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# Module 1: Units and Significant Figures

1.1 The Speed of Light
When we observe and measure phenomena in the world, we try to assign numbers to the
physical quantities with as much accuracy as we can possibly obtain from our measuring
equipment. For example, we may want to determine the speed of light, which we can
calculate by dividing the distance a known ray of light propagates over its travel time,
speed of light =

distance
.
time

(1.1.1)

In 1983 the General Conference on Weights and Measures defined the speed of
light to be

c = 299, 792, 458 meters/second .

(1.1.2)

This number was chosen to correspond to the most accurately measured value of
the speed of light and is well within the experimental uncertainty.

1.2 International System of System of Units
The three quantities – time, length, and the speed of light – are directly
intertwined. Which quantities should we consider as “base” and which ones as “derived”
from the base quantities? For example, are length and time base quantities while speed is
a derived quantity?
This question is answered by convention. The basic system of units used
throughout science and technology today is the internationally accepted Système
International (SI). It consists of seven base quantities and their corresponding base units:
Mechanics is based on just the first three of these quantities, the MKS or meterkilogram-second system. An alternative metric system to this, still widely used, is the socalled CGS system (centimeter-gram-second). So far as distance and time measurements
are concerned, there is also wide use of British Imperial units (especially in the USA)
based on the foot (ft), the mile (mi), etc., as units of length, and also making use of the
minute, hour, day and year as units of time.

Base Quantity
Length
Mass
Time
Electric Current
Temperature
Amount of Substance
Luminous Intensity

Base Unit
meter (m)
kilogram (kg)
second (s)
ampere (A)
Kelvin (K)
mole (mol)
candela (cd)

We shall refer to the dimension of the base quantity by the quantity itself, for example
dim length ≡ length ≡ L, dim mass ≡ mass ≡ M, dim time ≡ time ≡ T.

(1.2.1)

1.3 The Atomic Clock and the Definition of the Second
Isaac Newton, in the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (“Mathematical
Principles of Natural Philosophy”), distinguished between time as duration and an
absolute concept of time,
“Absolute true and mathematical time, of itself and from its own nature,
flows equably without relation to anything external, and by another name
is called duration: relative, apparent, and common time, is some sensible
and external (whether accurate or unequable) measure of duration by
means of motion, which is commonly used instead of true time; such as an
hour, a day, a month, a year. ”1.
The development of clocks based on atomic oscillations allowed measures of
timing with accuracy on the order of 1 part in 1014 , corresponding to errors of less than
one microsecond (one millionth of a second) per year. Given the incredible accuracy of
this measurement, and clear evidence that the best available timekeepers were atomic in
nature, the second (s) was redefined in 1967 by the International Committee on Weights
and Measures as a certain number of cycles of electromagnetic radiation emitted by
cesium atoms as they make transitions between two designated quantum states:
The second is the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation
corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the
ground state of the cesium 133 atom.

1.4 The meter
The meter was originally defined as 1/10,000,000 of the arc from the Equator to
the North Pole along the meridian passing through Paris. To aid in calibration and ease of
comparison, the meter was redefined in terms of a length scale etched into a platinum bar
1

Isaac Newton. Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Translated by Andrew Motte (1729).
Revised by Florian Cajori. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1934. p. 6.

preserved near Paris. Once laser light was engineered, the meter was redefined by the
17th Conférence Générale des Poids et Mèsures (CGPM) in 1983 to be a certain number
of wavelengths of a particular monochromatic laser beam.
The metre is the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time
interval of 1/299 792 458 of a second.

Example 1: Light Year Astronomical distances are sometimes described in terms of
light-years (ly). A light-year is the distance that light will travel in one year (yr). How far
in meters does light travel in one year?
Solution: Using the relationship distance = (speed of light) ⋅ (time) , one light year
corresponds to a distance. Since the speed of light is given in terms of meters per second,
we need to know how many seconds are in a year. We can accomplish this by converting
units. We know that
1 year = 365.25 days, 1 day = 24 hours, 1 hour = 60 minutes, 1 minute = 60 seconds
Putting this together we find that the number of seconds in a year is

 24 hours   60 min   60 s 
1 year = 365.25 day 
= 31,557,600 s .
 1 day   1 hour   1 min 

(

)

(1.4.1)

So the distance that light travels in a one year is

 299,792,458 m   31,557,600 s 
15
1 ly = 
 
 1 yr = 9.461 × 10 m .
1s
1 yr

( )

(1.4.2)

The distance to the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, is three light years.
A standard astronomical unit is the parsec. One parsec is the distance at which
there is one arcsecond = 1/3600 degree angular separation between two objects that are
separated by the distance of one astronomical unit, 1AU = 1.50 × 1011 m , which is the
mean distance between the earth and sun. One astronomical unit is roughly equivalent to
eight light minutes, 1AU = 8.3l-min One parsec is equal to 3.26 light years, where one
light year is the distance that light travels in one earth year, 1pc = 3.26 ly = 2.06 × 105 AU
where 1ly = 9.46 × 1015 m .

1.5 Mass
The unit of mass, the kilogram (kg), remains the only base unit in the
International System of Units (SI) that is still defined in terms of a physical artifact,
known as the “International Prototype of the Standard Kilogram.” The prototype was

” It is stored at atmospheric pressure in a specially designed triple bell-jar. You may want to consider the following questions: . The prototype is kept in a vault with six official copies. 39 mm high and 39 mm in diameter. as measured with the effect of buoyancy). in a declaration intended to end the ambiguity in popular usage concerning the word “weight” confirmed that: The kilogram is the unit of mass. There is a stainless steel one-kilogram standard that can travel for comparisons. The density of the alloy is ρ = 21. The standard kilogram is an alloy of 90 % platinum and 10 % iridium. consisting of an alloy of 90 % platinum and 10 % iridium. The international prototype is kept at the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) at Sevres. Standard mass is normally only used in specialized measurements wherever suitable copies of the prototype are stored. Example 2: The International Prototype Kilogram Determine the type of shape and dimensions of the platinum-iridium prototype kilogram such that it has the smallest surface area for a given volume. than the standard mass.56 g ⋅ cm −3 .1 International Prototype of the Standard Kilogram The 3rd CGPM (1901).made in 1879 by George Matthey (of Johnson Matthey) in the form of a cylinder. it is equal to the mass of the international prototype of the kilogram. In practice it is more common to quote a conventional mass value (or weight-in-air. Figure 1. France under conditions specified by the 1st Conférence Générale des Poids et Mèsures (CGPM) in 1889 when it sanctioned the prototype and declared “This prototype shall henceforth be considered to be the unit of mass.

5. but as spheres roll easily they become impractical. and its volume is V = m / ρ ≅ 1000 g / 22 g ⋅ cm −3 ≅ 46. Ideally. To further minimize corrosion.3) To find the smallest surface area. whereas cylinders have flat surfaces which prevent this.5) . parallelepiped.5. (1.38 cm 3 . the shape should be chosen to have the least surface area.1) Corrosion would affect the mass through chemical reaction. sphere.5.1) Is there any reason that the surface area of the standard could be important? 2) What is the appropriate density to use? 3) What shape (that is. ρ = 21. minimize the area with respect to the radius dA 2V = 4π r − 2 = 0 .45 g ³cm. dr r (1.5. right cylinder. etc. The volume for a cylinder or radius r and height h is a constant and given by V = π r 2h .) has the smallest surface area for a given volume? 4) Why was a right-circular cylinder chosen? Solution: The standard kilogram is an alloy of 90 % platinum and 10 % iridium.3 and the density of iridium is 22. this would be a sphere. cube. The density of platinum is 21. platinum and iridium were chosen for the standard’s composition as they resist corrosion.4) Solve for the radius r3 = Thus the radius is one half the height.55 g ⋅ cm −3 .5. (1. Thus the density of the standard kilogram.56 g ⋅ cm −3 . r (1. V π r 2h = .2) The surface area can be expressed in terms of the radius r as A = 2π r 2 + 2π rh = 2π r 2 + 2V . 2π 2π (1.

(1. Silicon is a good candidate for this approach because it can be grown as a large single crystal. 2 (1. V . Find the mass m of a volume V in terms of V0 . of the cell. m0 .9) . in a very pure form.5.38 cm 3  =  2π   13 ≅ 1.5. at a rate of change of mass corresponding to approximately 1 µg / year ( 1 µg ≡ 1microgram ≡ 1 × 10-6 g ). Example 3: Mass of a Silicon Crystal A given standard unit cell of silicon has a volume V0 and contains N 0 atoms. and N A . divided by the molar mass M molar .6) For the standard mass. It may be damaged. (1. (1.7) Twice this radius is the diameter of the standard kilogram. Several new approaches to defining the SI unit of mass (kg) are currently being explored. n0 = m0 / M molar = ρV0 / M molar .95 cm . N 0 . Solution: The mass m0 of the unit cell is the density ρ of silicon cell multiplied by the volume of the cell V0 .r= h .5. or destroyed. m0 = ρV0 . The prototype gains atoms due to environment wear and cleaning.8) The number of moles in the unit cell is the total mass.0221415 × 1023 mole-1 . thus relating the kilogram to an atomic mass. The number of molecules in a given mole of substance is given by Avogadro’s constant N A = 6. M molar . One possibility is to define the kilogram as a fixed number of atoms of a particular substance. the radius is V  r=   2π  13  46. there are some intrinsic problems associated with its use as a standard. Alternative Definition of Mass Since the prototype kilogram is an artifact. The molar mass of silicon is given by M molar .5.

Notice that M molar / N A is the mass of a single atom.5. This approach is therefore reduced to the problem of measuring the Avogadro constant. with a relative uncertainty of 1 part in 108. and (V / V0 )N 0 is the number of atoms in the volume. unit cell volume and volume of the crystal can all be measured directly. N A . . which is equivalent to the uncertainty in the present definition of the kilogram. ρ = m /V (1.12) M molar V N N A V0 0 (1. N 0 = n0 N A = ρ V0 N A M molar (1. N A .5.10) The density of the crystal is related to the mass m of the crystal divided by the volume V of the crystal.5.11) So the number of atoms in the unit cell can be expressed as mV0 N A VM molar (1.13) N0 = So the mass of the crystal is m= The molar mass.5.The number of atoms in the unit cell is the number of moles n0 times the Avogadro constant.

3) It is very important to become familiar with using the measure of the angle θ itself as expressed in radians [rad].6.6.just as the ratios y / r and y / x are the same for all right triangles with the angle θ at O . s approaches the complete circumference 2π r of the circle. One can see from the diagram that s / r > y / r . .6. (1.1) cos(θ ) = x / r . tan(θ ) . Let θ be the angle between two straight lines OX and OP .1. It is very instructive to plot sin(θ ) . tan(θ ) and θ itself for small angles.3). and is the same for circles of all radii centered at O -. If the length of the arc AB is s . (1. the lines OP and OX cut the circle at the points A and B where OA = OB = r .2 Trigonometric relations You know the basic trigonometric functions of an angle θ in a right-angled triangle ONB : sin(θ ) = y / r . so that 360o = 2π rad . and θ as functions of θ [rad] between 0 and π / 2 on the same graph (see Figure 1.2) tan(θ ) = y / x (1. If we draw a circle of any radius r centered at O . Let’s compare the behavior of sin(θ ) .6 Radians and Steradians Radians Consider the triangle drawn in Figure 1. As θ approaches 360o .6. the radian measure of θ is given by θ = s/r. It is less obvious that y / x > θ .1 Figure 1.

