# 1 CHAPTER 3 SYSTEMS OF PARTICLES 3.

1 Introduction By systems of particles I mean such things as a swarm of bees, a star cluster, a cloud of gas, an atom, a brick. A brick is indeed composed of a system of particles – atoms − which are constrained so that there is very little motion (apart from small amplitude vibrations) of the particles relative to each other. In a system of particles there may be very little or no interaction between the particles (as in a loose association of stars separated from each other by large distances) or there may be (as in the brick) strong forces between the particles. Most (perhaps all) of the results to be derived in this chapter for a system of particles apply equally to an apparently solid body such as a brick. Even if scientists are wrong and a brick is not composed of atoms but is a genuine continuous solid, we can in our imagination suppose the brick to be made up of an infinite number of infinitesimal mass and volume elements, and the same results will apply. What sort of properties shall we be discussing? Perhaps the simplest one is this: The total linear momentum of a system of particles is equal to the total mass times the velocity of the center of mass. This is true, and it may be “obvious” − but it still requires proof. It may be equally “obvious” to some that “the total kinetic energy of a system of particles is 2 equal to 1 2 Mv , where M is the total mass and v is the velocity of the center of mass” − but this one, however “obvious”, is not true! Before we get round to properties of systems of particles, I want to clarify what I mean by the moment of a vector such as a force or momentum. You are already familiar, from Chapters 1 and 2, with the moments of mass, which is a scalar quantity. 3.2 Moment of a Force First, let’s look at a familiar two-dimensional situation. In figure III.1 I draw a force F and a point O. The moment of the force with respect to O can be defined as Force times perpendicular distance from O to the line of action of F.
F

θ

r r sin θ O

FIGURE III.1

τ.1 Now let me ask a question. We can regard it as a vector.2 O Either way. the magnitude of the moment of the force.2) the moment can be defined equally well by Transverse component of force times distance from O to the point of application of the force. whose position vector with respect to the origin is r. (figure III.3. I draw a set of rectangular axes. and I shall try to clarify. perpendicular to the plane of the paper: τ = r × F. 3. but now let me move on to three dimensions. Is it correct to say the moment of a force with respect to (or “about”) a point or with respect to (or “about”) an axis? In the above two-dimensional example. is rF sin θ . and a force F.3 . also known as the torque. it does not matter.2 Alternatively. F cos θ F θ F sin θ r FIGURE III. In figure III.2. r F FIGURE III.

and z-components of τ are the moments of F with respect to the x-.3. (It is best to leave the units as N m rather than to express torque in joules.2.2. of F with respect to the origin is the vector τ = r × F. y ˆ. y. You can easily find the components of τ by expanding the cross product 3. 3. z Fz y Fy z x? FIGURE III. z axes.2 The x-. and I have drawn the components Fy and Fz.3 The moment. or torque. τx = yFz − zFy . 3. z ˆ are the unit vectors along the x. if a particle at position r has linear momentum p = mv. y.2: ˆ ( yFz − zFy ) + y ˆ ( zFx − xFz ) + z ˆ (xFy − yFx ).3 Moment of Momentum In a similar way. In figure III. or torque. indeed. y.4. we are looking where x down the x-axis. are ML2T−2. and the SI units are N m. and you can see that.3 ˆ.) 3.4 y The dimensions of moment of a force.and zaxes.2.1 . τ = x 3. its moment of momentum with respect to the origin is the vector l defined by l = r × p.

