. f12 and f21 . Summing Eqs. ¨ means d2 /dt2 . Likewise.1) and (6. At this point. The physical significance of this equation becomes clearer if we write it in the following form: M xcm = F. and then making use of Eqs.3). have canceled out. xcm = m 1 x1 + m 2 x2 . this suggests that the motion of the centre of mass is simpler than the motions of the component masses. we obtain m1 x1 + m2 x2 = (m1 + m2 ) xcm = F1 + F2 .2) and (6. In general. The centre of mass is an imaginary point whose displacement xcm is defined to be the mass weighted average of the displacements of the two objects which constitute the system. ¨ ¨ ¨ (6. m 1 and m2 . (6. respectively. m1 f x1 12 m2 F 1 x2 f F 2 x 21 Figure 45: A 1-dimensional dynamical system consisting of two point mass objects 108 .2 Two-component systems Here. if the two masses are equal then the centre of mass lies half way between them. ˙ is a convenient shorthand for d/dt.6) where M = m1 + m2 is the total mass of the system.

F = F1 + F2 = 0). the motion of the centre of mass is governed by Newton’s first law of motion: i. (6.e. equivalently.. whereas the momentum of the second mass takes the ˙ form p2 = m2 x2 . suppose that the sum of all the external forces is zero (i. (6. the total momentum is a conserved quantity—provided there is no net external force acting on the system. It follows that the above expression corresponds to the total ˙ momentum of the system: P = p 1 + p2 . F 1 = F2 = 0). Now...9) Thus..6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. 109 .3. the centre of mass does not accelerate). the time derivative of the total momentum is equal to the net external force acting on the system—this is just Newton’s second law of motion applied to the system as a whole. from Sect. however. This is true irrespective of the nature of the internal forces. In this case. according to Eq. Hence. More generally. m1 + m 2 (6. Recall. are complicated in nature. or.e. Suppose that there are no external forces acting on the system (i. it consists of uniform motion in a straight-line. in this case.2 Two-component systems This is particularly the case if the internal forces.e.e. 4. ˙ ˙ m1 x 1 + m 2 x 2 (6. in the absence of a net external force. the velocity of the centre of mass is written vcm = xcm = ˙ m1 x 1 + m 2 x 2 ˙ ˙ . the momentum of the first mass is written p1 = m1 x1 . the motion of the centre of mass is almost certainly far simpler than that of the component masses. Hence. Eq. It follows that.6) can be written dP = F. dt (6. f12 and f21 .8) is also a constant of the motion. that momentum is defined as the product of mass and velocity.10) In other words.6).7) We have seen that in the absence of external forces vcm is a constant of the motion (i. (6.

Suppose that the upper end of the cable is attached to a winch inside the gondola. Let xg be the height of the gondola. for the sake of consistency with our other examples. These forces are transmitted via the cable. 46. so that the sandbag is lifted upwards a distance ∆xw .6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. that the x-axis runs vertically upwards. The question is this: does the height of the gondola also change as the cable is reeled in? If so. Suppose. by how much? Let us identify all of the forces acting on the system shown in Fig. and the downward force exerted by the sandbag on the gondola. Since the system is in equilibrium. Consider the simple two-component system shown in Fig. and are equal and opposite (by Newton’s third law of motion). The system is in equilibrium. The external forces are the net downward force due to the combined weight of the gondola and the sandbag. A sandbag of mass mw is suspended from the gondola by means of a light inextensible cable.2 Two-component systems balloon gondola x xg cable sandbag xw Figure 46: An example two-component system Let us now try to apply some of the concepts discussed above. The internal forces are the upward force exerted by the gondola on the sandbag. and that this winch is used to slowly shorten the cable. A gondola of mass mg hangs from a hot-air balloon whose mass is negligible compared to that of the gondola. and xw the height of the sandbag. 46. and the upward force due to the buoyancy of the balloon. these forces are equal and opposite (it is assumed that the cable is reeled in sufficiently slowly that the 110 .

Suppose that a cannon of mass M propels a cannonball of mass m horizontally with velocity v b .12) (6. or ∆xg = − mw ∆xw . it must remain stationary both during and after the period in which the winch is operated. that the centre of mass of the system is subject to Newton’s first law. In particular.13) Thus. Suppose that the operation of the winch causes the height of the sandbag to change by ∆xw . Hence. mg (6.11) mg + m w is a conserved quantity.2 Two-component systems cannonball vr ground vb Figure 47: Another example two-component system equilibrium is not upset). If xcm is a conserved quantity.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM cannon 6. then we must have 0 = mg ∆xg + mw ∆xw . m g xg + m w xw xcm = . 47. there is zero net external force acting on the system. since the centre of mass is clearly stationary before the winch is turned on. It is clear that we could use a suspended sandbag as a mechanism for adjusting a hot-air balloon’s altitude: the balloon descends as the sandbag is raised. from the previous discussion. if the winch is used to raise the sandbag a distance ∆xw then the gondola is simultaneously pulled downwards a distance (mw /mg ) ∆xw . Our next example is pictured in Fig. the height of the centre of mass. and that of the gondola to simultaneously change by ∆xg . Hence. and ascends as it is lowered. It follows. What is the recoil 111 . (6.

if the cannon is far more massive that the cannonball (i.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. M m). the total momentum is zero (since momentum is mass times velocity.16) 112 .e. whose mass is mi .15) vr = − vb . the total momentum of the system takes the form P = m v b + M vr . we can set P = 0. m (6. It follows that the total (horizontal) momentum P of the system is a conserved quantity.. that the momentum of the cannon is equal in magnitude to that of the cannonball. 48. (6. Note.e.3 Multi-component systems Consider a system of N mutually interacting point mass objects which move in 3-dimensions. By Newton’s third law of motion. After the cannon is fired. It follows that it takes the same effort (i. we call these impulsive forces.14) Since P is a conserved quantity. the recoil velocity of the cannon is in the opposite direction to the velocity of the cannonball (hence. The internal forces are the force exerted by the cannon on the cannonball. Prior to the firing of the cannon. then the recoil velocity of the cannon is far smaller in magnitude than the velocity of the cannonball. force applied for a certain period of time) to slow down and stop the cannon as it does to slow down and stop the cannonball. which is usually the case..3 Multi-component systems velocity vr of the cannon? Let us first identify all of the forces acting on the system. as the cannon is fired. 6. the force fij exerted by the jth object on the ith is given by fij = −fji . (6. and nothing is initially moving). the minus sign in the above equation). Hence. and the equal and opposite force exerted by the cannonball on the cannon. M Thus. and is of magnitude (m/M) vb . Let the ith object. Of course. There are no external forces acting in the horizontal direction (which is the only direction that we are considering in this example). however. be located at vector displacement ri . See Fig. but only last for a short instance in time: in physics. These forces are extremely large. Suppose that this object exerts a force fji on the jth object.

say—can be paired with another element— fji .N fij + Fi .j=1. since the ith object cannot exert a force on itself.N Fi . the net value of the sum is zero. It follows that the above equation can be written M ¨cm = F. in this case—which is equal and opposite. suppose that the ith object is subject to an external force F i .3 Multi-component systems Fi mi r i Fj mj r j f ji Figure 48: A 3-dimensional dynamical system consisting of many point mass objects. the elements of the sum all cancel out in pairs.e.17) Note that the summation on the right-hand side of the above equation excludes the case j = i. In other words.19) . the first term on the right-hand side. Thus.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM f ij 6. Newton’s second law of motion applied to the ith object yields j=i r mi ¨i = j=1.18) Consider the sum over all internal forces: i.N i. (6. (6. We obtain j=i r mi ¨i = i=1.. Let us now take the above equation and sum it over all objects. Each element of this sum—fij . r 113 (6. Finally.N fij + i=1.

(6. In this case. the motion of the centre of mass is equivalent to that which would be obtained if all the mass contained in the system were collected at the centre of mass.22) A comparison of Eqs. Eq. the velocity of the centre of mass.19).19) can be rewritten dP = F.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. the momentum of the ith object takes the form r pi = mi ˙i . so that F = 0.19) implies that the centre of mass moves with uniform velocity in a straight-line. N mi i=1 (6. from the above discussion. 114 . for the case of a two-component system moving in 1-dimension. also apply to a multi-component system moving in 3-dimensions. rcm = N i=1 mi ri .20) According to Eq. Hence. and F = N Fi is the net external force. Eq. (6. the centre of mass is an imaginary point whose coordinates are the mass weighted averages of the coordinates of the objects which constitute the system. As before. the motion of the centre of mass is likely to be far simpler than the motions of the component masses. Thus. In other words.21) and (6. (6. (6. the total momentum of the system is written N P= i=1 r mi ˙i .21) is a constant of the motion. As before. Now. ˙cm = r N r i=1 mi ˙i . the time derivative of the total momentum is equal to the net external force acting on the system. It is clear. (6.23) dt In other words. (6.22) suggests that P is also a constant of the motion when zero net external force acts on the system. that most of the important results obtained in the previous section. i=1 i=1 The quantity rcm is the vector displacement of the centre of mass. Suppose that there is zero net external force acting on the system. N mi i=1 (6.3 Multi-component systems where M = N mi is the total mass. Finally. and this conglomerate mass were then acted upon by the net external force.

115 . Krypton—Superman’s home planet—eventually exploded. in order to eject it. and. the centre of mass of these fragments) continued to execute exactly the same orbit. however. We conclude that. As an illustration of the points raised in the above discussion. after the explosion.4 Rocket science A rocket engine is the only type of propulsion device that operates effectively in outer space. the fragments of Krypton (or. during. As shown in Fig. by Newton’s third law. that before. This follows. In other words. See Fig. transitory. from Eq. was unaffected by the explosion. or the fragments of Krypton—namely. internal forces. since the motion of the centre of mass is independent of internal forces. to be more exact. the planet Krypton presumably executed a standard elliptical orbit around Krypton’s sun.19). the propellant exerts an equal and opposite force on the rocket.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. let us consider the unfortunate history of the planet Krypton. which propels it forward. or the fragments of Krypton. Before the explosion. As you probably all know. 6. (6. Note.4 Rocket science fragments of Krypton Krypton explosion trajectory of centre of mass Figure 49: The unfortunate history of the planet Krypton. 50. the forces responsible for the explosion can be thought of as large. a rocket works by ejecting a propellant at high velocity from its rear end. 49. We conclude that the motion of the centre of mass of Krypton. The rocket exerts a backward force on the propellant. the gravitational attraction to Krypton’s sun—remained the same. and after this explosion the net external force acting on Krypton.

. that between times t and t + dt the rocket ejects a quantity of propellant of mass −dm (n.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. further.. dm is understood to be negative. Let us examine the rocket at two closely spaced instances in time. Let us attempt to find the equation of motion of a rocket.4 Rocket science rocket propellant Figure 50: A rocket. the velocity of the rocket at time t + dt is boosted to v + dv. Suppose that at time t the rocket and propellant. As a result of the fuel ejection. are traveling with instantaneous velocity v. and its total mass becomes M + m + dm. See Fig. whose total mass is M + m. Suppose that the rocket engine ejects the propellant at some fixed velocity u relative to the rocket. t t+dt v M+m M+m+dm v+dv -dm v-u Figure 51: Derivation of the rocket equation. Let M be the fixed mass of the rocket engine and the payload. since the rocket is 116 . so this represents a positive mass) which travels with velocity v − u (i.b. and m(t) the total mass of the propellant contained in the rocket’s fuel tanks at time t. Now. velocity −u in the instantaneous rest frame of the rocket).e. 51. there is zero external force acting on the system. Suppose.

28) which yields M + mp . dm dv). where mp is the maximum mass of propellant that the rocket can carry—but stationary. the above expression yields 0 = (M + m) dv + u dm. This follows because ln x ∼ O(1). (6.27) It follows that v u v=v v=0 m=m = − [ln(M + m)]m=mp . the velocity attained by the time the rocket has exhausted its fuel.. Hence. Hence.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.24) Neglecting second order quantities (i. M+m (6. M (6. Rearranging. It follows that the total momentum of the system is a constant of the motion.26) u M+m Let us integrate the above equation between an initial time at which the rocket is fully fueled—i.30) Note that. unless x becomes extremely large. unless the initial mass of the fuel exceeds the fixed mass of the rocket by many orders of magnitude (which is highly unlikely).e. (6. we can equate the momenta evaluated at times t and t + dt: (M + m) v = (M + m + dm) (v + dv) + (−dm) (v − u). and a final time at which the mass of the fuel is m and the velocity of the rocket is v.4 Rocket science assumed to be in outer space.e. (6.25) dv =− u m mp dm . we obtain dm dv =− . so that m = 0) is v = u ln vf = u ln 1 + mp .. 117 .. v 0 (6. m = mp .e. (6. the final velocity v f of the rocket is similar to the velocity u with which fuel is ejected from the rear of the rocket in its instantaneous rest frame.29) M+m The final velocity of the rocket (i.

their much larger ejection velocities (up to 100 times those of chemical rockets) makes them far more suitable for interplanetary or interstellar space travel. it is important that the rocket’s final velocity be made as large as possible. 1999. since the direction of the ball’s velocity is reversed.5 Impulses Suppose that a ball of mass m and speed ui strikes an immovable wall normally and rebounds with speed uf . Broadly speaking. and then ejecting them. Now. Although ion thrusters only generate very small thrusts. called an ion thruster. Such rockets are ideal for lifting payloads out of the Earth’s gravitational field.5 Impulses Let us now consider the factors which might influence the design of a rocket for use in interplanetary or interstellar travel. Clearly. 52. As we have already mentioned. since force is the rate of change of momentum. which was launched from Cape Canaveral on October 24.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. 1998: this probe successfully encountered the asteroid 9969 Braille in July. Since the distances involved in such travel are vast. vf can never significantly exceed u. ordinary chemical rockets (the kind which powered the Apollo moon program) can develop enormous thrusts. as we have just seen. but their relatively low ejection velocities render them unsuitable for long distance space travel. It follows that the wall must exert a force on the ball. A new type of rocket engine. otherwise the journey is going to take an unacceptably long time. 6. but is only exerted for the short instance in time during which the ball is in physical contact with the wall. physicists generally refer to such a force as an impulsive force. the momentum of the ball is changed by the collision with the wall. but are limited to ejection velocities below about 5000 m/s. It follows that a rocket suitable for interplanetary or interstellar travel should have as high an ejection speed as practically possible. See Fig. the factor which essentially determines the final velocity vf of a rocket is the speed of ejection u of the propellant relative to the rocket. 118 . is currently under development: ion thrusters operate by accelerating ions electrostatically to great velocities. compared to chemical rockets. However. This force is generally very large. The first spacecraft to employ an ion thruster was the Deep Space 1 probe.

6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. t2 119 . f t1 t Figure 53: An impulsive force.5 Impulses wall after uf ui m before +ve Figure 52: A ball bouncing off a wall.

Consider a object subject to the impulsive force pictured in Fig. I is the total area under the f(t) curve shown in Fig. since the ball is initially moving in the negative direction.31).35) . (6. We conclude that the average force f exerted on the ball during this time interval was I ¯ . 52 is ∆p = m uf − m (−ui ) = m (uf + ui ). I. 53. It is helpful to define a quantity known as the net impulse.] It follows that the net impulse imparted to the ball by the wall is I = m (u f + ui ). [Note: The initial velocity is −ui .6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. (6. For instance. However. f(t). (6. making use of the definition (6.31) In other words. 53.33) Here. Suppose that we know the ball was only in physical contact with the wall for the ¯ short time interval ∆t. We conclude that the net change in momentum of an object subject to an impulsive force is equal to the total impulse associated with that force. ∆p = pf − pi . which is only non-zero in the short time interval t 1 to t2 .5 Impulses Figure 53 shows the typical time history of an impulsive force. associated with f(t): t2 I= t1 f(t) dt. Consider an impulsive force f(t). the generalization to 3-dimensional motion is fairly straightforward. 120 (6. where pi is the momentum before the impulse. It can be seen that the force is only non-zero in the short time interval t 1 to t2 . the net change in momentum of the ball bouncing off the wall in Fig. Integrating the above equation.34) f= ∆t The above discussion is only relevant to 1-dimensional motion. The vector impulse associated with this force is simply t2 I= t1 f(t) dt. we obtain ∆p = I. and pf is the momentum after the impulse. Newton’s second law of motion yields dp = f. (6.32) dt where p is the momentum of the object.

Both before and after the collision. We are clearly considering a system in which there is zero net external force (the forces associated with the collision are internal in nature). 54. then the average force experienced by the object in the time interval t1 to t2 is ¯= I . whereas the second object exerts an equal and opposite force f12 = −f21 on the first. that both objects are subject to zero net force when they are not in contact with one another. respectively. During the collision itself. respectively. f (6. Let vi1 and vi2 be the velocities of the first and second objects. which are free to move in 1-dimension.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. further. before the collision. the two objects move with constant velocity. The net change in momentum of an object subject to f(t) is ∆p = I. respectively.6 Collisions in 1-dimension m 1 vi1 m2 vi2 before m1 vf1 m 2 vf 2 after Figure 54: A collision in 1-dimension. This situation is illustrated in Fig. if t2 − t1 = ∆t.36) Finally. the total 121 . let vf1 and vf2 be the velocities of the first and second objects. (6.6 Collisions in 1-dimension Consider two objects of mass m1 and m2 . Hence. the first object exerts a large transitory force f21 on the second. after the collision. Likewise. Suppose that these two objects collide. we can model the collision as equal and opposite impulses given to the two objects at the instant in time when they come together. Suppose. In fact.37) ∆t 6.

a large fraction of the initial kinetic energy of a typical automobile accident is converted into mechanical energy of deformation of the two vehicles. 2 2 2 2 (6. Such collisions are termed inelastic.38) remains valid for inelastic collisions—however.38). (Alternatively. and the final velocity of at least one of the objects. an inelastic collision is only fully characterized when we are given the initial velocities of both objects. (6. we obtain m1 vi1 + m2 vi2 = m1 vf1 + m2 vf2 . for an elastic collision we can write 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 m1 vi1 + m2 vi2 = m1 vf1 + m2 vf2 . because some fraction of the ball’s kinetic energy of collision with the walls of the court has been converted into heat energy. assuming we know the masses of the colliding objects. however. An elastic collision is one in which the total kinetic energy of the two colliding objects is the same before and after the collision. (Alternatively. For instance.) There are many different types of collision. we could be given the two final velocities. Eq.) The majority of collisions occurring in real life are not elastic in nature. Hence. or energy associated with the mechanical deformation of the objects—during the collision. Inelastic collisions also occur during squash/racquetball/handball games: in each case. Thus. generally speaking. the above equation only fully describes the collision if we are given the initial velocities of both objects. Note that. (6. Equating the total momenta before and after the collision. and the final velocity of at least one of the objects.39) in addition to Eq. Some fraction of the initial kinetic energy of the colliding objects is usually converted into some other form of energy—generally heat energy. the ball becomes warm to the touch after a long game. (6. in this case. the collision is fully specified once we are given the two initial velocities of the colliding objects. Equation (6. Thus. irrespective its nature.6 Collisions in 1-dimension momentum of the system is a conserved quantity. There is. we could be given both final velocities and only one of the initial velocities.38) This equation is valid for any 1-dimensional collision.39) is invalid. a special case of an inelastic collision—called a totally inelastic collision—which is fully characterized once we are given the initial velocities of 122 .6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.

In other words.44) vf2 = + m1 + m 2 The above equations yield − pi1 = pi2 = µ (vi2 − vi1 ). m1 + m 2 m1 + m 2 (6. Let us. consider elastic collisions in more detail. 123 (6.40) An object which possesses a velocity v in our original frame of reference—henceforth. In a totally inelastic collision. so that vf1 = vf2 . and is given by vcm = m1 vf1 + m2 vf2 m1 vi1 + m2 vi2 = .6 Collisions in 1-dimension the colliding objects. when viewed in the centre of mass frame. (6. (6. Thus.45) (6. the centre of mass momentum conservation equation. etc. (6. and pi1 = m1 vi1 is the initial momentum of the first object in the centre of mass frame. It is easily demonstrated that m2 vi1 = − (vi2 − vi1 ). the two objects stick together after the collision. and diverge from one another with equal and opposite momenta after the collision.41) m1 + m 2 m1 vi2 = + (vi2 − vi1 ).42) m1 + m 2 m2 vf1 = − (vf2 − vf1 ).6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. Suppose that we transform to a frame of reference which co-moves with the centre of mass of the system. now. −pf1 = pf2 = µ (vf2 − vf1 ).47) . termed the laboratory frame—possesses a velocity v = v − vcm in the centre of mass frame.46) where µ = m1 m2 /(m1 + m2 ) is the so-called reduced mass.43) m1 + m 2 m1 (vf2 − vf1 ). (6. pi1 + pi2 = pf1 + pf2 . The motion of a multi-component system often looks particularly simple when viewed in such a frame. Since the system is subject to zero net external force. (6. the velocity of the centre of mass is invariant. the two objects approach one another with equal and opposite momenta before the collision.

If m1 = m2 then Eqs. m1 + m 2 m1 + m 2 (6. It is possible to reproduce this effect in pool by striking 124 . and (6. (6.53) In other words. Equations (6. now.50) (6. Note.49) can be combined to give the following pair of equations which fully specify the final velocities (in the laboratory frame) of two objects which collide elastically. if the second object is stationary and the first object strikes it head-on with velocity v then the first object is brought to a halt whereas the second object moves off with velocity v.51) yield vf1 = vi2 . given their initial velocities: vf1 = vf2 2 m2 (m1 − m2 ) vi1 + vi2 .6 Collisions in 1-dimension is trivially satisfied. this result is valid for both elastic and inelastic collisions. This is true in all frames of reference. 2 m1 2 m2 2 m1 2 m2 (6.49) In other words.45).46). that this result only applies to fully elastic collisions. the relative velocities of the colliding objects are equal and opposite before and after the collision. since relative velocities are frame invariant. that if energy and momentum are conserved in the laboratory frame then they must also be conserved in the centre of mass frame.50) and (6. The centre of mass kinetic energy conservation equation takes the form pi12 pi22 pf12 pf22 + = + . because both the left.52) (6.51) Let us.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. Suppose that two equal mass objects collide elastically. however.and right-hand sides are zero. vf2 = vi1 . (6. the two objects simply exchange velocities when they collide. For instance. incidentally. (6. (6.38) and (6. consider some special cases.48) Note. A comparison of Eqs.48) yields (vi2 − vi1 ) = −(vf2 − vf1 ). Incidentally. (6. m1 + m 2 m1 + m 2 2 m1 (m1 − m2 ) = vi1 − vi2 .

.. In this case.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. In this case.55) In other words. Eqs. when the cue ball strikes another ball head-on it comes to a complete halt. because rolling motion is not taken into account in our analysis. (6. m 2 m1 ) and is initially at rest (i. in a totally inelastic collision these 125 . Eqs.e. In a totally inelastic collision the two objects stick together after colliding.51) yield vf1 vf2 −vi1 . Indeed. consider totally inelastic collisions in more detail. rather that rolls. Suppose that the second object is much more massive than the first (i. (6.50) and (6. that the second object is much lighter than the first (i. whereas the massive object remains approximately at rest. Incidentally. whereas the light object ends up going twice as fast as the massive one. m2 m1 ) and is initially at rest (i. finally. vi2 = 0). This is hardly a surprising result. it is necessary to prevent the cue ball from rolling. Eq..e. (6.e. In this case. over the table—in this case.38) reduces to m1 vi1 + m2 vi2 vf = = vcm .. when an elastic ball bounces off a brick wall.. now. the common final velocity of the two objects is equal to the centre of mass velocity of the system. However.e. 2 vi1 .54) (6.6 Collisions in 1-dimension the cue ball with great force in such a manner that it slides.50) and (6.58) m1 + m 2 In other words. (6. this is the sort of behaviour we expect when an object collides elastically with an immovable obstacle: e. vi2 = 0). and actually changes the answer. Suppose. (6.56) (6. We have already seen that in the centre of mass frame the two objects must diverge with equal and opposite momenta after the collision. 0. Let us. and the other ball is propelled forward very rapidly. the motion of the massive object is essentially unaffected by the collision.51) yield vf1 vf2 vi1 . the velocity of the light object is effectively reversed during the collision.57) In other words. so they end up moving with the same final velocity vf = vf1 = vf2 . (6.g.

e. The fractional loss in kinetic energy of the system due to the collision is given by f= 2 m2 m1 vi1 − (m1 + m2 ) vf2 Ki − K f = = .60) The loss in kinetic energy is small if the (initially) stationary object is much lighter than the moving object (i. Suppose that the second object is initially at rest (i. 126 . the common final velocity of the two objects is vf = m1 vi1 . m1 + m 2 (6. the two objects move with the centre of mass velocity in the laboratory frame. In this special case. if m2 m1 ). Hence.g.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM y m2 6.e.. The only way in which this is possible is if the two objects remain stationary in the centre of mass frame after the collision. and almost 100% if the moving object is much lighter than the stationary one (i..6 Collisions in 1-dimension vf2 m1 vi1 m2 θ2 θ1 m1 x vf1 Figure 55: A collision in 2-dimensions.e. if m2 m1 ).59) Note that the first object is slowed down by the collision.. 2 Ki m1 vi1 m1 + m 2 (6.. Of course. vi2 = 0). heat energy. two momenta must also be equal (since the two objects stick together). the lost kinetic energy of the system is converted into some other form of energy: e.

the final y-momentum of the second object is m2 vf2 sin θ2 . Suppose. respectively. Consider the x-component of the system’s total momentum. that the collision is not head-on.e.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions Suppose that an object of mass m1 . m1 times the x-component of the first object’s final velocity.. unlike before.61) Consider the y-component of the system’s total momentum.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions 6. the final xmomentum of the second object is m2 vf2 cos θ2 . the total y-momentum is zero.62) . since we are no longer dealing with 1-dimensional motion.and y. so that after the collision the first object moves off at an angle θ1 to its initial direction of motion. then it is sufficient to equate the x. Before the collision. Before the collision. 55. moving with initial speed vi1 . After the collision. Hence. m1 times the y-component of the first object’s final velocity. strikes a second object. we must now treat the total momentum as a vector quantity. which is initially at rest. and the first object is initially moving along the x-axis with speed vi1 . However. as indicated in Fig. 127 (6. whereas the second object moves off at an angle θ2 to this direction. After the collision. Likewise.components of the total momentum before and after the collision. momentum conservation in the y-direction yields m1 vf1 sin θ1 = m2 vf2 sin θ2 . since there is initially no motion along the y-axis. Let the final speeds of the two objects be vf1 and vf2 . the x-momentum of the first object is m1 vf1 cos θ1 : i. the total x-momentum is simply m1 vi1 . further. See Fig. of mass m2 . the y-momentum of the first object is −m1 vf1 sin θ1 : i. It follows that the total momentum of the system is a conserved quantity.e. since the second object is initially stationary. (6. 55. We are again considering a system in which there is zero net external force (the forces associated with the collision are internal in nature). Hence. Likewise.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. momentum conservation in the x-direction yields m1 vi1 = m1 vf1 cos θ1 + m2 vf2 cos θ2 . Note that if the collision takes place wholly within the x-y plane..

Momentum conservation along the x-axis yields m1 vi1 + m2 vi2 cos θi = (m1 + m2 ) vf cos θf . (6.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM y 6. the two objects stick together and move off at an angle θf to the x-axis with speed vf .65) Given the initial conditions (i. we obtain 1 1 1 2 2 2 m1 vi1 = m1 vf1 + m2 vf2 . In this case. For the special case of an elastic collision. m2 . Hence. the first object.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions m + m2 1 m1 vi1 θi vi2 m2 θf vf x Figure 56: A totally inelastic collision in 2-dimensions. (6. θ1 . vi1 . Figure 56 shows a 2-dimensional totally inelastic collision.e.e.. (6. Clearly.63)] and four unknowns (i. we have a system of 128 . we have a system of three equations [i.. m1 .. we cannot uniquely solve such a system without being given additional information: e. and θi ). mass m2 . m1 . momentum conservation along the y-axis gives m2 vi2 sin θi = (m1 + m2 ) vf sin θf .64) Likewise. Eqs. vi2 . m2 . After the collision. initially moves along the x-axis with speed vi1 .63) Given the initial conditions (i.61). On the other hand.g. θ2 . initially moves at an angle θi to the x-axis with speed vi2 .62).e.. mass m1 . we can equate the total kinetic energies of the two objects before and after the collision. and vf2 ). (6. and vi1 ). vf1 .. 2 2 2 (6. the second object.e. and (6. the direction of motion or speed of one of the objects after the collision.

It follows that u=− 1. The combined mass of the cannon and the carriage is M = 1200 kg. and then becomes embedded in the carriage’s end wall. the recoil speed of the carriage is |u| = 0. where u is the recoil velocity of the carriage.e..1: Cannon in a railway carriage Question: A cannon is bolted to the floor of a railway carriage.e. and in what direction. Hence. Eqs. Worked example 6. since nothing is initially moving.2 × 115 m v=− = −0.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions two equations [i. Clearly. we should be able to find a unique solution for such a system.65)] and two unknowns (i.. giving 0 = M u + m v. vf and θf ). M 1200 The minus sign indicates that the recoil velocity of the carriage is in the opposite direction to the direction of motion of the cannonball. which is free to move without friction along a straight track. does the carriage move as a result of the firing of the cannon? L v M m Answer: Conservation of momentum implies that the net horizontal momentum of the system is the same before and after the cannon is fired. (6.64) and (6. a distance L = 85 m. The momentum before the cannon is fired is zero. 129 . Hence.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. What is the recoil speed of the carriage right after the cannon is fired? What is the velocity of the carriage after the cannonball strikes the far wall? What net distance.2 kg. The cannonball travels the length of the carriage. horizontally with velocity v = 115 m/s. of mass m = 1.115 m/s. The cannon fires a cannonball. we can also set the momentum after the cannon is fired to zero.115 m/s.