10) The derived dimension of work is dim work = (dim force)(length) . (1. and time by the relationship dim force = (mass)(length) = M ⋅ L ⋅ T -2 .1 we include the derived dimensions of some common mechanical quantities in terms of mass. length. and time. Power is defined to be the rate of change in time of work so the dimensions are dim power = dim work (dim force)(length) (mass)(length)2 = = = M ⋅ L2 ⋅ T -3 (1.We could express force in terms of mass.12) So work and kinetic energy have the same dimensions. and time is dim kineticenergy = (mass)(length)2 = M ⋅ L2 ⋅ T -2 (time)2 (1.6.6.13) 3 time time (time) In Table 1.8) The derived dimension of kinetic energy is dim kineticenergy = (mass)(dim velocity)2 .where M ≡ mass .6.11) which in terms of our fundamental dimensions is dim work = (mass)(length)2 = M ⋅ L2 ⋅ T -2 (time)2 (1. length. 2 (time) (1.6.9) which in terms of mass. .6.6. (1. length.

and the angular amplitude of the bob 12 .2 = newton = N Work. Example 5: Period of a Pendulum Consider a simple pendulum consisting of a massive bob suspended from a fixed point by a string.Table 1. Let Tperiod denote the time (period of the pendulum) that it takes the bob to complete one cycle of oscillation. How does the period of the simple pendulum depend on the quantities that define the pendulum and the quantities that determine the motion? Solution: What possible quantities are involved? The length of the pendulum l . L ≡ length . the mass of the pendulum bob m .1 Dimensions of Some Common Mechanical Quantities M ≡ mass . T ≡ time Quantity Angle Steradian Area Volume Frequency Velocity Acceleration Angular Velocity Angular Acceleration Density Dimension dimensionless dimensionless L2 L3 T -1 L ⋅ T -1 L ⋅ T -2 T -1 T -2 M ⋅ L-3 MKS unit Dimensionless = radian Dimensionless = radian2 m2 m3 s −1 = hertz = Hz m ⋅ s −1 m ⋅ s −2 rad ⋅ s −1 rad ⋅ s −2 kg ⋅ m −3 Momentum M ⋅ L ⋅ T -1 kg ⋅ m ⋅ s −1 Angular Momentum M ⋅ L2 ⋅ T -1 kg ⋅ m 2 ⋅ s −1 Force M ⋅ L ⋅ T -2 kg ³ m ³s. Energy M ⋅ L2 ⋅ T-2 kg ⋅ m 2 ⋅ s −2 = joule = J Torque M ⋅ L2 ⋅ T-2 kg ⋅ m 2 ⋅ s −2 Power M ⋅ L2 ⋅ T -3 kg ⋅ m 2 ⋅ s −3 = watt = W Pressure M ⋅ L-1 ⋅ T -2 kg ⋅ m −1 ⋅ s −2 = pascal= Pa Dimensional Analysis There are many phenomena in nature that can be explained by simple relationships between the observed phenomena. the gravitational acceleration g .

Table 1. m. length. the symbol “ : ” represents a proportionality. In order to eliminate length. to use as the base dimensions. Have we included every possible quantity? We can never be sure but let’s first work with this set and if we need more than we will have to think harder! Our problem is then to find a function f such that ( Tperiod = f l. Choose the set: mass.θ 0 are all possible quantities that may enter into a relationship for the period of the swing.6.2. Let’s focus on the length of the string and the gravitational acceleration. We have an argument that works for our choice of constants. which depend on the units we choose for our fundamental quantities.15) It appears that the time of swing is proportional to the square root of this ratio. If we choose the combination l / g .14) We first make a list of the dimensions of our quantities as shown in Table 1.6.16) (in the above expression. not an approximation). the dimensions are dim[l / g] = length = (time)2 2 length/(time) (1. these quantities must divide each other in the above expression for Tperiod must divide each other. 13 .6. as our final quantity has no dimensions of mass and no other quantity can remove the dimension of the pendulum mass.θ 0 ) (1. and time. Thus we have a candidate formula Tperiod l :    g 1/ 2 (1.2 Dimensions of quantities that may describe the period of pendulum Name of Quantity Time of swing Length of pendulum Mass of pendulum Gravitational acceleration Angular amplitude of swing Symbol t l m g θ0 Dimensional Formula T L M L ⋅ T -2 No dimension Our first observation is that the mass of the bob cannot enter into our relationship. g.

6.6.17) ( ) We shall discover later on that y θ 0 is nearly independent of the angular amplitude θ 0 ( ) for very small amplitudes and is equal to y θ 0 = 2π . We ( ) can account for this by introducing some function y θ 0 into our relationship. Then the time of swing is Tperiod l =y θ    g 1/ 2 () (1. Tperiod l = 2π    g 1/ 2 (1. it may or may not appear.Since the angular amplitude θ 0 is dimensionless.18) 14 . which is beyond the limits of this type of analysis.

Halliday. Polya. To improve your problem solving ability in a course. plus skill in overall problem solving. Is there motion or is it static? If the problem involves vector quantities such as velocity or momentum. on problem solving2. Young and Freedman. you’re stuck with no plan or fallback position. the most essential change of attitude is to focus more on the process of solution rather than on obtaining the answer. etc. How to Solve It. 1957.g. These are typically four-step procedures that descend from George Polya’s influential book. General Approach to Problem Solving A great many physics textbook authors (e. At MIT you will see very few exam problems that are exactly the same as problems you have seen before. think of these geometrically 2 G. does this problem involve kinematics.g.Module 2: Problem Solving Strategies and Estimation 2. becoming more conscious of and insightful about the process of problem solving. 2nd ed. rate. but you will not build schema that will help solve related problems further down the road. in physics. energy. Moreover.. forces. 15 . and interest problems. momentum. This will quickly get you the answer. In most introductory university courses. try to separate the problem into parts. For homework problems there is frequently a simple way to obtain the answer. learning schema for various types of problems and how to recognize that a particular problem belongs to a known schema 3. Resnick and Cartwright…) recommend overall problem solving strategies. angular momentum. when you get stuck on a problem. if you rely on insight. Knight. Schema is loosely defined as a “specific type of problem” such as principal. equilibrium? If the problem involves two different areas of knowledge. but most will use the same schema. often involving some specific insight. Princeton University Press. increasing domain knowledge. Understand – get a conceptual grasp of the problem What is the problem asking? What are the given conditions and assumptions? What domain of knowledge is involved? What is to be found and how is this determined or constrained by the given conditions? What knowledge is relevant? E. problem solving requires factual and procedural knowledge in the area of the problem. Here are his four steps: I. plus knowledge of numerous schema. improving problem solving relies on three things: 1. particularly definitions and procedures 2.1 Problem Solving Solving problems is the most common task used to measure understanding in technical and scientific courses. one-dimensional kinematic problems with constant acceleration. In general. and in many aspects of life as well. How to Solve It.

2 Significant Figures. New York. for a problem involving two massive objects moving on an inclined plane. All digits between the least and most significant digits are counted as significant digits. Does it depend sensibly on the various quantities (e. The leftmost nonzero digit is the most significant digit. or linearly with the height). 2. and any tricky math manipulation. the concepts needed. 3. Inc. and Rounding Significant Figures We shall define significant figures by the following rules. 2nd Edition.reduce careless mistakes. Keep a clear idea of where you are going and have been (label the equations and what you have now found). is the acceleration less if the masses are larger. 4. If there is no decimal place. more if the spring has a larger k )? Is the answer physically reasonable (especially if numbers are given or reasonable ones substituted). Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences.g. the physical approximations. 17 . If there is a decimal point then the right most digit is the least significant digit even if it is a zero. 3 Philip R Bevington and D. the rightmost nonzero digit is the least significant digit. units if numerical. McGraw-Hill.. if possible. Check special cases (for instance. Review the schema of your solution: Review and try to remember the outline of the solution – what is the model. 1992. check each step as you proceed. 2.3 1. Look Back – check your solution and method of solution Can you see that the answer is correct now that you have it – often simply by retrospective inspection? Can you solve it a different way? Is the problem equivalent to one you’ve solved before if the variables have some specific values? In physics: Check dimensions if analytic. Keith Robinson. IV. if m1 = m2 or q = 0 does the solution reduce to a simple expression that you can easily derive by inspection or a simple argument?) Is the scaling what you’d expect (an energy should vary as the velocity squared. Scientific Notation.

not 1. Choosing to round up if the resulting last digit is odd and to round down if the resulting last digit is even reduces the systematic errors that would otherwise be introduced into the average of a group of such numbers. with a terminal decimal point.56 = 1. If the fraction is less than 1/2. If all the digits are significant the number should be written as 1050.1 . For example. If the fraction is greater than 1/2. for example 1050. the number of significant digits used in reporting the result is the number of digits needed to state the result of that measurement (or a calculation based on that measurement) without any loss of precision. If we were to round again to two significant digits. Rounding To round off a number by eliminating insignificant digits we have three rules.249 and 1. increment the least significant digit only if it is odd. 1.050 × 103 . increment the new least significant digit. Scientific Notation Careless use of significant digits can be easily avoided by the use of decimal notation times the appropriate power of ten for the number. both would yield the same value. = 1. either 1. There are exceptions to these rules. For practical purposes. There is some ambiguity about the number of significant figure when the rightmost digit is 0. If the fraction equals 1/2. 18 . 1.. The reason for Rule 3 is that a fractional value of 1/2 may result from a previous rounding up of a fraction that was slightly less than 1/2 or a rounding down of a fraction that was slightly greater than 1/2.When reporting the results of an experiment.12 .2 or 1. and all we need do is set the desired number of significant figures for whichever tool is used.251 both round to three significant digits 1.3 depending on our convention in Rule 3. This has only three significant digits. 2.05 × 103 while the number 1050.25. Then all the significant digits are manifestly evident in the decimal number. with no terminal decimal point. For example if you multiply 2 × 0. so you may want to carry around one extra significant digit until you report your result. 3. To avoid this ambiguity it is wiser to use scientific notation. So the number 1050 = 1. rounding will be done automatically by a calculator or computer. do not increment.

such as the number of particles in the universe (See Chapter 20). We may want to estimate our natural walking speed. All of these quantities have no exact. or the total energy consumption of a country. which may be difficult to measure exactly. length. and coulombs. The technique is named after the physicist Enrico Fermi. welldefined value. But what does “reasonably close” mean? Once again. or charge. Since we can see individual grains of sand. We may be interested in estimating the mass of the air inside a room. If we are describing a quantity that has a very large number associated with it. we can try to estimate the number of objects in a collection. 19 . The number of molecules in a breath of air is close to 10 22 . we expect the number to be very large but finite. we should be satisfied if our estimate is reasonably close to the middle of the range of possible values. energy. an estimate anywhere between 10 21 and 10 23 molecules is close enough. or power. we must hope that our estimate is within 1% of the real quantity. Here are two guiding principles that may help you get started. then an estimate within an order of magnitude should be satisfactory. they instead lie within some range of values. or the force of wind acting against a bicycle rider. Sometimes we can try to estimate a number which we are fairly sure but not certain is finite. such as kilograms. this depends on what quantities we are estimating.3 Order of Magnitude Estimates . or the number of electrons inside our body. If we are trying to win a contest by estimating the number of marbles in a glass container. we can try to estimate the total number of grains of sand contained in a bucket of sand. or the length of telephone wire in the United States. but we run into problems when our desired objects are not easily identified.2. When we make these types of estimates. or the electrical power necessary to operate this institute. time. We can also assign numbers to quantities that carry dimensions. miles.Fermi Problems Counting is the first mathematical skill we learn. or the amount of time that we have slept in our lives. who was famous for making these sorts of “back of the envelope” calculations. We came to use this skill by distinguishing elements into groups of similar objects. Methodology for Estimation Problems Estimating is a skill that improves with practice. such as mass. These types of estimations are called Fermi Problems. Rather than spending a huge amount of effort to attempt an exact count. hours. we cannot be so imprecise. and then we can attempt to estimate the number with respect to our standard quantity. or there are too many to count. Often we are interested in estimating quantities such as speed. force. For example. So we choose some set of units.