4 and its components are the moments of momentum with respect to the axes. i i 3. the usual choice is J s (joule seconds). The total mass is M = ∑ mi .1 The linear momentum of the ith particle is pi = mivi and the total linear momentum of the system is P= ∑p ∑l 1 2 i = ∑m v .4.4. Moment of momentum plays a role in rotational motion analogous to the role played by linear momentum in linear motion.4 . (It may. Several choices for expressing angular momentum in SI units are possible. and that the mass and position vector with respect to some origin of the ith particle are mi and ri. A given particle may have an external force Fi acting upon it.4.2 The total angular momentum of the system is L= i = ∑r ×p . i i 3. I shall suppose that we have n particles. I establish the following notation: Total external torque on the system with respect to the origin: τ= ∑τ i = ∑r ×F .4 Notation I am going to establish the following notation for the purposes of this chapter. where j goes from 1 to n except for i. The dimensions of angular momentum are ML2T−1. where the sum is understood to be over all particles – that is. with respect to a system of particles. and is also called angular momentum. i goes from 1 to n. i i 3. I define the vector sum F = ∑ Fi as the total external force acting upon the system. 3. 3. but I mean by Fi the vector sum of all the external forces acting on the ith particle. and consequently it may have internal forces Fij acting upon it.) It may also interact with the other particles in the system.3 The total kinetic energy of the system is T = ∑ mv 2 i . of course. have several external forces acting on it.4. The external torque with respect to the origin of the external force Fi on the ith particle is τ i = ri × Fi .

= xx 3. which will also explain the symbols with two subscripts. By all means use K if you prefer. unprimed single-subscript symbols will refer to O.4. For the velocity of the centre of mass I may use either r O is an arbitrary origin of coordinates.) Position vector of centre of mass (see Chapter 1. I am not sure why this is. The symbol T. For position vectors.3): r = ∑m r M i i ˆ + yy ˆ + zz ˆ.4. whose kinetic energy is entirely translational. perhaps it is because U or V are used for potential energy. Primed singlesubscript symbols will refer to C. is traditionally used for kinetic energy in advanced works on mechanics. z * rj r′ j mj r ji r 'C ri′ ri * mi O x FIGURE III. rather than K.5 (We are dealing in this chapter with “particles”. This will be clear. I hope.5 Here the bar denotes centre of mass.5 y Note that ri = r + ri′ 3.5. and does not include kinetic energy of rotation or of vibration. and the “hats” denote unit vectors. In the figure I have drawn just two of the n particles – the ith and the jth. from figure III. C is the centre of mass. especially equation 1.1. & or v .6 .

3. we now move on to some theorems concerning systems of particles.1 Now sum over all the particles: & = P ∑ F + ∑∑ F i i i j 1 2 ji (j g i) + 1 2 = F + ∑∑ F i j ji ∑∑ F j i ij .9 v i = v + v′ i. Thus.8 3.4.5 Linear Momentum Theorem: The total momentum of a system of particles equals the total mass times the velocity of the centre of mass.4.4. Thus: P = ∑m v i i = ∑ m ( v + v′ ) = i i Mv + 0.6. the total linear momentum with respect to the centre of mass is zero. It may be more useful for you to conjure up a physical picture in your mind what the following theorems mean than to memorize the details of the derivations. 3.7 3. Having established our notation. consider a single particle.6 and therefore that is to say Note also that Note further that & +r &i = r &i′ . (j g i) 3.1 3.4.6 Force and Rate of Change of Momentum Theorem: The rate of change of the total momentum of a system of particles is equal to the sum of the external forces on the system.10 That is. i i ∑ m v′ = ∑ m ( v i i i i − v) = ∑m v i i − v ∑ mi = Mv − vM = 0. the rate of change of momentum of the particle is equal to the sum of the forces acting upon it: & i = Fi + p ∑F j ji . r 3. ∑ m r′ = 0 . By Newton’s second law of motion.5. 3.

zero. â L = LC + r × P . L = angular momentum of system relative to some other origin O.6 . P = linear momentum of system with respect to O.7 = F+ 1 2 ∑∑ (F i j ji + Fij ). A hoop of radius a rolling along the ground (figure III.6): ω = v /a C P = Mv O FIGURE III. Corollary: If the sum of the external forces on a system is zero.7.) 3. 3.) Theorem: Thus: L = L = LC + r × P . (Law of Conservation of Linear Momentum. so the theorem is proved. of course.6. F ji + Fij = 0.7 Angular Momentum Notation: L C = angular momentum of system with respect to centre of mass C. (The linear momentum with respect to C is. by Newton’s third law of motion. 3.2 But.1 i i i ∑r ×p i i = ∑ m (r × v ) = ∑ m (r + r' )× (v + v' ) i i i = (r × v )∑ mi + r × ∑ mi v'i + (∑ m r' )× v + ∑ r' × p' i i i i = M (r × v ) + r × 0 + 0 × v + L C . the linear momentum is constant. r = position vector of C with respect to O. Example.