Worked example 6. Hence. after the cannonball strikes the far wall of the carriage. v − u 115 + 0. Conservation of momentum implies that the net horizontal momentum of the system is the same before and after the collision.0849 m. the final direction of motion of the softball is taken to be positive. It follows that w = 0: in other words. the time of flight of the cannonball is t= 85 L = = 0. Thus.01 s. The bat acts on the ball for t = 0.2: Hitting a softball Question: A softball of mass m = 0. both the cannonball and the carriage move with common velocity w. Here. However.35 × (21 + 12) = 11.115 × 0. we can write M u + m v = (M + m) w.35 kg is pitched at a speed of u = 12 m/s. What impulse is imparted by the bat to the ball? What average force is exerted by the bat on the ball? Answer: The initial momentum of the softball is −m u. Hence. the carriage moves 8.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions Suppose that. the cannonball moves with velocity v − u after the cannon is fired. whereas its final momentum is m v. 130 .49 cm in the opposite direction to the direction of motion of the cannonball.738 = −0. Thus. the net change in momentum of the softball due to its collision with the bat is ∆p = m v − (−) m u = 0. the carriage is brought to a complete halt when the cannonball strikes its far wall. In the frame of reference of the carriage.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. we have already seen that M u + m v = 0.55 N s.115 The distance moved by the carriage in this time interval is d = u t = −0.738 s. The batter hits the ball directly back to the pitcher at a speed of v = 21 m/s.

55 N s. who catches it. who is standing at the edge of the pond. Hence. whereas the initial direction of motion of the medicine ball is along the y-axis.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. The skater’s initial momentum is p1 = (M v.01 Worked example 6. m u) = (0.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions By definition. The direction of motion of the ball is perpendicular to the initial direction of motion of the skater. 131 .55 = 1155.3: Skater and medicine ball Question: A skater of mass M = 120 kg is skating across a pond with uniform velocity v = 8 m/s.0 N. One of the skater’s friends. The average force exerted by the bat on the ball is simply the net impulse divided by the time interval over which the ball is in contact with the bat. throws a medicine ball of mass m = 20 kg with velocity u = 3 m/s to the skater. 0) = (120 × 8. 0) N s. the initial momentum of the medicine ball is p2 = (0. ¯ I 11. 20 × 3) = (0. Likewise. 60) N s. the net momentum change is equal to the impulse imparted by the bat. so I = ∆p = 11. f= = t 0. p y 3 p 1 θ p 2 x Answer: Suppose that the skater is initially moving along the x-axis. 0) = (960. What is the final speed of the skater? What is the final direction of motion of the skater relative to his/her initial direction of motion? Assume that the skater moves without friction.

The final momentum is (M + m) v.87 m/s.e.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. The initial momentum of the system is simply m u.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions After the skater catches the ball. What was the velocity of the bullet before it struck the block? What fraction of the bullet’s initial kinetic energy is lost (i.012 × 738. with the bullet embedded in it.7 v= = 738. v = M+m 120 + 20 The final direction of motion of the skater is parameterized by the angle θ (see the above diagram). m 0. m u = (M + m) v. Hence. The final speed of the skater (and the ball) is √ |p3 | 9602 + 602 = = 6. 960 Worked example 6.012 + 5. giving u= M+m (0. where θ = tan −1  |p2 |   |p1 |  = tan−1 60 = 3. 2 132 .2) × 1. the combined momentum of the skater and the ball is p3 = p1 + p2 = (960. since the block is initially at rest.42 = 3.012 The initial kinetic energy of the bullet is Ki = 1 m u2 = 0. Momentum conservation requires the total horizontal momentum of the system to be the same before and after the bullet strikes the block. 60) N s..7 m/s. since both the block and the bullet end up moving with velocity v.2714 kJ. This follows from momentum conservation.5 × 0.4: Bullet and block Question: A bullet of mass m = 12 g strikes a stationary wooden block of mass M = 5.2 kg standing on a frictionless surface. acquires a velocity of v = 1. dissipated) due to the collision with the block? Answer: Let u be the initial velocity of the bullet.58◦ . The block.4 m/s.

133 .9977.53 J. Eliminating x between the previous two expressions.2) × 1. i1 2 2 2 Let x = vf1 /vi1 and y = vf2 /vi1 . where vf1 and vf2 are the final velocities of the first and second objects. moving with velocity vi1 = 12 m/s. Ki 3.72 = 7. Since the collision is elastic. 2 Hence. collides head-on with a stationary object whose mass is m2 = 6 kg. Neglect friction. and 1 = x2 + 3 y2 .7 Collisions in 2-dimensions The final kinetic energy of the system is 1 (M + m) v2 = 0. respectively. we obtain 1 = (1 − 3 y)2 + 3 y2 . the above two equations reduce to 1 = x + 3 y. or 6 y (2 y − 1) = 0. 1 1 1 2 2 m1 v2 = m1 vf1 + m2 vf2 .6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.5 × (0. Answer: Momentum conservation yields m1 vi1 = m1 vf1 + m2 vf2 .5: Elastic collision Question: An object of mass m1 = 2 kg. Noting that m2 /m1 = 3.2714 × 103 Worked example 6. Hence. the total kinetic energy must be the same before and after the collision. Given that the collision is elastic.012 + 5.53 Ki − K f = f= = 0. what are the final velocities of the two objects.2714 × 103 − 7. the fraction of the initial kinetic energy which is dissipated is Kf = 3.

The corresponding solution for x is x = (1 − 3 y) = −1/2. Conservation of momentum along the x-axis yields m1 vi1 = m1 vf1 cos θ + m2 vf2 cos θ. What are the final speeds of the two objects? Is the collision elastic or inelastic? y m2 vf2 m1 θ vi1 m2 θ x m1 vf1 Answer: Let us adopt the coordinate system shown in the diagram.5 m/s toward the second object.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions which has the non-trivial solution y = 1/2. Worked example 6. the final velocity of the second object is vf2 = y vi1 = 0.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6.5 × 12 = −6 m/s. Likewise. The minus sign indicates that this object reverses direction as a result of the collision. both objects have velocities which are directed θ = 30◦ on either side of the original line of motion of the first object. 134 . mass m1 = 5 kg.6: 2-dimensional collision Question: Two objects slide over a frictionless horizontal surface. Likewise.5 kg. is propelled with speed vi1 = 4. It follows that the final velocity of the first object is vf1 = x vi1 = −0. mass m2 = 2.5 × 12 = 6 m/s. conservation of momentum along the y-axis yields m1 vf1 sin θ = m2 vf2 sin θ. The first object. which is initially at rest. After the collision.

5 vi1 = = 2.19622 = 50.59812 + 0.5 The initial kinetic energy of the system is Ki = 1 2 m1 vi1 = 0. 135 . 2 2 Since Ki = Kf .5 × 5.63 J.1962 m/s.5981 m/s.5 × 2.5 × 5 × 4. 2 The final kinetic energy of the system is Kf = 1 1 2 2 m1 vf1 + m2 vf2 = 0.63 J.7 Collisions in 2-dimensions The above pair of equations can be combined to give vf1 = and vf2 = 4.5981 = 5.52 = 50. vf1 = m2 2.6 CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM 6. the collision is elastic.5 × 5 × 2. 2 cos θ 2 × cos 30◦ m1 5 × 2.

1 Introduction Up to now. in which case we would write θ(t) = ω t. Consider the motion of the object in the time interval between t = 0 and t = t. The instantaneous position of the object is most conveniently specified in terms of an angle θ. 57. Let us now broaden our approach so as to take into account the most important type of non-rectilinear motion: namely. we could decide that θ = 0◦ corresponds to the object’s location at t = 0. (7. the object rotates through an angle θ. we have basically only considered rectilinear motion: i. and traces out a circular arc of length s. For a uniformly rotating object. 57.2 Uniform circular motion Suppose that an object executes a circular orbit of radius r with uniform tangential speed v. motion in a straight-line. the angular velocity is simply the angle through which the object turns in one second.. v t=0 r θ (t) r v t=t s Figure 57: Circular motion.1) where ω is termed the angular velocity of the object.e. In this interval.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7 Circular motion 7. See Fig. See Fig. 7. It is fairly obvious that the arc length s is directly 136 . circular motion. For instance.

90◦ corresponds to π/2 radians.3) ◦ 360 Thus. (7. Henceforth.. Eq. and 57.5) by δt. what is the constant of proportionality? Well. we obtain v = r ω. Thus. Hence. From now on. distance moved per unit time) is simply the tangential velocity v. angle turned through per unit time) is simply the angular velocity ω. (7.. in this course. In this interval.) = s = r θ.5) Now δs/δt (i.7) ω 137 .6) (7.2 Uniform circular motion proportional to the angle θ: but.e. an angle θ must correspond to an arc length of 2π r θ(◦ ). that this formula is only valid if the angular velocity ω is measured in radians per second. When θ is measured in radians. 180◦ corresponds to π radians. all angles are measured in radians by default.2) ◦ 360 At this stage. (7.e. it is convenient to define a new angular unit known as a radian (symbol rad. all angular velocities are measured in radians per second by default. where δs = r δθ. it executes a complete circle) in 2π T= (7.4) Note. dividing Eq. 360◦ corresponds to 2 π radians. (7. the object turns through a small angle δθ and traces out a short arc of length δs. An angle measured in radians is related to an angle measured in degrees via the following simple formula: s= 2π θ(◦ ). (7. whereas δθ/δt (i. Consider the motion of the object in the short interval between times t and t + δt.. in this course.e.296◦ corresponds to 1 radian.). the object turns through 2 π radians (i. however. Hence. (7. An object that rotates with uniform angular velocity ω turns through ω radians in 1 second.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.2) simplifies greatly to give θ(rad. an angle of 360◦ corresponds to an arc length of 2π r.

99 m/s.3 Centripetal acceleration seconds. suppose that an object executes uniform circular motion. Finally. then the number of cycles executed per second is f= ω 1 = .7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7. turns through 360◦ ) in T seconds. T 2π (7. T is the repetition period of the circular motion.02 s. Suppose that the object moves from point P to point Q between times t and t + δt. the angular frequency of the motion is given by ω = 2π f = 314./s. Here. the tangential velocity of the object is v = r ω = 1. the repetition frequency. as shown in Fig. If the object executes a complete cycle (i.2 m.e.8) Here. is identical → → → to the vector QY. that the object rotates through δθ → radians in this time interval. shown in the diagram. f (7. As an example. The repetition period of this motion is simply T= 1 = 0. since (vector) acceleration is the rate of change of (vector) velocity.16 = 376.e. Suppose. f. Moreover.. 7. radius r = 1. the angle subtended between vectors PZ and PX is 138 (7. 58.11) .10) (7.2 × 314.3 Centripetal acceleration An object executing a circular orbit of radius r with uniform tangential speed v possesses a velocity vector v whose magnitude is constant. but whose direction is continuously changing. further.16 rad. at a frequency of f = 50 Hz (i.9) Furthermore. It follows that the object must be accelerating. of the motion is measured in cycles per second— otherwise known as hertz (symbol Hz). the object executes a complete rotation 50 times a second). and the (vector) velocity is indeed varying in time. The vector PX..

the length of vector ZX is δv = 2 v sin(δθ/2).. However.13) δθ δv =v = v ω. measured in radians per second. (7. with uniform tangential velocity v. a centripetal acceleration—of magnitude v2 a = vω = = r ω2 . δv. between times t and t + δt. The vector ZX represents the change in vector velocity. and uniform angular velocity ω = v/r. δv a= v δθ.15) r 139 .12) (7. It can be seen that this vector is directed towards the centre of → the circle. provided that θ is measured in radians.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7. From standard trigonometry. for small angles sin θ Hence.14) δt δt where ω = δθ/δt is the angular velocity of the object. In summary.e. (7. radius r. → simply δθ. possesses an acceleration directed towards the centre of the circle—i. an object executing a circular orbit.3 Centripetal acceleration Z v P v Q δv X r v Y δθ Figure 58: Centripetal acceleration. (7. It follows that θ.

7 CIRCULAR MOTION
weight v cable m T r

7.3 Centripetal acceleration

Figure 59: Weight on the end of a cable.

Suppose that a weight, of mass m, is attached to the end of a cable, of length r, and whirled around such that the weight executes a horizontal circle, radius r, with uniform tangential velocity v. As we have just learned, the weight is subject to a centripetal acceleration of magnitude v2 /r. Hence, the weight experiences a centripetal force m v2 . (7.16) f= r What provides this force? Well, in the present example, the force is provided by the tension T in the cable. Hence, T = m v2 /r. Suppose that the cable is such that it snaps whenever the tension in it exceeds a certain critical value Tmax . It follows that there is a maximum velocity with which the weight can be whirled around: namely, vmax = r Tmax . m (7.17)

If v exceeds vmax then the cable will break. As soon as the cable snaps, the weight will cease to be subject to a centripetal force, so it will fly off—with velocity v max — along the straight-line which is tangential to the circular orbit it was previously executing.

140

7 CIRCULAR MOTION

7.4 The conical pendulum

h

θ

l T r m

mg

Figure 60: A conical pendulum.

7.4 The conical pendulum Suppose that an object, mass m, is attached to the end of a light inextensible string whose other end is attached to a rigid beam. Suppose, further, that the object is given an initial horizontal velocity such that it executes a horizontal circular orbit of radius r with angular velocity ω. See Fig. 60. Let h be the vertical distance between the beam and the plane of the circular orbit, and let θ be the angle subtended by the string with the downward vertical. The object is subject to two forces: the gravitational force m g which acts vertically downwards, and the tension force T which acts upwards along the string. The tension force can be resolved into a component T cos θ which acts vertically upwards, and a component T sin θ which acts towards the centre of the circle. Force balance in the vertical direction yields T cos θ = m g. (7.18)

In other words, the vertical component of the tension force balances the weight of the object. Since the object is executing a circular orbit, radius r, with angular velocity ω, it experiences a centripetal acceleration ω2 r. Hence, it is subject to a centripetal force m ω2 r. This force is provided by the component of the string tension which
141

7 CIRCULAR MOTION

7.5 Non-uniform circular motion

acts towards the centre of the circle. In other words, T sin θ = m ω2 r. Taking the ratio of Eqs. (7.18) and (7.19), we obtain ω2 r . tan θ = g However, by simple trigonometry, tan θ = Hence, we find g . h Note that if l is the length of the string then h = l cos θ. It follows that ω= ω= g . l cos θ (7.22) r . h (7.21) (7.20) (7.19)

(7.23)

For instance, if the length of the string is l = 0.2 m and the conical angle is θ = 30◦ then the angular velocity of rotation is given by ω= 9.81 = 7.526 rad./s. 0.2 × cos 30◦ f= ω = 1.20 Hz. 2π (7.24)

This translates to a rotation frequency in cycles per second of (7.25)

7.5 Non-uniform circular motion Consider an object which executes non-uniform circular motion, as shown in Fig. 61. Suppose that the motion is confined to a 2-dimensional plane. We can specify the instantaneous position of the object in terms of its polar coordinates r
142

7 CIRCULAR MOTION

7.5 Non-uniform circular motion

er

r θ

Figure 61: Polar coordinates.

and θ. Here, r is the radial distance of the object from the origin, whereas θ is the angular bearing of the object from the origin, measured with respect to some arbitrarily chosen direction. We imagine that both r and θ are changing in time. As an example of non-uniform circular motion, consider the motion of the Earth around the Sun. Suppose that the origin of our coordinate system corresponds to the position of the Sun. As the Earth rotates, its angular bearing θ, relative to the Sun, obviously changes in time. However, since the Earth’s orbit is slightly elliptical, its radial distance r from the Sun also varies in time. Moreover, as the Earth moves closer to the Sun, its rate of rotation speeds up, and vice versa. Hence, the rate of change of θ with time is non-uniform. Let us define two unit vectors, er and eθ . Incidentally, a unit vector simply a vector whose length is unity. As shown in Fig. 61, the radial unit vector er always points from the origin to the instantaneous position of the object. Moreover, the tangential unit vector eθ is always normal to er , in the direction of increasing θ. The position vector r of the object can be written r = r er . (7.26)

In other words, vector r points in the same direction as the radial unit vector e r , and is of length r. We can write the object’s velocity in the form v = ˙ = v r er + v θ eθ , r
143

(7.27)

7 CIRCULAR MOTION

7.5 Non-uniform circular motion

whereas the acceleration is written ˙ a = v = a r er + a θ eθ . (7.28)

Here, vr is termed the object’s radial velocity, whilst vθ is termed the tangential velocity. Likewise, ar is the radial acceleration, and aθ is the tangential acceleration. But, how do we express these quantities in terms of the object’s polar coordinates r and θ? It turns out that this is a far from straightforward task. For instance, if we simply differentiate Eq. (7.26) with respect to time, we obtain ˙ v = ˙ e r + r er , r (7.29)

˙ where er is the time derivative of the radial unit vector—this quantity is nonzero because er changes direction as the object moves. Unfortunately, it is not ˙ entirely clear how to evaluate er . In the following, we outline a famous trick for calculating vr , vθ , etc. without ever having to evaluate the time derivatives of the unit vectors er and eθ . Consider a general complex number, z = x + i y, (7.30)

where x and y are real, and i is the square root of −1 (i.e., i2 = −1). Here, x is the real part of z, whereas y is the imaginary part. We can visualize z as a point in the so-called complex plane: i.e., a 2-dimensional plane in which the real parts of complex numbers are plotted along one Cartesian axis, whereas the corresponding imaginary parts are plotted along the other axis. Thus, the coordinates of z in the complex plane are simply (x, y). See Fig. 62. In other words, we can use a complex number to represent a position vector in a 2-dimensional plane. Note that the length of the vector is equal to the modulus of the corresponding complex number. Incidentally, the modulus of z = x + i y is defined |z| = x2 + y2 . (7.31)

Consider the complex number e i θ , where θ is real. A famous result in complex analysis—known as de Moivre’s theorem—allows us to split this number into its real and imaginary components: e i θ = cos θ + i sin θ.
144

(7.32)

as is clear from Fig.26). we can represent the instantaneous position 145 . Now. this vector is normal to er . Can we also find a complex representation of the corresponding tangential unit vector eθ ? Actually. making use of the fact that i2 = −1. we can.34) Here. (7. Consider an object executing non-uniform circular motion in the complex plane.5 Non-uniform circular motion Im(z) z y x Re(z) Figure 62: Representation of a complex number in the complex plane. In other words. as we have just discussed. In fact. (7. in the direction of increasing θ. (7.33) In other words.35) Moreover. By analogy with Eq. e i θ represents a unit vector. The complex number i e i θ can be written i e i θ = − sin θ + i cos θ. 63 that e i θ represents the radial unit vector er for an object whose angular polar coordinate (measured anti-clockwise from the real axis) is θ.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7. since i e i θ = sin2 θ + cos2 θ = 1. we have just multiplied Eq. the length of the vector is given by e i θ = cos2 θ + sin2 θ = 1. we can think of e i θ as representing a vector in the complex plane: the real and imaginary parts of e i θ form the coordinates of the head of the vector. 63. This number again represents a unit vector. (7. it is clear from Fig. What are the properties of this vector? Well. (7. i e i θ represents the tangential unit vector eθ .32) by i. whereas the tail of the vector corresponds to the origin.

we have obtained expressions for the radial and tangential velocities of the object in terms of its polar coordinates. if z represents the position vector of the object. (7. r(t) is the object’s radial distance from the origin. (7.36) with respect to time. ¨ r r˙ 146 (7. Now. as desired.5 Non-uniform circular motion Im(z) i ei θ eθ ei θ sin θ Re(z) er θ cos θ . in order to obtain a complex number representing the object’s vector acceleration. whereas θ(t) is its angular bearing relative to the real axis. Again. using the standard rules of calculus.27). Let us differentiate ˙ z with respect to time. (7. we obtain vr = ˙. (7. r and θ.37) Comparing with Eq.38) (7. in the above formula. vector of this object via the complex number z = r e i θ.sin θ cos θ Figure 63: Representation of the unit vectors er and eθ in the complex plane. Thus. then z = dz/dt must represent the object’s velocity vector. Note that.36) Here.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7. Differ˙ entiating Eq.39) where ω = dθ/dt is the object’s instantaneous angular velocity.40) . ˙ r (7. We can go further. using the standard rules of calculus. we obtain ˙ z = ˙ e i θ + r θ i e i θ. we are using e i θ to represent the radial unit vector er . we obtain ˙ ¨ z = (¨ − r θ2 ) e i θ + (r θ + 2 ˙ θ) i e i θ . r ˙ vθ = r θ = r ω. recalling that e i θ represents er and i e i θ represents eθ .

42) Thus.28). the radial acceleration is given by ar = −r ω2 .41) (7. (7. Of course. Finally. circular motion. (7. Let us now consider the commonly occurring special case in which an object executes a circular orbit at fixed radius. according to Eq. ˙ (7. 147 .7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7. (7. we now have expressions for the object’s radial and tangential accelerations in terms of r and θ.42). but varying angular velocity.38) and (7. it follows that ˙ = ¨ = 0. According to Eqs. and the tangential velocity takes the form vθ = r ω. r˙ ˙ r (7. (7. The beauty of this derivation is that the complex analysis has automatically taken care of the fact that the unit vectors e r and eθ change direction as the object moves. circular motion. the tangential acceleration takes the form aθ = r ω.44) The minus sign indicates that this acceleration is directed towards the centre of the circle.15)—the only difference is that we have now proved that this relation holds for non-uniform. (7. (7. the above equation is equivalent to Eq. According to Eq.39).5 Non-uniform circular motion Comparing with Eq. (7. (7.45) The existence of a non-zero tangential acceleration (in the former case) is the one difference between non-uniform and uniform circular motion (at constant radius). recalling that e i θ represents er and i e i θ represents eθ .6)—the only difference is that we have now proved that this relation holds for non-uniform. r r ¨ aθ = r θ + 2 ˙ θ = r ω + 2 ˙ ω. we obtain ˙ ar = ¨ − r θ 2 = ¨ − r ω 2 .43) Note that the above equation is exactly the same as Eq. as well as uniform. as well as uniform. the r r radial velocity of the object is zero.41). Since the radius is fixed.

measured with respect to the downward vertical.46) . the object is situated a vertical distance r below the pivot. obtain the relationship between v and v . to point B. Let us. How large do we have to make v in order for the object to execute a complete vertical circle? Consider Fig. The other end of the rod. Thus.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.6 The vertical pendulum v’ B mg cos θ mg T θ r v r cos θ A mg Figure 64: Motion in a vertical circle. Let v be the velocity of the object at θ = 0◦ . At point A. This is most easily achieved by considering energy conservation. or light string. where its tangential velocity is v. Hence. 7. is attached to a stationary pivot in such a manner that the object is free to execute a vertical circle about this pivot. Suppose that an object of mass m is attached to the end of a light rigid rod. 64. or string. 2 2 148 (7. in moving from A to B the object gains potential energy m g r (1 − cos θ). 1 1 2 m v2 − m v = m g r (1 − cos θ).6 The vertical pendulum Let us now examine an example of non-uniform circular motion. Let θ measure the angular position of the object. first of all. whereas at point B the vertical distance below the pivot has been reduced to r cos θ. Suppose that the object moves from point A. where its tangential velocity is v . of length r. This gain in potential energy must be offset by a corresponding loss in kinetic energy.

its minimum tangential velocity. r Equations (7.48) can be combined to give m v2 + m g (3 cos θ − 2). Clearly. it must experience an instantaneous acceleration v 2 /r towards the centre of the circle. 149 (7. and. Hence.6 The vertical pendulum which reduces to v = v2 − 2 r g (1 − cos θ). (7. they cannot support negative tensions. Another way of putting this is that if the tension in a string ever becomes negative then the string will become slack and collapse. rather than a rigid rod.47) and (7. or string.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7. 2 (7. therefore.50) T0 = r Hence. which acts away from the centre of the circle. It is clear from Eq. In other words. Since the object is executing circular motion with instantaneous tangential velocity v . which acts towards the centre of the circle.49) Suppose that the object is.48) (7. attached to the end of a piece of string. the condition for the object to execute a complete vertical circle without the string becoming slack is T0 > 0. The radial forces acting on the object are the tension T in the rod. It is certainly the case that if the string tension is positive at this point then it must be positive at all other points. if our object is to execute a full vertical circle then then tension T in the string must remain positive for all values of θ. a string can only pull objects attached to its two ends together—it cannot push them apart. or v2 > 5 r g.51) . in fact. Now. and the component m g cos θ of the object’s weight. Newton’s second law of motion yields mv 2 = T − m g cos θ. One important property of strings is that. This is hardly surprising.49) that the tension attains its minimum value when θ = 180◦ (at which point cos θ = −1). the tension at θ = 180◦ is given by m v2 − 5 m g. unlike rigid rods.47) Let us now examine the radial acceleration of the object at point B. since θ = 180◦ corresponds to the point at which the object attains its maximum height. T= r (7. (7.

It is clear from Eq. Thus. the condition for the object to execute a complete vertical circle is (v 2 )0 > 0.52) Hence. since a rigid rod can quite easily support a negative tension (i. on objects attached to its two ends).7 Motion on curved surfaces Note that this condition is independent of the mass of the object. it is slightly easier to cause an object attached to the end of a rigid rod to execute a vertical circle than it is to cause an object attached to the end of a string to execute the same circle.. 65. Suppose that an object of mass m slides without friction around the inside of this hoop.51). hardly surprising. In other words. as shown in Fig. The reason for this is that the rigidity of the rod helps support the object when it is situated above the pivot point. 7. Thus. again. in order for the object to execute a complete vertical circle the square of its tangential velocity v 2 must remain positive at all values of θ. if v 2 is positive at this point then it must be positive at all other points. (7. This gain in potential energy must be offset by a corresponding loss in kinetic energy. where θ is the angular coordinate of the object measured with respect to the downward vertical. it can push. 65.53) Note that this condition is slightly easier to satisfy than the condition (7. the expression for v 2 at θ = 180◦ is 2 (v )0 = v2 − 4 r g. What is the motion of this object? Is it possible for the object to execute a complete vertical circle? Suppose that the object moves from point A to point B in Fig. instead of a piece of string. 2 2 150 . (7. In doing so.e.47) that v 2 attains its minimum value when θ = 180◦ .54) m v2 − m v = m g r (1 − cos θ). or v2 > 4 r g. Now. There is now no constraint on the tension. This is. (7.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7. it gains potential energy m g r (1 − cos θ).7 Motion on curved surfaces Consider a smooth rigid vertical hoop of internal radius r. Suppose that the object is attached to the end of a rigid rod. as well as pull. 1 1 2 (7. However.

and v is the velocity at point B (θ = θ◦ ). which reduces to v = v2 − 2 r g (1 − cos θ). 2 (7. that there is a constraint on the reaction R that the hoop can exert on the object. however. This reaction must always be positive. In other words. Hence. which acts towards the centre of the hoop.55) Here. Since the object is executing circular motion with instantaneous tangential velocity v . the hoop can push the object away from itself. The radial forces acting on the object are the reaction R of the vertical hoop.56) Note.7 Motion on curved surfaces v’ B mg cos θ mg R θ r v r cos θ A mg Figure 65: Motion on the inside of a vertical hoop. (7. v is the velocity at point A (θ = 0◦ ). Newton’s second law of motion yields mv r 2 = R − m g cos θ. Another way of putting this is that if the reaction ever becomes negative then 151 . but it can never pull it towards itself. it must experience an instantaneous acceleration v 2 /r towards the centre of the hoop. which acts away from the centre of the hoop. Let us now examine the radial acceleration of the object at point B.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7. and the component m g cos θ of the object’s weight.

and then slide back down again. Secondly.56) yields rR − r g cos θ. Thus. with the reaction R of the hoop playing the role of the tension T in the string. if the train starts at θ = 0◦ with velocity v then there are only three possible outcomes. but then fall off the loop.e. the train reverses direction when v = 2 R = m g cos θ. that the problem we are considering is exactly analogous to the earlier problem of an object attached to the end of a piece of string which is executing a vertical circle. What is the safe range of v? Now. The object sliding around the inside of the loop then becomes the roller-coaster train. Firstly. In other words. (7. Equation (7. the train can slide part way up the loop. It should be clear.7 Motion on curved surfaces the object will fly off the surface of the hoop. the condition for the train to reverse direction without falling off the loop is v 2 = 0 with R > 0. interestingly enough.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7. by now. come to a halt. the train can only turn around without falling off the loop if the 152 ..59) Note that this equation can only be satisfied for positive R when cos θ > 0. Obviously. since it is no longer being pressed into this surface. that this condition is independent of the mass of the train. Suppose that the fairground operator can vary the velocity v with which the train is sent into the bottom of the loop (i. the train can slide part way up the loop. the velocity at θ = 0◦ ). reverse direction.57) Note. Using the analogy between this problem and the problem of a mass on the end of a piece of string executing a vertical circle.58) m Now. Let us imagine that the hoop under consideration is a “loop the loop” segment in a fairground roller-coaster. the condition for the roller-coaster train to execute a complete circuit is v2 > 5 r g. Thirdly. (7. it is the third possibility that the fairground operator would wish to guard against. the train can execute a complete circuit of the loop. (7.

−90◦ < θ < 90◦ ). In other words. 66. turning point lies in the lower half of the loop (i. the train can only fall off the loop when it is situated in the upper half of the loop. as shown in Fig. The condition for the train to fall off the loop is v = −r g cos θ. the train falls off the loop somewhere in its upper half. and not sufficiently small for it to turn around before entering the upper half of the loop. Let θ be the angular coordinate of the skier.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7. measured with respect to the upward vertical.7 Motion on curved surfaces m r mg cos θ R r cos θ θ mg v Figure 66: A skier on a hemispherical mountain. At what point does the skier fly off the surface of the mountain? 153 . Consider a skier of mass m skiing down a hemispherical mountain of radius r.55) by setting v = 0 and θ = 90◦ ]. 2 (7.57)]. (7. the train executes a complete circuit around the loop. the train turns around in the lower half of the loop. the dangerous range of v2 is 2 r g < v2 < 5 r g. It is fairly clear that if the train’s initial velocity is not sufficiently large for it to execute a complete circuit of the loop. However.e. (7. For v2 > 5 r g. and slides down the mountain without friction. (7. Suppose that the skier starts at rest (v = 0) on top of the mountain (θ = 0◦ ).. for 2 r g < v2 < 5 r g. then it must inevitably fall off the loop somewhere in the loop’s upper half.61) For v2 < 2 r g. The critical value of v2 above which the train executes a complete circuit is 5 r g [see Eq. Hence. The critical value of v2 at which the train just turns around before entering the upper half of the loop is 2 r g [this is obtained from Eq.60) Note that this equation can only be satisfied for positive v 2 when cos θ < 0.