you will find out that the width is 1. (2. so our estimate was accurate to within 5%. This accuracy was fortuitous. How accurate is this estimation? If you measure the size of a penny. We can now give a precise relationship for the number of pennies needed to mark off 1 kilometer # of pennies = total distance . diameter to diameter. 20 . How many pennies will you need? How accurate is this estimation? Solution: The first step is to consider what type of quantity is being estimated. diameter of penny (2. If you are basing your estimate on a fact that you already know.9 cm .3. Then our estimate for the total number of pennies would be within a factor of 2. When there is no precise relationship between estimated quantities and the quantity to be estimated in the problem. Estimations may be characterized by a precise relationship between an estimated quantity and the quantity of interest in the problem. then the accuracy of the result will depend on the type of relationships you decide upon. There are often many approaches to an estimation problem leading to a reasonably accurate estimate. (2) You must establish an approximate or exact relationship between these quantities and the quantity to be estimated in the problem. the number of pennies. So use your creativity and imagination! Example: Lining Up Pennies Suppose you want to line pennies up.1) We can estimate a penny to be approximately 2 centimeters wide. until the total length is 1 kilometer . Suppose we estimated the length of a penny to be 1 cm. the accuracy of your estimate will depend on the accuracy of your previous knowledge. When we estimate. Therefore the number of pennies is # of pennies= totaldistance (1 km) = = 5 × 10 4 pennies . In this example we are estimating a dimensionless scalar quantity. But different people are more familiar with certain things than others.2) 5 length of a penny (2 cm)(1 km / 10 cm) When applying numbers to relationships we must be careful to convert units whenever necessary. a margin of error we can live with for this type of problem.(1) You must identify a set of quantities that can be estimated or calculated. we are drawing upon what we know.3.

(2. One way to check your work is to check dimensions. Solution: In this example we are estimating mass. The actual density of iron is ρiron = 7. and is measured in kg.3. Since there is no precise relationship. we estimate that iron is 5 to 10 times denser than water. Suppose we need to estimate the density of iron.8 g ⋅ cm -3 ). Density has dimensions of mass/volume.5) where Rearth is the radius of the earth and d is the average depth of the ocean.3. so our relationship is   mass (mass )=  volume ). 1 . Then the relationship we want is (mass)ocean =(density)water (volume)ocean .4) The density of fresh water is ρwater = 1. Let’s model the volume occupied by the oceans as if they completely cover the earth. If we compare iron to water. a quantity that is a fundamental in SI units. the density of seawater is slightly higher. The volume of a spherical shell of radius Rearth and thickness d is 2 volumeshell ≅ ( 4πRearth d).5.  (volume ocean ocean (2.Example: Estimate the total mass of all the water in the earth's oceans. (The density of water is a point of reference for all density problems.0 g ⋅ cm −3 . forming a spherical shell (Figure 1. Figure 1.3.3) One of the hardest aspects of estimation problems is to decide which relationship applies. but the difference won’t matter for this estimate. estimating the volume of water in the oceans is much harder. which is decidedly not to scale).5 A model for estimating the mass of the oceans. Initially we will try to estimate two quantities: the density of water and the volume of water contained in the oceans. (2. You could estimate this density by envisioning how much mass is contained in a one-liter bottle of water.

10) 3   cm   10 g   (1 km)  (mass)ocean ≅ 3 × 10 20 kg ≅ 10 20 kg 2 . and the radius of the earth. The radius Rearth and the circumference s are exactly related by s = 2π Rearth . Historically the circumference of the earth was defined to be 4 × 107 m ). about 25.75)(4¹ )(6 × 103 km)2 (1km) . So the volume of the oceans is ( )( ) 2 volume ocean ≅ 0.7) Thus Rearth ( )( ) 2.3. (2.8) We will use Rearth ≅ 6 × 103 km .3. (The quantity that you may remember is the circumference of the earth.5 × 104 mi 1. the factor of 75% is not needed.6 km ⋅ mi-1 s = = = 6.9)  1g   1 kg   (105 cm)3  (mass)ocean ≅  3   3   (0. Altogether. additional accuracy is not necessary for this problem. our estimate for the mass of the oceans is ( )( ) 2 (mass)ocean =(density)water (volume)ocean ≅ ρwater 0.000 miles . which is approximately Rearth ≅ 6 × 103 km .75 4π Rearth d .We first estimate that the oceans cover about 75% of the surface of the earth. (2.3.3. (2. since the ocean depth estimate is clearly less accurate. In fact.6) We therefore have two more quantities to estimate. which we can estimate the order of magnitude as d ≅ 1km . (2. the average depth of the ocean.4 × 103 km 2π 2π (2. but included more or less from habit.75 4π Rearth d .3.

p. the systematic use of variables. 4 3 . culminating with Galileo’s description of the motion of bodies. 1949. which they vaguely recognized as continuous. the core concepts of calculus. and its characters are triangles.” Galileo Galilee in Assayer 3. there are well-defined problem solving methodologies that provide step-by-step instructions on applying physics concepts but the key question is: How do these methodologies fit into the larger context of expert problem solving? Although algorithmic steps can be articulated (and memorized). The methodologies can bring out the subtleties of the physical concepts while the concepts illustrate the need for the mathematics. its use was found to be indispensable in solving countless problems. Although the calculus was not used by Newton in his development of the Principles of the Mechanics. circles and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it.1 Introduction Mathematics and physics have been historically interwoven since the time of the ancient Greeks. The reliance on mathematics to describe nature is the foundation on which science is built. It is written in the language of mathematics. New York.Module 3: Cartesian Coordinates and Vectors “Philosophy is written in this grand book. the universe which stands continually open to our gaze. But the book cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and read the letters in which it is composed.The History of the Calculus and its Conceptual Development. “The calculus had its origins in the logical difficulties encountered by the ancient Greek mathematicians in their attempt to express their intuitive ideas on the ratios and proportionalities of lines. without these. It is also difficult because it requires a simultaneous understanding of physical and mathematical concepts. Boyer. Leibnitz and Newton developed algorithms for introducing and calculating the derivative and the integral.”4 The modern science of kinematics began in the 16th century. In particular how the methodologies are related to the core physics concepts. it is essential for students to understand the meaning of these methodologies. one wanders about in a dark labyrinth. This is a non-algorithmic learning 4 Carl B. and a use of the infinitesimal. Dover. In physics. in terms of numbers. which they regarded as discrete. The process of understanding and mastering these methodologies is slow because it is built on practice. Galileo used geometric techniques derived from Euclid’s Elements to introduce the concepts of velocity and acceleration. With the introduction of analytic geometry. published in at the start of the 17th century.

In order to connect the phenomena to mathematics we begin by introducing the concept of a coordinate system.01). multiple variable calculus (18. Today. The conceptual foundation of the methodologies provides the framework for thinking about the physics problem. mathematical physics. A coordinate system consists of four basic elements: (1) Choice of origin (2) Choice of axes (3) Choice of positive direction for each axis (4) Choice of unit vectors for each axis There are three commonly used coordinate systems: Cartesian. and volume elements that are key to making many integration 4 . Because they can pass the course by memorizing some templated techniques (and because of point 1) the mathematics they “learn” is not truly available to them when solving problems in other domains. These General Institute Requirements are in fact a rite of passage for the modern MIT student into the world of science and engineering. Learning to think about a physics problem using force diagrams is an example of this type of fusion. An emphasis on modeling of physical systems is an effective way to mitigate against two of the main hazards of mathematics classes: 1. area.01).process of synthesizing two difficult abstract knowledge systems simultaneously. and Electricity and Magnetism (8.2 Cartesian Coordinate System Physics involve the study of phenomena that we observe in the world. Thinking about physics problems and designing problem solving strategies is the fusion that turns students into expert problem solvers. The understanding of physics will deepen because students can solve more mathematically challenging homework problems. but with no connection to other subjects. cylindrical and spherical. 2.02). along with Newtonian Mechanics (8. What makes these systems extremely useful is the associated set of infinitesimal line. the first-year student at MIT is expected to understand single variable calculus (18.02). The understanding of mathematics will deepen because physics provides a rich source of problems 3. This will reinforce the idea that calculus is an important part of physics. The students recognize certain formulas as relevant to other subjects. but view mathematical reasoning as an isolated game with fixed rules that they are forced to master.

z P ) . we select the x -axis so that the wire lies on the x -axis. −∞ < yP < +∞ . (1) Choice of Origin Choose an origin O . This set S yP is a 5 . z ) ∈ S such that y = yP } .1 A segment of wire of length a lying along the x -axis of a Cartesian coordinate system. The ranges of these values are: −∞ < xP < +∞ . as shown in Figure 3. For example. you may choose the mid-point of a straight piece of wire. the most common system we will use has three axes. which intersect at a common point. x -axis.calculations in classical mechanics. This is the set of points S yP = {( x. Then each point P in space our S can be assigned a triplet of values ( xP . the origin O . y. Once again. we adapt our choices to the physical object. for which we choose the directions of the axes and position of the origin are. For example. The collection of points that have the same the coordinate yP is called a level surface. y -axis. If you are given an object. We live in a three-dimensional environment. yP . such as finding the center of mass and moment of inertia. (2) Choice of Axis Now we shall choose a set of axes. Cartesian Coordinates Cartesian coordinates consist of a set of mutually perpendicular axes. and the z -axis. The simplest set of axes are known as the Cartesian axes. Suppose we ask what collection of points in our space S have the same value of y = yP . for that reason. then your choice of origin may coincide with a special point in the body. −∞ < z P < +∞ . the Cartesian coordinates of the point P .1 Figure 3.