3.1 . Notation: Τ C = kinetic with respect to the centre of mass C. T = kinetic with respect to the origin O.8 Torque Notation: τ C = vector sum of all the torques about C. + r × ∑ mi v τ = τC + r × F . where I = IC + Ma2 is the rotational inertia about O.8.9 Comparison At this stage I compare some somewhat similar formulas.8 The angular momentum with respect to C is LC = ICω. τ = = â Theorem: Thus: i 3.10 Kinetic energy We remind ourselves that we are discussing particles. τ = vector sum of all the torques about the origin O. τ = τC + r × F . where IC is the rotational inertia about C. F = vector sum of all the external forces. 3.10. 2 T = TC + 1 2 Mv . L = LC + r × P L = LC P τ = τC + r × F τ = & ∑m r × v & τ' = ∑ m r' × v & F = ∑m v i i i i i i i i ∑mr ×v = ∑ m r' × v' = ∑m v i i i i i i i i 3. The angular momentum about O is therefore L = ICω + Mva = ICω + Ma2ω = ( IC + Ma2 ) = Iω.1 i i & ∑r × m v i i i i = i & ∑ (r' + r )× m v i & ∑ r' × m v &i . Theorem: 3. and that all kinetic energy is translational kinetic energy.

and so ∑∑ r × F i i j ji i also zero. ∑r × F i i i + ∑F j ji ∑r ×∑F i i j ji i But ∑∑ F i j i i ji = 0 by Newton’s third law of motion.1 3. But the first term is zero. . Thus: â L = & = L & ×p ∑r i i ∑r ×p i i i i 3. Corollary: Corollary: If v = 0 .11. T = TC .9 T = = 1 2 1 2 Thus: ∑ mv ∑ mv' i 2 i i 2 i = + 1 2 ∑ m (v ' + v ) ( v ' + v ) v ∑ m v' + v ∑ m . i i • i • i i 1 2 2 i â 2 T = TC + 1 2 Mv . (Think about what this means.11. ∑r ×p i i i &i and p i are parallel.) 3.) 2 For a non-rotating rigid body. (Think about what this means.11.11 Torque and Rate of Change of Angular Momentum Theorem: The rate of change of the total angular momentum of a system of particles is equal to the sum of the external torques on the system. because r Also & i = Fi + p  ∑F j ji . and so we arrive at & = τ. 3.11. and therefore T = 1 2 Mv .2 + & . TC = 0. L 3. Also. ∑r ×F i = τ .3 & = L â   = ∑ ri × Fi +  i j i   = ∑ ri × Fi + ∑∑ ri × F ji .4 which was to be demonstrated.

But what if Q is moving? If it does not apply.12. L Q = τ Q + MrQ ' ×& r 3.12 Torque. The second term is zero.12. just as it applies to O. The question I am going to ask is: Does the equation L the point Q? It obviously does if Q is stationary.10 Corollary: If the sum of the external torques on a system is zero. just what is the appropriate relation? The theorem that we shall prove – and interpret − is &Q . Angular Momentum and a Moving Point C r ' r 'i * mi ri − rQ ri rQ ' = rQ − r &Q rQ O FIGURE III.1 3.7 In figure III. the centre of mass C of the system. and another point Q. the angular momentum is constant.2 3. n − 1 of which I haven’t drawn and are scattered around in 3-space. & = v. I draw an arbitrary origin O.) 3. & −r & ∑ (r i Q & = L Q ∑ (r − r i Q &i −v &Q) + ) × mi ( v ) × mi ( v i − v Q ) . (Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum.3 We start: â LQ = ∑ (r i − rQ )× [mi (v i − v Q )].12. which may (or may not) be moving & = τ apply to with respect to O.7 I draw the particle mi. which is just one of n particles. because r .