Worked example 7. At this stage. This occurs when cos θ0 = 2/3. Thus. Suppose that the radius of curvature of a given curve is r = 60 m.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.63) can be combined to give R = m g (3 cos θ − 2). with instantaneous tangential velocity v. the skier flies of the surface of the mountain. which acts radially inwards. and that the recommended speed is v = 40 km/h. as soon as the reaction becomes negative. At what angle θ should the curve be banked? 154 . the skier has fallen though a height r (1 − cos θ). he/she experiences an instantaneous inward radial acceleration v2 /r. which acts radially outwards.64) (7. but it cannot pull the skier inward. In fact.7 Motion on curved surfaces Suppose that the skier has reached angular coordinate θ. Hence.1: A banked curve Question: Civil engineers generally bank curves on roads in such a manner that a car going around the curve at the recommended speed does not have to rely on friction between its tires and the road surface in order to round the curve. the reaction R is constrained to be positive—the mountain can push outward on the skier. and the component of the skier’s weight m g cos θ.63) As before. The height through which the skier falls before becoming a ski-jumper is h = r (1 − cos θ0 ) = a/3. Newton’s second law of motion yields v2 m = m g cos θ − R.19◦ . r Equations (7. radius r. 2 (7. The radial forces acting on the skier are the reaction R exerted by the mountain.62) and (7. Since the skier is executing circular motion. the tangential velocity v of the skier is given by energy conservation: 1 m v2 = m g r (1 − cos θ). (7. or θ0 = 48.62) Let us now consider the skier’s radial acceleration.

7 Motion on curved surfaces banked curve Answer: Consider a car of mass m going around the curve. In other words. this does not always work—especially if the road surface is wet! × 1000/3600)2  = 11. so R cos θ = m g. acts towards the centre of curvature of the road. θ = tan −1  (40  Note that if the car attempts to round the curve at the wrong speed then m v 2 /r = m g tan θ. R sin θ. The vertical component of the reaction must balance the downward weight of the car. rg Hence.8◦ .7 CIRCULAR MOTION R centre of curvature θ r mg car 7.81  155 . r which yields v2 . tan θ = rg or   v2  θ = tan−1  . v2 R sin θ = m . acts vertically downwards. The road surface exerts an upward normal reaction R on the car. This component provides the force m v2 /r towards the centre of the curvature which the car experiences as it rounds the curve. and the difference has to be made up by a sideways friction force exerted between the car’s tires and the road surface. 60 × 9. Unfortunately. The horizontal component of the reaction. m g. The car’s weight.

and a maximum upward force f = µ R due to friction with the wall. r or √ √ v = r aθ = 85 × 0. Here. any person inside it is held up against the wall. and let r = 7 m be the radius of the cylinder. and its speed increases at the constant rate aθ = 0. R is the normal reaction between the person and the wall. the critical case corresponds to f = µ R = m g.2: Circular race track Question: A car of mass m = 2000 kg travels around a flat circular race track of radius r = 85 m. the person is subject to a single force: namely. Let the mass of an typical person be m = 60 kg. the person is subject to a downward force m g due to gravity.7 Motion on curved surfaces Worked example 7. Hence. How many revolutions per second is the cylinder executing at this critical velocity? Answer: In the vertical direction.25.14 m/s. In the radial direction. Find the critical angular velocity of the cylinder above which a typical person will not slide down the wall. Hence.3: Amusement park ride Question: An amusement park ride consists of a vertical cylinder that spins about a vertical axis. the 156 . Suppose that the coefficient of static friction between a typical person and the wall is µ = 0. we require f > m g.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7. What is the speed of the car at the point when its centripetal and tangential accelerations are equal? Answer: The tangential acceleration of the car is aθ = 0.6 = 7.6 m/s. Worked example 7. The car starts at rest.6 m/s. In order for the person not to slide down the wall. ar = aθ when v2 = aθ . When the cylinder spins sufficiently fast. When the car travels with tangential velocity v its centripetal acceleration is a r = v2 /r.

and the reaction force R. If the cylinder (and. ω= g = µr 9.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7.1415 Worked example 7. due to the plane.25 × 7 The corresponding number of revolutions per second is f= 2. 2 π 2 × 3. which acts radially inwards.81 = 2. then this force must provided the acceleration r ω2 towards the axis of rotation. The pilot is subject to two radial forces: the gravitational force m g. which acts away from the centre of the loop. R = m r ω2 . Hence. It follows that. in the critical case.37 ω = = 0.37 rad/s. the person) rotates with angular velocity ω. hence. Given that the speed of the stunt plane is v = 500 km/h. Consider the radial acceleration of the pilot at the top of the loop.38 Hz. what is the radius r of the loop? Answer: Let m be the mass of the pilot. Since the pilot 157 . 0. which acts towards the centre of the loop.7 Motion on curved surfaces R mg f r reaction R due to the wall.4: Aerobatic maneuver Question: A stunt pilot experiences weightlessness momentarily at the top of a “loop the loop” maneuver.

Hence.81 Worked example 7. and is suspended by a stiff rod of length l = 0. instead of a stiff rod? Answer: When the bullet strikes the bob. the plane exerts no reaction force on the pilot. and then becomes embedded in the bob.3 kg horizontally with speed v. What is the minimum value of v which causes the bob to execute a complete vertical circle? How does the answer change if the bob is suspended from a light flexible rod (of the same length). and. if the pilot is weightless at the top of the loop then R = 0. r Now.97 km. In particular. The bob is initially at rest. the bullet and bob move off with a velocity v which is given by momentum conservation: m v = (M + m) v .7 CIRCULAR MOTION R 7. 158 . and then sticks to it. r= g 9. therefore. giving (500 × 1000/3600)2 v2 = = 1. Newton’s second law of motion yields v2 m = m g − R. if the pilot is “weightless” then he/she exerts no force on the plane. The bob is free to rotate in the vertical direction. the reaction R is equivalent to the apparent weight of the pilot.5: Ballistic pendulum Question: A bullet of mass m = 10 g strikes a pendulum bob of mass M = 1.7 Motion on curved surfaces mg r experiences an acceleration v2 /r towards the centre of the loop.6 m and negligible mass.

in this critical case. l It follows that.01 2 = 159 . 0. or (M + m) v= m √ 5gl 1. M+m Consider the case where the bob is suspended by a rigid rod. Hence. then the tension in the rod is zero at the top of the loop.6 m/s. v = 5 g l.81 × 0. 2 If the bob and bullet only just manage to execute a vertical loop. The velocity v of the bob and bullet at the top of the loop is obtained from energy conservation: 1 (M + m) v 2 2 = 1 2 (M + m) v − (M + m) 2 g l. then their initial kinetic energy (1/2) (M + m) v 2 must only just be sufficient to lift them from the bottom to the top of the loop—a distance 2 l. v = mv . or (M + m) v= m √ 4gl = 1.7 Motion on curved surfaces Hence.7 m/s.6 = 635.01 Consider the case where the bob is suspended by a flexible rod. If the bob and bullet only just manage to execute a vertical loop.6 = 710.31 × √ 4 × 9.31 × √ 5 × 9. in this critical case. energy conservation yields 1 2 (M + m) v = (M + m) 2 g l.81 × 0. Hence. 0.7 CIRCULAR MOTION 7. 2 which implies 2 v = 4 g l. the acceleration due to gravity g must account exactly for the required acceleration v 2 /l towards the centre of the loop: v 2 = g.

we have only analyzed the dynamics of point masses (i.2 Rigid body rotation Consider a rigid body executing pure rotational motion (i. and the radius QP has rotated through an angle δφ. quite distinct. Now. The axis of rotation is the line AB. Figure 67 shows a typical rigidly rotating body.e. In the following.. rotational motion which has no translational component). type of motion by which it remains located (more or less) at the same spatial position. Let us investigate rotational motion. centred on AB. in the plane perpendicular to AB.e. an extended object can exhibit another. Suppose that at time t + δt point P has moved to P . 8. and orientated in the plane perpendicular to this axis. However.1 Introduction Up to now.. A general point located inside the body executes circular motion which is centred on the rotation axis. motion by which the object moves from one point in space to another. but constantly changes its orientation with respect to other fixed points in space. A general point P lying within the body executes a circular orbit. objects whose spatial extent is either negligible or plays no role in their motion). This new type of motion is called rotation. this implies that QP is normal to AB. Let us now broaden our approach in order to take extended objects into account.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8 Rotational motion 8. Obviously. It is possible to define an axis of rotation (which. Let the line QP be a radius of this orbit which links the axis of rotation to the instantaneous position of P at time t. is assumed to pass through the body)—this axis corresponds to the straight-line which is the locus of all points inside the body which remain stationary as the body rotates. we tacitly assume that the axis of rotation remains fixed. for the sake of simplicity. 160 .. the only type of motion which a point mass object can exhibit is translational motion: i.e.

2 Rigid body rotation rigid body P’ Q σ δφ P B axis of rotation Figure 67: Rigid body rotation. Thus. then the calculated value of ω should be the same for all possible points P lying within the body (except for those points lying exactly on the axis of rotation.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION A 8. for which ω is ill-defined).3) dt dt2 where φ is the angular coordinate of some arbitrarily chosen point reference within the body. (8.1) δt→0 δt dt Note that if the body is indeed rotating rigidly. measured with respect to the rotation axis. in a rigidly rotating body. It is helpful to introduce the angular acceleration α(t) of a rigidly rotating body: this quantity is defined as the time derivative of the angular velocity. (8.2) where σ is the perpendicular distance from the axis of rotation to point P. The rotation speed v of point P is related to the angular velocity ω of the body via ω = lim v = σ ω. dω d2 φ = . Note that angular α= 161 . (8. The instantaneous angular velocity of the body ω(t) is defined δφ dφ = . Thus. the rotation speed increases linearly with (perpendicular) distance from the axis of rotation.

ω0 = ω(t = 0). 162 . and the rotation angle satisfies φ(t) = φ0 + ω0 t + 1 2 αt . α. ω. this definition is ambiguous. Note that there is a clear analogy between the above equations.5) Here. the angular acceleration is zero.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. angular velocity plays the role of (regular) velocity. and the rotation angle φ increases linearly with time: φ(t) = φ0 + ω t. since there are two possible directions which run parallel to the rotation axis. However. (8. 68. and whose direction runs parallel to the axis of rotation. for a body rotating with constant angular acceleration. Likewise. For a body rotating with constant angular velocity. whereas angular accelerations are measured in radians per second squared. The right-hand grip rule is illustrated in Fig. 8. so that ω(t) = ω0 + α t. 2 (8. For example. and the equations of rectilinear motion at constant acceleration introduced in Sect. the angular velocity increases linearly with time. and angular acceleration plays the role of (regular) acceleration. φ. It is tempting to try to define a rotation “vector” φ which describes this motion.4) where φ0 = φ(t = 0). Unfortunately. when the fingers of this hand circulate around the axis in the direction of rotation.3 Is rotation a vector? velocities are conventionally measured in radians per second.6—rotation angle plays the role of displacement. we can resolve this problem by adopting the following convention—the rotation “vector” runs parallel to the axis of rotation in the sense indicated by the thumb of the right-hand. suppose that φ is defined as the “vector” whose magnitude is the angle of rotation.3 Is rotation a vector? Consider a rigid body which rotates through an angle φ about a given axis.6) (8. 2. This convention is known as the right-hand grip rule.

although rotations have well-defined magnitudes and directions. This non-commutative algebra cannot be represented by vectors. it is independent of the order of addition). is this quantity really a vector? This may seem like a strange question to ask. Clearly. If a and b are two general vectors. It can be seen that the die ends up in two completely different states. but it turns out that not all quantities which have well-defined magnitudes and directions are necessarily vectors.. the z-rotation plus the x-rotation does not equal the x-rotation plus the z-rotation. as we have just defined them? Figure 69 shows the effect of applying two successive 90◦ rotations—one about the x-axis. There is a direct analogy between rotation and motion over the Earth’s surface.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. Is this true for “vector” rotations.3 Is rotation a vector? direction of rotation vector sense of rotation Figure 68: The right-hand grip rule. But. the addition of vectors is necessarily commutative (i. The rotation “vector” φ now has a well-defined magnitude and direction. In the left-hand case. the z-rotation is applied before the x-rotation.e. After all. then it is certainly the case that a + b = b + a. and vice versa in the right-hand case. (8. in general. the motion of a pointer along the Earth’s equator from longitude 0 ◦ W to 163 . and the other about the z-axis—to a sixsided die. Let us review some properties of vectors. vector quantities. We conclude that.7) In other words. they are not.

164 .8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.3 Is rotation a vector? z x y z-axis x-axis x-axis z-axis Figure 69: The addition of rotation is non-commutative.

90◦ E). suppose that vector δφ describes the small rotation that a given object executes in the infinitesimal time interval between t and t + δt. which is defined in a similar manner but corresponds to a rotation through an infinitesimal angle δφ. defined above.8) This quantity is clearly a true vector. suppose that—starting from the same initial position—we walk 10 m eastwards and then 10 m northwards. and rotate 90 ◦ eastwards and then 90◦ northwards. The crucial point is that for sufficiently small displacements the Earth’s surface is approximately planar. We have just established that it is possible to define a true vector δφ which describes a rotation through a small angle δφ about a fixed axis. then the fingers of the right-hand indicate the sense of 165 . The non-commutative nature of rotation “vectors” is a direct consequence of the non-planar (i. although the quantity φ. and rotate 90 ◦ northwards and then 90◦ eastwards. In this case. However. ω. Let us now repeat this experiment on a far smaller scale. For instance. The sense of rotation is given by the right-hand grip rule: if the thumb of the right-hand points along the direction of the vector.e.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. Hence. 0◦ W). few people would need much convincing that the two end points are essentially identical. and vector displacements on a plane surface commute with one another. if we start at the same point. the infinitesimal quantity δφ. Of course.3 Is rotation a vector? longitude 90◦ W could just as well be achieved by keeping the pointer fixed and rotating the Earth through 90◦ about a North-South axis.. large rotations over the Earth’s surface do not commute. how is this definition useful? Well. suppose we start off at (0◦ N. which is in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Suppose that we walk 10 m northwards and then 10 m eastwards. since it is simply the ratio of a true vector and a scalar. We end up at (0◦ N. This observation immediately suggests that rotation “vectors” which correspond to rotations through small angles must also commute with one another. is a perfectly good vector. ω represents an angular velocity vector. we end up at the North pole. In other words. curved) nature of the Earth’s surface. whereas the direction of the vector indicates the axis of rotation. The magnitude of this vector. Next. We can then define the quantity ω = lim δφ dφ = . is not a true vector. specifies the instantaneous angular velocity of the object. But. which is just off the Atlantic coast of equatorial Africa. δt→0 δt dt (8.

that the rotation axis corresponding to ω must pass through the origin. we can safely treat angular velocity as a vector quantity under all circumstances.9) where the sum is performed according to the standard rules of vector addition. by means of a scalar product. 8.4 The vector product We saw earlier. [Note.] Moreover. [There is.] Clearly. to form a scalar. the rotation axes corresponding to ω1 and ω2 must cross at a certain point—the rotation axis corresponding to ω3 then passes through this point. In order for Eq. a constant angular velocity ^ ^ ω = ωx x + ω y y + ωz ^ z (8. Suppose. bz ) is defined a·b = ax bx + ay by + az bz = |a| |b| cos θ.11) . a proviso— namely. however. combined with rotation about the z-axis at angular velocity ωz . (8.10. we can always shift the origin such that this is the case. the knowledge that angular velocity is vector quantity can be extremely useful. again.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.4 The vector product rotation. where θ is the angle subtended between the directions of a and b. We conclude that. What is the subsequent motion of the body? Since we know that angular velocity is a vector. the following important proviso. that a rigid body rotates at constant angular velocity ω1 . for example. although rotation can only be thought of as a vector quantity under certain very special circumstances.9) to be valid. Let us now combine this motion with rotation about a different axis at constant angular velocity ω2 . in Sect. 166 (8. ay . az ) and b = (bx .10) can be thought of as representing rotation about the x-axis at angular velocity ω x . combined with rotation about the y-axis at angular velocity ω y . by . 3. Of course. Recall that the scalar product a·b of two vectors a = (ax . we can be certain that the combined motion simply corresponds to rotation about a third axis at constant angular velocity ω3 = ω 1 + ω 2 . (8. that it is possible to combine two vectors multiplicatively.

13). 70. if vector b is parallel to vector a. so that we can write b = λ a. (8. In coordinate form. as can be seen from Eq. az bx − ax bz . Is it also possible to combine two vector multiplicatively to form a third (noncoplanar) vector? It turns out that this goal can be achieved via the use of the so-called vector product. b × a is not equivalent to a × b. then the vector product a × b has zero magnitude. but points in diagrammatically the opposite direction. (8. See Fig. in the sense given by the right-hand grip rule when vector a is rotated onto vector b (the direction of rotation being such that the angle of rotation is less than 180 ◦ ). the vector product. Thus.12) The direction of a × b is mutually perpendicular to a and b.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. az ) and b = (bx . hence the magnitude of the vector product. a × b = (ay bz − az by . by .14) In other words. ax by − ay bx ). bz ) is of magnitude |a × b| = |a| |b| sin θ. Firstly. a × b.13) There are a number of fairly obvious consequences of the above definition. In fact. The easiest way of seeing this is to note that if a and b are parallel then the angle θ subtended between them is zero. b × a has the same magnitude as a × b. of two vectors a = (ax . By definition. ay . the order of multiplication matters. Secondly. (8. b × a = −a × b. (8. 167 . |a| |b| sin θ.4 The vector product ax b |a x b| = a b sin θ b θ a Figure 70: The vector product. must also be zero (since sin 0◦ = 0).

Figure 71 shows a rigid body rotating with angular velocity ω. (8. 6.5 Centre of mass Now that we have defined the vector product of two vectors. incidentally. if the object has net mass M. the coordinates of the centre of mass of an extended object are the mass weighted averages of the coordinates of the elements which make up that object.3.16) Note.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. For the sake of simplicity. The direction of the velocity is into the page. 8. which runs parallel to ω. is that the direction of the velocity is mutually perpendicular to the directions of ω and r.15) where σ is the perpendicular distance of point P from the axis of rotation. the axis of rotation.N 168 . What is the velocity of rotation v at point P? Well. To be more exact. all of the motion is perpendicular to the direction of ω. Thus. Another way of saying this. in fact. let us find a use for this concept. (8. the magnitude of this velocity is simply v = σ ω = ω r sin θ. It follows that we can write v = ω × r. then the position vector of the centre of mass is given by 1 rcm = mi ri . such that the ith element has mass mi and position vector ri .5 Centre of mass The centre of mass—or centre of gravity—of an extended object is defined in much the same manner as we earlier defined the centre of mass of a set of mutually interacting point mass objects—see Sect. represents a general point inside the body. and is composed of N elements. (8.17) M i=1. nothing actually moves in this direction. is assumed to pass through the origin O of our coordinate system. whose position vector is r. that the direction of the angular velocity vector ω indicates the orientation of the axis of rotation—however. Point P. and θ is the angle subtended between the directions of ω and r. in the sense indicated by the right-hand grip rule when ω is rotated onto r (through an angle less than 180◦ ).

5 Centre of mass ω σ P θ O r v Figure 71: Rigid rotation. Incidentally. (8. the integral is taken over the whole volume of the object.e. (8. and the volume of each element goes to zero. for an object whose mass density is constant— which is the only type of object that we shall be considering in this course—the above expression reduces to rcm = 1 V 169 r dV.19) Here. Here. Eqs. (8.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. the triple integral sign indicates a volume integral: i.20) . and dV = dx dy dz is an element of that volume. Taking the limit that the number of elements goes to infinity. and Vi is the volume occupied by the ith element.17) and (8. then mi = ρ(ri ) Vi . Finally.. a simultaneous integral over three independent Cartesian coordinates.18) yield the following integral formula for the position vector of the centre of mass: rcm = 1 M ρ r dV. If the object under consideration is continuous.18) where ρ(r) is the mass density of the object. (8. it is assumed that this volume is small compared to the total volume of the object.

It follows. It follows.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. and the apex is aligned with the z-axis. 73. from simple trigonometry.20). (8. Let a be the length of each side. the centre of mass of a body of uniform density is located at the geometric centre of that body. that the geometric centre of the pyramid lies on the zaxis. 72. See Fig. axis geometric centre h h/2 Figure 73: Locating the geometric centre of a right cylinder. According to Eq. from symmetry. the geometric centre of a cube is the point of intersection of the cube’s diagonals. See Fig. the location of the geometric centre follows from symmetry. let us calculate the geometric centre of a regular square-sided pyramid. Suppose that the base of the pyramid lies on the x-y plane. the geometric centre of a right cylinder is located on the axis. Figure 74 shows such a pyramid. geometric centre a a a Figure 72: Locating the geometric centre of a cube. Likewise. As an illustration of the use of formula (8. For many solid objects. as shown in the diagram. half-way up the cylinder.5 Centre of mass where V is the volume of the object.20). that the height √ of the pyramid is h = a/ 2. zcm . It only remains to calculate the perpendicular distance. This quantity is obtained from the 170 . between the geometric centre and the base of the pyramid. For instance.

z-component of Eq. +a (1−z/h)/2 a (1 − z/h) dy −a (1−z/h)/2 (8. Hence.5 Centre of mass y geometric centre z a a a top view x z cm a side view h x Figure 74: Locating the geometric centre of a regular square-sided pyramid. y = +a (1 − z/h)/2. the limits of integration for z are z = 0 to z = h.23) 171 ..20): zcm = z dx dy dz . since the limits of integration for the x.integrals are zdependent.and y. (8.21) where the integral is taken over the volume of the pyramid.e.integrals before the z-integrals. y = −a (1 − z/h)/2 to x. Eq. from the base to the apex of the pyramid).. y = ±a/2 at the base of the pyramid.and y. it makes sense to perform the x. we obtain zcm = h 0 z dz h 0 dz +a (1−z/h)/2 −a (1−z/h)/2 a (1 − z/h) dy .e. dx dy dz (8. y = ±0 at the apex).8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.22) As indicated above. Performing the x-integrals. and x. (8.21) can be written more explicitly as zcm = h 0 z dz h 0 dz +a (1−z/h)/2 −a (1−z/h)/2 dy +a (1−z/h)/2 −a (1−z/h)/2 dy +a (1−z/h)/2 −a (1−z/h)/2 dx . respectively (i. The corresponding limits of integration for x and y are x. +a (1−z/h)/2 dx −a (1−z/h)/2 (8. the limits are x. In the above integral. respectively (i.

8. position vector ri .8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. the geometric centre of a regular square-sided pyramid is located on the symmetry axis. It follows. performing the z-integrals. (8. It follows from the above equations that the kinetic energy of rotation of the object takes the form K= or K= 1 mi |k × ri |2 ω2 . a h/3 4 (8. Let the ith element possess mass mi . that vi = ω × r i . h 2 a (1 − z/h)2 dz 0 (8. 2 i=1.27) (8.N 1 I ω2 .24) Finally. we obtain zcm = h 2 2 0 a z (1 − z/h) dz .30) . Let us write ω = ω k.25) Thus. from Sect.N Suppose that the motion of the object consists merely of rigid rotation at angular velocity ω.6 Moment of inertia Consider an extended object which is made up of N elements.29) (8. The total kinetic energy of the object is written 1 (8. K= 2 i=1. one quarter of the way from the base to the apex. and velocity vi . 8. we obtain zcm = a2 z2 /2 − 2 z3 /(3 h) + z4 /(4 h2 ) a2 [z − z2 /(h) + z3 /(3 h)]0 h h 0 a2 h2 /12 h = 2 = .26) mi vi2 .4. 2 172 (8.28) where k is a unit vector aligned along the axis of rotation (which is assumed to pass through the origin of our coordinate system).6 Moment of inertia Performing the y-integrals.

5 yield I= ρ σ2 dV. and dV is a volume element.33) where ρ(r) is the mass density of the object. For a continuous object.30) and (8. Note that the integrals are taken over the whole volume of the object. 2 (8. In fact.N mi |k × ri |2 = mi σi2 . dV (8. the same object can have different moments of inertia when rotating about different axes. (8. (8. and 173 . for an object of constant density.32) where M represents mass and v represents speed. Unfortunately.34) Here.N (8. A comparison of Eqs. the above expression reduces to I=M σ2 dV . Finally.6 Moment of inertia Here.31) where σi = |k × ri | is the perpendicular distance from the ith element to the axis of rotation. Note that for translational motion we usually write K= 1 M v2 . the quantity I is termed the moment of inertia of the object. and is written I= i=1. the moment of inertia of a thin circular ring about a symmetric axis which runs perpendicular to the plane of the ring. See Fig. the evaluation of the moment of inertia of a given body about a given axis invariably involves the performance of a nasty volume integral. σ = |k × r| is the perpendicular distance from the axis of rotation.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.32) suggests that moment of inertia plays the same role in rotational motion that mass plays in translational motion. analogous arguments to those employed in Sect. i=1. The moment of inertia of a uniform object depends not only on the size and shape of that object but on the location of the axis about which the object is rotating. In particular. there is only one trivial moment of inertia calculation—namely. 75. Suppose that M is the mass of the ring. 8. M is the total mass of the object.

Hence. dx dy (8. the moments of inertia of the object about the x. that the object lies in the x-y plane.e. the above expression follows from the observation that σ2 = x2 +y2 when the axis of rotation is coincident with the z-axis. planar object) of uniform density. there exist two powerful theorems which enable us to simply relate the moment of inertia of a given body about a given axis to the moment of inertia of the same body about another axis. for the sake of simplicity. Incidentally.. The first of these theorems is called the perpendicular axis theorem.e. moments of inertia are rather tedious to calculate.and y.37) .34) reduces to I = M b2 .6 Moment of inertia axis I = M b2 M b ring Figure 75: The moment of inertia of a ring about a perpendicular symmetric axis. Eq. (8.axes take the form Ix = M 174 y2 dx dy . Suppose.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. and the integral is taken over the extent of the object in the x-y plane. Each element of the ring shares a common perpendicular distance from the axis of rotation—i. The moment of inertia of the object about the z-axis is given by Iz = M (x2 + y2 ) dx dy . and only applies to uniform laminar objects. b is its radius. Likewise.35) In general. a thin. (8.. Fortunately. dx dy (8.36) where we have suppressed the trivial z-integration. σ = b. Consider a laminar object (i.

(8. because when the ring spins about the z-axis its elements are.6 Moment of inertia x Figure 76: The perpendicular axis theorem. Let us use the perpendicular axis theorem to find the moment of inertia of a thin ring about a symmetric axis which lies in the plane of the ring. Iz > Ix .8 ROTATIONAL MOTION z Iz = I x + I y y 8. and b is its radius. Here. we have made use of the fact that z = 0 inside the object. or Ix = (8. dx dy (8. See Fig.40) (8. farther from the axis of rotation than when it spins about the x-axis. where M is the mass of the ring. it is clear. Iy = M x2 dx dy .39) Iz 1 = M b2 . 76. from symmetry. on average. The second useful theorem regarding moments of inertia is called the parallel axis theorem.41) 2 2 Of course. 77. It follows by inspection of the previous three equations that Iz = I x + I y .38) respectively. Hence. we already know that Iz = M b2 . that Ix = Iy . Adopting the coordinate system shown in Fig. the perpendicular axis theorem tells us that 2 Ix = I z . Now. The parallel axis theorem—which is quite general—states that if I is the moment of inertia of a given body about an axis passing through the centre 175 .

y = 0. In order to prove the parallel axis theorem. then the moment of inertia I of the same body about a second axis which is parallel to the first is I = I + M d2 .43) where the integrals are taken over the volume of the body. let us orientate the axes of our coordinate system such that the zaxis coincides with the first axis of rotation. y. Furthermore. z) from the z-axis. let us choose the origin of our coordinate system to coincide with the centre of mass of the body in question. the expression for the second moment of inertia takes the form I =M [(x − d)2 + y2 ] dx dy dz . dx dy dz 176 (8. (8. From Eq. From Eq. of mass of that body. Likewise.45) . the expression for the first moment of inertia is I=M (x2 + y2 ) dx dy dz .44) since x2 + y2 is the perpendicular distance of a general point (x.20).34). (8. and d is the perpendicular distance between the two axes. (8. (8. dx dy dz (8.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION y ring 8.6 Moment of inertia x z Figure 77: The moment of inertia of a ring about a coplanar symmetric axis. whereas the second axis pieces the x-y plane at x = d. the fact that the centre of mass is located at the origin implies that x dx dy dz = y dx dy dz = z dx dy dz = 0.42) where M is the mass of the body.