(3) Choice of Positive Direction Our third choice is an assignment of positive direction for each coordinate axis.plane.0) . We define the directions for ˆj and kˆ in the direction of the increasing y P P coordinate and z -coordinate respectively. In physics problems we are free to choose our axes and positive directions any way that we decide best fits a given problem. The horizontal direction from left to right is taken as the positive y -axis. (4) Choice of Unit Vectors We now associate to each point P in space. Thus.3). ˆjP = 1 . 0. Conventionally. a set of three unit directions vectors (ˆi P .2 Level surface set for constant value yP . the x − z plane (Figure 3. 0) and (− a / 2. Problems that are very difficult using the conventional choices may turn out to be much easier to solve by making a thoughtful choice of axes. and the vertical direction from bottom to top is taken as the positive z -axis. ˆjP . Figure 3. kˆ P ) . 6 . called a level set for constant yP .0. We assign the direction of ˆi P to point in the direction of the increasing x -coordinate at the point P . (Figure 3. The endpoints of the wire now have coordinates (a / 2. A unit vector has magnitude one: ˆi P = 1 .2). the y coordinate of any point actually describes a plane of points perpendicular to the y -axis. and kˆ P = 1 . Cartesian coordinates are drawn with the y − z plane corresponding to the plane of the paper. We shall denote this choice by the symbol + along the positive axis.

and the direction can reverse. acceleration. the sum of the forces depends on both the direction and magnitude of the two forces. velocity. When two forces act on an object. Position. force.3 Vector Analysis Introduction to Vectors Certain physical quantities such as mass or the absolute temperature at some point only have magnitude. 3. Force is an example of a quantity that acts in a certain direction with some magnitude that we measure in newtons. displacement. We shall begin by defining precisely what we mean by a vector. however.4). The length of the arrow corresponds to the magnitude of the vector.Figure 3. Let a vector be denoted by r r r the symbol A . These quantities can be represented by numbers alone. the magnitude can stretch or shrink. The arrow points in the direction of the vector (Figure 3. other physical quantities which have both magnitude and direction.3 Choice of unit vectors. We can represent vectors as geometric objects using arrows. momentum and torque are all physical quantities that can be represented mathematically by vectors. Properties of a Vector A vector is a quantity that has both direction and magnitude. 7 . The magnitude of A is| A | ≡ A . There are. with the appropriate units. These quantities can be added in such a way that takes into account both direction and magnitude. and they are called scalars.

Figure 3. We define a new vector. 8 . The diagonal of the r r r parallelogram corresponds to the vector C = A + B . by a geometric construction. There is an equivalent construction for the r r law of vector addition. There are two defining operations for vectors: (1) Vector Addition: r r r r r Vectors can be added. C = A + B . The arrow that starts at the tail of A and goes to the tip of B is r r r defined to be the “vector addition” C = A + B . Let A and B be two vectors. The vectors A and B can be drawn with their tails at the same point.4 Vectors as arrows.5(a) Geometric sum of vectors. as shown in Figure 3. Vector addition satisfies the following four properties: (i) Commutivity: The order of adding vectors does not matter.5(a). Figure 3.5(b). r r the “vector addition” of A and B . Place the tail of the arrow that represents B at the tip of the arrow for A as r r shown in Figure 3. Figure 3. The two vectors form the sides of a parallelogram.5 (b) Geometric sum of vectors. Draw the arrow that r r r represents A .

8).9b).3. Then the multiplication of A by c is a new vector. The magnitude of c A is c times the magnitude of A (Figure 3.4) r r r A + −A = 0 ( ) ur r r ur The vector − A has the same magnitude as A .3.r r r r r A+0 = 0+ A = A (3.5) r r Since c > 0 . the direction of c A is the same as the direction of A . c A = Ac (3. there is a unique inverse vector r r ( − 1) A ≡ − A such that (3.3. 10 . the r r direction of −c A is opposite of A (Figure 3.9a). but they point in opposite directions (Figure 3. which we denote by the r r r symbol c A . Let A be a vector. (2) Scalar Multiplication of Vectors: r Vectors can be multiplied by real numbers.3) (iv) Inverse Element for Vector Addition: r For every vector A . Let c be a real positive r number.8 additive inverse. However. | A |=| − A |= A . Figure 3.

Scalar multiplication of vectors satisfies the following properties: (i) Associative Law for Scalar Multiplication: The order of multiplying numbers is doesn’t matter.7) Figure 3. and (b) −c < 0 .r Figure 3. Let c be a real number.3. Then r r r r c ( A + B) = c A + c B (3. Let b and c be real numbers.10 illustrates this property.6) (ii) Distributive Law for Vector Addition: Vector addition satisfies a distributive law for multiplication by a number.10 Distributive Law for vector addition. Then r r r r b (cA ) = (bc) A = (cb A ) = c (bA ) (3. (iii) Distributive Law for Scalar Addition: 11 .3. Figure 3.9 Multiplication of vector A by (a) c > 0 .

8) Our geometric definition of vector addition satisfies this condition as seen in Figure 3. momentum. torque. We must always understand the physical context for the vector quantity. and angular momentum as vectors. Figure 3.11 Distributive law for scalar multiplication (iv) Identity Element for Scalar Multiplication: The number 1 acts as an identity element for multiplication. instead of approaching vectors as formal mathematical objects we shall instead consider the following essential properties that enable us to represent physical quantities as vectors. acceleration.The multiplication operation also satisfies a distributive law for the addition of numbers.4 Application of Vectors When we apply vectors to physical quantities it’s nice to keep in the back of our minds all these formal properties.3. Thus. (3) Vector Equality: Any two vectors that have the same direction and magnitude are equal no matter where in space they are located. velocity. Then r r r (b + c) A = b A + c A (3. r r 1A=A (3. We can’t add force to velocity or subtract momentum from torque.11.3. However from the physicist’s point of view. (1) Vectors can exist at any point P in space. 12 .9) 3. Let b and c be real numbers. impulse. force. we are interested in representing physical quantities such as displacement. (2) Vectors have direction and magnitude.

| ˆj |= 1 . r r r A = Ax + A y .12 we choose Cartesian coordinates for the x-y plane (we ignore the z -direction for r simplicity but we can extend our results when we need to). We call ˆi the unit vector at P pointing in the + x -direction. A vector A at P can be decomposed into the vector sum.1) r where A x is the x -component vector pointing in the positive or negative x -direction.4. ˆj.12 Vector decomposition (5) Unit vectors: The idea of multiplication by real numbers allows us to define a set of unit vectors at each point in space. a set of three unit vectors (ˆi . Figure 3. r and A y is the y -component vector pointing in the positive or negative y -direction (Figure 3. kˆ ) . We assign the direction of ˆi to point in the direction of the increasing x coordinate at the point P .(4) Vector Decomposition: Choose a coordinate system with an origin and axes. A unit vector means that the magnitude is one: | ˆi |= 1 . and | kˆ |= 1 . We associate to each point P in space. (3. We can decompose a vector into component vectors along each coordinate axis. 13 .12). Unit vectors ˆj and kˆ can be defined in a similar manner (Figure 3. In Figure 3.13).

Let θ denote the angle that the vector A makes in the counterclockwise direction with the positive x -axis (Figure 3.Figure 3. as r A x = Ax ˆi (3. r r r r A = A x + A y .13. We can write the x-component vector. r A z = Az kˆ (3. Then the x component and y -component are Ax = A cos(θ ). Note the difference between the x r component. the r r vector A lies in the x-y plane. Az . and the z -component. and the x -component vector. Az ) . (without the arrow above) is called the x-component of the r vector A . A x . (6) Vector Components: Once we have defined unit vectors.4. the magnitude of A is.2) In this expression the term Ax . A x .14).4) r (7) Magnitude: In Figure 3.6) 14 . of the r vector A r A y = Ay ˆj.4. Ay = A sin(θ ) (3. It is not the r magnitude of A x which is given by ( Ax 2 )1/ 2 . In a similar fashion we define the y -component. Ay .4. zero. Ay . Recall our vector decomposition. We can also write the vector as r A = Ax ˆi + Ay ˆj + Az kˆ (3. Ay . r Using the Pythagorean theorem.4. Ax . Az ) .5) r (8) Direction: Let’s consider a vector A = ( Ax .13 Choice of unit vectors in Cartesian coordinates. The x -component Ax can be positive. A= Ax2 + Ay2 + Az2 (3. Since the z -component is zero.4. Ay . we also show the vector components A = ( Ax .3) r r A vector A can be represented by its three components A = ( Ax . we can then define the x component and y -component of a vector.0) . or negative.

7) Once the components of a vector are known.  Ax  θ = tan −1  (3.4. the direction of the vector depends on the sign of Ax and Ay .Figure 3. We can now write a vector in the x-y plane as r A = A cos(θ ) ˆi + A sin(θ ) ˆj (3. however.4. For example. then −π / 2 < θ < 0 . r r ˆ denote a unit (9) Unit vector in the direction of A : Let A = Ax ˆi + Ay ˆj + Az kˆ .4. the tangent of the angle θ can be determined by Ay Ax = Asin(θ ) = tan(θ ) . if both Ax > 0 and Ay > 0 . Then r ˆ ˆ ˆ A ˆ = r = Ax i + Ay j + Az k A 2 2 2 1/2 A ( Ax + Ay + Az ) (3. Ax > 0 and Ay < 0 . Let A r vector in the direction of A .4.14 Components of a vector in the x-y plane. then 0 < θ < π / 2 . and the vector lies in the first quadrant.10) 15 .9) Clearly. and the vector lies in the fourth quadrant.8) that yields  Ay  . If. Acos(θ ) (3.

15. Let θ C denote the angle that the r vector C makes with the positive x-axis. C y = Ay + By (3.15) 16 .4.4.13) In terms of magnitudes and angles. Then r A = A cos(θ A ) ˆi + A sin(θ A ) ˆj (3. the vector addition C = A + B is shown.r r (10) Vector Addition: Let A and B be two vectors in the x-y plane.11) r B = B cos(θ B ) ˆi + B sin(θ B ) ˆj (3.4.4.15 Vector addition with components r Then the components of C are C x = Ax + Bx .4. Figure 3. we have Cx = C cos(θ C ) = A cos(θ A ) + B cos(θ B ) C y = C sin(θ C ) = A sin(θ A ) + B sin(θ B ) (3.12) r r r In Figure 3. Let θ A and θ B r r denote the angles that the vectors A and B make (in the counterclockwise direction) with the positive x-axis.14) r We can write the vector C as r C = ( Ax + Bx ) ˆi + ( Ay + By ) ˆj = C cos(θ C ) ˆi + C sin(θ C ) ˆj (3.

r
r
r
Example 1: Given two vectors, A = 2 ˆi + −3 ˆj + 7 kˆ and B = 5ˆi + ˆj + 2kˆ , find: (a) A ; (b)
r r
r r
r
r
ˆ pointing in the direction of A ; (f) a unit
B ; (c) A + B ; (d) A − B ; (e) a unit vector A
r
vector Bˆ pointing in the direction of B .
(a)

r
A = ( 22 + (−3)2 + 7 2

)

(b)

r
B = ( 52 + 12 + 2 2

= 30 = 5.48

1/ 2

)

1/ 2

= 62 = 7.87

r r
A + B = ( Ax + Bx ) ˆi + ( Ay + By ) ˆj + ( Az + Bz ) kˆ
= (2 + 5) ˆi + (−3 + 1) ˆj + (7 + 2) kˆ
= 7 ˆi − 2 ˆj + 9 kˆ

(c)

r r
A − B = ( Ax − Bx ) ˆi + ( Ay − By ) ˆj + ( Az − Bz ) kˆ
= (2 − 5) ˆi + (−3 − 1) ˆj + (7 − 2) kˆ
= −3 ˆi − 4 ˆj + 5 kˆ

(d)

(e)

r
ˆ in the direction of A can be found by dividing the
A unit vector A
r
r
vector A by the magnitude of A . Therefore
r r
ˆ = A / A = 2 ˆi + −3 ˆj + 7 kˆ / 62
A

(

(f)

)

r r
In a similar fashion, Bˆ = B / B = 5ˆi + ˆj + 2kˆ / 30 .