r & &Q and r Q r ' are parallel. Before proceeding. for example. iii. if O were a centre of attraction or repulsion and Q were accelerating towards or away from O.4 & i = Fi . which would happen. 3. & &Q = 0 . other than that my Latin dictionary tells me that vis. vires. but L & = τ under any of the following three circumstances: Thus in general.5 & ≠ τ . Q coincides with C. so that the first term is just τQ. We use the word energy to mean the ability to do work. But enough of these idle speculations. We do not use the word strength in any particular technical sense in classical mechanics.D. L Q = τ Q + MrQ ' ×& r Q. r = τ Q + M (rQ − r) × & â &Q . virium is generally translated as strength. perhaps we could use the word strength to mean the ability to exert a force. Now mi v Continue: & =τ − L Q Q & ∑m r ×v i i Q &Q + MrQ × v &Q + MrQ × & &Q r r = τ Q − Mr × & &Q .12. As discussed in Chapter 2.E.12. ×v 3. viris means force.13 The Virial Theorem First.13. I define the quantity I= ∑m r i 2 i i 3.that is. 3.11 Continue: & = L Q ∑ (r − r i Q &i − ) × mi v & ∑m r × v i i Q + ∑mr i Q & Q. rQ ii. and its plural form.1 as the second moment of mass of a system of particles with respect to the origin. The term was apparently introduced by Rudolph Clausius of thermodynamics fame. mass is (apart from some niceties in general relativity) .that is. i. Q is not accelerating. let me say that I am not sure how this theorem got its name. L Q Q Q Q ' = 0 .

e. Note also that.1 as I= ∑ m (r .12 synonymous with inertia.i.8 Origin . rji j rj ri * i * FIGURE III.13. that you are probably much more used to thinking about the moment of inertia with respect to an axis rather than with respect to a point. which is a vector directed from particle i to particle j. &i is the force on the ith particle. for moment of inertia with respect to a point I am using the symbol I not in italics. The relation between these three vectors in shown in figure III.4 3. I can also write equation 3. Note carefully.2 Differentiate twice with respect to time: & &i ) .3 3.5 and or 2 & & = 2∑ m ( r && I i & i + ri • ri ) i & & = 4T + 2∑ r • m & & I i i ri . The sums are understood to be over all particles .13.r ) i i i i 3. the second. however. i where T is the kinetic energy of the system of particles. but the particles interact with each other with conservative forces. Fij being the force exerted on particle i by particle j.13. I am also going to introduce the notation r ji = r j − ri .13. I am now going to suppose that there are no external mi& r forces on any of the particles in the system.8. section 19. worth considering. as though there were only one moment. I = 2∑ mi (ri • r i 3. and the second moment of mass is used so often that it is nearly always called simply “the” moment of inertia. This distinction is discussed in Chapter 2. since the symbol I tends to be heavily used in any discussion of moments of inertia.13. i from 1 to n.