Let us choose our coordinate system such that the disk lies in the x-y plane with its centre at the origin. Hence.47) (8.49) . which proves the theorem. therefore.6 Moment of inertia The above equation can be expanded to give I = M = M [(x2 + y2 ) − 2 d x + d2 ] dx dy dz dx dy dz (x2 + y2 ) dx dy dz − 2dM dx dy dz dx dy dz . dx dy 177 (8. coincident with the z-axis. dx dy dz x dx dy dz dx dy dz (8. let us calculate the moment of inertia of a thin circular disk. but shifted sideways by the perpendicular distance b. We know that the moment of inertia of a ring of mass M and radius b about an axis which runs perpendicular to the plane of the ring. formula (8. (8. of mass M and radius b. As an illustration of the direct application of formula (8. Let us use the parallel axis theorem to calculate the moment of inertia. 78. The axis of rotation is.44) that I = I + M d2 .34) reduces to I=M (x2 + y2 ) dx dy . Hence. about an axis which passes through the centre of the disk.43) and (8. and passes through the centre of the ring—which coincides with the centre of mass of the ring—is I = M b2 . I .8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. the parallel axis theorem tells us that I = I + M b 2 = 2 M b2 .34). and passes through the circumference of the ring. See Fig. Our new axis is parallel to this original axis. of a thin ring about an axis which runs perpendicular to the plane of the ring.48) (8. and runs perpendicular to the plane of the disk.46) +d2 M It follows from Eqs.

and the redundant zintegration has been suppressed. Let us divide the disk up into thin annuli. 12 178 .8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. 2 (8.6 Moment of inertia axis M b I=Mb 2 axis I=2Mb M b 2 ring ring original axis new axis Figure 78: An application of the parallel axis theorem.50) I=M b 2π σ dσ 0 The above expression yields I=M b 0 2 /2]b [2 π σ 0 2 π σ4 /4 = 1 M b2 . Hence.51) Similar calculations to the above yield the following standard results: • The moment of inertia of a thin rod of mass M and length l about an axis passing through the centre of the rod and perpendicular to its length is I= 1 M l2 . where the integrals are taken over the area of the disk. so as to give b 3 0 2π σ dσ . The area of this annulus is simply 2π σ dσ. (8. we can replace dx dy in the above integrals by 2π σ dσ. Consider an annulus of radius σ = x2 + y2 and radial thickness dσ. 12 • The moment of inertia of a thin rectangular sheet of mass M and dimensions a and b about a perpendicular axis passing through the centre of the sheet is 1 I= M (a2 + b2 ).

to a point P lying on its circumference. and is prevented from displacing sideways. See Fig. Let r be the position vector of point P. angular velocity—and the rotational equivalent of mass—namely.7 Torque We have now identified the rotational equivalent of velocity—namely. The tangential component of f causes the wheel to accelerate tangentially. and let θ be the angle subtended between the directions of r and f. the point of intersection between the wheel and the axis of rotation. But. and a component f sin θ which acts tangentially. since the wheel is assumed to be mounted in such a manner that it can only rotate. The radial component of f is canceled out by a reaction at the pivot.. applied to 179 . which is coplanar with the wheel. Let v be the instantaneous rotation velocity of the wheel’s circumference. What is the wheel’s subsequent motion? Let us choose the origin O of our coordinate system to coincide with the pivot point of the wheel—i. 2 • The moment of inertia of a thin spherical shell of mass M and radius b about a diameter is 2 I = M b2 .e. what is the rotational equivalent of force? Consider a bicycle wheel of radius b which is free to rotate around a perpendicular axis passing through its centre. moment of inertia. 5 8. 3 • The moment of inertia of a solid sphere of mass M and radius b about a diameter is 2 I = M b2 .7 Torque • The moment of inertia of a solid cylinder of mass M and radius b about the cylindrical axis is 1 I = M b2 . We can resolve f into two components— namely. Suppose that we apply a force f.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. Newton’s second law of motion. 79. a component f cos θ which acts radially.

53) Since the wheel is basically a ring of radius b.54) Equation (8. If ω is the instantaneous angular velocity of the wheel. if I is analogous to mass. and ω is analogous to 180 . the tangential motion of the wheel. we obtain I ω = τ. its moment of inertia is I = M b2 . which is known as the torque. (8. ω.52) where M is the mass of the wheel (which is assumed to be concentrated in the wheel’s rim). Combining the previous three equations. then the relation between ω and v is simply v = b ω. v (8.7 Torque Figure 79: A rotating bicycle wheel.55) (8.56) (8. and moment of inertia. yields M ˙ = f sin θ. rotating about a perpendicular symmetric axis. ˙ where τ = f b sin θ.55) is the angular equation of motion of the wheel. Let us now convert the above expression into a rotational equation of motion.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION f sinθ θ O r b P f 8. I. Clearly. It relates the wheel’s angular velocity. (8. τ. to a quantity.

If can be seen that l is the perpendicular distance of the line of action of the force from the axis of rotation.e.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. We all know that it is far easier to turn a rusty bolt using a long. l: τ = f l..57) Of course. It is clear. since the perpendicular distance between the line of action of the force and the bolt (i. (8. f. 80.7 Torque f τ=fl b O l P θ Figure 80: Definition of the length of the level arm.56). In summary. is simply the product of the magnitude of the applied force. Assuming that we exert the same force on the end of each wrench. The torque. τ. In other words. and some distance l = b sin θ. this definition makes a lot of sense. torque is the rotational equivalent of force. the length of the wrench) is greater. (8. from Eq. a torque measures the propensity of a given force to cause the object upon which it acts to twist about a certain axis. l. The physical interpretation of l is illustrated in Fig. then torque must be analogous to force. velocity. We usually refer to this distance as the length of the lever arm. the torque we apply to the bolt is larger in the former case. 181 . f. rather than a short. wrench. that a torque is the product of the magnitude of the applied force. and the length of the lever arm.

8 ROTATIONAL MOTION

8.7 Torque

Since force is a vector quantity, it stands to reason that torque must also be a vector quantity. It follows that Eq. (8.57) defines the magnitude, τ, of some torque vector, τ. But, what is the direction of this vector? By convention, if a torque is such as to cause the object upon which it acts to twist about a certain axis, then the direction of that torque runs along the direction of the axis in the sense given by the right-hand grip rule. In other words, if the fingers of the righthand circulate around the axis of rotation in the sense in which the torque twists the object, then the thumb of the right-hand points along the axis in the direction of the torque. It follows that we can rewrite our rotational equation of motion, Eq. (8.55), in vector form: dω = I α = τ, (8.58) I dt where α = dω/dt is the vector angular acceleration. Note that the direction of α indicates the direction of the rotation axis about which the object accelerates (in the sense given by the right-hand grip rule), whereas the direction of τ indicates the direction of the rotation axis about which the torque attempts to twist the object (in the sense given by the right-hand grip rule). Of course, these two rotation axes are identical. Although Eq. (8.58) was derived for the special case of a torque applied to a ring rotating about a perpendicular symmetric axis, it is, nevertheless, completely general. It is important to appreciate that the directions we ascribe to angular velocities, angular accelerations, and torques are merely conventions. There is actually no physical motion in the direction of the angular velocity vector—in fact, all of the motion is in the plane perpendicular to this vector. Likewise, there is no physical acceleration in the direction of the angular acceleration vector—again, all of the acceleration is in the plane perpendicular to this vector. Finally, no physical forces act in the direction of the torque vector—in fact, all of the forces act in the plane perpendicular to this vector. Consider a rigid body which is free to pivot in any direction about some fixed point O. Suppose that a force f is applied to the body at some point P whose position vector relative to O is r. See Fig. 81. Let θ be the angle subtended
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8 ROTATIONAL MOTION

8.7 Torque

f torque θ P r O

pivot
Figure 81: Torque about a fixed point.

between the directions of r and f. What is the vector torque τ acting on the object about an axis passing through the pivot point? The magnitude of this torque is simply τ = r f sin θ. (8.59) In Fig. 81, the conventional direction of the torque is out of the page. Another way of saying this is that the direction of the torque is mutually perpendicular to both r and f, in the sense given by the right-hand grip rule when vector r is rotated onto vector f (through an angle less than 180◦ degrees). It follows that we can write τ = r × f. (8.60)

In other words, the torque exerted by a force acting on a rigid body which pivots about some fixed point is the vector product of the displacement of the point of application of the force from the pivot point with the force itself. Equation (8.60) specifies both the magnitude of the torque, and the axis of rotation about which the torque twists the body upon which it acts. This axis runs parallel to the direction of τ, and passes through the pivot point.

183

8 ROTATIONAL MOTION

8.8 Power and work

8.8 Power and work Consider a mass m attached to the end of a light rod of length l whose other end is attached to a fixed pivot. Suppose that the pivot is such that the rod is free to rotate in any direction. Suppose, further, that a force f is applied to the mass, whose instantaneous angular velocity about an axis of rotation passing through the pivot is ω. Let v be the instantaneous velocity of the mass. We know that the rate at which the force f performs work on the mass—otherwise known as the power—is given by (see Sect. 5.8) P = f·v. (8.61) However, we also know that (see Sect. 8.4) v = ω × r, (8.62)

where r is the vector displacement of the mass from the pivot. Hence, we can write P =ω×r·f (8.63) (note that a·b = b·a). Now, for any three vectors, a, b, and c, we can write a × b · c = a · b × c. (8.64)

This theorem is easily proved by expanding the vector and scalar products in component form using the definitions (8.11) and (8.13). It follows that Eq. (8.63) can be rewritten P = ω · r × f. (8.65) However, τ = r × f, (8.66)

where τ is the torque associated with force f about an axis of rotation passing through the pivot. Hence, we obtain P = τ·ω.
184

(8.67)

8 ROTATIONAL MOTION

8.8 Power and work

In other words, the rate at which a torque performs work on the object upon which it acts is the scalar product of the torque and the angular velocity of the object. Note the great similarity between Eq. (8.61) and Eq. (8.67). Now the relationship between work, W, and power, P, is simply P= dW . dt (8.68)

Likewise, the relationship between angular velocity, ω, and angle of rotation, φ, is dφ ω= . (8.69) dt It follows that Eq. (8.67) can be rewritten dW = τ·dφ. Integration yields W= τ·dφ. (8.71) (8.70)

Note that this is a good definition, since it only involves an infinitesimal rotation vector, dφ. Recall, from Sect. 8.3, that it is impossible to define a finite rotation vector. For the case of translational motion, the analogous expression to the above is W = f·dr. (8.72) Here, f is the force, and dr is an element of displacement of the body upon which the force acts. Although Eqs. (8.67) and (8.71) were derived for the special case of the rotation of a mass attached to the end of a light rod, they are, nevertheless, completely general. Consider, finally, the special case in which the torque is aligned with the angular velocity, and both are constant in time. In this case, the rate at which the torque performs work is simply P = τ ω. (8.73)
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8 ROTATIONAL MOTION
Translational motion Displacement Velocity Acceleration Mass Force Work Power Kinetic energy

8.9 Translational motion versus rotational motion
Rotational motion dr Angular displacement v = dr/dt Angular velocity a = dv/dt Angular acceleration M Moment of inertia f = Ma Torque W = f·dr Work P = f·v Power 2 K = M v /2 Kinetic energy

dφ ω = dφ/dt α = dω/dt ^ I = ρ |ω×r|2 dV τ ≡ r × f = Iα W = τ·dφ P = τ·ω K = I ω2 /2

Table 3: The analogies between translational and rotational motion.

Likewise, the net work performed by the torque in twisting the body upon which it acts through an angle ∆φ is just W = τ ∆φ. (8.74)

8.9 Translational motion versus rotational motion It should be clear, by now, that there is a strong analogy between rotational motion and standard translational motion. Indeed, each physical concept used to analyze rotational motion has its translational concomitant. Likewise, every law of physics governing rotational motion has a translational equivalent. The analogies between rotational and translational motion are summarized in Table 3.

8.10 The physics of baseball Baseball players know from experience that there is a “sweet spot” on a baseball bat, about 17 cm from the end of the barrel, where the shock of impact with the ball, as felt by the hands, is minimized. In fact, if the ball strikes the bat exactly on the “sweet spot” then the hitter is almost unaware of the collision. Conversely, if the ball strikes the bat well away from the “sweet spot” then the impact is felt as a painful jarring of the hands.
186

3).8 ROTATIONAL MOTION pivot J’ J’ bat b h 8. J. the motion of the centre of mass is equivalent to that of the point particle obtained by concentrating the whole mass of the system at the centre of mass. 6. as shown in Fig. To be more exact. and let l be its length. Consider the schematic baseball bat shown in Fig. We saw earlier that in a general multi-component system—which includes an extended body such as a baseball bat—the motion of the centre of mass takes a particularly simple form (see Sect.10 The physics of baseball centre of mass v ball l J J ω Figure 82: A schematic baseball bat. Let M be the mass of the bat. and then allowing all of the external forces acting on the system to act upon that mass. The collision between the bat and the ball can be modeled as equal and opposite impulses. 82. Let us analyze this problem. 6. 82. The existence of a “sweet spot” on a baseball bat is just a consequence of rotational dynamics. suppose that the ball strikes the bat a distance h from the pivot point. applied to each object at the time of the collision (see Sect. Let us use this idea to 187 . equal and opposite impulses J are applied to the pivot and the bat. Finally. At the same time. Suppose that the bat pivots about a fixed point located at one of its ends.5). If the pivot actually corresponds to a hitter’s hands then the latter impulse gives rise to the painful jarring sensation felt when the ball is not struck properly. Let the centre of mass of the bat be located a distance b from the pivot point.

Indeed. This motion satisfies I dω = τ. The bat is actually subject to an impulsive torque (i. Defining the angular impulse K associated with an impulsive torque τ in much the same manner as we earlier defined the impulse associated with an impulsive force (see Sect.78) .76) where I is the moment of inertia of the bat.10 The physics of baseball analyze the effect of the collision with the ball on the motion of the bat’s centre of mass.e.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. in order to follow the motion of an extended body. (8. we obtain t K= τ dt. since the body can rotate about its centre of mass. ω is its instantaneous angular velocity. we must not only follow the translational motion of its centre of mass.75) The minus signs on the right-hand side of the above equation follow from the fact that the impulses are oppositely directed to v in Fig. 6. we must also specify its orientation in space. If v is the instantaneous velocity of the centre of mass then the change in momentum of this point due to the action of the two impulses is simply M ∆v = −J − J . dt (8.5). (8. 82.76) over the time of the collision to find I ∆ω = K.. J and J (which are applied simultaneously). and τ is the applied torque. 188 (8. Note that in order to specify the instantaneous state of an extended body we must do more than just specify the location of the body’s centre of mass. Thus. Consider the rotational motion of the bat shown in Fig.77) It follows that we can integrate Eq. (8. 82 about a perpendicular (to the bat) axis passing through the pivot point. but also the body’s rotational motion about this point (or any other convenient reference point located within the body). The centre of mass of the bat acts like a point particle of mass M which is subject to the two impulses. a torque which only lasts for a short period in time) at the time of the collision with the ball.

is simply K = J x. that the centre of mass of the bat lies at its half-way point: 189 .8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. to which the bat is subject when it collides with the ball. Let us crudely model the bat as a uniform rod of length l and mass M. the torque associated with a given force is equal to the magnitude of the force times the length of the lever arm. Hence. (8.80) The minus sign comes from the fact that the impulse J is oppositely directed to the angular velocity in Fig. are J h and 0. J. It follows.80) and (8. Now.10 The physics of baseball where ∆ω is the change in angular velocity of the bat due to the collision with the ball. J and J . (8. Equations (8.75) can be rewritten M b ∆ω = −J − J .78) can be written I ∆ω = −J h.81) ’ The above expression specifies the magnitude of the impulse J applied to the hitter’s hands terms of the magnitude of the impulse J applied to the ball. Eq. Thus. (8. by symmetry. Hence. the angular impulses associated with the two impulses. K. Now. The latter angular impulse is zero since the point of application of the associated impulse coincides with the pivot point. 82.82) (8.83) (8. I (8. and so the length of the lever arm is zero. respectively. the relationship between the instantaneous velocity of the bat’s centre of mass and the bat’s instantaneous angular velocity is simply v = b ω. associated with an impulse.82) can be combined to yield J =− 1− Mbh J. It follows that Eq.79) where x is the perpendicular distance from the line of action of the impulse to the axis of rotation. (8. it stands to reason that the angular impulse.

if h = h0 then no matter how hard the ball is hit (i. We conclude that the “sweet spot”—or.e. 8. 2l h0 h0 = (8. we know from experience that a round 190 . However. as it slides down the slope. no way in which a block can slide over a frictional surface without dissipating energy.85) 3 (this is a standard result). 4. all of the potential energy lost by the block. 5). Combining the previous three equations. (8.. If we adopt a more realistic model of a baseball bat. we analyzed the motion of a block sliding down a frictionless incline. it is more that two-thirds of the way along the bat). in which the bat is tapered such that the majority of its weight is located at its hitting end. of course.11 Combined translational and rotational motion In Sect.. There is. is converted into translational kinetic energy (see Sect. We found that the block accelerates down the slope with uniform acceleration g sin θ.11 Combined translational and rotational motion i.7.e.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. we obtain J =− 1− 3h h J=− 1− J. no matter how large we make J) zero impulse is applied to the hitter’s hands.86) where 2 l. the centre of percussion—of a uniform baseball bat lies two-thirds of the way down the bat from the hitter’s end. we can easily demonstrate that the centre of percussion is shifted further away from the hitter (i. In particular. in scientific terms. In this case. the moment of inertia of the bat about a perpendicular axis passing through one of its ends is 1 I = M l2 (8.. where θ is the angle subtended by the incline with the horizontal.87) 3 Clearly. l (8.84) b= . no energy is dissipated. 2 Moreover.e.

where M is the mass of the cylinder. it is far easier to drag a heavy suitcase across the concourse of an airport if the suitcase has wheels on the bottom. Thus. and. and rolls down the slope a vertical distance h. in particular. (8. rolling down rough inclines. due to the cylinder’s rotational motion. which implies v = 0. 83 rolls. (Recall that when a cylinder rolls without slipping there is no frictional energy loss. The velocity v of this point is made up of two components: the translational velocity v. Consider a uniform cylinder of radius b rolling over a horizontal. without slipping. or v = b ω. (8. suppose that there is no frictional energy dissipation as the cylinder moves over the surface. For instance. and let ω be the angular velocity of the cylinder about an axis running along its length. which is common to all elements of the cylinder. and passing through its centre of mass. See Fig.) However. If the cylinder starts from rest. now. then its gravitational potential energy decreases by −∆P = M g h. without dissipating energy—then the cylinder’s translational and rotational velocities are not independent. Consider the point of contact between the cylinder and the surface. or any other round object.88) Suppose that the cylinder rolls without slipping. Let v be the translational velocity of the cylinder’s centre of mass. a rolling cylinder can possesses two different types of kinetic energy. but satisfy a particular relationship (see the above equation). This decrease in potential energy must be offset by a corresponding increase in kinetic energy. down a rough slope whose angle of inclination.. This is only possible if there is zero net motion between the surface and the bottom of the cylinder.11 Combined translational and rotational motion object can roll over such a surface with hardly any dissipation.89) It follows that when a cylinder. with respect to the horizontal. if the cylinder slips as it rolls across the surface then this relationship no longer holds.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. 83.e. Let us investigate the physics of round objects rolling over rough surfaces. Firstly. rolls across a rough surface without slipping—i. is θ. In other words. translational 191 . Of course. frictional surface. and the tangential velocity vt = −b ω. v = v − vt = v − b ω. Consider. what happens when the cylinder shown in Fig.

92) and (8. (8. where v is the cylinder’s translational velocity.11 Combined translational and rotational motion ω centre of mass v b vt vt cylinder surface Figure 83: A cylinder rolling over a rough surface. then its final translational velocity would satisfy v2 = 2 g h. energy conservation yields 1 1 M g h = M v 2 + I ω2 .93) A comparison of Eqs. kinetic energy: Kt = (1/2) M v2 .8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. (8. (8. The reason for this is that. in the former case.92) 3 Now. Hence.91) Making use of the fact that the moment of inertia of a uniform cylinder about its axis of symmetry is I = (1/2) M b2 . (8. some of the potential energy released 192 .93) reveals that when a uniform cylinder rolls down an incline without slipping. rotational kinetic energy: Kr = (1/2) I ω2 . its final translational velocity is less than that obtained when the cylinder slides down the same incline without friction.90) that v2 = 2gh . such that it fell from rest through a vertical distance h.90) 2 2 Now. 1 + I/M b2 (8. and I is its moment of inertia. where ω is the cylinder’s angular velocity. (8. if the same cylinder were to slide down a frictionless slope. and. its translational and rotational velocities are related via Eq. It follows from Eq. secondly. when the cylinder rolls without slipping. (8. we can write the above equation more explicitly as 4 v2 = g h.89).

Let us examine the equations of motion of a cylinder. As shown in Fig. Firstly. This motion is equivalent to that of a point particle. R. rolling down a rough slope without slipping. M g. R.94) Furthermore. which is subject to the same external forces as those that act on the body. applying the three forces.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. whereas. of the slope. the cylinder’s total kinetic energy at the bottom of the incline is equal to the released potential energy. and f. 84. f. in both cases. of mass M and radius b. applied to the motion of the centre of mass 193 . which acts vertically downwards. which acts up the slope. there are three forces acting on the cylinder. we have the reaction. we can most easily describe the translational motion of an extended body by following the motion of its centre of mass. parallel to its surface. whose mass equals that of the body. and resolving in the direction normal to the surface of the slope. which acts normally outwards from the surface of the slope.11 Combined translational and rotational motion centre of mass cylinder f R Mg b slope θ Figure 84: A cylinder rolling down a rough incline. to the cylinder’s centre of mass. as the cylinder falls is converted into rotational kinetic energy. Secondly. M g. (8. in the latter case. As we have already discussed. we obtain R = M g cos θ. Finally. we have the cylinder’s weight. all of the released potential energy is converted into translational kinetic energy. we have the frictional force. Note that. Newton’s second law. Thus.

passes through the centre of mass of the cylinder.. R. yields M ˙ = M g sin θ − f. Thus. Now. 1 + I/M b2 194 (8. v where ˙ is the cylinder’s translational acceleration down the slope. and ω is its rotational acceleration. It follows that the associated torque is also zero. and so is the associated torque. according to Fig. 84. However. First. v Let us.11 Combined translational and rotational motion parallel to the slope. ˙ Now. from Fig. Finally. and the axis of rotation is just the radius of the cylinder. by definition. 84. the length of the lever arm associated with the weight M g is zero.98) (8. I ω = τ = f b. in this case.96) (8. now. examine the cylinder’s rotational equation of motion. that the torque associated with a given force is the product of the magnitude of that force and the length of the level arm—i. It is clear. without slipping.97) that ˙ = v g sin θ . such that the constraint (8. which coincides with the axis of rotation. f. ˙ where I is its moment of inertia. Hence. Recall. b—so the associated torque is f b. (8. v ˙ It follows from Eqs.99) .95) and (8. We conclude that the net torque acting on the cylinder is simply τ = f b. the length of the lever arm associated with R is zero. we must evaluate the torques associated with the three forces acting on the cylinder. if the cylinder rolls. (8. the perpendicular distance between the line of action of the force and the axis of rotation.97) (8. the perpendicular distance between the line of action of the friction force. the axis of rotation passes through the centre of mass.e.95) It follows that the rotational equation of motion of the cylinder takes the form. then the time derivative of this constraint implies the following relationship between the cylinder’s translational and rotational accelerations: ˙ = b ω. the weight of an extended object acts at its centre of mass.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. that the line of action of the reaction force.89) is satisfied at all times.

in the former case. the acceleration of the cylinder down the slope is retarded by friction. that the frictional force merely acts to convert translational kinetic energy into rotational kinetic energy. b. the condition for the cylinder to roll down the slope without slipping is f < µ R. and the same radius. side by side and at rest. that we place two cylinders. Suppose. and does not dissipate energy. is only two-thirds of the value obtained when the cylinder slides down the same slope without friction. finally. at the top of a frictional slope of inclination θ. the above expressions simplify to give 2 ˙ = g sin θ.102) 3 Note that the acceleration of a uniform cylinder as it rolls down a slope.101) 3 and 1 f = M g sin θ. It is clear from Eq. 1 + M b2 /I (8. this force must be less than the maximum allowable static frictional force.95) that.100) Since the moment of inertia of the cylinder is actually I = (1/2) M b 2 . (8. However. suppose that the first cylinder is uniform. (8. without slipping. For the case of the solid cylinder. Which cylinder reaches the bottom of the slope first. for which µ = 0. Note. (8. or tan θ < 3 µ. (8. Of course. v (8. however.103) This condition is easily satisfied for gentle slopes. and both roll without slipping? The acceleration of each cylinder down the slope is given by Eq. Let the two cylinders possess the same mass.99). assuming that they are both released simultaneously. µ R(= µ M g cos θ). (8.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. whereas the second is a hollow shell. M. where µ is the coefficient of static friction. in order for the slope to exert the frictional force specified in Eq.102). the moment of inertia is I = 195 . without any slippage between the slope and cylinder.11 Combined translational and rotational motion f = M g sin θ . but may well be violated for extremely steep slopes (depending on the size of µ). Now. In other words. the above condition is always violated for frictionless slopes.

(8.e. the same as that of a ring with a similar mass.3 s before reaching its final angular speed. What is the angular acceleration of the tire (assuming that this quantity remains constant)? What is the final angular speed of the tire? Answer: The tire turns through φ = 5. In fact.3 × 2 π = 33. and so 2 g sin θ.59 rad. (8.. with uniform angular acceleration α is φ= Hence. The relationship between φ and t for the case of rotational motion. α= 1 2 αt .99) suggests that whenever two different objects roll (without slipping) down the same slope. This suggests that a solid cylinder will always roll down a frictional incline faster than a hollow one.30 = = 12.3 196 . and axis of rotation). then the most compact object—i. starting from rest.1: Balancing tires Question: A tire placed on a balancing machine in a service station starts from rest and turns through 5.104) 3 For the case of the hollow cylinder. 2 2 t 2.11 Combined translational and rotational motion (1/2) M b2 . the object with the smallest I/M b2 ratio—always wins the race. the moment of inertia is I = M b2 (i.3 s.e.105) It is clear that the solid cylinder reaches the bottom of the slope before the hollow one (since it possesses the greater acceleration)./s2 .. Note that the accelerations of the two cylinders are independent of their sizes or masses. and so ˙solid = v ˙hollow = v 1 g sin θ. Worked example 8. 2 (8.3 revolutions in 2.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. Eq. 2 2 φ 2 × 33. in t = 2. radius. irrespective of their relative dimensions (assuming that they both roll without slipping).30 rad.

its angular velocity after t seconds takes the form ω = α t = 12. perpendicular to its length. is W = 5500 J. I= 2 = 2 ω 3.2: Accelerating a wheel Question: The net work done in accelerating a wheel from rest to an angular speed of 30 rev. what is its rotational kinetic energy? Answer: The moment of inertia of a rod of mass M and length L about an axis. What is the moment of inertia of the wheel? Answer: The final angular speed of the wheel is ω = 30 × 2 π/60 = 3.96 rad.59 × 2. What is the moment of inertia of the rod? Given that the rod’s instantaneous angular velocity is 60 deg. This is a standard result.6 kg m2 .2 m pivots about an axis.142 rad.142 W= Worked example 8. which passes through its midpoint is I = (1/12) M L 2 . which passes through one of its ends. we have 1 I ω2 ./s./min. perpendicular to its length.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. 2 where I is the wheel’s moment of inertia.11 Combined translational and rotational motion Given that the tire starts from rest./s. It follows that 2 × 5500 2W = 1114./s. Using the parallel axis theorem. Worked example 8. the moment of inertia about a parallel axis passing through one of the ends of the rod is L I =I+M 2 197 2 = 1 M L2 .3: Moment of inertia of a rod Question: A rod of mass M = 3 kg and length L = 1. Assuming that all of the work W performed on the wheel goes to increase its rotational kinetic energy. 3 .3 = 28.

/s.4 m. find the downward acceleration of the weight and the tension in the cable.44 kg m2 . Treating the pulley as a uniform disk. 180 Hence.4: Weight and pulley Question: A weight of mass m = 2.789 J. Assume that the cable does not slip with respect to the pulley.44 × 1.047 rad. and T the tension in the cable.6 kg is suspended via a light inextensible cable which is wound around a pulley of mass M = 6.11 Combined translational and rotational motion so 3 × 1. ω the instantaneous angular velocity of the pulley. the rod’s rotational kinetic energy is written K= 1 I ω2 = 0.22 = 1. we obtain m ˙ = m g − T. 2 Worked example 8.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. Applying Newton’s second law to the vertical motion of the weight.5 × 1. v 198 .4 kg and radius b = 0. I = 3 The instantaneous angular velocity of the rod is π ω = 60 × = 1.0472 = 0. b pulley T ω weight mg Answer: Let v be the instantaneous downward velocity of the weight.

and τ is the torque acting on the pulley. Thus. which is equal to the radius. Hence.81 ˙ = v = = 4. the moment of inertia of the pulley is I = (1/2) M b2 .4 Worked example 8.4/2 × 2.6 × 9. ˙ where I is its moment of inertia. the above expressions reduce to g 9. Hence. v ˙ The above equations can be combined to give g .3 m rotates about a fixed frictionless pivot located at one of its ends. v = b ω. then its downward velocity. The rod is released from rest at 199 . The torque associated with this force is the product of the tension.5: Hinged rod Question: A uniform rod of mass m = 5. 1 + m b2 /I Now.07 N. 1 + M/2 m 1 + 6. must match the tangential velocity of the outer surface of the pulley. of the pulley. ˙ = v 1 + I/m b2 mg T = . and the perpendicular distance from the line of action of this force to the rotation axis. If the cable does not slip with respect to the pulley. b. the only force acting on the pulley (whose line of action does not pass through the pulley’s axis of rotation) is the tension in the cable. Now.11 Combined translational and rotational motion The angular equation of motion of the pulley is written I ω = τ.6 2. b ω. T .3 kg and length l = 1. τ = T b.81 mg = = 14.40 m/s2 . It follows that ˙ = b ω.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. T = 1 + 2 m/M 1 + 2 × 2. v.6/6.

the torque acting on the rod is τ = m g x. This force acts at the centre of mass of the rod.11 Combined translational and rotational motion an angle θ = 35◦ beneath the horizontal. perpendicular to its length. which passes through one of its ends is I = (1/3) m l 2 (see question 8. 5. which is situated at the rod’s midpoint.986 kg m2 .81 × 0.3 × cos 35◦ x = cos θ = = 0.32 = 2. The perpendicular distance x between the line of action of the weight and the pivot point is simply l 1. I= 3 The angular equation of motion of the rod is I α = τ. Hence. It follows that the rod’s angular acceleration is written τ m g x 5.26 rad. 2 2 Thus.532 m.3 × 1.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. I I 2. the only force acting on the rod (whose line of action does not pass through the pivot) is the rod’s weight. m g.3 × 9. Now. where α is the rod’s angular acceleration.3). and τ is the net torque exerted on the rod./s2 . What is the angular acceleration of the rod immediately after it is released? pivot x θ l/2 rod l mg Answer: The moment of inertia of a rod of mass m and length l about an axis.532 α= = = = 9.986 200 .