(

)

r
r
r r
Example 2: Consider two points located at r1 and r2 , separated by distance r12 = r1 − r2 .
r
r
r
Find a vector A from the origin to the point on the line between r1 and r2 at a distance
r
xr12 from the point at r1 , where x is some number.
r
r
Solution: Consider the unit vector pointing from r1 and r2 given by
r
r r r r r r
r
r
rˆ12 = r1 − r2 / r1 − r2 = r1 − r2 / r12 . The vector α in the figure connects A to the point at r1 ,
r
r r
r r
r r r
therefore we can write α = xr12rˆ12 = xr12 ( r1 − r2 / r12 ) = x ( r1 − r2 ) . The vector r1 = A + α .
r r r r
r r
r
r
Therefore A = r1 − α = r1 − x ( r1 − r2 ) = r1 (1 − x) + xr2 .

3.5 Dot Product

17

We shall now introduce a new vector operation, called the “dot product” or “scalar
product” that takes any two vectors and generates a scalar quantity (a number). We shall
see that the physical concept of work can be mathematically described by the dot product
between the force and the displacement vectors.
r
r
Let A and B be two vectors. Since any two non-collinear vectors form a plane,
r
r
we define the angle θ to be the angle between the vectors A and B as shown in Figure
3.16. Note that θ can vary from 0 to π .

Figure 3.16 Dot product geometry.

Definition: Dot Product
r r
r
r
The dot product A ⋅ B of the vectors A and B is defined to be product of the
r
r
magnitude of the vectors A and B with the cosine of the angle θ between the
two vectors:

ur ur
A ⋅ B = AB cos(θ )

(3.5.1)

r
r
r
r
Where A = | A | and B = | B | represent the magnitude of A and B respectively.
The dot product can be positive, zero, or negative, depending on the value of
cosθ . The dot product is always a scalar quantity.

The angle formed by two vectors is therefore
r r
 A ⋅B

θ = cos  r r 
 A B 
−1

(3.5.2)

r
The
magnitude
of
a
vector
A
is given by the square root of the dot product of the vector
r
A with itself.

18

r
r r
A = ( A ⋅ A )1/ 2

(3.5.3)

We can give a geometric interpretation to the dot product by writing the definition as
r r
A ⋅ B = ( A cos(θ )) B

(3.5.4)

r
In this formulation, the term A cosθ is the projection of the vector B in the direction of
r
the vector B . This projection is shown in Figure 3.17(a). So the dot product is the
r
r
r
product of the projection of the length of A in the direction of B with the length of B .
Note that we could also write the dot product as
r r
A ⋅ B = A ( B cos(θ ))

(3.5.5)

r
r
Now the term B cos(θ ) is the projection of the vector B in the direction of the vector A
as shown in Figure 3.17(b). From this perspective, the dot product is the product of the
r
r
r
projection of the length of B in the direction of A with the length of A .

Figure 3.17(a) and 2.17(b) Projection of vectors and the dot product.
From our definition of the dot product we see that the dot product of two vectors that are
perpendicular to each other is zero since the angle between the vectors is π / 2 and
cos(π / 2) = 0 .
Algebraic Properties of Dot Product
r
The first property involves the dot product between a vector c A where c is a scalar and a
r
vector B ,

(1a)

r r
r r
c A ⋅ B = c ( A ⋅ B)

(3.5.6)

19

5. We note that the same rule applies for the unit vectors in the y and z directions: öj ⋅ öj = kö ⋅ kö = 1 (3. ur r B = B öi . The vector A can be written as x ur A = Ax öi + Ay öj + Az kö (3.5.8) (1b) r r r r A ⋅ c B = c ( A ⋅ B) (3.5.7) Since the dot product is a commutative operation. (3. i.11) We first calculate that the dot product of the unit vector ˆi with itself is unity: öi ⋅ öi =| öi || öi | cos(0) = 1 (3.12) since the unit vector has magnitude | öi |= 1 and cos(0) = 1 .13) The dot product of the unit vector ˆi with the unit vector ˆj is zero because the two unit vectors are perpendicular to each other: öi ⋅ öj =| öi || öj | cos(π / 2) = 0 (3. (3.e.5.10) similar definitions hold.5.14) 20 .5. r r r r A ⋅B = B ⋅A .9) (2b) r r r r r r r C ⋅ ( A + B) = C ⋅ A + C ⋅ B .5.5.. Vector Decomposition and the Dot Product With these properties in mind we can now develop an algebraic expression for the dot product in terms of components.r r The second involves the dot product between the sum of two vectors A and B with a r vector C . Let’s choose a Cartesian coordinate system with the r vector B pointing along the positive x -axis with positive x -component Bx . r r r r r r r (A + B) ⋅ C = A ⋅ C + B ⋅ C (2a) (3.

5.5. (b) zero or (c) negative. we show the three different cases. the dot product of the unit vector ˆi with the unit vector kˆ .5. or negative depending on the x r component of the vector A . our answer can be zero.18. r Since we assumed that the vector B points along the positive x -axis with positive x component Bx . The result for the dot product can be generalized easily for arbitrary vectors r A = Ax öi + Ay öj + Az kö (3. In Figure 3. Figure 3.16) = Ax Bx This third step is the crucial one because it shows that it is only the unit vectors that undergo the dot product operation.18 Dot product that is (a) positive.5. and the unit vector ˆj with the unit vector kˆ are also zero: öi ⋅ kö = öj ⋅ kö = 0 (3.17) r B = Bx öi + By öj + Bz kö (3.15) The dot product of the two vectors now becomes r r ö ⋅ B öi A ⋅ B = ( Ax öi + Ay öj + Az k) x = Ax öi ⋅ Bx öi + Ay öj ⋅ Bx öi + Az kö ⋅ Bx öi property (2a) = Ax Bx ( öi ⋅ öi) + Ay Bx ( öj⋅ öi) + Az Bx (kö ⋅ öi) property (1a) and (1b) (3. positive.Similarly.18) and to yield 21 .

( ( ) ) ( ( 1/ 2 ) . ) Work: 22 . So if Similarly A + B = ( A + B) ⋅ ( A + B) r r r r r r r r A − B = A + B . then A ⋅ B = 0 hence A is perpendicular to B . r r r r Solution: The dot product of two vectors is equal to A ⋅ B = A B cos θ where θ is the angle between the two vectors.19) r r r r Example 3: Given two vectors.5. r r A ⋅ B = Ax Bx + Ay By + Az Bz = (2)(5) + (−3)(1) + (7)(2) = 21 r Example 4: Find the cosine of the angle between the vectors A = 3 ˆi + ˆj + kˆ and r B = −2ˆi − 3 ˆj − kˆ . Therefore r r r r cos θ = A ⋅ B / A B = ( Ax Bx + Ay By + Az Bz ) /( Ax 2 + Ay 2 + Az 2 )1/ 2 ( Bx 2 + By 2 + Bz 2 )1/ 2 = ((3)(−2) + (1)(−3) + (1)(−1)) /((3)2 + (1) 2 + (1)2 )1/ 2 ( (−2)2 + (−3) 2 + (−1) 2 )1/ 2 = (−10) /(11)1/ 2 (14)1/ 2 = −0.806 r r r r r r Example 5: Show that if A − B = A + B .r r A ⋅ B = Ax Bx + Ay By + Az Bz (3. r r r r r r 1/ 2 r r r r r r Solution: Recall that A − B = ( A − B) ⋅ ( A − B) = ( A ⋅ A − 2A ⋅ B + B ⋅ B) r r r r r r 1/ 2 r r r r r r 1/ 2 = ( A ⋅ A + 2 A ⋅ B + B ⋅ B) . A = 2 ˆi + −3 ˆj + 7 kˆ and B = 5ˆi + ˆj + 2kˆ . find A ⋅ B . then A is perpendicular to B .

respectively. The first application of the cross product will be the physical concept of torque about a point P that can be described mathematically by the cross product between two vectors: a vector from P to where the force acts.A typical physics application of the dot product between two vectors involves the r calculation of the work done by a force F on an object that undergoes a displacement r ∆r . then the work done by the force on the object is given by r r W F = F ⋅ ∆r (3. If the force is uniform in space and constant in time during the entire displacement. The vectors A and B form a plane. Consider the direction perpendicular to this plane.5. Since any two non-parallel vectors form a plane. (3. r r A × B = AB sin(θ ) . and the force vector. The angle θ between the vectors is limited to the values 0 ≤ θ ≤ π insuring that sin(θ ) ≥ 0 . r r The direction of the cross product is defined as follows. The magnitude of the cross product A × B of the vectors A and B r r is defined to be product of the magnitude of the vectors A and B with the sine of the angle θ between the two vectors.19. Figure 3.19 Cross product geometry. There are two possibilities: we 23 . r r we define the angle θ to be the angle between the vectors A and B as shown in r r r r Figure 3.6. The cross product is a type of “multiplication” law that turns our vector space (law for addition of vectors) into a vector algebra (a vector algebra is a vector space with an additional rule for multiplication of vectors). Definition: Cross Product r r Let A and B be two vectors.1) r r where A and B denote the magnitudes of A and B . called the “cross product” that takes any two vectors and generates a new vector.20) 3.6 Cross Product We shall now introduce our second vector operation.

3) r Now the term A sin(θ ) is the projection of the vector A in the direction perpendicular to r the vector B as shown in Figure 3. Curl your right fingers the r same r way as the arc. 24 . two different representations of the height and base of a parallelogram are illustrated.6. We can give a geometric interpretation to the magnitude of the cross product by writing the magnitude as r r A × B = A ( B sin θ ) (3.6. Figure 3.21(a). which is the magnitude of the cross product.2) r r The vectors A and B form a parallelogram.19) for the direction of the cross product A × B using a convention that is commonly called the “right-hand rule”.shall choose r one r of these two (shown in Figure 3. r r You should remember that the direction of the cross product A × B is perpendicular to r r the plane formed by A and B . the term B sin(θ ) is the projection of the vector B in the r direction perpendicular to the vector B . The area of the parallelogram is equal to the height times the base.21(b). We could also write the magnitude of the cross product as r r A × B = ( A sin(θ )) B (3. As r depicted in Figure 3.20 Right-Hand Rule. Your right thumb points in the direction of the cross product A × B (Figure 3.22.20). In Figure 3. Then r r draw an arc starting from the vector A and finishing on the vector B . Right-hand Rule for the Direction of Cross Product r r The first step is to redraw the vectors A and B so that their tails are touching.

21(b) Projection of vectors and the cross product The cross product of two vectors that are parallel (or anti-parallel) to each other is zero since the angle between the vectors is 0 (or π ) and sin(0) = 0 (or sin(π ) = 0 ).8) Similarly. Vector Decomposition and the Cross Product We first calculate that the magnitude of cross product of the unit vector ˆi with ˆj : 25 .6.6.4) r r (2) The cross product between a vector c A where c is a scalar and a vector B is Similarly. two parallel vectors do not have a unique component perpendicular to their common direction.5) r r r r A × c B = c ( A × B) (3. Geometrically.21(a) and 3.Figure 3.7) r r r r r r r A × (B + C) = A × B + A × C (3. r r r r c A × B = c ( A × B) (3.6) r r r (3) The cross product between the sum of two vectors A and B with a vector C is r r r r r r r (A + B) × C = A × C + B × C (3.6. Properties of the Cross Product (1) The cross product is anti-commutative since changing the order of the vectors cross product changes the direction of the cross product vector by the right hand rule: r r r r A × B = −B × A (3.6.6.