and it by no means at all clear. j ≠i ij &i .7 means.13. The total force on particle i is 3. 3. and we see that this becomes . Thus: ∑r ∑F i • i j ≠i ij = r1 • (F12 + F13 + F14 + F15 ) + r2 • (F21 + F23 + F24 + F25 ) + r3 • (F31 + F32 + F34 + F35 ) + r4 • (F41 + F42 + F43 + F45 ) + r5 • (F51 + F52 + F53 + F54 ) . you find double subscripts and summations confusing and you have really no idea what equation 3. Now bear in mind that r2 − r1 = r21 . in case. I i ij i j ≠i ∑F .6 Now it is clear that ∑r ∑F i • i j ≠i ij = ∑∑ r i j< i ij • Fij . Therefore.13.13. equation and this is equal to mi& r 3. Now apply Newton’s third law of motion: ∑r ∑F i • i j ≠i ij = r1 • (−F21 − F31 − F41 − F51 ) + r2 • (F21 − F32 − F42 − F52 ) + r3 • (F31 + F32 − F43 − F53 ) + r4 • (F41 + F42 + F43 − F54 ) + r5 • (F51 + F52 + F53 + F54 ) . like me. I write it out in full in the case where there are five particles. but it will be in the opposite direction to rji if it is a repulsive force and in the same direction as rji if it is an attractive force.7 However.5 becomes & & = 4T + 2∑ r • ∑ F .13.13 I have not drawn the force Fij.

by which I mean that. In the summation of equation 3.12 .6 becomes & & = 4T + 2U .13.10 which is the mutual potential energy of particles i and j.13. that is to say in a system in which the average & over a long period of time is zero (I’ll define “long” soon).13.13.11 is satisfied. I 3. but always in such a manner that equation 3.6. This is one statement of the virial theorem for a system of gravitating particles. over a long period of time.13. 3. 3. 3.14 ∑r ∑F i • i j ≠i ij = F21• r 21 + F31• r31 + F41• r41 + F51• r 51 + F32 • r32 + F42 • r42 + F52 • r52 + F43• r43 + F53• r53 + F54 • r54 and we have arrived at equation 3. as the individual particles move around in the system.13.13. bound system of gravitating particles takes the form 2 T + U = 0.11 where T and U are the kinetic and potential energies of the system.13. Equation 3. bound system.7.13. there is no long-term change in the moment of inertia of the system.13. the virial theorem value of & I for a stable. Thus equation 3.8 I now suppose that the forces between the particles are gravitational forces. In a stable. I ij ij i j <i 3. and the system is neither irreversibly dispersing or contracting. I. T and U are all changing from moment to moment. and so the double summation is the total gravitational potential energy of the system of particles.6 then becomes & & = 4T + 2∑∑ r • F . such that Fij = − Gmi m j rij3 rij . Of course. each pair has been counted once.9 Now rij • Fij = − Gmi m j r 3 ij rij • rij = − Gmi m j rij .

The speed of the planet is given by equating a GMm . Assume that Fij = − krijn −1rij and work out what is the mutual potential energy of two particles a distance rij apart.13. bound system takes the form 2 T − (n + 1) U = 0. of course. A globular cluster has roughly spherical symmetry.) For example. long compared with the time that a particle takes to cross from one side of the system to the other. For gravitating particles.13. the virial theorem for a stable. or long compared with the time that a particle takes to move in an orbit around the centre of mass of the system. n = −2.8.15 Here the angular brackets are understood to mean the average values of the kinetic and potential energies over a long period of time. from which T = GMm/(2a).9. such that m<<M and the Sun does not move. If you assume some functional form for the density distribution. By a “long” period we mean. so we easily see in this case that 2T + U = 0. this equation reduces to equation 3. The potential mv 2 energy of the system is U = −GMm/a. this will give a slightly different formula for the potential energy. for example. A trivial example is to consider a planet of mass m moving in a circular orbit of radius a around a Sun of mass M.7) will enable you to work out the mean kinetic energy and hence speed of the stars. . in that case. the centre of mass does not move. Show that if the force between the particles is an attractive force proportional to the nth power of the distance between the particles. 3GM 2 (see equation 5. you can start with equation 3.13. and you can then still use the virial theorem to calculate the mean kinetic energy.1 of Celestial Mechanics). but it is not of uniform density. so the virial the potential energy is − 5a theorem (equation 3. (In the absence of external forces. or it moves with a constant velocity.12. so that. To make a start with this problem. if a bound cluster of stars occupies a spherical volume of uniform density. being centrally condensed. to a2 Problem.