˙ 201 .15./s about an axis.6: Horsepower of engine Question: A car engine develops a torque of τ = 500 N m and rotates at 3000 rev. the cylinder’s rotational equation of motion takes the form I ω = −f b.. What horsepower does the engine generate? (1 hp = 746 W).57 × 105 = 210. the power output of the engine is P = ω τ = 314. How long does it take before the cylinder starts to roll without slipping? What distance does the cylinder travel between its release point and the point at which it commences to roll without slipping? Answer: Let v be the velocity of the cylinder’s centre of mass.57 × 105 W.5 hp. which passes through its centre. M the cylinder’s mass. and I the cylinder’s moment of inertia. Answer: The angular speed of the engine is ω = 3000 × 2 π/60 = 314. The coefficient of friction of the surface is µ = 0. The cylinder is gently lowered onto a horizontal frictional surface. In units of horsepower. ω the cylinder’s angular velocity. f the frictional force exerted by the surface on the cylinder.12 rad. and released./min.12 × 500 = 1. Thus./s. parallel to its length. P= 746 Worked example 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion Worked example 8.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. this becomes 1. v Note that the friction force acts to accelerate the cylinder’s translational motion. Likewise.7: Rotating cylinder Question: A uniform cylinder of radius b = 0. The cylinder’s translational equation of motion is written M ˙ = f.25 m is given an angular speed of ω0 = 35 rad.

b. 202 . the moment of inertia of the cylinder is I= 1 M b2 ..8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8. at the surface: f = µ M g. If the cylinder is slipping with respect to the surface. times the normal reaction. the above expressions can be integrated to give v = µ g t. µ. f. M g. of the cylinder. v b ω = −2 µ g. ˙ Given that v = 0 (i. 2 The above equations can be solved to give ˙ = µ g. Note that the friction force acts to decelerate the cylinder’s rotational motion. which yields v − b ω = −(b ω0 − 3 µ g t). the cylinder is initially at rest) and ω = ω 0 at time t = 0.11 Combined translational and rotational motion ω cylinder b v surface f since the perpendicular distance between the line of action of f and the axis of rotation is the radius. v = b ω. Now. Finally.e. b ω = b ω0 − 2 µ g t. then the friction force. the cylinder stops slipping as soon as the “no slip” condition. is equal to the coefficient of friction.

5 × 0.81 Whilst it is slipping.81 × 1. 2 203 . This occurs when t= b ω0 0.15 × 9.88 m.98 s. the cylinder travels a distance x= 1 µ g t2 = 0.982 = 2.8 ROTATIONAL MOTION 8.11 Combined translational and rotational motion is satisfied.15 × 9. 3 µ g 3 × 0.25 × 35 = = 1.

and its rotational concomitant angular momentum. which rotates about an axis passing through the origin of our coordinate system. momentum. (9. 204 . It turns out that angular momentum is a sufficiently important concept to merit a separate discussion. and instantaneous velocity v.9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9 Angular momentum 9. position vector r. Namely. and the fingers of the right-hand are aligned with this rotation.2 Angular momentum of a point particle Consider a particle of mass m. if vector r rotates onto vector p (through an angle less than 180◦ ). 9.4) l = r × p. in the sense given by the right-hand grip rule. Consider the quantity This quantity—which is known as angular momentum—is a vector of magnitude l = r p sin θ. (9.1 Introduction Two physical quantities are noticeable by their absence in Table 3. See Fig.2) dt where f is the force acting on the particle.1) dp = f. (9. In other words.3) where θ is the angle subtended between the directions of r and p. then the thumb of the right-hand indicates the direction of l. 85. We know that the particle’s linear momentum is written p = m v. and satisfies (9. Let us search for the rotational equivalent of p. The direction of l is defined to be mutually perpendicular to the directions of r and p.

3) with respect to time. For the special case of a particle of mass m executing a circular orbit of radius r. in rotational dynamics.2 Angular momentum of a point particle l = r p sin θ p θ l origin O r particle Figure 85: Angular momentum of a point particle about the origin. (9. Also. p × p = 0. (9. We conclude that dl = τ. r (9. Hence.9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9. with instantaneous velocity v and instantaneous angular velocity ω. the magnitude of the particle’s angular momentum is simply l = m v r = m ω r2 . l. since the vector product of two parallel vectors is zero. We obtain dl ˙ = ˙ × p + r × p. Now. p.6) dt m However. we know that ˙ = v = p/m and p = f.9) .2).5) dt Note that the derivative of a vector product is formed in much the same manner as the derivative of an ordinary product. where τ is the torque acting on the particle about an axis passing through the origin. (9.8) dt Of course. which suggests that angular momentum. 205 r × f = τ. plays the role of linear momentum. we obtain r dl p×p = + r × f.7) (9. this equation is analogous to Eq. Let us differentiate Eq. except that the order of the various ˙ terms is preserved. (9. (9.

for a rigidly rotating object we can write (see Sect.13) Let us calculate the component of L along the object’s rotation axis—i.3 Angular momentum of an extended object Consider a rigid object rotating about some fixed axis with angular velocity ω. Incidentally.e.N (9. Let ω = ω k. It follows that L=ω i=1. 8. since a · b × c = a × b · c.11) mi ri × (k × ri ). (9. (9.16) i=1. and velocity vi .10) Now. The total angular momentum of the object.3 Angular momentum of an extended object 9.9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9. 206 i=1. (9. (9. (9. (9. L= i=1.4) vi = ω × r i . is simply the vector sum of the angular momenta of the N particles from which it is made up. Let us model this object as a swarm of N particles.15) Now. the above expression can be rewritten Lk = ω i=1.12) where k is a unit vector pointing along the object’s axis of rotation (in the sense given by the right-hand grip rule).N mi ri × vi .14) i=1. Hence. position vector ri .N mi |k × ri |2 ..N However.N mi (k × ri ) · (k × ri ) = ω mi |k × ri |2 = Ik . it is assumed that the object’s axis of rotation passes through the origin of our coordinate system. Suppose that the ith particle has mass mi . the component along the k axis.N . L. We can write Lk = L · k = ω mi k · ri × (k × ri ).

we obtain ^ ^ z L = Ix ωx x + Iy ωy y + Iz ωz ^. Note that the above equations are only valid when the x-. mutually perpendicular. This is a major difference from translational motion.17) According to the above formula. y-. Lz ) in the form L x = I x ωx . (see Sect.3 Angular momentum of an extended object where Ik is the moment of inertia of the object about the k axis. the answer to the above question is no! This conclusion follows because the body may possess non-zero angular momentum components about axes perpendicular to its axis of rotation. principal axes of rotation which pass through a given point in a rigid body. Ly . ωy . L z = I z ωz .9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9. the component of a rigid body’s angular momentum vector along its axis of rotation is simply the product of the body’s moment of inertia about this axis and the body’s angular velocity.19) (9. they must be aligned along the so-called principal axes of the object (these axes invariably coincide with the object’s main symmetry axes). Thus. Hence. Note that it is always possible to find three. (9. L y = I y ωy .21) where Ix is the moment of inertia of the object about the x-axis.20) (9. it is again assumed that the origin of our coordinate system lies on the object’s axis of rotation. and z-axes are aligned in a certain very special manner—in fact. where linear momentum is always found to be parallel to linear velocity. we can write the object’s angular momentum L = (Lx . in general. (9. For a rigid object rotating with angular velocity ω = (ωx . 8.6). Does this result imply that we can automatically write L = I ω? (9. ωz ). the angular momentum vector of a rotating body is not parallel to its angular velocity vector. 207 (9. Here. Reconstructing L from its components.18) Unfortunately. etc. in general. it follows that Lk = Ik ω.22) .

or y.3 Angular momentum of an extended object ^ where x is a unit vector pointing along the x-axis. located a distance r from the origin. so that ω = ω z ^. In other words. if Ix = Iy = Iz = I then L = I ω.22) suggests that the angular momentum of a rigid object is not generally parallel to its angular velocity. (9. However. It follows z from Eq. there must be an identical particle located on diagrammatically the opposite side of the rotation axis. a perpendicular axis which passes through the centre of a uniform disk is a principal axis. this equation also implies that there are. Thus. It is clear. 208 . etc. We conclude that when a rigid object rotates about one of its principal axes then its angular momentum is parallel to its angular velocity. How can we identify a principal axis of a rigid object? At the simplest level. which is usually the case. The same can be said for rotation about the x. Likewise. symmetry implies that any axis of rotation which passes through the centre of a uniform sphere is a principal axis of that object. parallel to ω. Finally. Although Eq. the angular momentum vector is parallel to the angular velocity vector. if Ix = Iy = Iz . otherwise. that the object rotates about the z-axis. three special axes of rotation for which this is the case. For instance. (9. in this case. The generalization of this argument to deal with continuous objects is fairly straightforward.23) Thus. but not. a perpendicular axis which passes through the centre of a uniform rod is a principal axis. then L is not. Assuming that the object can be modeled as a swarm of particles—for every particle of mass m. z (9. a principal axis is one about which the object possesses axial symmetry. the angular momentum vectors of such a matched pair of particles can be added together to form a resultant angular momentum vector which is parallel to the axis of rotation. in general. The required type of symmetry is illustrated in Fig.22) that L = Iz ωz ^ = Iz ω. for instance.axes. at least. and the angular momentum and angular velocity vectors are always parallel. As shown in the diagram. that the reason L is not generally parallel to ω is because the moments of inertia of a rigid object about its different possible axes of rotation are not generally the same.9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9. from the above equation. if the object is composed entirely of matched particle pairs then its angular momentum vector must be parallel to its angular velocity vector. Suppose. and subtending an angle θ with the rotation axis. 86. in general.

In other words.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system ω l2 v2 m l l2 l1 r θ O θ r Figure 86: A principal axis of rotation. whose mass is mi . Such a system might represent a true multi-component system. acting between particles i and j. be located at vector displacement ri . that the ith particle is subject to an external force Fi . the force fij exerted by the jth particle on the ith is given by fij = −fji . 209 . 87. Let the ith particle. since most forces occurring in nature are central forces. and the internal stresses acting within a rigid body are approximately central. the force fij . gravity is a central force. Suppose that this particle exerts a force fji on the jth particle.25) Incidentally. (9. this is not a particularly restrictive assumption. or it might represent an extended body.24) Let us assume that the internal forces acting within the system are central forces— i.9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM axis of rotation l1 v1 m 9. 9. electrostatic forces are central. Suppose.e. finally. fij ∝ (ri − rj ).4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system Consider a system consisting of N mutually interacting point particles. is directed along the line of centres of these particles.. (9. such as an asteroid cloud. By Newton’s third law of motion. For instance. See Fig.

29) Hence. (9.30) .9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM f ij 9. summing Eq.28) dt We also know that the total angular momentum.j=1. of the system (about the origin) can be written in the form ˙ ri × pi = L= i=1.26) Taking the vector product of this equation with the position vector r i . The equation of motion of the ith particle can be written j=i ˙ pi = j=1. L. (9. (9. dt i. (9. we obtain dL = ri × fij + ri × Fi .N fij + Fi . we obtain j=i ˙ ri × pi = Now.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system Fi mi line of centres r i Fj mj r j f ji Figure 87: A multi-component system with central internal forces.27) d(ri × pi ) .N ri × p i .N 210 i=j (9.27) over all particles.N ri × fij + ri × Fi . (9.N i=1. we have already seen that j=1.

30) sums to zero. (9. (9. rj × fji . A general term. in this case. the vector product of these two vectors is zero.33) that. Conservation of angular momentum is an extremely useful concept which greatly simplifies the analysis of a wide range of rotating systems. such that it is subject to zero net external torque. We conclude that ri × fij + rj × fji = 0.24). It follows from Eq. in which the indices have been swapped.N (9. the total angular momentum of the system is a conserved quantity.33) is simply the rotational equation of motion for the system taken as a whole.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system Consider the first expression on the right-hand side of Eq. Suppose that the system is isolated.32) for any values of i and j. Eq. Let us consider some examples. To be more exact. dt where τ= i=1. Suppose that two identical weights of mass m are attached to a light rigid rod which rotates without friction about a perpendicular axis passing through its midpoint. (9.33) ri × Fi (9. Of course. (9. (9. Let 211 . ri × fij . Hence.34) is the net external torque acting on the system (about an axis passing through the origin). the sum of a general matched pair can be written ri × fij + rj × fji = (ri − rj ) × fij . the components of the total angular momentum taken about any three independent axes are individually conserved quantities.9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9.30). (9. Making use of Eq. We are left with dL = τ. the first expression on the right-hand side of Eq. if the internal forces are central in nature then fij is parallel to (ri − rj ). Thus.31) However. in this sum can always be paired with a matching term. (9. Imagine that the two weights are equipped with small motors which allow them to travel along the rod: the motors are synchronized in such a manner that the distance of the two weights from the axis of rotation is always the same.

37) In other words. (9. and then draws her arms inwards.35) Since the system is rotating about a principal axis. When a skater spins about a vertical axis. then her rate of rotation will spontaneously increase in order to conserve angular momentum.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system ω axle m m d d rod weight Figure 88: Two movable weights on a rotating rod. How does the angular velocity ω change as the distance d is varied? Note that there are no external torques acting on the system. Thus. See Fig.36) If L is a constant of the motion then we obtain ω d2 = constant. and let ω be the angular velocity of the rod. 212 . us call this common distance d.9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM 9. her angular momentum is approximately a conserved quantity. Neglecting the contribution of the rod. It follows that the system’s angular momentum must remain constant as the weights move along the rod. the moment of inertia of the system is written I = 2 m d2 . The skater can slow her rate of rotation by simply pushing her arms outwards again. (9. its angular momentum takes the form L = I ω = 2 m d2 ω. the system spins faster as the weights move inwards towards the axis of rotation. (9. This effect is familiar from figure skating. since the ice exerts very little torque on her. and vice versa. if the skater starts spinning with outstretched arms. 88.

9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM
bullet v m

9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system

M b d pivot rod

Figure 89: A bullet strikes a pivoted rod.

Suppose that a bullet of mass m and velocity v strikes, and becomes embedded in, a stationary rod of mass M and length 2 b which pivots about a frictionless perpendicular axle passing through its mid-point. Let the bullet strike the rod normally a distance d from its axis of rotation. See Fig. 89. What is the instantaneous angular velocity ω of the rod (and bullet) immediately after the collision? Taking the bullet and the rod as a whole, this is again a system upon which no external torque acts. Thus, we expect the system’s net angular momentum to be the same before and after the collision. Before the collision, only the bullet possesses angular momentum, since the rod is at rest. As is easily demonstrated, the bullet’s angular momentum about the pivot point is l = mvd : (9.38) i.e., the product of its mass, its velocity, and its distance of closest approach to the point about which the angular momentum is measured—this is a general result (for a point particle). After the collision, the bullet lodges a distance d from the pivot, and is forced to co-rotate with the rod. Hence, the angular momentum of the bullet after the collision is given by l = m d2 ω, (9.39) where ω is the angular velocity of the rod. The angular momentum of the rod after the collision is L = I ω, (9.40)
213

9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM

9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system

where I = (1/12) M (2 b)2 = (1/3) M b2 is the rod’s moment of inertia (about a perpendicular axis passing through its mid-point). Conservation of angular momentum yields l = l + L, (9.41) or ω= mvd . I + m d2 (9.42)

Worked example 9.1: Angular momentum of a missile Question: A missile of mass m = 2.3×104 kg flies level to the ground at an altitude of d = 10, 000 m with constant speed v = 210 m/s. What is the magnitude of the missile’s angular momentum relative to a point on the ground directly below its flight path?
θ v

d

r

r

O

ground

Answer: The missile’s angular momentum about point O is L = m v r sin θ, where θ is the angle subtended between the missile’s velocity vector and its position vector relative to O. However, r sin θ = d, where d is the distance of closest approach of the missile to point O. Hence, L = m v d = (2.3 × 104 ) × 210 × (1 × 104 ) = 4.83 × 1010 kg m2 /s.
214

9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM

9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system

Worked example 9.2: Angular momentum of a sphere Question: A uniform sphere of mass M = 5 kg and radius a = 0.2 m spins about an axis passing through its centre with period T = 0.7 s. What is the angular momentum of the sphere? Answer: The angular velocity of the sphere is 2π 2π ω= = = 8.98 rad./s. T 0.7 The moment of inertia of the sphere is 2 I = M a2 = 0.4 × 5 × (0.2)2 = 0.08 kg m2 . 5 Hence, the angular momentum of the sphere is L = I ω = 0.08 × 8.98 = 0.718 kg m2 /s. Worked example 9.3: Spinning skater Question: A skater spins at an initial angular velocity of ω1 = 11 rad./s with her arms outstretched. The skater then lowers her arms, thereby decreasing her moment of inertia by a factor 8. What is the skater’s final angular velocity? Assume that any friction between the skater’s skates and the ice is negligible. Answer: Neglecting any friction between the skates and the ice, we expect the skater to spin with constant angular momentum. The skater’s initial angular momentum is L 1 = I 1 ω1 , where I1 is the skater’s initial moment of inertia. The skater’s final angular momentum is L 2 = I 2 ω2 , where I2 is the skater’s final moment of inertia, and ω2 is her final angular velocity. Conservation of angular momentum yields L1 = L2 , or I1 ω2 = ω2 . I2
215

9 ANGULAR MOMENTUM

9.4 Angular momentum of a multi-component system

Now, we are told that I1 /I2 = 8. Hence, ω2 = 8 × 11 = 88 rad./s.

216

10 STATICS

10

Statics

10.1 Introduction Probably the most useful application of the laws of mechanics is the study of situations in which nothing moves—this discipline is known as statics. The principles of statics are employed by engineers whenever they design stationary structures, such as buildings, bridges, and tunnels, in order to ensure that these structures do not collapse.

10.2 The principles of statics Consider a general extended body which is subject to a number of external forces. Let us model this body as a swarm of N point particles. In the limit that N → ∞, this model becomes a fully accurate representation of the body’s dynamics. In Sect. 6.3 we determined that the overall translational equation of motion of a general N-component system can be written in the form dP = F. dt Here, P is the total linear momentum of the system, and F=
i=1,N

(10.1)

Fi

(10.2)

is the resultant of all the external forces acting on the system. Note that F i is the external force acting on the ith component of the system. Equation (10.1) effectively determines the translational motion of the system’s centre of mass. Note, however, that in order to fully determine the motion of the system we must also follow its rotational motion about its centre of mass (or any other convenient reference point). In Sect. 9.4 we determined that the overall rotational equation of motion of a general N-component system (with central
217

ri is the vector displacement of the ith component of the system. P. In other words.2 The principles of statics internal forces) can be written in the form dL = τ. What conditions must be satisfied by the various external forces and torques acting on the system if it is to remain stationary in time? Well. these are the principles of statics. It follows from Eqs. and τ= ri × Fi (10.N is the resultant of all the external torques acting on the system (about the origin of our coordinate scheme).3) Here. In a nutshell. and its net angular momentum.4) i=1.6) In other words.10 STATICS 10. dt (10. (10. To be more exact: The components of the net external force acting along any three independent directions must all be zero. the net external force acting on system must be zero. 218 . L is the total angular momentum of the system (about the origin of our coordinate scheme). (10.1) and (10. dP/dt = dL/dt = 0.3) that F = 0. In the above. L. if the system does not evolve in time then its net linear momentum. τ = 0. and The magnitudes of the net external torques acting about any three independent axes (passing through the origin of the coordinate system) must all be zero.5) (10. must both remain constant. and the net external torque acting on the system must be zero.

N  ri × Fi − r 0 ×   i=1. Hence. so that some components of the body can move independently of others. we can rewrite the above expression as τ = i=1.N  Fi  = τ + r0 × F. does it matter about which point we calculate the net torque acting on the system? To be more exact. then the above principles are necessary and sufficient conditions for the existence of an equilibrium state. are they also sufficient conditions? In other words. Hence. if we determine that the net torque acting about a given point is zero does this necessarily imply that the net torque acting about any other point is also zero? Well. there are a couple of important points which need clarification. But. is it necessarily true that a general system which satisfies these conditions does not exhibit any time variation? The answer to this question is as follows: if the system under investigation is a rigid body. we can choose the point about which 219 .2 The principles of statics It is clear that the above principles are necessary conditions for a general physical system not to evolve in time.N is the net torque acting on the system about the origin of our coordinate scheme. Firstly. if the system is not a rigid body.N (ri − r0 ) × Fi . for a system in equilibrium. On the other hand. τ= ri × Fi (10.8) However. if the system is in equilibrium then F = τ = 0. (10.  (10. such that the motion of any component of the body necessarily implies the motion of the whole body. it follows from the above equation that τ = 0. (10. the determination that the net torque acting about a given point is zero necessarily implies that the net torque acting about any other point is also zero. then the above conditions only guarantee that the system remains static in an average sense. Before we attempt to apply the principles of statics.9) Now.10 STATICS 10.7) i=1. The net torque about some general point r0 is simply τ = i=1.10) In other words.

and let C be the centre of mass of the object.11.N  mi ri  × g = rcm × M g.N mi is the total mass of the system.N  ri × m i g =   i=1. what is the object’s equilibrium configuration in this field? Let O represent the pivot point. See Fig. whereas θ is the angle subtended between the line OC and the downward 220 . 10.10 STATICS 10. Let us now justify this assumption. that the net gravitational torque acting on the system about a given point can be calculated by assuming that the total mass of the system is concentrated at its centre of mass. from the above equation.3 Equilibrium of a laminar object in a gravitational field we calculate the net torque at will—this choice is usually made so as to simplify the calculation. in Sect. The external force acting on the ith component of the system due to its weight is Fi = mi g.12) where M = i=1. the net gravitational torque acting on the system about the origin of our coordinate scheme is τ= i=1. (10.3 Equilibrium of a laminar object in a gravitational field Consider a general laminar object which is free to pivot about a fixed perpendicular axis.  (10. 8. Hence. Suppose that r represents the distance between points O and C. Assuming that the object is placed in a uniform gravitational field (such as that on the surface of the Earth). we effectively answered this question by assuming that the weight acts at the centre of mass of the system. and rcm = i=1.N mi ri /M is the position vector of its centre of mass.11) where g is the acceleration due to gravity (which is assumed to be uniform throughout the system). 90. At which point should we assume that the weight of the system acts in order to calculate the contribution of the weight to the net torque acting about a given point? Actually. It follows. Another question which needs clarification is as follows.

there must be zero net external force acting on the object. which implies that θ = 0 ◦ . 221 . due to the pivot. there is the downward force. Hence. M g. First.3 Equilibrium of a laminar object in a gravitational field O θ d r h C Mg Figure 90: A laminar object pivoting about a fixed point in a gravitational field. Now. R. M is the mass of the object. 90). In other words. the reaction is of magnitude M g and is directed vertically upwards. Second. R. In other words. which acts at the centre of mass.13) Setting this torque to zero. the torque associated with the gravitational force. due to gravity. (10. Here. The second condition is that there must be zero net torque acting about the pivot point. M g. 90 to represent an equilibrium configuration. there is the reaction. is equal and opposite to the gravitational force. This implies that the reaction. and g is the acceleration due to gravity. the net torque acting on the system about the pivot point is τ = M g d = M g r sin θ.10 STATICS 10. There are two external forces acting on the object. is simply the magnitude of this force times the length of the lever arm. Moreover. the reaction. which acts at the pivot point. does not generate a torque. the equilibrium configuration of a general laminar object (which is free to rotate about a fixed perpendicular axis in a uniform gravitational field) is that in which the centre of mass of the object is aligned vertically below the pivot point. Two conditions must be satisfied in order for a given configuration of the object shown in Fig. M g. vertical. d (see Fig. since it acts at the pivot point. First. R. we obtain sin θ = 0.

(10. The second. whereas θ = 180◦ corresponds to a maximum. since the former root corresponds to a stable equilibrium. is simply U = −M g h = −M g r cos θ. successively. 5. corresponds to the case where the centre of mass of the object is aligned vertically below the pivot point. is to evaluate the gravitational potential energy of the system. Of course. In each equilibrium configuration.3 Equilibrium of a laminar object in a gravitational field Incidentally. We would need to suspend the object from two different pivot points. we would mark a line running vertically downward from the pivot point.) It can be seen that θ = 0◦ corresponds to a minimum of this potential. in fact. 90. Our discussion of the equilibrium configuration of the laminar object shown in Fig. We have determined that the condition which must be satisfied by an equilibrium state is sin θ = 0. two physical roots of this equation.10 STATICS 10. We recall. using a plumb-line. 222 . whereas the unstable equilibrium points correspond to maxima.7. in the present case. However. 90 is not quite complete. we can use the above result to experimentally determine the centre of mass of a given laminar object.7. the stable equilibrium points correspond to minima of the potential energy associated with this field. θ = 180◦ . the former root is far more important than the latter.14) (Note that the gravitational potential energy of an extended object can be calculated by imagining that all of the mass of the object is concentrated at its centre of mass. and vice versa for an unstable equilibrium. corresponds to the case where the centre of mass is aligned vertically above the pivot point. This is in accordance with Sect. whereas the latter corresponds to an unstable equilibrium. θ = 0◦ . where it was demonstrated that whenever an object moves in a conservative force-field (such as a gravitational field). that when a system is slightly disturbed from a stable equilibrium then the forces and torques which act upon it tend to return it to this equilibrium. The potential energy of the object shown in Fig. The crossing point of these two lines would indicate the position of the centre of mass. The easiest way to distinguish between stable and unstable equilibria. from Sect. 5. The first. calculated using the height of the pivot as the reference height. there are.

There are three forces acting on the rod: the gravitational force. See Fig. 91. T1 and T2 . and the two tension forces. measured along the length of the rod.17) . Hence. which yields T1 + T2 − M g = 0. x2 − x 1 223   (10. 2 (10. The contribution of each force to this torque is simply the product of the magnitude of the force and the length of the associated lever arm. Hence.15) Consider the torques exerted by the three above-mentioned forces about point A. 91). about an axis perpendicular to the plane of the diagram. M g. The previous two equations can be solved to give T1 x2 − l/2  =  M g. the length of the lever arm is equivalent to the distance of the point of action of the force from A. It is assumed that x2 > x1 . In each case. Each of these torques attempts to twist the rod about an axis perpendicular to the plane of the diagram. Let the points of attachment of the two cables be located distances x1 and x2 from one of the ends of the rod. is zero. which is situated at the rod’s mid-point.4 Rods and cables 10. Each of these forces is directed vertically. the condition that zero net force acts on the system reduces to the condition that the net vertical force is zero. has a minus sign in front. What are the tensions. setting the net torque to zero.16) Note that the torque associated with the gravitational force. we obtain x 1 T1 + x 2 T2 − l M g = 0. labeled A. T1 and T2 . a distance l/2 from reference point A (see Fig. the condition that zero net torque acts on the system reduces to the condition that the net torque at point A. in the cables? Let us first locate the centre of mass of the rod. (10.10 STATICS 10. Thus. M g. because this torque obviously attempts to twist the rod in the opposite direction to the torques associated with the tensions in the cables.4 Rods and cables Consider a uniform rod of mass M and length l which is suspended horizontally via two vertical cables.

that in order for the tensions T1 and T2 to remain positive (given that x2 > x1 ). T . what is the magnitude of the tension. Consider a uniform rod of mass M and length l which is free to rotate in the vertical plane about a fixed pivot attached to one of its ends. The other end of the rod is attached to a fixed cable. It is clear.20) l/2 − x1  M g. at the pivot? 224 . and that the cable subtends an angle θ with the horizontal. when cables are compressed they simply collapse.18) In other words. from the above expressions.4 Rods and cables x2 x1 A l/2 Mg Figure 91: A horizontal rod suspended by two vertical cables. the following conditions must be satisfied: x1 < x2 l . 92.10 STATICS 10. 2 l > . Assuming that the rod is in equilibrium. We can imagine that both the pivot and the cable are anchored in the same vertical wall. since this would imply that the cables in question were being compressed.19) (10. in the cable. Of course. the attachment points of the two cables must straddle the centre of mass of the rod. Suppose that the rod is level. and what is the direction and magnitude of the reaction. =  x2 − x 1   (10. See Fig. T 1 T 2 T2 Recall that tensions in flexible cables can never be negative. R. 2 (10.

the weight. and is directed along the cable. The reaction acts at the pivot. resolving vertically. Simple trigonometry reveals that the length of the lever arm associated with the tension. The length of the lever arm associated with the weight. T . M g. The reaction. Finally. M g.4 Rods and cables wall cable pivot R T φ l Mg rod θ Figure 92: A rod suspended by a fixed pivot and a cable. is l/2. T . R. R. and is directed vertically downwards. The weight acts at the centre of mass of the rod.10 STATICS 10. and setting the net vertical force acting on the rod to zero. As usual. 92. Hence. we obtain R sin φ + T sin θ − M g = 0. and the tension. we obtain R cos φ − T cos θ = 0.22) The above constraints are sufficient to ensure that zero net force acts on the rod. Resolving horizontally. is l sin θ. setting the net torque 225 . Let us evaluate the net torque acting at the pivot point (about an axis perpendicular to the plane of the diagram). as shown in Fig. Let φ be the angle subtended by the reaction with the horizontal. and setting the net horizontal force acting on the rod to zero. does not contribute to this torque. since it acts at the pivot point. (10. the tension acts at the end of the rod.21) Likewise. the centre of mass of the rod lies at its mid-point. (10. There are three forces acting on the rod: the reaction.