6. the direction of öi × öj is in the +kˆ as shown in Figure 3. kö × kö = 0 (3.10) Note that by the anti-commutatively property (1) of the cross product.13) With these properties in mind we can now develop an algebraic expression for the cross product in terms of components. öj × öj = 0.6.14) and 26 .22. öj × öi = − kö. Thus öi × öj = kö .6.9) since the unit vector has magnitude | öi |=| öj |= 1 and sin(π / 2) = 1 .6.12) The cross product of the unit vector ˆj with itself and the unit vector kˆ with itself are also zero for the same reason. By the right hand rule. ( sin(0) = 0 ).11) The cross product of the unit vector ˆi with itself is zero because the two unit vectors are parallel to each other. öj × kö = öi.| öi × öj |=| öi || öj |sin(π / 2) = 1 (3. Let’s choose a Cartesian coordinate system with the r vector B pointing along the positive x-axis with positive x-component Bx . öi × kö = − öj (3.22 Cross product of öi × öj We note that the same rule applies for the unit vectors in the y and z directions.6. | öi × öi |=| öi || öi | sin(0) = 0 (3. kö × öi = öj (3.6. Figure 3. Then the r r vectors A and B can be written as r A = Ax öi + Ay öj + Az kö (3.

6.19) r r A × B = ( Ay Bz − Az By ) öi + ( Az Bx − Ax Bz ) öj + ( Ax By − Ay Bx ) kö .6.15) respectively.6. Solution: r r A × B = ( Ay Bz − Az By ) ˆi + ( Az Bx − Ax Bz ) ˆj + ( Ax By − Ay Bx ) kˆ = ((−3)(2) − (7)(1)) ˆi + ((7)(5) − (2)(2)) ˆj + ((2)(1) − (−3)(5)) kˆ = −13 ˆi + 31 ˆj + 17 kˆ r r r r Example 6: Law of Sines: Prove that B / sin β = A / sin α and B / sin β = C / sin γ r using the cross product.6. The cross product in vector components is r r ö × B öi A × B = ( Ax öi + Ay öj + Az k) x (3. find A × B .18) r B = Bx öi + By öj + Bz kö (3. (Hint: Consider the area of a triangle formed by three vectors A . using properties (3) and (2).16) This becomes.20) to yield r r r r Example 6: Given two vectors.17) = − Ay Bx kö + Az Bx öj The vector component expression for the cross product easily generalizes for arbitrary vectors and r A = Ax öi + Ay öj + Az kö (3.6. and C . (3. we have that 0 = A × ( A + B + C) = A × B + A × C .6. where A + B + C = 0 . A = 2 ˆi + −3 ˆj + 7 kˆ and B = 5ˆi + ˆj + 2kˆ .r B = Bx öi (3. r r A × B = ( Ax öi × Bx öi ) + ( Ay öj × Bx öi ) + ( Az kö × Bx öi ) = Ax Bx (öi × öi ) + Ay Bx (öj × öi ) + Az Bx (kö × öi ) (3. Thus 27 .) r r r r r r r r r r r Solution: Since A + B + C = 0 . r r r r r B .

B . A similar argument shows that r r B / sin β = A / sin α proving the law of sines. Therefore r r r r r r r r r A ⋅ (B × C ) = A ⋅ ( B × C )nö = ( B × C ) A ⋅ nö = ( area )( height ) = ( volume) . and C is given by A ⋅ (B × C) . 28 . Example 8: Show that the volume of a parallelpiped with edges formed by the vectors r r r r r r A .r r r r r r r r A × B = − A × C or A × B = A × C . and hence B / sin β = C / sin γ . This projection is given by taking the dot product of A with a unit vector r and is equal to A ⋅ nˆ = height . r r r r r r r r From the figure we see that A × B = A B sin γ and A × C = A C sin β . then the area of the base is given by the r r r r r r magnitude of B × C . If the r r base is formed by the vectors B and C . Solution: The volume of a parallelpiped is given by area of the base times height. The projection of the vector A along the direction nˆ gives the height of the r parallelpiped. The vector B × C = B × C nˆ where nˆ is a unit vector perpendicular r to the base. Therefore r r r r r r A B sin γ = A C sin β .

meaning movement. 4.1 A one-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system. The position has both direction and magnitude. (4. called a reference frame.2). The position coordinate is a function of time and can be positive. Time Interval.2 Position.2 The position vector.1 shows a Cartesian coordinate system in one dimension with unit vector ˆi pointing in the direction of increasing x -coordinate. with reference to a chosen origin. a mathematical coordinate system. Figure 4. The term is derived from the Greek word kinema. Displacement Position Consider an object moving in one dimension.Module 4: One-Dimensional Kinematics 4. r x(t ) = x(t ) ˆi . Figure 4.3). In order to quantify motion. 29 . and hence is a vector (Figure 4. The SI unit for position is the meter [m] (see Section 1. or negative. Once a reference frame has been chosen. We denote the position coordinate of the center of mass of the object with respect to the choice of origin by x(t ) . we can introduce the physical concepts of position. is used to describe space and time. zero.1) We denote the position coordinate of the center of the mass at t = 0 by the symbol x0 ≡ x(t = 0) . depending on the location of the object. Figure 4.2.1 Introduction Kinematics is the mathematical description of motion. velocity and acceleration in a mathematically precise manner.

This will lead us to the mathematical concept that velocity at an instant in time is the derivative of the position with respect to time. words like “speed” and “velocity” are used in common language.2. we need to define these terms precisely.3 The displacement vector of an object over a time interval is the vector difference between the two position vectors 4. Displacement is a vector quantity. vx . Our procedure will be to define average quantities for finite intervals of time and then examine what happens in the limit as the time interval becomes infinitesimally small.2) The SI units for time intervals are seconds [s].3 Velocity When describing the motion of objects. (4. for a time interval ∆t is defined to be the displacement ∆x divided by the time interval ∆t . Definition: Average Velocity The component of the average velocity. 30 . Figure 4.Time Interval Consider a closed interval of time [t1 . Definition: Displacement The change in position coordinate of the mass between the times t1 and t2 is r ∆x ≡ ( x(t2 ) − x(t1 )) ˆi ≡ ∆x(t ) ˆi . however when introducing a mathematical description of motion.3).2.3) This is called the displacement between the times t1 and t2 (Figure 4. t2 ] . (4. We characterize this time interval by the difference in endpoints of the interval such that ∆t = t2 − t1 .

3.4 Graph of position vs. In order to define the limiting value for the slope at any time. ∆t (4. ∆t (4.3. the rise over the run.3) Let’s see what happens to the average velocity as we shrink the size of the time interval. 31 . t + ∆t ] . t + ∆t ] . Instantaneous Velocity Consider a body moving in one direction. Consider the time interval [t . x(t )) and (t . x(t + ∆t )) approaches the slope of the tangent line to the curve x(t ) at the time t (Figure 4. For each value of ∆t .1) The average velocity vector is then ∆x ˆ r v (t ) ≡ i = vx (t ) ˆi . The slope. The slope of the line connecting the points (t .3. time showing the tangent line at time t . As ∆t → 0 . with initial position x0 at time t = 0 . we choose a time interval [t . ∆t run ∆t (4. Figure 4. The average velocity for the interval ∆t is the slope of the line connecting the points (t . and is given by vx ≡ rise ∆x x(t + ∆t ) − x(t ) = = . We denote the position coordinate of the body by x(t ) . we calculate the average velocity. x(t )) and (t .2) The SI units for average velocity are meters per second  m⋅ s −1  . is the change in position over the change in time.vx ≡ ∆x . x(t + ∆t )) .4).

3.3. ∆t →0 2   (4. ∆x = x(t + ∆t ) − x(t ) . Definition: Instantaneous Velocity The x -component of instantaneous velocity at time t is given by the slope of the tangent line to the curve of position vs. time curve at time t : ∆x x(t + ∆t ) − x(t ) dx = lim ≡ .3.3. We can explicitly calculate the x -component of instantaneous velocity from Equation (4. The limiting value of this sequence is defined to be the x -component of the instantaneous velocity at the time t .3. ∆t →0 ∆t ∆t →0 dt ∆t vx (t ) ≡ lim vx = lim ∆t →0 (4. (4.5) Example 1: Determining Velocity from Position Consider an object that is moving along the x -coordinate axis represented by the equation 1 x(t ) = x0 + bt 2 2 (4. 2 2 (4.8) vx (t ) = lim = lim  ∆t →0 ∆ t → 0 ∆t ∆t This expression reduces to 1   vx (t ) = lim  bt + b ∆t  . 1 1 x(t + ∆t ) = x0 + b (t + ∆t ) 2 = x0 + b ( t 2 + 2t ∆t + ∆t 2 ) . We need to calculate the position at time t + ∆t .4) by first calculating the displacement in the x -direction.9) 32 .4) The instantaneous velocity vector is then r v(t ) = vx (t ) ˆi .3.7) Then the instantaneous velocity is 1 1     x0 + b (t 2 + 2t ∆t + ∆t 2 )  −  x0 + b t 2   x(t + ∆t ) − x(t ) 2 2    .6) where x0 is the initial position of the object at t = 0 . (4.we generate a sequence of average velocities.3.

Thus the instantaneous velocity at time t is vx (t ) = b t . Figure 4. (4. [m⋅ s −2 ] . ∆vx . Suppose during a time interval ∆t a body undergoes a change in velocity r r r ∆v = v (t + ∆t ) − v (t ) .2) Definition: Average Acceleration The x -component of the average acceleration for the time interval ∆t is defined to be r ∆v (v (t + ∆t ) − vx (t )) ˆ ∆vx ˆ a = a x ˆi ≡ x ˆi = x i= i. (4. Average Acceleration Acceleration is the quantity that measures a change in velocity over a particular time interval. We first consider how the instantaneous velocity changes over an interval of time and then take the limit as the time interval approaches zero.5 we graph the instantaneous velocity.4.10) In Figure 4.4. t + ∆t ] is then ∆vx = vx (t + ∆t ) − vx (t ) .4.5 A graph of instantaneous velocity as a function of time. as a function of time t . (4. vx (t ) .1) The change in the x -component of the velocity. the rate of change of velocity.4 Acceleration We shall apply the same physical and mathematical procedure for defining acceleration. for the time interval [t .3. 33 .3) The SI units for average acceleration are meters per second squared.The first term is independent of the interval ∆t and the second term vanishes because the limit as ∆t → 0 of ∆t is zero. ∆t ∆t ∆t (4. 4.