23).23) 2 Note that there is a minus sign in front of the second torque. as shown in Fig. then these forces are either mutually parallel. as shown in Fig. or their lines of action pass through the same point. we obtain l − T l sin θ = 0. 92. since this torque clearly attempts to twist the rod in the opposite sense to the first. This is an illustration of a general rule. Mg Equations (10. (10.10 STATICS 10. (10. (10. One important point to note about the above solution is that if φ = θ then the lines of action of the three forces—R.24) into Eq.26) (10.21) and (10. as shown in Fig. (10. Eqs. Finally. (10.25) yield Mg T =R= .5 Ladders and walls about the pivot point to zero. whenever a rigid body is in equilibrium under the action of three forces. M g.24) (10. we obtain sin(θ + φ) = 2 sin θ cos φ.27) 2 sin θ which determines both the magnitude of the tension in the cable and that of the reaction at the pivot. sin(θ + φ) cos θ R = M g. 91. making an angle θ with the horizontal.5 Ladders and walls Suppose that a ladder of length l and negligible mass is leaning against a vertical wall. A workman of mass M climbs 226 . 92.25) The physical solution of this equation is φ = θ (recall that sin 2 θ = 2 sin θ cos θ).24) and (10. 10.22) can be solved to give cos φ M g. sin(θ + φ) T = Substituting Eq. Namely. and T —intersect at the same point. (10. which determines the direction of the reaction at the pivot.

and the frictional force. we obtain S − f = 0. acts at the top of the ladder. a distance x along the ladder. and is directed horizontally. measured from the bottom. we obtain R − M g = 0. acts at the bottom of the ladder.10 STATICS wall 10. we note that only the forces M g and S contribute. The lever arm associated with the force S is l sin θ. of the workman. S. See Fig. and is directed vertically downwards. f.5 Ladders and walls S workman Mg l ladder x θ R ground f Figure 93: A ladder leaning against a vertical wall. Fur227 . and setting the net vertically force acting on the ladder to zero.. f.e.28) Resolving vertically. R. the reaction. R. How far up the ladder can the workman climb before it slips along the ground? Is it possible for the workman to climb to the top of the ladder without any slippage occurring? There are four forces acting on the ladder: the weight. 93. Resolving horizontally. and is directed horizontally (i. the frictional force. but that the ground possesses a coefficient of static friction µ. at the wall. due to the ground. The weight acts at the position of the workman. at the ground. (10.. S. also acts at the bottom of the ladder. normal to the surface of the wall). The reaction.29) Evaluating the torque acting about the point where the ladder touches the ground. (10. and setting the net horizontal force acting on the ladder to zero. and is directed vertically upwards (i. Suppose that the wall is completely frictionless. The reaction. normal to the ground). The lever arm associated with the force M g is x cos θ.e. M g. the reaction. Finally.

as shown in Fig. and f=S= x M g. (10.35) Note that if tan θ > 1/µ then the workman can climb all the way along the ladder without any slippage occurring. The above three equations can be solved to give R = M g.31) (10. and what are the reactions at the joints? Let X1 . and are then suspended from a cable. l tan θ (10. 94. and let Y1 . Hence. when θ → 90 ◦ ).6 Jointed rods Suppose that three identical uniform rods of mass M and length l are joined together to form an equilateral triangle. X2 . 94.30) Now.. and Y3 be the corresponding vertical reactions. as shown in Fig.6 Jointed rods thermore. This condition reduces to x < l µ tan θ.33) .32) (10. What is the tension in the cable.e. setting the net torque about the bottom of the ladder to zero. In drawing this diagram. 10. we have made use of the fact that the rods exert equal and opposite 228 (10. the furthest distance that the workman can climb along the ladder before it slips is xmax = l µ tan θ. Y2 .34) Thus. and X3 be the horizontal reactions at the three joints. the torques associated with these two forces act in opposite directions. (10.10 STATICS 10. the condition for the ladder not to slip with respect to the ground is f < µ R. we obtain M g x cos θ − S l sin θ = 0. This result suggests that ladders leaning against walls are less likely to slip when they are almost vertical (i.

−Y2 − Y3 − M g = 0. Y2 − Y1 − M g = 0. 229 (10. it is clear. (10. Setting the horizontal and vertical forces acting on rod AC to zero.40) (10. the above equations can be solved to give T = 3 M g. (10. (10.36) (10. we obtain X3 − X2 = 0. Thus. we obtain X1 − X3 = 0.37) respectively.42) .38) (10. in accordance with Newton’s third law. T + Y1 + Y3 − M g = 0. Finally. Let T be the tension in the cable. we obtain X2 − X1 = 0. that X1 = X3 and Y1 = Y3 . reactions on one another. Incidentally.41) respectively. Setting the horizontal and vertical forces acting on rod AB to zero. from symmetry.6 Jointed rods Figure 94: Three identical jointed rods.39) respectively.10 STATICS cable Y 1 X1 A θ Y 1 rod Mg X2 X1 Mg Y 2 θ C Y 2 T Y 3 l X3 θ Y 3 Mg X2 B X3 10. setting the horizontal and vertical forces acting on rod BC to zero.

1: Equilibrium of two rods Question: Suppose that two uniform rods (of negligible thickness) are welded together at right-angles.47) X=− =− √ . X1 = X2 = X3 = X.10 STATICS 10. (10. X. There now remains only one unknown. Let the origin of our 230 . 2 tan θ 2 3 √ since θ = 60◦ . Suppose that the system is suspended from a pivot point located at the free end of the first rod.43) (10.4 kg and length l2 = 0. Let the first rod be of mass m1 = 5. M g. Y1 = Y3 = −M g.7 m. we obtain M g (l/2) cos θ + X l sin θ = 0. (Recall that the reaction Y2 is zero).46) Worked example 10. and all the reactions at the joints.45) Now. it is clear.44) (10. from symmetry. What angle θ does the first rod subtend with the downward vertical in this state? Answer: Let us adopt a coordinate system in which the x-axis runs parallel to the second rod.3 m. (10. setting the net torque to zero.6 Jointed rods Y2 = 0. respectively. that there is zero net torque acting on rod AB. and the reaction X2 = X. (By symmetry. Thus. which yields Mg Mg (10. Let the second rod be of mass m2 = 3. this is the same as the torque acting on rod BC about point B). We have now fully determined the tension in the cable. as shown in the diagram below.2 kg and length l1 = 1. The two forces which contribute to this torque are the weight. whereas the y-axis runs parallel to the first. Let us evaluate the torque acting on rod AC about point A. The lever arms associated with these two torques (which act in the same direction) are (l/2) cos θ and l sin θ. and tan 60◦ = 3. and then allowed to reach a stable equilibrium state.

and the first rod is simply θ = tan−1 xcm = tan−1 0.10 STATICS 10.3/2 + 3. l1 ). the centre of mass of the second rod is situated at its mid-point.6 and ycm = m1 l1 /2 + m2 l1 5. ycm When the system reaches a stable equilibrium state then its centre of mass is aligned directly below the pivot point. whose coordinates are (x1 .6 The angle θ subtended between the line joining the pivot point and the overall centre of mass.3 m 1 y1 + m 2 y2 = = = 0.152 = 8. m1 + m 2 2 m1 + m 2 2 × 8. y1 ) = (0. The centre of mass of the first rod is situated at its mid-point. 231 . l1 /2).138 m.7 xcm = = = = 0.65◦ . Likewise. whose coordinates are (x2 . m1 + m 2 m1 + m 2 8. It follows that the coordinates of the centre of mass of the whole system are given by m 1 x1 + m 2 x2 1 m 2 l2 3.65◦ with the downward vertical. This implies that the first rod subtends an angle θ = 8.4 × 1.4 × 0.6 Jointed rods pivot x y l1 l2 coordinate system correspond to the pivot point.907 m. y2 ) = (l2 /2.2 × 1.

2 . The angle θ is 40◦ .6 Jointed rods Worked example 10. The torque due to the weight of the second mass is m2 g l2 . the weight times the length of the lever arm). Masses m1 = 36 kg and m2 = 24 kg are suspended from the rod at positions l1 = 0.81 = sin 40◦ = 486. as shown in the figure below. setting the net torque to zero. we obtain mg or T = [m/2 + m1 (l1 /l) + m2 (l2 /l)] g sin θ [0. What is the tension T in the cable? rod pin l1 l2 m1 l m2 θ cable Answer: Consider the torque acting on the rod about the pin.2: Rod supported by a cable Question: A uniform rod of mass m = 15 kg and length l = 3 m is supported in a horizontal position by a pin and a cable. which is located at the rod’s mid-point. Finally. Note that the weight of the rod acts at its centre of mass.. The torque due to the weight of the rod is m g l/2 (i.5 × 15 + 36 × (0. the torque due to the tension in the cable is −T l sin θ (this torque is negative since it twists the rod in the opposite sense to the other three torques).3 m.3/3)] × 9.e.5/3) + 24 × (2. Note that the reaction at the pin makes no contribution to this torque (since the length of the associated lever arm is zero). Hence.84 N.5 m and l2 = 2. The torque due to the weight of the first mass is m1 g l1 .10 STATICS 10. 232 l + m1 g l1 + m2 g l2 − T l sin θ = 0.

as measured along the ladder. The lever arms associated with these three forces are (l/2) cos θ.10 STATICS 10. setting the net torque to zero. at the wall. respectively.3: Leaning ladder Question: A uniform ladder of mass m = 40 kg and length l = 10 m is leaned against a smooth vertical wall. which acts at the top of the ladder. as shown in the diagram. which acts half-way along the ladder. What is the force exerted by the wall on the ladder? What is the normal force exerted by the floor on the ladder? wall S person l Mg mg d ladder x θ R ground f Answer: The angle θ subtended by the ladder with the ground satisfies θ = cos−1 (d/l) = cos−1 (1. let R be the normal reaction at the ground. and l sin θ. the weight.6 Jointed rods Worked example 10.2 m from the bottom of the wall.11◦ .2/10) = 83. x cos θ. Note that the reaction force acts to twist the ladder in the opposite sense to the two weights. Let S be the normal reaction at the wall. The foot of the ladder is d = 1. m g. Hence. 2 233 . A person of mass M = 80 kg stands on the ladder a distance x = 7 m from the bottom. M g. and let f be the frictional force exerted by the ground on the ladder. which acts a distance x along the ladder. and the reaction. of the ladder. S. of the person. Only three forces contribute to this torque: the weight. we obtain mg l cos θ + M g x cos θ − S l sin θ = 0. Consider the torque acting on the ladder about the point where it meets the ground.

Here. What are the reactions at these supports when the truck is one third of the way across the bridge? R l/3 truck S l Mg mg bridge Answer: Let R and S be the reactions at the bridge supports. R is the reaction at the support closest to the truck.11◦ The condition that zero net vertical force acts on the ladder yields R − m g − M g = 0.6 Jointed rods which yields S= (m g/2 + M g x/l) (0. we obtain R + S − M g − m g = 0. Worked example 10.5 × 40 × 9. The bridge is supported at its two end-points. we get M g l/3 + m g l/2 − S l = 0. Setting the torque acting on the bridge about the left-most support to zero. Setting the net vertical force acting on the bridge to zero. tan θ tan 83.09 N.81 × 7/10) = = 90. 234 .81 + 80 × 9.4: Truck crossing a bridge Question: A truck of mass M = 5000 kg is crossing a uniform horizontal bridge of mass m = 1000 kg and length l = 100 m.10 STATICS 10.81 = 1177. R = (m + M) g = (40 + 80) × 9.2 N. Hence.

and X3 . It follows from the above two equations that S = M g/3 + m g/2 = 5000 × 9.10 STATICS 10.5: Rod supported by a strut Question: A uniform horizontal rod of mass m = 15 kg is attached to a vertical wall at one end. Let the corresponding horizontal reactions be Y1 . Y2 . and is supported.81/3 + 1000 × 9. X2 .13 × 104 = 3. Find the horizontal and vertical reactions at the point where the strut is attached to the rod.6 Jointed rods Here.76 × 104 N. 235 .13 × 104 N. from below. Worked example 10.81/2 = 2. and subtends an angle of θ = 30◦ with the rod. Here. we have made use of the fact that the strut and the rod exert equal and opposite reactions on one another.81 − 2. by a light rigid strut at the other. and R = M g + m g − S = (5000 + 1000) × 9. X1 Y 1 θ X2 Y 2 wall mg Y 3 strut X3 rod X3 Y 3 Answer: Let us call the vertical reactions at the joints X1 . in accordance with Newton’s third law. The strut is attached to the rod at one end. Setting the net vertical force on the rod to zero yields X1 + X3 − m g = 0. and the wall at the other. See the diagram. and Y3 . and the points where the rod and the strut are attached to the wall. we have made use of the fact that centre of mass of the bridge lies at its mid-point.

where h is the length of the strut. the vertical reactions are X1 = X2 = X3 = 73. and the horizontal reactions are −Y1 = Y2 = Y3 = 127. Setting the net torque acting on the strut about the point where it is connected to the wall to zero. The above equation implies that X3 = X = m g/2 = 15 × 9. and X2 = X3 = X. we obtain m g l/2 − X3 l = 0.44 N. Finally.44 N. Y3 = Y = tan θ tan 30◦ In summary.10 STATICS 10.58 N. Setting the net torque acting on the rod about the point where it is connected to the wall to zero. where l is the length of the rod. X and Y. The above equations can be solved to give −Y1 = Y2 = Y3 = Y. There now remain only two unknowns. with X1 = m g − X.81/2 = 73.6 Jointed rods Setting the net horizontal force on the rod to zero gives Y1 + Y3 = 0.58 X = = 127. 236 . Here. Setting the net vertical force on the strut to zero yields X2 − X3 = 0. setting the net horizontal force on the strut to zero yields Y2 − Y3 = 0. We also have X1 = m g − X = 73.58 N. we have used the fact that the centre of gravity of the rod lies at its mid-point. we find Y3 h sin θ − X3 h cos θ = 0.58 N. Thus. 73.

If the system is perturbed from this equilibrium state (i. In this section. In this state.. The negative sign indicates that f is indeed a restoring force.. Hence. Suppose that the mass is attached to a light horizontal spring whose other end is anchored to an immovable object. The motion of this 237 . 5. See Fig. x can also be used as a coordinate to determine the horizontal displacement of the mass. Of course.e. if the mass is moved. the magnitude of the restoring force is directly proportional to the displacement from equilibrium. In many cases of interest. Consider a mass m which slides over a horizontal frictionless surface.e. we shall investigate the motion of systems subject to such a force.1) Here. The equilibrium state of the system corresponds to the situation where the mass is at rest.e. the displacement from equilibrium cannot be made too large. x = 0). Hooke’s law only holds for small spring extensions..6).11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11 Oscillatory motion 11. and the spring is unextended (i. (11.1 Introduction We have seen previously (for instance.. zero net force acts on the mass. 10. 11. Obviously. so there is no reason for it to start to move. Note that the magnitude of the restoring force is directly proportional to the displacement of the system from equilibrium (i. Let x be the extension of the spring: i.e.3) that when systems are perturbed from a stable equilibrium state they experience a restoring force which acts to return them to that state. f ∝ x).2 Simple harmonic motion Let us reexamine the problem of a mass on a spring (see Sect. 42. so that the spring becomes extended) then the mass experiences a restoring force given by Hooke’s law: f = −k x. the difference between the spring’s actual length and its unstretched length. in Sect. k > 0 is the force constant of the spring.

(11.3) is indeed a solution of Eq.5) (11. and recalling from calculus that d(cos θ)/dθ = − sin θ and d(sin θ)/dθ = cos θ.e. the solution is x = a cos(ω t − φ). (11. Here.2 Simple harmonic motion system is representative of the motion of a wide range of systems when they are slightly disturbed from a stable equilibrium state.2).. m (11.11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11. the motion is periodic in time (i. The frequency of the motion (i. and its solution has been known for centuries. T 2π 238 (11. (11. (11. the number of oscillations completed per second) is f= 1 ω = .2) by direct substitution.3). (11..3) is the correct solution provided ω= k .3) where a.7) .4) Figure 95 shows a graph of x versus t obtained from Eq. Newton’s second law gives following equation of motion for the system: m x = −k x. a is termed the amplitude of the oscillation. It can be seen that the displacement x oscillates between x = −a and x = +a. the period is T= 2π . ¨ (11. ω.3) by noting that cos θ is a periodic function of θ with period 2 π.2) This differential equation is known as the simple harmonic equation. In fact. We can demonstrate that Eq. ω (11. (11. In fact.e. The type of motion shown here is called simple harmonic motion. and φ are constants. we obtain − m ω2 a cos(ω t − φ) = −k a cos(ω t − φ). (11. It follows that Eq.3) into Eq. (11. it repeats exactly after a certain time period has elapsed). Substituting Eq. Moreover.6) This result is easily obtained from Eq.

2π (11. the frequency f converted into radians per second). Eq.e. Note that all of the non-zero values shown in this table represent either the maximum or the minimum value taken by the quantity in question during the oscillation cycle. velocity. We have seen that when a mass on a spring is disturbed from equilibrium it 239 φ . x = a: in fact. (11. Figure 95: Simple harmonic motion.8) . It can be seen that ω is the motion’s angular frequency (i.2 Simple harmonic motion 180◦ 270◦ −a 0 0 +ω a 2 +ω a 0 Table 4: Simple harmonic motion. n is an arbitrary integer.3). The information contained in this table can easily be derived from the simple harmonic equation. the phase angle φ determines the times at which the oscillation attains its maximum amplitude. Table 4 lists the displacement. Finally.. and acceleration of the mass at various phases of the simple harmonic cycle.11 OSCILLATORY MOTION ωt − φ x x ˙ x ¨ 0◦ 90◦ +a 0 0 −ω a 2 −ω a 0 11. tmax = T n + Here.

the total energy can be written E=K+U= 240 a2 k . the amplitude and phase angle of the oscillation are determined by the initial conditions. It follows from Eq. that the potential energy takes the form U= 1 2 k a2 cos2 (ω t − φ) kx = . The frequency of the oscillation is determined by the spring stiffness.6. use has been made of the well-known identities cos(−θ) = cos θ and sin(−θ) = − sin θ. The restoring force again overcompensates. we obtain 2 a = x0 + (v0 /ω)2 . m. respectively.2 Simple harmonic motion executes simple harmonic motion about its equilibrium state. from Sect. ˙ (11.3) that x0 = x(t = 0) = a cos φ. (11.5). if the initial displacement is positive (x > 0) then the restoring force overcompensates. and sends the system back through x = 0 to positive displacement states. Hence. v0 = x(t = 0) = a ω sin φ.14) (11.11) (11.9) (11. In physical terms. k. The motion then repeats itself ad infinitum. 2 2 Recall. In contrast. ω x0 since sin2 θ + cos2 θ = 1 and tan θ = sin θ/ cos θ. 2 (11. (11. via Eq. 2 2 (11.12) and φ = tan−1 v0 .10) Here.13) Hence. (11. and sends the system past the equilibrium state (x = 0) to negative displacement states (x < 0). and the system inertia. Suppose that the instantaneous displacement and velocity of the mass at t = 0 are x0 and v0 .11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11. The kinetic energy of the system is written 1 m a2 ω2 sin2 (ω t − φ) 2 K = mx = ˙ .15) . 5.

96. The kinetic energy attains its maximum value. Moreover. Note that the minimum value of K is zero. τ. when x = 0). that simple harmonic motion is characterized by a constant backward and forward flow of energy between kinetic and potential components. This setup is known as a torsion pendulum. when the displacement is zero (i. Likewise. Note that the total energy is a constant of the motion. 11.. Any twisting of the wire is inevitably associated with mechanical deformation.e. and the kinetic energy attains its minimum value. and let θ = 0 correspond to the case in which the wire is untwisted. A torsion wire is essentially inextensible. when x = ±a). Let θ be the angle of rotation of the disk. when the displacement is maximal (i. as expected for an isolated system.e. as the wire twists it also causes the disk attached to it to rotate in the horizontal plane. the potential energy attains its maximum value. which acts 241 . since m ω2 = k and sin2 θ + cos2 θ = 1. It is clear..3 The torsion pendulum θ torsion wire disk Figure 96: A torsion pendulum. from the above expressions. The wire resists such deformation by developing a restoring torque. the energy is proportional to the amplitude squared of the motion. See Fig.11 OSCILLATORY MOTION fixed support 11. and the potential energy attains it minimum value. Of course.3 The torsion pendulum Consider a disk suspended from a torsion wire attached to its centre. since the system is instantaneously at rest when the displacement is maximal. but is free to twist about its axis.

ω= (11. Equation (11...3)] θ = a cos(ω t − φ). Note. we obtain ¨ (11. Eq. in particular.19) 11.16) still applies].4 The simple pendulum to restore the wire to its untwisted state. where [cf. Eq. The above equation is essentially a torsional equivalent to Hooke’s law. (11. we can immediately write the standard solution [cf. (11. (11.18) I θ = −k θ.16) where k > 0 is the torque constant of the wire. For instance.e. (11.4 The simple pendulum Consider a mass m suspended from a light inextensible string of length l. Combining the previous two equations.2)]. the balance wheel in a mechanical wristwatch is a torsion pendulum in which the restoring torque is provided by a coiled spring.. The rotational equation of motion of the system is written ¨ I θ = τ.18) is clearly a simple harmonic equation [cf. (11. (11. Eq. θ = 0). Hence.20) I We conclude that when a torsion pendulum is perturbed from its equilibrium state (i.. Torsion pendulums are often used for time-keeping purposes.5)] k .17) where I is the moment of inertia of the disk (about a perpendicular axis through its centre). The moment of inertia of the wire is assumed to be negligible.11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11. Hence. we can write τ = −k θ. For relatively small angles of twist. which depends only on the torque constant of the wire and the moment of inertia of the disk. that the frequency is independent of the amplitude of the oscillation [provided θ remains small enough that Eq. (11. the magnitude of this torque is directly proportional to the twist angle. ω. as shown in 242 . it executes torsional oscillations about this state at a fixed frequency. such that the mass is free to swing from side to side in a vertical plane.

given that the mass is essentially a point particle. the magnitude of the gravitational torque is m g l sin θ. 243 . The two forces acting on the mass are the downward gravitational force. This setup is known as a simple pendulum. From simple trigonometry. For the case in hand.21) where I is the moment of inertia of the mass. T .. the line of action of the gravitational force passes a distance l sin θ from the pivot point. and is situated a distance l from the axis of rotation (i. 97. m g. that the tension makes no contribution to the torque. The angular equation of motion of the pendulum is simply ¨ I θ = τ... Fig. Moreover. the pivot point). however. and τ is the torque acting on the system.e. Obviously. Note.. the gravitational torque is a restoring torque: i. in the string.11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.e. the equilibrium state of the simple pendulum corresponds to the situation in which the mass is stationary and hanging vertically down (i. and the tension. (11. Hence. θ = 0). it is easily seen that I = m l2 .e.4 The simple pendulum fixed support pivot point θ T l m mg Figure 97: A simple pendulum. θ = 0) then the gravitational force clearly acts to push the mass back toward that state. if the mass is displaced slightly from its equilibrium state (i. since its line of action clearly passes through the pivot point. Let θ be the angle subtended between the string and the downward vertical.e.

Comparing with our original simple harmonic equation. Historically. (11. (11.23) Unfortunately. in the small angle limit. the pendulum frequency is dependent only on the length of the pendulum and the local gravitational acceleration.11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11. and its solution. Eq. 244 . we can write τ = −m g l sin θ. Eq. this is not the simple harmonic equation. the simple pendulum was the basis of virtually all accurate time-keeping devices before the advent of electronic clocks. and is independent of the mass of the pendulum and the amplitude of the pendulum swings (provided that sin θ θ remains a good approximation).4 The simple pendulum Thus. Suppose that we restrict our attention to relatively small deviations from the equilibrium state. (11. (11. Indeed. that for |θ| less than about 6 ◦ it is a good approximation to write sin θ θ.24) Hence.25) which is in the familiar form of a simple harmonic equation. (11.26) ω= l In this case. (11. suppose that the angle θ is constrained to take fairly small values. We know. the above equation possesses no closed solution which can be expressed in terms of simple functions. (11.23) reduces to ¨ l θ = −g θ. In other words.22) Combining the previous two equations. we conclude that the angular frequency of small amplitude oscillations of a simple pendulum is given by g . we obtain the following angular equation of motion of the pendulum: ¨ l θ = −g sin θ.2). from trigonometry. Simple pendulums can also be used to measure local variations in g.

Let P be the pivot point. as shown in Fig.11 OSCILLATORY MOTION R P d θ C 11. Suppose that the body is suspended from a fixed peg. 10. which is located a distance d from the pivot. which passes through the hole. 98.27) where I is the moment of inertia of the body about the pivot point. Using similar arguments to those employed for the case of the simple pendulum (recalling that all the weight of the pendulum acts at its centre of mass).5 The compound pendulum Pivot point Centre of mass Mg Figure 98: A compound pendulum. we can write τ = −M g d sin θ. (11. such that it is free to swing from side to side.28) 245 . and τ is the torque. See Sect. (11. Let θ be the angle subtended between the downward vertical (which passes through point P) and the line PC.e.3. 11. θ = 0. This setup is known as a compound pendulum. The equilibrium state of the compound pendulum corresponds to the case in which the centre of mass lies vertically below the pivot point: i. The angular equation of motion of the pendulum is simply ¨ I θ = τ..5 The compound pendulum Consider an extended body of mass M with a hole drilled though it. and let C be the body’s centre of mass.

R.31) ω= I It is helpful to define the length L= Equation (11. Let us set up a cartesian coordinate system whose origin coincides with the centre of the circle. sin θ harmonic equation: ¨ I θ = −M g d θ. 99. As illustrated in Fig.30) It is clear. ω= I . at the peg does not contribute to the torque. the instantaneous position of the object can be conveniently parameterized in terms of an angle θ.32) 11. Finally.6 Uniform circular motion Consider an object executing uniform circular motion of radius a. We conclude that a compound pendulum behaves like a simple pendulum with effective length L. adopting the small angle approximation. that the angular frequency of small amplitude oscillations of a compound pendulum is given by Mgd .31) reduces to g . Md (11.6 Uniform circular motion Note that the reaction.33) L which is identical in form to the corresponding expression for a simple pendulum. 246 . by analogy with our previous solutions of such equations. we obtain the following angular equation of motion of the pendulum: ¨ I θ = −M g d sin θ.29) θ. Combining the previous two equations. (11. and which is such that the motion is confined to the x-y plane. we arrive at the simple (11.11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11. (11. (11. since its line of action passes through the pivot point.

3). the x.11 OSCILLATORY MOTION y ω 11. for the sake of convenience. Eq. y = a sin θ. Since the object is executing uniform circular motion. (11. the number of radians through which the object rotates per second). we can write θ = ω t. (11. use has been made of the trigonometric identity sin θ = cos(θ − π/2). combining the previous equations. From simple trigonometry.. respectively.38) (11.and y-coordinates of the object can be written x = a cos θ. A comparison of the above two equations with the standard equation of simple harmonic motion. (11.37) (11. we expect the angle θ to increase linearly with time.34) where ω is the angular rotation frequency (i. Here. Hence. reveals that our object is executing simple harmonic 247 .e. In other words. it is assumed that θ = 0 at t = 0.35) (11.6 Uniform circular motion a θ a cos θ a sinθ x Figure 99: Uniform circular motion. y = a cos(ω t − π/2).36) Here. we obtain x = a cos(ω t).

228 × 104 m/s2 . the angular frequency is ω = 2 π f = 418. when converted to cycles per second (i. Note. the amplitude of the motion equals the radius of the circle. Given that the maximum displacement of the piston from its centre-line is ±7 cm.11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11./min. the maximum velocity is vmax = a ω = 0. Moreover.32 m/s. and that the mass of the piston is 4 kg. Worked example 11. 4. Clearly.e. find the maximum velocity of the piston when the steam engine is running at 4000 rev. hertz). the frequency of the oscillation becomes 4000 f= = 66. however. Consulting Tab.07 m. that these two motions are 90◦ (i.25 m. What is the maximum acceleration? Answer: We are told that the amplitude of the oscillation is a = 0.2: Block and spring Question: A block attached to a spring executes simple harmonic motion in a horizontal plane with an amplitude of 0.6666 Hz.and the y -axes.. Worked example 11. there is a close relationship between simple harmonic motion and circular motion.e. 60 Hence. Likewise. Moreover.07 × 418.88 × 418.1: Piston in steam engine Question: A piston in a stream engine executes simple harmonic motion. 4.6 Uniform circular motion motion simultaneously along both the x. according to Tab.07 × 418. we note that the maximum velocity of an object executing simple harmonic motion is vmax = a ω. π/2 radians) out of phase.88 = 29. At a point 0.88 rad.88 = 1.15 m away from the 248 . the maximum acceleration is given by amax = a ω2 = 0./sec.. Hence.

75 m/s. What is the period of oscillation of the block? Answer: The equation of simple harmonic motion is x = a cos(ω t − φ)./s. Hence. The first equation gives φ = cos−1 (0. The velocity of the block is obtained by taking the time derivative of the above expression: x = −a ω sin(ω t − φ).11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11. The net displacement x of the mass from its equilibrium position is then given by x = x1 + x2 .3: Block and two springs Question: A block of mass m = 3 kg is attached to two springs. x = 0. the period of the motion is T= 2π = 1.75 = 3.25 × sin(53.15 m and x = 0. Answer: Let x1 and x2 represent the extensions of the first and second springs.6 Uniform circular motion equilibrium position. ˙ 0. find the period of oscillation of the system.15 = 0. and a is the amplitude. ω Worked example 11.13◦ . The second equation yields 0.75 rad.13◦ ) Hence.25) = 53. and slides over a horizontal frictionless surface. 249 .25 m. as shown below. ω= 0. 0.75 m/s.15/0.75 = 0. Given that the force constants of the two springs are k1 = 1200 N/m and k2 = 400 N/m. the velocity of the block is 0. where x is the displacement. ˙ We are told that at t = 0 (say).25 cos(φ). We are told that a = 0.25 ω sin(φ).676 s. respectively.

the period of oscillation is T= 2π = 0. The above equations can be combined to give keff = k1 k1 k2 k 1 x1 = = . Since the springs (presumably) possess negligible inertia. This implies that f1 = f2 . Finally./s. the problem reduces to that of a block of mass m = 3 kg attached to a spring of effective force constant keff = k1 k2 1200 × 400 = = 300 N/m. they must exert equal and opposite forces on one another.6283 s.6 Uniform circular motion k1 k2 m Let f1 = k1 x1 and f2 = k2 x2 be the magnitudes of the forces exerted by the first and second springs. 3 Hence. x1 + x 2 1 + k1 /k2 k1 + k 2 Thus. respectively. or f = keff x = k1 x1 . keff is the effective force constant of the two springs.11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11. or k 1 x1 = k 2 x2 . then force balance implies that f = f1 = f2 . Here. k1 + k 2 1200 + 400 The angular frequency of oscillation is immediately given by the standard formula ω= keff = m 300 = 10 rad. ω 250 . if f is the magnitude of the restoring force acting on the mass.

Worked example 11. The amplitude of the oscillations is small compared to the length of the pendulum./s.95 = 1289.341 rad.06228 m.1 N/m and the amplitude is 0.6 m.6 Uniform circular motion Worked example 11. 60 .11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11. The total energy of a system executing simple harmonic motion is E = a2 k/2.1 N/m. the force constant is 1289. and finds that it makes 51 complete oscillations in 1 minute.35 Now./s.1 Thus. the angular frequency is ω = 2 π f = 2 × π × 1.5 = 0.95 rad. What is the force constant of the spring? What is the amplitude of the motion? Answer: The angular frequency of the motion is ω= 2π 2π = = 17.5: Gravity on a new planet Question: Having landed on a newly discovered planet.35 s. 1289.4: Energy in simple harmonic motion Question: A block of mass m = 4 kg is attached to a spring.833 = 5. What is the surface gravitational acceleration on the planet? Answer: The frequency of the oscillations is f= Hence.06228 m. ω = k/m for a mass on a spring. Rearrangement of this formula yields k = m ω2 = 4 × 17.95 × 17. an astronaut sets up a simple pendulum of length 0. and undergoes simple harmonic motion with a period of T = 0.5 J.85 Hz. T 0. 251 51 = 0. Rearrangement of this formula gives a= 2E = k 2 × 2. The total energy of the system is E = 2.