Instantaneous Acceleration On a graph of the x -component of velocity vs.4. time. (vx (t + ∆t ) − vx (t )) ∆v dv = lim x ≡ x . Since velocity is the derivative of position with respect to time.4.4) The instantaneous acceleration vector is then r a(t ) = ax (t ) ˆi . vx (t )) and (t + ∆t . vx (t + ∆t )) . Definition: Instantaneous Acceleration.6 Graph of velocity vs. 34 . time showing the tangent line at time t .5) In Figure 4. Figure 4. we employ the same limiting argument as we did when we defined the instantaneous velocity in terms of the slope of the tangent line. the x -component of the acceleration is the second derivative of the position function.6 we illustrate this geometrical construction. the average acceleration for a time interval ∆t is the slope of the straight line connecting the two points (t . ∆t →0 ∆t →0 ∆t dt ∆t ax (t ) ≡ lim ax = lim ∆t →0 (4. In order to define the x -component of the instantaneous acceleration at time t . (4. The x -component of the instantaneous acceleration at time t is the limit of the slope of the tangent line at time t of the graph of the x -component of the velocity as a function of time.

the ratio ∆v / ∆t is independent of ∆t . consistent with the constant slope of the graph in Figure 4. ∆t →0 dt ∆t →0 ∆t ∆t (4.4. the x -component of the acceleration is graphed as a function of time. in which the position function for the body is given by x = x0 + (1/ 2) bt 2 .ax = dvx d 2 x = 2 .0 = . The x -component of the instantaneous acceleration at time t is the limit of the slope of the tangent line at time t of the graph of the x -component of the velocity as a function of time (Figure 4. and the x -component of the velocity is vx = bt .2) When the acceleration is constant. Denote the x -component of the velocity at time t = 0 by vx . the velocity is a linear function of time. Therefore the x -component of the acceleration is given by ax = a x = ∆vx vx (t ) − vx .4. ∆t t (4.4. Time Graph In Figure 4.7) Note that in Equation (4.5) ax = dvx v (t + ∆t ) − vx (t ) bt + b ∆t − bt = lim x = lim = b. Velocity: Area Under the Acceleration vs.5. 35 . the average acceleration is equal to the instantaneous acceleration.7).5.7.0 ≡ vx (t = 0) .5 Constant Acceleration Let’s consider a body undergoing constant acceleration for a time interval ∆t = [0.1) Thus the velocity as a function of time is given by vx (t ) = vx .0 + ax t . 4. t ] .4. (4. dt dt (4. When the acceleration ax is a constant.6) Example 2: Determining Acceleration from Velocity Let’s continue Example 1.

Time Graph In Figure 4. Area(ax . time curve.0 .0 ) t . (4. t ) ≡ a x t = ∆vx = vx (t ) − vx . time curve is a trapezoid.7 Graph of the x -component of the acceleration for ax constant as a function of time.5) Substituting for the velocity (Equation (4. The area under the acceleration vs.5.3) Using the definition of average acceleration given above.0 t + 1 ( vx (t ) − vx.8 Graph of velocity as a function of time for ax constant. t ) ≡ a x t . (4. 2 (4.2)) yields 36 . is Area(ax . we graph the x -component of the velocity vs.Figure 4. The region under the velocity vs.5.5.4) Displacement: Area Under the Velocity vs. for the time interval ∆t = t − 0 = t . formed from a rectangle and a triangle and the area of the trapezoid is given by Area(vx . time graph.8. t ) = vx . Figure 4.5.

0 + ax t) + vx . t ) = vx .5.3. Substitute into Equation (4.6) Figure 4. 37 . When the acceleration is constant over a time interval.0 + ax t − vx .5.0 t + ax t 2 . the average velocity is the displacement divided by the time interval (note we are now using the definition of average velocity that always holds.10) Now compare Equation (4.5.7) the x -component of the velocity. the two methods will give identical results.8) into Equation (4. 2 2 (4.5. 2 (4.8) Recall Equation (4.1).5. Equation (4.6) to conclude that the displacement is equal to the area under the graph of the x -component of the velocity vs. 2 (4. 1 vx = (vx (t ) + vx .5.0 ) .9 The average velocity over a time interval. for non-constant as well as constant acceleration).5.3.0 t + ax t 2 . time. The displacement is equal to ∆x ≡ x(t ) − x0 = vx t .10) to Equation (4.0 ) = vx .0 + ax t .2).7) The above method for determining the average velocity differs from the definition of average velocity in Equation (4.5. We can then determine the average velocity by adding the initial and final velocities and dividing by a factor of two (see Figure 4.0 ) = ((vx .0 )t = vx .5.9). (4.1).9) Substituting Equation (4. 2 2 2 (4.5.5. to yield vx = 1 1 1 (vx (t) + vx .0 t + (vx .9) shows that displacement is given by 1 ∆x ≡ x(t ) − x0 = vx t = vx .1 1 Area(vx .

0 t + a x t 2 . plot speed vs time. the position x(t) and velocity v(t) as a function of time t for a car starting from rest are 38 .5.0 t + ax t 2 = Area(vx . b) How long was the car accelerating? c) What was the magnitude of the acceleration? d) On the graphs below.12) Figure 4. Notice that at t = 0 the slope may be in general non-zero. Figure 4.5. Example 3: Accelerating Car A car. starting at rest at t = 0 .1 ∆x ≡ x(t ) − x0 = vx .10 Graph of position vs. a) Write down the equations for position and velocity of the car as a function of time. e) What was the average velocity for the entire trip? Solutions: a) For the acceleration a . 2 (4. acceleration vs time. 2 (4. t ). and position vs time for the entire motion.10 shows a graph of this equation.0 .5. 1 x(t ) = x0 + vx .11) and so we can solve Equation (4.11) for the position as a function of time. Carefully label all axes and indicate your choice for units. accelerates in a straight line for 100 m with an unknown constant acceleration. It reaches a speed of 20 m ⋅ s −1 and then continues at this speed for another 10 s . time for constant acceleration. corresponding to the initial velocity component vx .

5.13). 0 < t < 10 s ax (t) =  10 s < t < 20 s 0. Note that we can eliminate the acceleration a between the Equations (4.14) We can solve this equation for time as a function of the distance and the final speed giving x (t ) t=2 . (4.5. and the position vs.t] = v(t) / 2 and the elapsed time. (4.5.16) c) We can substitute into either of the expressions in Equation (4. -2 0 < t < 10 s (2 m ⋅ s )t. the second is slightly easier to use. the distance traveled during the time interval [0. We know that the position x(t1 ) = 100 m and v(t1 ) = 20 m ⋅ s −1 .13) b) Denote the time interval during which the car accelerated by t1 .t] is the product of the average velocity vave [0.5.5. v(t1 ) 20 m ⋅ s −1 a= = = 2. vx (t) =  -1 20 m ⋅ s . x-component of the velocity vs.x(t) = (1 / 2) a t 2 ax (t) = a t. time.0 m ⋅ s −2 (4.” We can now substitute our known values for the position x(t1 ) = 100 m and v(t1 ) = 20 m ⋅ s −1 and solve for the time interval that the car has accelerated t1 = 2 x(t1 ) 100 m =2 = 10s .15) v (t ) This is sometimes expressed as “for constant acceleration.5. (4. v(t1 ) 20 m ⋅ s −1 (4. time are piece-wise functions given by 2 m ⋅ s-2 . 10 s < t < 20 s 39 .17) t1 10s d) The x-component of acceleration vs. time.13) to obtain x(t) = (1 / 2) v(t) t .5.

and the position vs.11 Graphs of the x-components of acceleration.-2 2 0 < t < 10 s (1 / 2)(2 m ⋅ s )t . 20s (4.5. The graphs of the x-component of acceleration vs. time are shown in Figure 4.18) 40 . x(t) =  -2 10 s < t < 20 s 100 m +(2 m ⋅ s )( t − 10 s).11 Figure 4. x-component of the velocity vs. time. for an average velocity of vave = 300 m =15m ⋅s −1 . the car travels for an additional ten seconds at constant speed and during this interval the car travels an additional distance ∆x = v(t1 ) × 10s = 200 m (note that this is twice the distance traveled during the 10s of acceleration). so the total distance traveled is 300 m and the total time is 20s . time. velocity and position as piecewise functions of time f) After accelerating.

a car starts from rest with a given constant acceleration. Figure 4. 5.0 × 10 −1 m ⋅ s-2 .12). and that the position of the car and the bus are identical when the bus just passes the car. time of the car and bus. 1. a bus. Draw arrows for the position coordinate function for the car and bus. passes the car. traveling with a given constant speed. Just as the light turns green. the bus and the car.13). For each object. only. How far down the road has the car traveled. how many independent directions are needed to describe the motion of that object? One.6 × 101 m ⋅ s-1 . The car speeds up and passes the bus some time later.12 Position vs. How many different stages of motion are there for each object? Each object has one stage of motion. when the car passes the bus? Solution: I. Sketch qualitatively the position of the car and bus as a function of time (Figure 4. 41 . Understand – get a conceptual grasp of the problem Think about the problem.Example 4 Catching a bus At the instant a traffic light turns green. the velocity of the bus. What choice of coordinate system best suits the problem? Cartesian coordinates with a choice of coordinate system in which the car and bus begin at the origin and travel along the positive x-axis (Figure 4. What information can you infer from the problem? The acceleration of the car. How many objects are involved in this problem? Two.

1 (t) = ax . The problem states: “The car speeds up and passes the bus some time later. x1 (t) . and the acceleration of the car is non-zero ax .20t . x1 (t) = The initial position of the bus is zero. the initial position and initial velocity of the car are both zero. Call the position function of the car.20ta vx . The velocity is constant. Choose a coordinate system with the origin at the traffic light with the car and bus traveling in the positive x-direction. vx . x2 (ta ) = vx .” What analytic condition best expresses this condition? Let t = ta 42 .Figure 4.1t . and the acceleration of the bus is zero. and the position function for the bus.1t 2 .2 = 0 .13 A coordinate system for car and bus. x2 (t) . x2. So the position function for the bus is x2 (t) = vx .0 + vx10t + In this example. ax .20 .0 = 0 and vx10 = 0 . the car and the bus. 2 vx . Identify any specified quantities. Devise a Plan . In general the position and velocity functions of the car are given by 1 ax . II.1t 2 2 vx .1t x1 (t) = x1.2 (t) = vx . using both the information from the problem and our choice of coordinate system.0 = 0 . the initial velocity of the bus is non-zero. There are two objects.set up a procedure to obtain the desired solution Write down the complete set of equations for the position and velocity functions.20 ≠ 0 .1 (t) = vx10 + ax . x1. So the position and velocity of the car is given by 1 ax .1 ≠ 0 .

ta So you need to be given at least two numerical values in order to completely specify all the quantities. The six quantities that are as yet unspecified are x1 (ta ) .20 . How many quantities need to be specified in order to find a solution? There are three independent equations at time t = ta : the equations for position and velocity of the car x1 (ta ) = 1 a t2 2 x . III. There is one ‘constraint condition’ x1 (ta ) = x2 (ta ) . x1 (ta ) = x2 (ta ) becomes 43 . the position functions of the bus and car are equal.1 .1 (ta ) = ax . . for example the distance where the car and bus meet.1ta . vx . x1 (ta ) = x2 (ta ) .1 (ta ) . and the equation for the position of the bus.correspond to the time that the car passes the bus. Then we can use either of the position functions to find out where this occurs. vx . vx . Carry our your plan – solve the problem! The number of independent equations is equal to the number of unknowns so you can design a strategy for solving the system of equations for the distance the car has traveled in terms of the velocity of the bus vx . x2 (ta ) . ax . ax . Let’s use the constraint condition to solve for the time t = ta where the car and bus meet. Thus the constraint condition. when the car passes the bus. The problem specifying the initial velocity of the bus.20 and the acceleration of the car ax . Then at that time.1 a vx . of the car with given values.20 . and the acceleration.