Rearrangement off this formula gives g = ω2 l = 5. the answer is 2.8 × 0. Find the angular frequency of small amplitude oscillations of the disk. Worked example 11. 2 The angular frequency of small amplitude oscillations of a compound pendulum is given by Mgd 3 × 9.532 rad.6: Oscillating disk Question: A uniform disk of radius r = 0.25 = = 2.8 m and mass M = 3 kg is freely suspended from a horizontal pivot located a radial distance d = 0.1475 Hence.1475 kg m2 .341 × 0. the surface gravitational acceleration is 17. 252 . the moment of inertia of the disk about the pivot point is I = I + M d2 = 3 × 0.6 Uniform circular motion Now./s.341 × 5.11 OSCILLATORY MOTION 11.25 m from its centre./s. ω = g/l for small amplitude oscillations of a simple pendulum.25 × 0.8 + 3 × 0.11 m/s2 .25 = 1. From the parallel axis theorem. Answer: The moment of inertia of the disk about a perpendicular axis passing through its centre is I = (1/2) M r2 .532 rad.81 × 0. Hence. ω= I 1.6 = 17.11 m/s2 .

therefore. because the Moon clearly passes in front of.. Actually. This application is. much of this interest was of a practical nature. For instance. the belief—almost universally prevalent in the ancient world—that the positions of the planets in the sky could be used to foretell important events. of course. ancient astronomers noted that the Moon occasionally passes in front of the Sun and each of the planets. It was also recognized that some bodies were closer to the Earth than others. and also for navigation. interesting to discuss the particular application of this theory which made Newton an international celebrity.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12 Orbital motion 12. by the movements of the Sun. the motion of the Solar System. the Moon. and the objects which the ancient Greeks called plantai (“wanderers”). In ancient times. The ancients believed that the stars were fixed to a “celestial sphere” which formed the outer boundary of the Universe. Mars. stars in its path.2 Historical background Humankind has always been fascinated by the night sky.1 Introduction We have spent this course exploring the theory of motion first outlined by Sir Isaac Newton in his Principia (1687). there were only seven “wandering” heavenly bodies visible to ancient peoples: the Sun. it was recognized that the wandering bodies were located within this sphere: e. The Sun and the Moon were important for determining the calendar. Moreover. Moreover. and which we call planets. However. Jupiter. and blocks the light from. Venus.. and which profoundly and permanently changed humankind’s outlook on the Universe. and Saturn. and. the planets were vital to astrology: i. 12. The first scientific model of the Solar System was outlined by the Greek philoso253 .e. in particular. the Moon. It is. and the five planets—Mercury. Mercury and Venus can sometimes be seen to transit in front of the Sun.g.

the Earth must be stationary. Saturn—with Mercury closest to the Sun. we cannot “feel” this motion. This effect is known as parallax. Mars. Earth. and the Earth rotates daily about a North-South axis. This model became known as the heliocentric model of the Solar System. and non-rotating. The celestial sphere was assumed to lie just beyond the orbit of Saturn. and orbiting around the Sun. According to this model. If the Earth is rotating about its axis. 3. proposed an alternative model in which the Earth and the planets execute uniform circular orbits around the Sun—which is fixed. and the planets all execute uniform circular orbits around the Earth— which is fixed. Jupiter. it follows that heavenly objects must execute circular orbits. The order of the orbits is as follows: Moon. the Sun. Since a circle is the most “perfect” imaginable shape. The order of the planetary orbits is as follows: Mercury. The ancients believed the heavens to be the realm of perfection. Moreover. Saturn—with the Moon closest to the Earth. Venus. A second Greek philosopher. the Moon.2 Historical background pher Eudoxas of Cnidus (409–356 BC). Mercury. In order to appreciate the force of this argument. However. Hence. Sun. 2. with the naked eye). the Earth must be stationary. Nor does this motion give rise to any obvious observational consequences. Aristarchus of Samos (310–230 BC). Venus. Note that orbits are circular in this model for philosophical reasons. If the Earth is executing a circular orbit around the Sun then the positions of the stars should be slightly different when the Earth is on opposite sides of the Sun. The geocentric model is far more philosophically attractive than the helio254 . then the Earth must be in motion. The heliocentric model was generally rejected by the ancient philosophers for three main reasons: 1. For obvious reasons.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12. it is important to realize that ancient astronomers did not suppose the stars to be significantly further away from the Earth than the planets. Since no stellar parallax is observable (at least. Jupiter. Eudoxas’ model became known as the geocentric model of the Solar System. Mars. the Moon orbits around the Earth.

however. First. capable of accurate predictions. and epicyles are small circles whose centres move around the circumferences of the deferants. centric model. in order to fit the observations. and then constructed a geocentric model capable of accounting for them. move around the circumference of deferants. by the Alexandrian philosopher Claudius Ptolemy (85–165 AD).2 Historical background planet Earth C + E equant Figure 100: The Ptolemaic system. Ptolemy acquired and extended the extensive set of planetary observations of his predecessor Hipparchus. In the Ptolemaic system. As shown in Fig. in turn. Let us discuss these modifications. deferants are large circles centred on the Earth. we need to introduce some terminology. Ptolemy’s second modification to Eudoxas’ model was 255 . since in the former model the Earth occupies a privileged position in the Universe. The theory that Ptolemy proposed in his famous book. Basically. remained the dominant scientific picture of the Solar System for over a millennium. that this modification was insufficient to completely account for all of his data. However. now known as the Almagest. instead of traveling around deferants.12 ORBITAL MOTION epicycle deferant centre of deferant P 12. 100. Ptolemy was forced to make some significant modifications to the original model of Eudoxas. the planets move around the circumference of epicycles. Ptolemy found. The geocentric model was first converted into a proper scientific theory. which.

University of Florida. The epicycles of the superior planets are needed to account for their occasional bouts of retrograde motion: i. Figure 101 shows more details of the Ptolemaic model. Finally. is needed to explain why the planets speed up slightly when they are close to the Earth (and. Moreover. and planets rotate uniformly about an imaginary point. As is quite apparent. However. the Ptolemaic model of the Solar System is extremely complicated. in Fig. and slow down when they are further away.ufl. Jupiter. called the equant. Hatch. in addition to the motion indicated in the diagram.2 Historical background to displace the Earth slightly from the common centre of the deferants. Ptolemy assumed that the line EP. the motions of the inferior planets (i. motion in the opposite direction to their apparent direction of rotation around the Earth.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12. all of the heavenly bodies (including the stars) rotate clockwise (assuming that we are looking down on the Earth’s North pole in Fig. In fact. In other words. appear brighter in the night sky). Ptolemy assumed that the Sun. Mercury and Venus) are closely linked to the motion of the Sun. the displacement of the Earth from the centre of the deferants. the centres of the inferior planet epicycles move on an imaginary line connecting the Earth and the Sun. rotates uniformly. rather than the line CP. 101) with a period of 1 day. for the sake of clarity.A.e. In fact... which is displaced an equal distance in the opposite direction to the Earth from the centre of the deferants. and the displacement of the Earth from the centre of the deferants has been omitted for the sake of clarity. there are epicycles within the epicycles shown in the diagram..2 Note that this diagram is not drawn to scale.e. some planets need as many as 28 epicycles to account for all the details of their motion. it successfully accounted for the relatively crude naked eye observations made by the ancient Greeks. http://web. Moon. Finally. the radius vectors connecting the superior planets (i.clas. Note that.edu/users/rhatch/ 256 . It can be seen that the Moon and the Sun do not possess epicyles. 2 R. and Saturn) to the centres of their epicycles are always parallel to the geometric line connecting the Earth and the Sun. 100. Furthermore.e. These subsidiary epicycles are not shown in the diagram. Moreover. The Sun-linked epicyles of the inferior planets are needed to explain why these objects always remain close to the Sun in the sky. Mars. hence. as well as the introduction of the equant as the centre of uniform rotation.

12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.2 Historical background Stars 29.46 y 11.86 y 1.88 y Mars 1y 1y 1y 1y 27 1/3 d Earth Moon Mercury 88 d Venus 225 d Sun Jupiter 1y Saturn 1y Figure 101: The Ptolemaic model of the Solar System. 257 .

Habakkuk 3:11). few medieval or renaissance philosophers were entirely satisfied with Ptolemy’s model. which. Copernicus accounted for the lack of stellar parallax. this diagram is not to scale.. This problem so perplexed the Polish priestastronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) that he eventually decided to reject the geocentric model. Their dissatisfaction focused. Having said this. and the introduction of the equant as the centre of uniform rotation. Unfortunately.g. Consequently. by postulating that the stars were a lot further away than had previously been supposed. Copernicus’ model is illustrated in Fig. Furthermore. Since the Earth orbits more rapidly than the superior planets. Again. converted it into a minor article of faith. in much the same manner that slow moving cars on a freeway appears to move backward to a driver overtaking them. and the Moon orbits about the Earth. and revive the heliocentric model of Aristarchus. rendering any parallax undetectably small. on the basis of a few references in the Bible which seemed to imply that the Earth is stationary and the Sun is moving (e. Moreover. Joshua 10:12-13. the inferior planets remain close to the Sun in the sky without any special synchronization of their orbits. the Earth revolves about its axis daily. Note that there is no displacement of the Sun from the centres of the planetary orbits. Copernicus insisted on retaining uni258 . Recall. that the only reason planetary orbits are constructed from circles in Ptolemy’s model is to preserve the assumed ideal symmetry of the heavens. The planets execute uniform circular orbits about the Sun. not on the many epicycles (which to the modern eye seem rather absurd). due to the Earth’s motion. the occasional retrograde motion of the superior planets has a more natural explanation than in Ptolemy’s model. in this model. it occasionally “overtakes” them. Copernicus published a book entitled De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the revolutions of the celestial spheres) in 1543 which outlined his new heliocentric theory. unfortunately.2 Historical background Ptolemy’s model of the Solar System was rescued from the wreck of ancient European civilization by the Roman Catholic Church. and they appear to move backward in the night sky. After many years of mathematical calculations. and there is no equant. Finally. but on the displacement of the Earth from the centre of the deferants.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12. this model was not subject to proper scientific criticism for over a millennium. 102. Unfortunately. this symmetry is severely compromised when the Earth is displaced from the apparent centre of the Universe.

46 y 11.2 Historical background 29. 259 .12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.86 y Stars 1.88 y 1y Mars 225 d Venus 88 d Mercury Sun Moon Earth 27 1/3 d Jupiter Saturn Figure 102: The Copernican model of the Solar System.

At this stage. Consequently. This data was eventually inherited by Brahe’s pupil and assistant. According the Kepler’s second law. 260 . The planets move in elliptical orbits with the Sun at one focus. 2. Kepler fully accepted Copernicus’ heliocentric theory of the Solar System. Note that there are no epicyles or equants in Kepler’s model of the Solar System. the German scientist Johannes Kepler (1571–1630). Moreover. Suppose that the planet moves from point A to point B in the same time it takes to move from point C to point D. Copernicus’ model ended up with more epicycles than Ptolemy’s! The real breakthrough in the understanding of planetary motion occurred—as most breakthroughs in physics occur—when better data became available. In fact. Figure 103 illustrates Kepler’s second law. he started to think the unthinkable. The square of a planet’s period is proportional to the cube of the planet’s mean distance from the Sun. The data in question was produced by the Dane Tycho Brahe (1546–1601). Kepler eventually concluded that no combination of circular deferants and epicycles could completely account for his data. These laws are as follows: 1.2 Historical background form circular motion in his model (after all. he was just as firm a believer as Copernicus in the perfection of the heavens. A line from the Sun to any given planet sweeps out equal areas in equal time intervals. 3. The main difference was that Kepler’s observational data was considerably better than Copernicus’. who devoted his life to making naked eye astronomical observations of unprecedented accuracy and detail. and S represents the Sun. Maybe. Here. Kepler was eventually able to formulate three extraordinarily simple laws which completely accounted for Brahe’s observations. the ellipse represents a planetary orbit. Copernicus also had to resort to epicycles to fit the data. After years of fruitless effort. which is located at one of the focii of the ellipse. planetary motion was not circular after all? After more calculations.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12. he was trying to construct a more symmetric model than that of Ptolemy). and the consequent need for circular motion of planetary bodies.

are listed for each of the first six planets in the Solar System. T .723 Earth 1. It can be seen that the ratio a3 /T 2 is indeed constant from planet to planet.862 1. Note that this law basically mandates that planets speed up when they move closer to the Sun.2 Historical background C S D Figure 103: Kepler’s second law.000 1. Since we have now definitely adopted a heliocentric model of the Solar System.001 29.458 0. The mean distance. What about the first objection? If the Earth is rotating about its axis. measured in years.000 1. Table 5 illustrates Kepler’s third law. a is the mean distance from the Sun. The third objection (that it is philosophically more attractive to have the Earth at the centre of the Universe) is not a valid scientific criticism. Here.881 1. measured in Astronomical Units (1 AU is the mean Earth-Sun distance). let us discuss the ancient Greek objections to such a model.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.999 1. the areas of the elliptic segments ASB and CSD are equal.000 Mars 1.000 11. listed earlier.524 Jupiter 5.203 Saturn 9.387 Venus 0. and also 261 . Planet a(AU) Mercury 0.516 T (yr) a3 /T 2 0.241 0. as well as the ratio a3 /T 2 . and T is the orbital period. and orbital period. We have already dealt with the second objection (the absence of stellar parallax) by stating that the stars are a lot further away from the Earth than the ancient Greeks supposed.615 0.993 B A Table 5: Kepler’s third law.998 0. a.

According to Aristotle. Moreover.0059 m/s2 . in which he presented. Let us now discuss Newton’s monumental achievement in more detail. So. not the motion itself. So.3 Gravity There is one important question which we have avoided discussing until now. After all. why do we not “feel” this motion? At first sight. why do objects fall towards the surface of the Earth? The first person. Ptolemy seriously undermined this explanation by shifting the Earth slightly from the centre of the Universe. we would notice if we were moving this rapidly? Of course. for the first time. why do the planets not fall towards the Earth? Well. Moreover. all objects also tend to fall towards the Earth’s surface.034 m/s2 . the Earth’s acceleration due to its orbital motion is only 0. the Earth’s orbital velocity is approximately 30 km/s. Kepler correctly formulated the three laws of planetary motion in 1619. Newton then went on to illustrate his theory by using it to deriving Kepler’s laws from first principles. to seriously consider this question was Sir Isaac Newton. Nowadays. this reasoning is faulty because we know. Unfortunately. but the ancient Greeks certainly could not. an ancient Greek might ask. Surely. the planets are embedded in crystal spheres which rotate with them whilst holding them in place in the firmament. this objection appears to have some force. a universal theory of motion. we can detect such small accelerations. Why do objects fall towards the surface of the Earth? The ancient Greeks had a very simple answer to this question. It turns out that the acceleration at the Earth’s surface due to its axial rotation is only about 0. all objects have a natural tendency to fall towards the centre of the Universe. Isaac Newton published his Principia. the coup de grace was delivered by Copernicus. Since the centre of the Earth coincides with the centre of the Universe. Almost seventy years later.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12. the rotation velocity of the Earth’s surface is about 460 m/s. according to Aristotle. However. who converted the Earth into just another planet orbiting the Sun.3 Gravity orbiting the Sun. 12. from Newton’s laws of motion. in 1687. that we only “feel” the acceleration associated with motion. after Aristotle. Since 262 .

all objects must exert a force of attraction on all other objects in the Universe. In fact. After much thought.1) f=G r2 The direction of the force is along the line joining the two objects. the Earth is not located in a special place in the Universe. 263 . The direction of the force is along the line joining the particles. (12. Moreover. since the Earth is just another planet. Newton reasoned. he was eventually able to formulate his famous law of universal gravitation: Every particle in the Universe attracts every other particle with a force directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. What intrinsic property of objects causes them to exert this attractive force— which Newton termed gravity—on other objects? Newton decided that the crucial property was mass. objects must be attracted towards other planets as well. Incidentally. Newton adopted an inverse square law because he knew that this was the only type of force law which was consistent with Kepler’s third law of planetary motion.3 Gravity −f r m2 m1 f Figure 104: Newton’s law of gravity. the magnitude of the force of attraction between these objects is m1 m2 . objects must be attracted toward the Earth itself. As illustrated in Fig.12 ORBITAL MOTION f = G m 1 m2 / r 2 12. Consider two point objects of masses m1 and m2 . 104. separated by a distance r.

Hence.4) Note that the gravitational constant is numerically extremely small. it is a planet. The modern value of G is G = 6. (12. In fact. |r2 − r1 |3 (12.6) 264 . G.3) |r1 − r2 |3 The constant of proportionality. respectively. Newton could only estimate the value of this quantity. Consider an object of mass m close to the surface of the Earth.97 × 1024 kg and R⊕ = 6. 2 R⊕ (12. (12. The vector gravitational force exerted by object 2 on object 1 can be written f12 = G r2 − r 1 . Newton proved.5) and is directed towards the centre of the Earth..2) Likewise. This implies that gravity is an intrinsically weak force. Let us use Newton’s law of gravity to account for the Earth’s surface gravity. It follows that the equation of motion of the object can be written m ¨ = −G r m M⊕ ^.g. whose mass and radius are M⊕ = 5.378 × 106 m. gravity usually only becomes significant if at least one of the masses involved is of astronomical dimensions (e. appearing in the above formulae is called the gravitational constant. or a star). which was first directly measured by Henry Cavendish in 1798. respectively.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12. the gravitational force exerted by the Earth on the object in question is of magnitude f=G m M⊕ . after considerable effort. the vector gravitational force exerted by object 1 on object 2 takes the form r1 − r 2 f21 = G = −f21 .3 Gravity Let r1 and r2 be the vector positions of the two objects. that the gravitational force exerted by a spherical body (outside that body) is the same as that exerted by an equivalent point mass located at the body’s centre.6726 × 10−11 N m2 /kg2 . z 2 R⊕ (12.

5. we obtain ¨ = −g⊕ ^.e. therefore. which is a radial distance r from another point object of mass M. away from the Earth’s z centre).. until it reaches infinity. Since Newton’s law of gravitation is universal. that gravity is a conservative force. The gravitational force acting on the first mass is of magnitude f = G M/r2 . Consider a point object of mass m.e.7) Thus. irrespective of their mass.673 × 10−11 ) × (5. Imagine that the first mass moves radially away from the second mass. r z where G M⊕ (6. No wonder Apollo astronauts were able to jump so far on the Moon’s surface! Prospective Mars colonists should note that they will only weigh about a third of their terrestrial weight on Mars. and is directed towards the second mass.81 m/s2 because the Earth is actually not quite spherical..8) (12. has an associated potential energy. in Sect. Canceling the factor m on either side of the above equation. we immediately conclude that any spherical body of mass M and radius R possesses a surface gravity g given by the following formula: g M/M⊕ = .97 × 1024 ) g⊕ = = 9. (12. This estimate for the acceleration due to gravity is slightly off the conventional value of 9. accelerate straight down (i. = 2 6 )2 R⊕ (6. and. we conclude that all objects on the Earth’s surface.79 m/s2 . towards the Earth’s centre) with a constant acceleration of 9. It can be seen that the surface gravity of the Moon is only about one fifth of that of the Earth.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12. Let us obtain a general formula for this energy. What 265 .79 m/s2 . 12.378 × 10 (12.4 Gravitational potential energy where ^ is a unit vector pointing straight upwards (i.9) g⊕ (R/R⊕ )2 Table 6 shows the surface gravity of various bodies in the Solar System.4 Gravitational potential energy We saw earlier. 5. estimated using the above expression.

3 95.10) There is a minus sign in front of f because this force is oppositely directed to the motion. the above expression can be expanded using the binomial theorem to give U − G M⊕ m G M⊕ m + z. of various bodies in the Solar System.21 2.1 0. R⊕ + z (12. All quantities are expressed as fractions of the corresponding terrestrial quantity. the gravitational potential energy of a mass m located a distance r from a mass M is simply −G M m/r. The above expression can be integrated to give GMm . is the change in the potential energy of the first mass associated with this shift? According to Eq.0 28.91 1. In the limit that z R⊕.5 9.273 0.108 Jupiter 318. we have adopted the convenient normalization that the potential energy at infinity is zero. R.000 1. The potential energy of such an object can be written U=− G M⊕ m .45 1.383 0. respectively.12 ORBITAL MOTION Body M/M⊕ Sun 3.000 0. According to the above formula. and z is the vertical height of the object above the Earth’s surface.33).533 0.949 0.38 0. M.0123 0. 2 R⊕ R⊕ 266 (12.38 11. and surface gravity.4 Gravitational potential energy R/R⊕ g/g⊕ 109.17 0. (12. (12.816 1.07 Table 6: The mass.11) r Here. U(∞) − U(r) = − r ∞ [−f(r)] dr. (5.14 Saturn 12. g.33 × 105 Moon 0.0553 Mercury Venus 0.12) where M⊕ and R⊕ are the mass and radius of the Earth. U(r) = − Consider an object of mass m moving close to the Earth’s surface.13) . radius.000 Earth Mars 0.

and may eventually strike its surface. if the object only just escaped. that the second object is launched from the surface of this sphere with some velocity vesc which is such that it only just escapes the sphere’s gravitational influence. we could just as well write U m g z. moving in the gravitational field of a fixed object of mass M. E = K + U. further. (12. whereas the potential energy takes the form U = −G M m/r. the kinetic energy is written K = (1/2) m v 2 . since the object will have expended all of its initial kinetic energy escaping from the sphere’s gravitational well. For an object of mass m and speed v.3) derived earlier on in this course. Since E is a constant of the motion.17) The quantity vesc is known as the escape velocity.4 Gravitational potential energy Since potential energy is undetermined to an arbitrary additive constant. and hence U = 0. 2 R This expression can be rearranged to give E= vesc = 2GM .12 ORBITAL MOTION 12. Note that the escape velocity is independent of the object’s mass and launch direction (assuming that it is not straight into the sphere). it is a long way away from the sphere. (12. r is the distance between the two objects. we expect the total energy. Here. After the object has escaped.16) (12. Of course. Suppose that the fixed object is a sphere of radius R. E = K + U = 0. it follows that at the launch point GMm 1 2 m vesc − = 0.15) to be a constant of the motion.. then we also expect K = 0. the above formula is equivalent to the formula (5. Of course.e. Suppose. the objects will remain in orbit around the sphere. 267 .14) 2 where g = G M⊕ /R⊕ is the acceleration due to gravity at the Earth’s surface [see Eq. Moreover. Objects launched from the surface of the sphere with velocities exceeding this value will eventually escape from the sphere’s gravitational influence.8)]. R (12. Otherwise. (12. We conclude that our object possesses zero net energy: i.

97 × 1024 ) = 11.5 Satellite orbits The escape velocity for the Earth is vesc = 2 G M⊕ = R⊕ 2 × (6.2 km/s. Let us calculate the orbital radius of a geostationary satellite. Communications satellites also tend to be geostationary. the satellite will appear to hover in the same place in the sky to a stationary observer on the Earth’s surface. this acceleration is provided by the gravitational attraction between the satellite and the Earth. Moreover. the satellites which beam satellite-TV to homes across the world must be geostationary—otherwise. which yields an acceleration of magnitude G M⊕ /r2 . (12. 12. It follows that ω2 r = G M⊕ .378 × 106 Clearly. The angular 268 . In this case.19) Suppose that the satellite’s orbit lies in the Earth’s equatorial plane. r2 (12. Of course. suppose that the satellite’s orbital angular velocity just matches the Earth’s angular velocity of rotation.18) 6. Let ω be the satellite’s orbital angular velocity. Of course. the person who first envisaged rapid global telecommunication via a network of geostationary satellites was the science fiction writer Arthur C.673 × 10−11 ) × (5.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12. NASA must launch deep space probes from the surface of the Earth with velocities which exceed this value if they are to have any hope of eventually reaching their targets. The satellite experiences an acceleration towards the Earth’s centre of magnitude ω2 r. Clarke in 1945.5 Satellite orbits Consider an artificial satellite executing a circular orbit of radius r around the Earth. A satellite with this singular property is known as a geostationary satellite. Incidentally. Virtually all of the satellites used to monitor the Earth’s weather patterns are geostationary in nature. you would need to install an expensive tracking antenna on top of your house in order to pick up the transmissions.

6 Planetary orbits velocity of the Earth’s rotation is 2π = 7.62 R⊕ .6 Planetary orbits Let us now see whether we can use Newton’s universal laws of motion to derive Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. It is convenient to specify the planet’s instantaneous position. 24 × 60 × 60 It follows from Eq.62 times the Earth’s radius. 12. 7. we demonstrated that when acceleration is written in terms of polar coordinates. Consider a planet orbiting around the Sun. 105. r is the radial distance between the planet and the Sun. 105.673 × 10−11 ) × (5. whereas θ is the angular bearing of the planet.19) that ω= rgeo = G M⊕ ω2 1/3 (12. Moreover. r˙ 269 (12. a geostationary satellite must be placed in a circular orbit whose radius is exactly 6. er and eθ .22) (12. where ˙ ar = ¨ − r θ 2 ./s. As illustrated in Fig. measured with respect to some arbitrarily chosen direction. (A unit vector is simply a vector whose length is unity. In Sect.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.27 × 10−5 rad. r ¨ aθ = r θ + 2 ˙ θ. with respect to the Sun. in the direction of increasing θ.27 × 10−5 )2  1/3 (12.21) Thus.5.22 × 107 m = 6.97 × 1024 )   = (7.20) = 4. (12. it takes the form a = a r er + a θ eθ .24) . (6. from the Sun.) As shown in Fig. the tangential unit vector eθ is always normal to er . Let us define two unit vectors. the radial unit vector er always points from the Sun towards the instantaneous position of the planet.23) (12. in terms of the polar coordinates r and θ.

Now.12 ORBITAL MOTION eθ er Planet 12.6 Planetary orbits r Sun θ Figure 105: A planetary orbit. The above four equations yield GM ˙ ¨ − r θ2 = − 2 .25) The minus sign indicates that the force is directed towards.27) (12. the force of gravitational attraction exerted by the Sun.e. r r ¨ r θ + 2 ˙ θ = 0. According to Newton’s second law. These expressions are more complicated that the corresponding cartesian expressions because the unit vectors er and eθ change direction as the planet changes position. the planet is subject to a single force: i. rather than away from. In polar coordinates. the Sun.26) 270 . r2 (12. r˙ (12. the planet’s equation of motion is written m a = f. this force takes a particularly simple form (which is why we are using polar coordinates): f=− GM m er .28) (12..

5]. What is the physical interpretation of h? Recall. h represents the angular momentum (per unit mass) of our planet around the Sun.) The torque is zero because the gravitational force is radial in nature: i.32) . 106.31) ˙ For the case in hand. 9. and so its associated lever arm is of length zero. (12.2. from Sect. dt or ˙ r2 θ = h..12 ORBITAL MOTION 12. h= The quantity h has another physical interpretation. Suppose that our planet moves from P to P in the short time interval δt. yielding l . Equation (12. from Sect. Hence.. Consider Fig.29) (12.6 Planetary orbits δθ S P’ P r Figure 106: The origin of Kepler’s second law.28) reduces to d 2˙ (r θ) = 0. S 271 (12. (Recall. h is constant) because the force of gravitational attraction between the planet and the Sun exerts zero torque on the planet. r ˙ l = m r vθ = m r2 θ.e. r = r er and v = ˙ er + r θ eθ [see Sect. 9. that the angular momentum vector of a point particle can be written l = m r × v. Here. 7.30) where h is a constant of the motion. Angular momentum is conserved (i. (12.e. (12.33) m Clearly. that torque is the rate of change of angular momentum. its line of action passes through the Sun.

Differentiating with respect to t.e. Of course. 1 .. the line sweeps equal areas in equal time intervals. where δθ is the small angle through which the line joining the Sun and the planet rotates in the time interval δt. we obtain ˙ θ du du u ˙ = −h .39) . Differentiating a second time with respect to t. The lines SP and SP are both approximately of length r..12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.35) Clearly. We conclude that Kepler’s second law of planetary motion is a direct manifestation of angular momentum conservation. the line PP is of length r δθ. we obtain r= ¨ = −h r 2 d du d2 u ˙d u = −h θ 2 = −h2 u2 2 .37) ˙=− 2 =− 2 r u u dθ dθ ˙ The last step follows from the fact that θ = h u2 . The area of the triangle PSP is approximately δA = 1 × r δθ × r : 2 (12.e. this area represents the area swept out by the line joining the Sun and the planet in the time interval δt. half its base times its height. Hence. But. Moreover. dt dθ dθ dθ Let (12.36) u where u(t) ≡ u(θ) is a new radial variable. the rate at which this area is swept is given by ˙ δA 1 2 δθ r2 θ h lim = r lim = = .38) Equations (12. δt→0 δt 2 δt→0 δt 2 2 (12. using simple trigonometry. (12.6 Planetary orbits represents the position of the Sun.27) and (12.34) i. dθ2 h2 272 (12. the fact that h is a constant of the motion implies that the line joining the planet and the Sun sweeps out area at a constant rate: i.38) can be combined to give d2 u GM +u= . (12. this is just Kepler’s second law.

and is a measure of its departure from circularity. The quantity r1 − r 0 e= (12.46) r1 + r 0 is termed the eccentricity of the orbit.40) (12. Since we are only interested in the orbit’s shape. G M (1 + e) (12. 1 + e cos θ A h2 . The radial distance at θ = π is written 1+e r1 = r 0 .45) 1−e Here. the closest distance to the Sun) and r1 is termed the aphelion distance (i.6 Planetary orbits This equation possesses the fairly obvious general solution u = A cos(θ − θ0 ) + where A and θ0 are arbitrary constants. (12. Hence.41) A cos(θ − θ0 ) + G M /h2 The constant θ0 merely determines the orientation of the orbit. whereas e → 273 . with the origin at a focus. (12. our orbit equation reduces to r = r0 where e= and 1+e . the furthest distance from the Sun). e = 0 corresponds to a purely circular orbit.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.. Hence. It is clear that r0 is the radial distance at θ = 0.42) is the standard equation of an ellipse (assuming e < 1). h2 (12.44) Formula (12.e. Thus.43) h2 r0 = .e. we have now proved Kepler’s first law of planetary motion. we can set this quantity to zero without loss of generality.. r0 is termed the perihelion distance (i. GM (12. The above formula can be inverted to give the following simple orbit equation for our planet: 1 r= .42) GM .

093 Jupiter 0. the relationship between a. from the figure.48) can be combined to give h2 a= 2GM h2 1 1 = + . (12.206 Venus 0. Fig. Equations (12. (12. r0 + r 1 . and (12. Since the area of an ellipse is π a b. the perihelion distance. 1+e 1−e G M (1 − e2 ) 274 (12. e. (12.48) a= 2 Thus. (12. we can write πab .42). (12.35). and the eccentricity. that the semi-major axis is just the mean of the aphelion and perihelion distances: i. 7.12 ORBITAL MOTION Planet e Mercury 0. We expect the line to sweep out the whole area of the ellipse enclosed by the planet’s orbit in the time interval T . is given by the well-known formula b = 1 − e2 . where a and b are the semi-major and semi-minor axes. It is clear. the orbital eccentricities of all of the planets (except Mercury) are fairly small.6 Planetary orbits Table 7: The orbital eccentricities of various planets in the Solar System. 107 illustrates the relationship between the aphelion distance.47) T= h/2 Incidentally. Let T be the planet’s orbital period.007 Earth 0. According to Eq.048 Saturn 0.49) a This formula can easily be obtained from Eq. b. As specified in Tab.44).. a line joining the Sun and an orbiting planet sweeps area at the constant rate h/2.45).017 Mars 0.e. (12. Finally. and the semi-major and semi-minor axes of a planetary orbit.50) . 1 corresponds to a highly elongated orbit. a is essentially the planet’s mean distance from the Sun.056 12.

1: Gravity on Callisto Question: Callisto is the eighth of Jupiter’s moons: its mass and radius are M = 1. Worked example 12.25 m/s2 .08 × 1023 kg and R = 2403 km.08 × 1023 ) g= = 1.403 × 10 275 . R Hence.6 Planetary orbits b r0 r1 a Figure 107: Anatomy of a planetary orbit.51) GM Thus.50). the orbital period of a planet is proportional to its mean distance from the Sun to the power 3/2—the constant of proportionality being the same for all planets.47). 6 )2 (2. (12. It follows. respectively. (12. What is the gravitational acceleration on the surface of this moon? Answer: The surface gravitational acceleration on a spherical body of mass M and radius R is simply GM g= 2 . (6.12 ORBITAL MOTION focus 12. (12. Of course. this is just Kepler’s third law of planetary motion. and (12. from Eqs.49). that the orbital period can be written 2π T=√ a3/2 .673 × 10−11 ) × (1.

The distance of the rocket from the centre of the Earth is r1 = (3. Hence.69 × 106 m.5 times the radius of the Earth above the Earth’s surface. This acceleration must be provided by the acceleration G M⊕ /r2 due to the Earth’s gravitational attraction. The Earth’s mass and radius are M ⊕ = 5.97 × 1024 ) G M⊕ = = 1. Answer: The acceleration of the satellite towards the centre of the Earth is v 2 /r. v2 G M⊕ = . where r is its orbital radius. when it is at the Earth’s surface) is g0 = 9.5 R⊕ .81 m/s2 .484 m/s2 . r r2 The above expression can be rearranged to give (6. Determine the period of the satellite’s orbit.107 × 107 m. What is the rocket’s free-fall acceleration? Answer: Let R⊕ be the Earth’s radius. r= 2 2 v (6000) Thus.e. respectively. 276 .378 × 106 = 4. Determine the satellite’s altitude above the Earth’s surface.378 × 106 m.e. we know that gravity is an inverse-square law (i.81 × 1 = 0. the satellite’s altitude above the Earth’s surface is h = r − R⊕ = 1.6 Planetary orbits Worked example 12. the rocket’s acceleration is g1 = g 0 r0 r1 2 = 9.673 × 10−11 ) × (5.5 + 1) R⊕ = 4..107 × 107 − 6. Hence.5) Worked example 12. We know that the free-fall acceleration of the rocket when its distance from the Earth’s centre is r0 = R⊕ (i. Moreover.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12. 2 (4.2: Acceleration of a rocket Question: A rocket is located a distance 3.97 × 1024 kg and R⊕ = 6.3: Circular Earth orbit Question: A satellite moves in a circular orbit around the Earth with speed v = 6000 m/s. g ∝ 1/r2 )..

5: Mass of star Question: A planet is in circular orbit around a star. Hence. m is the comet’s mass.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.22 hours.879 km/s. and u0 = 54 km/s. Hence. the comet’s angular momentum (around the Sun) takes the particularly simple form l = m r u. = r1 35 Worked example 12. r1 = 35 AU. Here. where r0 and u0 are the perihelion distance and speed.6 Planetary orbits The satellite’s orbital period is simply 2 π r 2 × π × (1. and u is its speed. The period and radius of the orbit are T = 4. respectively.57 AU. respectively.) The greatest distance of the comet from the Sun is 35 AU. the comet orbits the Sun with constant angular momentum. at these two special points. We are told that r 0 = 0. r is its distance from the Sun. (1 AU is the mean Earth-Sun distance. we can write r0 u 0 = r 1 u 1 . According to Kepler’s second law. and r1 and u1 are the corresponding quantities at aphelion. T= v 6000 Worked example 12. the comet’s velocity is perpendicular to its position vector from the Sun. 277 .107 × 107 ) = = 3.4: Halley’s comet Question: The distance of closest approach of Halley’s comet to the Sun is 0.34 × 1011 m.3 × 107 s and r = 2.57 = 0. It follows that u1 = u 0 r0 54 × 0. Calculate the mass of the star. The comet’s speed at closest approach is 54 km/s. What is its speed when it is furthest from the Sun? Answer: At perihelion and aphelion.57 AU.

By definition.34 × 1011 )3 = 4. the mass of the star is M∗ = 4 × π2 × (2. −11 ) × (4.495 × 109 J. 2π T= . The acceleration due to the star’s gravitational attraction is G M∗ /r2 . is 7. The potential energy of the probe at the Earth’s surface is G M⊕ m (6.378 × 106 m.378 × 10 Thus. Equating these accelerations. we get 4 π 2 r3 M∗ = .97 × 1024 ) × 120 = = −7. r2 Now. Answer: The energy which must be given to the probe should just match the probe’s gain in potential energy as it travels from the Earth’s surface to outer space.673 × 10 Worked example 12.673 × 10−11 ) × (5. the probe’s potential energy in outer space is zero. which is the same as the minimum launch energy. The planet accelerates towards the star with acceleration ω2 r. U=− 6) R⊕ (6.6: Launch energy Question: What is the minimum energy required to launch a probe of mass m = 120 kg into outer space? The Earth’s mass and radius are M⊕ = 5.3 × 107 )2 (6.6 Planetary orbits Answer: Let ω be the planet’s orbital angular velocity.01 × 1030 kg. we obtain G M∗ ω2 r = . combining the previous two expressions. the gain in potential energy. G T2 Thus. respectively.97 × 1024 kg and R⊕ = 6. where M∗ is the mass of the star. ω Hence. 278 .495 × 109 J.12 ORBITAL MOTION 12.

. solids. Waves are important because they are the means through which virtually all information regarding the outside world is transmitted to us. in the y-direction. we hear things via sound waves propagating through the air. For instance. this segment is subject to opposing tension forces. t)? Consider an infinitesimal segment of the string which extends from x − δx/2 to x + δx/2. 108. Suppose that the string is subject to a small amplitude displacement. What is the equation of motion for y(x.13 WAVE MOTION 13 Wave motion 13. 108. rather than those properties which are peculiar to particular wave types. the physical mechanisms which underlie sound and light wave propagation are completely different. Nevertheless. Suppose that the local tangent line to the string subtends angles δθ1 and δθ2 with the x-axis at x − δx/2 and x + δx/2. sound and light waves possesses a number of common properties which are intrinsic to wave motion itself. and we see things via light waves. which can vary along its length. Let the string run along the x-axis. T . Note that these angles are written as infinitesimal quantities because the string displacement is 279 . at its two ends.1 Introduction Waves are small amplitude perturbations which propagate through continuous media: e. Consider a straight string which is stretched such that it is under uniform tension T . As shown in Fig. or—in the special case of electromagnetic waves—a vacuum. Wave motion is a combination of oscillatory and translational motion. t) be the string’s displacement at position x and time t.2 Waves on a stretched string Probably the simplest type of wave is that which propagates down a stretched string. which act along the local tangent line to the string. we shall concentrate on the common properties of waves.g. Here. respectively—as shown in Fig. In this section. gases. 13. liquids. Let y(x. we are assuming that the string displacement remains sufficiently small that the tension does not vary in magnitude along the string. Now.

t) with respect to x. The quantity ∂y(x. for the sake of clarity). which implies that the string is everywhere almost parallel with the x-axis (the string displacement is greatly exaggerated in Fig. from calculus.13 WAVE MOTION y −> 13.2) (13. t)  fy (x.3) since the gradient.2 Waves on a stretched string T δθ 2 δθ1 T x − δ x/2 x + δ x/2 x −> Figure 108: Forces acting on a segment of a stretched string. ∂y(x − δx/2. dy(x)/dx. (13. 108. Note that tan θ θ when θ is small. Now.1) θ when θ is small. t) = T − = T δx .3) can be combined to give ∂y(x + δx/2. t) = T sin δθ2 − T sin δθ1 since sin θ T (δθ2 − δθ1 ).1)– (13. t) ∂y(x − δx/2.4) 280 . Consider the y-component of the string segment’s equation of motion. of the curve y(x) is equal to the tangent of the angle subtended by this curve with the x-axis. ∂x ∂x ∂x2   (13. t) = tan δθ2 ∂x δθ1 . (13. t) = tan δθ1 ∂x ∂y(x + δx/2. The net force acting on the segment in the y-direction takes the form fy (x. Equations (13. keeping t constant—such a derivative is known as a partial derivative. δθ2 . t)/∂x refers to the derivative of y(x. t)  ∂2 y(x. assumed to be infinitesimally small.

and ω are constants.7) satisfies (13.6). (13.. (13. t) µ δx = fy (x. t) = y0 cos (k x − ω t). A particular solution of this type of equation has been known for centuries: i. t) with respect to x. We can demonstrate that (13.11) into Eq. (13. It follows that the y equation of motion of our string segment takes the form ∂2 y(x.13 WAVE MOTION 13. (13. ∂y = y0 ω sin (k x − ω t). t) with respect to t.4) and (13. ∂2 y(x. k. 2 ∂t and ∂y = −y0 k sin (k x − ω t). all small amplitude waves satisfy an equation of motion of this basic form.2 Waves on a stretched string Here. (13.6) is an example of a wave equation. (13. Thus. (13.8) (13. t)/∂t2 —the second derivative of y(x.9) and (13. (13. y(x.10) ∂x ∂2 y = −y0 k2 cos (k x − ω t). ∂t ∂2 y = −y0 ω2 cos (k x − ω t).6) by direct substitution.9) . we find that the latter equation is satisfied provided ω2 T = .5) yield the final expression for the string’s equation of motion: ∂2 y T ∂2 y = . Equations (13. t)/∂x2 is the second derivative of y(x. keeping x constant—is the y-acceleration of the string segment at position x and time t.11) 2 ∂x Substituting Eqs.7) where y0 .6) ∂t2 µ ∂x2 Equation (13. t).e. Suppose that the string has a mass per unit length µ.12) k2 µ 281 (13.5) ∂t2 Here. In fact. ∂2 y(x. keeping t constant.

17) The quantity ω is termed the angular frequency of the wave. Differentiating the above expression with respect to time. (13. y0 corresponds to the wave amplitude. we obtain dx ω = .15) λ= with period 2π .2 Waves on a stretched string Equation (13. the number of cycles per second the wave pattern executes at a given point in space) is written T= f= 1 ω = .14) k Here.7) describes a pattern of motion which is periodic in both space and time. the displacement y oscillates between +y0 and −y0 (since the maximal values of cos θ are ±1). T 2π (13. (13. y(x. t) = y(x. Thus. The wave frequency (i. at any given point in space. y = +y0 .13 WAVE MOTION 13. (13. y(x + λ. t). Hence. the wave pattern is periodic in space. The wave pattern is periodic in time. t + T ) = y(x. cos(θ + 2 π) = cos θ.e. (13.7) also describes a sinusoidal pattern which propagates along the x-axis without changing shape. λ is known as the wavelength. Equation (13.16) ω The wave period is the oscillation period of the wave disturbance at a given point in space. t).. which correspond to k x − ω t = n 2 π. Finally.13) with periodicity length 2π .18) where n is an integer. (13. The wavelength is the distance between successive wave peaks. (13. We can see this by examining the motion of the wave peaks.19) dt k 282 . whereas k is known as the wavenumber. This periodicity follows from the well-known periodicity property of the cosine function: namely.

In other words. from Eq. k (13. y = −y0 . Equations (13..13 WAVE MOTION 13. and (13. (13.21) i. Note.e. µ (13. Thus.22) In other words. it is fairly clear that the whole wave pattern moves with speed v—see Fig. its tension and mass per unit length.7). Equations (13. (13. that the wavelength 283 .20) imply that v= T . The solid.20) It is easily demonstrated that the wave troughs. a wave’s speed is the product of its frequency and its wavelength.20) yield v = fλ : (13. dashed.. all waves that propagate down a stretched string do so with the same speed. and dotdashed curves show the wave displacement at four successive and equally spaced times.e. the wave peaks all propagate along the x-axis with uniform speed v= ω . 109. This is true for all types of (sinusoidal) wave. propagate with the same speed.17). This common speed is determined by the properties of the string: i.12) and (13.2 Waves on a stretched string v Figure 109: A sinusoidal wave propagating down the x-axis. dotted.14).

23) is y(x. (13. Equation (13. where a and b are arbitrary constants. (13. (13.24) This is interpreted as a (sinusoidal) wave of amplitude y0 and wavelength λ = 2 π/k which propagates in the +x direction with speed v.23) is a linear partial differential equation (PDE): i. for waves propagating along a string.e.13 WAVE MOTION 13. t) = y0 cos [k (x − v t)]. t) are two distinct solutions of Eq.21) and (13.23) then 284 . a general wave disturbance propagating along the x-axis satisfies 2 ∂2 y 2 ∂ y =v . t) = y0 cos [k (x + v t)]. (13. the wave speed is a constant of nature: i.e. v is determined by the properties of the medium through which the wave propagates.. if y1 (x. (13.23) ∂t2 ∂x2 where v is the common wave speed. One important mathematical property of linear PDEs is that their solutions are superposable: i.25) This is interpreted as a (sinusoidal) wave of amplitude y0 and wavelength λ = 2 π/k which propagates in the −x direction with speed v. the wave frequency f is fixed via Eqs. It follows that short wavelength waves possess high frequencies. and for electromagnetic waves propagating through a vacuum.3 General waves By analogy with the previous discussion. One solution of Eq. However. t) and y2 (x. they can be added together and still remain solutions. (13.e. (13.. 13. and vice versa. Thus. the wave speed is determined by the string tension and mass per unit length. Thus.3 General waves λ is arbitrary. c = 3 × 108 m/s2 .. for sound waves propagating through a gas. once the wavelength is specified. the wave speed is determined by the gas pressure and density.23) is y(x. it is invariant under the transformation y → a y + b.22). It is easily demonstrated that another equally good solution of Eq. In general.

the most general solution of the wave equation (13.4 Wave-pulses x −> Figure 110: A wave-pulse propagating down the x-axis. dotted. a y1 (x. then y(x.13 WAVE MOTION v 13. 13. t) = a2 cos [k2 (x + v t)] (13. t) + y2 (x.29) 285 . t) (where a and b are arbitrary constants) is also a solution— this can be seen from inspection of Eq. t) + b y2 (x. t) = y1 (x. To be more exact.26) represents a wave of amplitude a1 and wavenumber k1 which propagates in the +x direction.23) is written F(x − v t).23). and represents the two aforementioned waves propagating in the same region without affecting one another.27) represents a wave of amplitude a2 and wavenumber k2 which propagates in the −x direction. (13. and y2 (x. and dashed curves show the wave displacement at three successive and equally spaced times. t) (13. The solid.4 Wave-pulses As is easily demonstrated. t) = a1 cos [k1 (x − v t)] (13. if y1 (x. (13.28) is a valid solution of the wave equation.

a mathematical result known as Fourier’s theorem yields 2 ¯ F(k) = π ∞ F(p) cos (k p) dp. (13. G(x + v t) (13.32) 0 The above expression essentially tells us the strength of the wavenumber k component of the wave-pulse F(x − v t). by combining sinusoidal waves of varying wavenumber in different proportions. if F(x − v t) represents a wave-pulse propagating down the x-axis. 286 . Note that the function ¯ F(k) is known as the Fourier spectrum of the wave-pulse F(x − v t). The above formula is basically a recipe for generating the propagating wave-pulse F(x − v t) from a suitable admixture of sinusoidal waves of definite wavelength and frequency: ¯ F(k) specifies the required amplitude of the wavelength λ = 2 π/k component. Note that.4 Wave-pulses where F(p) is an arbitrary function.13 WAVE MOTION 13. it is possible to build up wave-pulses of completely different shape. Likewise. for the sake of simplicity. Figures 111 and 112 show two different wave-pulses and their associated Fourier spectra. What is the relationship between these new wave-pulse solutions and our previous sinusoidal wave solutions? It turns out that any wave-pulse can be built up from a suitable linear superposition of sinusoidal waves. 110. (13. For instance. a general wave-pulse possesses a definite propagation speed but does not possess a definite wavelength or frequency. Note how. without changing shape. How do we determine ¯ F(k) for a given wave-pulse? Well.31) 0 where we have assumed that F(−p) = F(p). unlike our previous sinusoidal wave solutions. The above solution is interpreted as a pulse of arbitrary shape which propagates in the +x direction with speed v. then we can write F(x − v t) = ∞ ¯ F(k) cos [k (x − v t)] dk.30) represents another arbitrary pulse which propagates in the −x direction with speed v. without changing shape—see Fig.

¯ F(k). and its associated Fourier spectrum.4 Wave-pulses Figure 111: A propagating wave-pulse. 287 .13 WAVE MOTION 13. F(x − v t).

13 WAVE MOTION 13. 288 . and its associated Fourier spectrum.4 Wave-pulses Figure 112: A propagating wave-pulse. ¯ F(k). F(x − v t).

Making use of the standard trigonometric identity cos x + cos y = 2 cos we obtain y(x. At the nodes. y1 (x. called nodes. y2 (x. the waves reinforce one another. t) and y2 (x.37) The pattern of motion specified by the above expression is illustrated in Fig.33) with a second sinusoidal wave of amplitude y0 and wavenumber k which propagates in the −x direction. t) + y2 (x. (13. the waves completely cancel one another out—this is termed destructive interference. so that the oscillation amplitude becomes double that associated with each wave individually—this is termed constructive interference. It can be seen that the wave pattern does not propagate along the x-axis. t) = 2 y0 cos (k x) cos (ω t).5 Standing waves Up to now. At other points. Note. The nodes are halfway between successive anti-nodes. t) = y1 (x. and both nodes and anti-nodes are evenly spaced half a wavelength apart. t) = y0 cos (k x − ω t). At the anti-nodes. called anti-nodes. 289 (13. The net result is y(x. t) = y0 [cos (k x − ω t) + cos (k x + ω t)] . t) = y0 cos (k x + ω t). the amplitude is zero.34) (13.36) . 113. The standing wave shown in Fig. 113 can be thought of as the interference pattern generated by combining the two traveling wave solutions y1 (x. t). 2 2 (13. Is it possible to construct a wave solution which does not propagate? Suppose we combine a sinusoidal wave of amplitude y0 and wavenumber k which propagates in the +x direction. the amplitude is maximal. that the amplitude of the wave now varies with position. At certain points. (13. all of the wave solutions that we have investigated have been propagating solutions. however.35) x+y x−y cos .5 Standing waves 13.13 WAVE MOTION 13.

any wave excited on the string must satisfy the constraints y(0. However.21) and (13. and extends from x = 0 to x = L. . fλ = 290 (13. Since the ends of the string are fixed. 3. Since the nodes in a standing wave pattern are spaced half a wavelength apart. (13.39) T . Suppose that the string runs along the x-axis.38) It is fairly clear that no propagating wave solution of the form y 0 cos [k (x ± v t)] can satisfy these constraints. µ (13.40) .22). whereas wind instruments excite standing waves in columns of air. For instance.. a standing wave can easily satisfy the constraints. it follows that the wave frequency must be adjusted such that an integer number of half-wavelengths fit on the string. Consider a guitar string of length L. λ L=n . t) = 0. The various curves show the wave displacement at different times. Now. . provided two of its nodes coincide with the ends of the string. 2. In other words. . t) = y(L. stringed instruments excite standing waves on strings.5 Standing waves node anti−node Figure 113: A standing wave. 2 where n = 1. from Eqs. Most musical instruments work by exciting standing waves. (13.13 WAVE MOTION 13.

To be more exact.9). is excited on the string. Of course.6 The Doppler effect Consider a sinusoidal wave of wavenumber k and angular frequency ω propagating in the +x direction: y(x. 3 f0 . both 291 . even when they are both playing the same note. µ (13. are termed the overtone harmonic frequencies. 13. consisting predominantly of the fundamental harmonic wave. whereas the frequencies 2 f0 . µ (13. The fundamental harmonic determines the musical note which the guitar string plays. the standing waves that can be excited on a guitar string have frequencies f0 . etc. the frequencies correspond to notes spaced an octave apart. (13. respectively. it is the overtone harmonics which give the note its peculiar timbre. which are integer multiples of f0 = 1 2L T . t) = y0 cos (k x − ω t)..42) These frequencies are transmitted to our ear. Thus. Consider a second observer moving with uniform speed vo in the +x direction. However. The frequency f0 is termed the fundamental frequency.13 WAVE MOTION 13. The above two equations can be combined to give f= n 2L T . When a guitar string is plucked an admixture of standing waves. and are interpreted as musical notes. via sound waves which oscillate in sympathy with the guitar string. 2 f0 .43) The wavelength and frequency of the wave. because a trumpet excites a different mix of overtone harmonics than a guitar. etc. as seen by a stationary observer. 4.6 The Doppler effect where T and µ are the tension and mass per unit length of the string. are λ = 2 π/k and f = ω/2 π. respectively.41) Thus. a trumpet sounds different to a guitar. What are the wavelength and frequency of the wave. 3 f0 . as seen by the second observer? Well. the x-coordinate in the moving observer’s frame of reference is x = x − v0 t (see Sect.

the wave frequency experienced by the moving observer is f = 1− vo v f. In fact.44) where v is the wave speed seen by the moving observer. since v = f λ.6 The Doppler effect observers measure the same time.. (13. It is easily demonstrated that an observer moving in the opposite direction to a wave sees a higher frequency than a stationary observer. a different ω) to that seen by the stationary observer. Suppose 292 . Finally. This occurs because the moving observer is traveling in the same direction as the wave. and the wavelength is the same in both the moving and stationary observers’ frames of reference. the moving observer sees a lower frequency wave than the stationary observer.46) (13.48) where the upper/lower signs correspond to the observer moving in the same/opposite direction to the wave. the same k) but a different frequency (i. Hence. Consider a stationary observer measuring a wave emitted by a source which is moving towards the observer with speed vs . (13. we have simply replaced x by x + vo t in Eq. t) = y0 cos (k x − ω t). the general Doppler shift formula (for a moving observer and a stationary wave source) is f = 1 vo v f. and is therefore effectively trying to catch it up. Consider two neighbouring wave crests emitted by the source. in the second observer’s frame of reference the wave takes the form y(x . (13. v = v − vo . Hence.e. Since v = ω/k.. where ω = ω − k vo .45) Here. (13. it follows that the wave speed is also shifted in the moving observer’s frame of reference.43). the moving observer sees a wave possessing the same wavelength (i.e. Clearly. This phenomenon is called the Doppler effect.13 WAVE MOTION 13.47) Thus. Let v be the propagation speed of the wave. (13.

The general formula for the shift in a wave’s frequency induced by relative motion of the observer and the source is   1 vo /v  f = f.13 WAVE MOTION 13. We conclude that if the source is moving towards the observer then the wave frequency is shifted upwards.51) 1 ± vs /v where vo is the speed of the observer.50) (13. The upper/lower signs correspond to relative motion by which the observer and the source move apart/together. (13. a high frequency) when it is coming towards us than when it is moving away from us. we have taken into account the fact that the source is a distance vs T closer to the observer when the second wave crest is emitted. seen by the observer is the distance between neighbouring wave crests.e. the first wave crest has traveled a distance d1 = v t towards the observer. Probably the most notorious use of the Doppler effect in everyday life is in police speed traps. whereas the second wave crest has traveled a distance d2 = v (t − T ) + vs T (measured from the position of the source at t = 0). λ = d1 − d2 = (v − vs ) T.. and vs is the speed of the source. In a speed trap. Hence. Likewise. This manifestation of the Doppler effect should be familiar to everyone. the effective frequency f seen by the observer is f = f .6 The Doppler effect that the first is emitted at time t = 0.e. electromagnetic waves of centimeter wavelength) of fixed frequency at an oncoming 293 . λ . 1 − vs /v (13. and the second at time t = T .49) where f is the wave frequency in the frame of reference of the source. if the source is moving away from the observer then the frequency is shifted downwards. Here. Since v = f λ . its siren has a higher pitch (i. When an ambulance passes us on the street. Of course.. the oscillation frequency of the siren never changes. where T = 1/f is the wave period in the frame of reference of the source. The effective wavelength. It is the Doppler shift induced by the motion of the siren with respect to a stationary listener which causes the frequency change. At time t. a policeman fires radar waves (i.

v. What range of wavelengths is spanned by these waves? The speed of sound in air is v = 343 m/s.6 The Doppler effect car.1667 × 10−2 m. Worked example 13. is v = f λ.1: Piano range Question: A piano emits sound waves whose frequencies range from fl = 28 Hz to fh = 4200 Hz. 294 . Answer: The relationship between a wave’s frequency.. and speed.9 m and a mass of m = 5. f. To what tension T must this wire be stretched so that its fundamental vibration corresponds to middle C: i. Hence. the policeman can determine the car’s speed.e. Hence. the vibration possess a frequency f = 261.4 g. fh 4200 The longest wavelength (which corresponds to the lowest frequency) is λh = 343 v = 12. which effectively becomes a moving source. = fl 28 Worked example 13. Answer: The fundamental standing wave on a stretched wire is such that the length L of the wire corresponds to half the wavelength λ of the wave.6 Hz.2: Middle C Question: A steel wire in a piano has a length of L = 0.80 m.13 WAVE MOTION 13. by measuring the frequency increase of the reflected waves.250 m. Hence. λ = v/f. The shortest wavelength (which corresponds to the highest frequency) is v 343 λl = = = 8. These waves reflect off the car. λ = 2 L = 1. wavelength. λ.

f= v = 0. Hence. where f is the frequency.00 × 10−3 = 1. and the tension. µ . frequency. where A = 4 cm. k = 2 π/λ. µ= L 0.65 rad.804 m/s./m.371 = 1.7608 Hz. Worked example 13. 295 T .3: Sinusoidal wave Question: A wave is described by y = A sin (k x − ω t). T = v2 µ = (470. Hence. the relationship between the wave propagation speed. v = f λ.6 × 1.4 × 10−3 = = 6.88)2 × 6. the string’s mass per unit length is m 5.88 m/s. of a stretched wire is v= Thus.9 Now. v. and ω as the angular frequency. and propagation speed of the wave? Answer: We identify A as the wave amplitude. 2π 2 × π = = 2. x is in meters and t is in seconds.13 WAVE MOTION 13. 2π 2 × π Finally.330 × 103 N.6 The Doppler effect The propagation speed of waves on the wire is given by v = f λ = 261. ω = 2 π f. Moreover. λ= 4. Thus. k = 2. k 2.65 Furthermore. and ω = 4. T .7608 × 2. Now. What are the wavelength.78 rad. the mass per unit length.78 ω = = 0.80 = 470. where v is the propagation speed./s.371 m. µ. where λ is the wavelength. Furthermore.00 × 10−3 kg/m. k as the wavenumber.

e.39 − 467.4: Truck passing stationary siren Question: A truck. at speed vo = 33 m/s.61 = 64.22 f1 = 1 + f= 1+ × 500 = 532. passes a stationary police car whose siren has a frequency of f = 500 Hz. in the same direction. the frequency shift is vo = ∆f = f1 − f2 = 532.22 f2 = 1 − f= 1− × 500 = 467.5: Ambulance and car Question: An ambulance is traveling down a straight road at speed vs = 42 m/s. Answer: The truck’s speed is 80 × 1000 = 22. the siren’s apparent frequency is vo 22. vs is the speed of the source (i.13 WAVE MOTION 13. v 343 When the truck is moving away from the police car. At what frequency does the driver of the car hear the siren? The speed of sound is v = 343 m/s. the ambulance). the car driver). The ambulance driver hears his/her siren at a frequency of f = 500 Hz.79 Hz. What is the frequency change heard by the truck driver as the truck passes the police car? The speed of sound is v = 343 m/s.. Answer: The apparent frequency f of a sound wave is given by 1 − vo /v  f = f. moving at vo = 80 km/hr. 3600 When the truck is moving towards the police car. Worked example 13. v 343 Hence.61 Hz. the siren’s apparent frequency is vo 22.22 m/s.6 The Doppler effect Worked example 13.39 Hz. v is the speed of sound. The ambulance approaches a car which is traveling on the same road. and f is the wave frequency 296 .e.. 1 − vs /v   where vo is the speed of the observer (i.

We have chosen a minus sign in the numerator of the above formula because the observer is moving away from the source. We have chosen a minus sign in the denominator of the above formula because the source is moving towards the observer. f = 1 − 42/343   297 . leading to a downward Doppler shift.13 WAVE MOTION 13. 1 − 33/343  × 500 = 514.95 Hz. leading to a upward Doppler shift. Hence.6 The Doppler effect in the frame of reference of the source.