1 ax .20 . Some very careless errors can be caught at this point.1ta2 = vx . Therefore the position of the car at the meeting point is x1 (ta ) =  v  v2 1 1 ax.20  = 2 x.20 ax .  m 2 ⋅ s-2   m  =  -2   m⋅ s  and the algebra checks.4 × 10 s =2 (5. Introduce your numerical values for vx .0 × 103 m −1 -2 ax . Look Back – check your solution and method of solution Check your algebra.20ta . Is it possible that 44 . Do your units agree? The units look good since in the answer the two sides agree in units. Suppose ax = 5.6 × 10 m ⋅ s ) = 6.1 .20 x1 (ta ) = 2 = 2 = 1. and solve numerically for the distance the car has traveled when the bus just passes the car. Once you have an answer.0 × 10−1 m ⋅ s-2 and vx . ta = 2 vx.1 (1.0 × 10 m ⋅ s Check your results.0 × 10 m ⋅ s ) 1 -1 1 −1 ( () ( -2 2 ) ) 1.20 and ax .1  ax. think about whether it agrees with your estimate of what it should be. 2 2 ax.6 × 101 m ⋅ s-1 vx2.1  2 x.1 5. 2 We can solve for this time.20 = 1.1  IV. Then ta = 2 vx .6 × 101 m ⋅ s-1 . Substitute in numbers.20 ax.1ta2 = ax.

Thus vx . But these two results contradict each other.1 (ta ) = ax . The symbol g will always denote the magnitude of the acceleration at the surface of the earth. 4.1 .1 (ta ) = vx . the acceleration is constant and negative. Suppose you are holding a stone and throw it straight up in the air. (We will later see that Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation requires some modification of Galileo’s statement. With our choice of coordinate system. but near the earth’s surface his statement holds. the car and bus have the same velocity? Then there would be an additional constraint condition at time t = ta .3). vx .19) 45 . Galileo Galilei was the first to definitively state that all objects fall towards the earth with a constant acceleration. and so the stone is moving in one dimension.20 ax .5.8 m ⋅ s −2 .20 ax . From our other result for the time of intersection ta = 2vx . so it is not possible.when the car just passes the bus.20 .1ta = vx . For simplicity.) Let’s choose a coordinate system with the origin located at the ground. and the y -axis perpendicular to the ground with the y -coordinate increasing in the upward direction.6 Free Fall An important example of one-dimensional motion (for both scientific and historical reasons) is an object undergoing free fall. The stone will rise and fall along a line.20 implies that ta = vx .8 m ⋅ s −2 to two significant figures (see Section 3. (4. a y (t ) = − g = −9. that the velocities are equal. later measured to be of magnitude g = 9. we’ll neglect all the effects of air resistance.1 .

5.0 t − g t 2 2 (4. Let t A denote the time interval that elapses as the body passes the point A on its way up and its way down.When we ignore the effects of air resistance.2)) for an object undergoing constant acceleration. the acceleration of any object in free fall near the surface of the earth is downward.8 m ⋅ s −2 . Of course. time? What type of coordinate system will you choose? Where is a good place to choose your origin? Solution: we first make a graph of the motion in the vertical direction as a function 46 .5. a more precise value of g must be used (see Section 3. constant and equal to 9. Equations of Motions We have already determined the position equation (Equation (4. if more precise numerical results are desired.3). its magnitude is given by g= 8h . The point B is a height h above the point A . (4.5. Example 5: Measuring g The acceleration of gravity can be measured by projecting a body upward and measuring the time interval that it takes to pass two given points A and B both when the body rises and when it falls again.5. and v y .12)) and velocity equation (Equation (4.0 is the initial y -component of velocity that the stone acquired at t = 0 from the act of throwing. Let t B denote the time interval that elapses as the body passes the point B on its way up and its way down.20) v y (t ) = v y . With a simple change of variables from x → y . You may want to consider the following issues.0 − g t . the two equations of motion for a freely falling object are 1 y (t ) = y0 + v y . Show that. TA − TB 2 2 Include in your answer a description of the strategy and any diagrams or graphs that you have chosen for solving this problem. assuming the acceleration is constant.21) and where y0 is the initial position from which the stone was released at t = 0 . Where do your measured quantities appear on a plot of height vs.

22) 2 We note that the instant the ball returns to the first point A occurs at time t = t A and the position at that instant is y(t = t A ) = 0.25) which we can now substitute into Eq. This is just one-dimensional motion with constant acceleration (free fall) so the equation for the position is given by 1 y(t ) = v 0y t − gt 2 . (4.From the graph.5. 2 0 = y (t A ) = v 0y t A − ( ) (4. Using this information in Eq. we choose our origin at that the first time the object crosses the point A as shown in the figure below.23) for the initial y-component of the velocity v 0y = 1 gt 2 A (4.5.24) and find that 47 .5. We also note that the instant the ball first reaches point B occurs at time t1 = (t A − t B ) / 2 and the position at that instant is y(t = t1 ) = h. (4.5.5.5.23) (4. 2 A 2 1 h = y ((t A − t B ) / 2) = v 0y (t A − t B ) / 2 − g (t A − t B ) / 2 . (4.5.24) We can solve Eq.22). we get that 1 2 gt . (4.

2 2  Expanding we have that ( ) 1  1 h =  gt A  (t A − t B ) / 2 − g (t A2 + t B2 − 2t At B ) 8 2  h = (4. (4.28) 8h (t − t B2 ) (4.5.5.26) (4.5.2 1  1 h =  gt A  (t A − t B ) / 2 − g (t A − t B ) / 2 .5.29) We can solve this last Eq.27) 1 2 2 g (t − t ) 8 A B (4. g= 2 A 48 .5.28) for g .

1. (5.. and the overall sum becomes i= N vx (t ) − vx (0) = ∑ ∆vx .3). ti +1 ] and sum over these results. . and t1 ≡ 0 . we would like to know how the x component of the velocity changes for a time interval ∆t = [0. Then the sum of the changes in the x component of the velocity is i= N ∑ ∆v x. t ] . we can approximate the acceleration as a constant. (5. 2. Over the interval ∆ti . i= N i= N i= N i =1 i =1 i =1 vx (t ) − vx (0) = ∑ ∆vx . Then the change in the x component of the velocity is the area under the acceleration vs. Since the acceleration is non-constant we cannot simply multiply the acceleration by the time interval. t N ≡ t . We shall calculate the change in the x -component of the velocity for a small time interval ∆ti ≡ [ti . ax (ti ) .1. i .Module 5: One Dimensional Kinematics Non-Constant Acceleration 5.1) into Equation (5.1.1 Integration and Kinematics Change of Velocity as the Integral of Non-constant Acceleration When the acceleration is a non-constant function. We then take the limit as the time intervals become very small and the summation becomes an integral of the x -component of the acceleration. i ≡ vx (ti +1 ) − vx (ti ) = ax (ti ) ∆ti + Ei (5. .1) where Ei is the error term (see Figure 5.2) i =1 ( ) In this summation pairs of terms of the form vx (t2 ) − vx (t2 ) = 0 sum to zero. (5.4) 49 . ∆vx .3) i =1 Substituting Equation (5. i = ∑ ax (ti ) ∆ti + ∑ Ei .. N .11a). t ] . we divide the interval up into N small intervals ∆ti ≡ [ti .1. time curve. i = ( vx (t2 ) − vx (t1 = 0)) + ( vx (t3 ) − vx (t2 )) + L + ( vx (t N = t ) − vx (t N −1 )). where the index i = 1. For a time interval ∆t = [0.1.1. ti +1 ].

time Suppose we make a finer subdivision of the time interval ∆t = [0.1. Area 2 (ax .1. Area N (ax . t ) = ∑ ax (ti ) ∆ti . under the graph of the x -component of the acceleration vs. Area( ax . (5. t ). i= N Area N (ax . t )} . the summation in Equation (5. the error term vanishes in Equation (5. and we generate a sequence of values {Area 1 (ax .1.. We now take the limit as N approaches infinity and the size of each interval ∆ti approaches zero. N →∞ (5. . t ).11a and 5.5) i =1 Figures 5. t ] by increasing N .5) gives a value for Area N (ax .7) i =1 Therefore in the limit as N approaches infinity.. For each value of N .1. Equation (5.1..11b Approximating the area under the graph of the x -component of the acceleration vs.We now approximate the area under the graph in Figure 5. as shown in Figure 5.4). time.1.4) becomes 50 . When taking the limit. (5. t ) .11a by summing up all the rectangular area terms. i= N lim ∑ Ei = 0 . t ) .11b.6) The limit of this sequence is the area. The error in the approximation of the area decreases.

t ) . 51 .(5. t ′ =t vx (t ) − vx (0) = ∫ a x ( t ′ ) dt ′ .11) i =1 The displacement for a time interval ∆t = [0. (5. t ) under the graph of the x -component of the velocity vs. t ) . t ) . and is denoted by t ′ =t ∫ t ′ =0 i= N ax (t ′ ) dt ′ ≡ lim ∆ti → 0 ∑ a (t ) ∆t x i i = Area( ax .1.1. t ) = ∑ vx (ti ) ∆ti .8) N →∞ i =1 N →∞ N →∞ i =1 i =1 and thus the change in the x -component of the velocity is equal to the area under the graph of x -component of the acceleration vs.8) shows that the change in the x –component of the velocity is the integral of the x -component of the acceleration with respect to time. Definition: Integral of acceleration The integral of the x -component of the acceleration for the interval [0. t ] is defined to be the limit of the sequence of areas.i= N i= N i= N vx (t ) − vx (0) = lim ∑ ax (ti ) ∆ti + lim ∑ Ei = lim ∑ ax (ti ) ∆ti = Area( ax .9) i =1 Equation (5. we can in principle find the expressions for the velocity as a function of time for any acceleration. Area N (ax .1. time. (5. t ) . Integral of Velocity We can repeat the same argument for approximating the area Area( vx .1.1. (5. time by subdividing the time interval into N intervals and approximating the area by i= N Area N (ax . t ] is limit of the sequence of sums Area N (ax .10) t ′ =0 Using integration techniques.

time. ax (t ) .13) i =1 The displacement is then the integral of the x -component of the velocity with respect to time. and is denoted by t ′ =t ∫ t ′ =0 i= N vx (t ′ ) dt ′ ≡ lim ∆ti → 0 ∑ v (t ) ∆t x i i = Area( vx .12) i =1 This approximation is shown in Figure 5. is not constant in time. we can in principle find the expressions for the position as a function of time for any acceleration.1.12. (5.i= N ∆x = x (t ) − x(0) = lim ∑ vx (ti ) ∆ti . t ] is the limit of the sequence of areas. Figure 5.12 Approximating the area under the graph of the x -component of the velocity vs. Definition: Integral of Velocity The integral of the x -component of the velocity for the interval [0.14) t′=0 Using integration techniques. 52 . t ) .1.1. t ) . Area N (ax . N →∞ (5. (5. t′=t ∆x = x (t ) − x(0) = ∫ v x ( t ′ ) dt ′ . Example: Let’s consider a case in which the acceleration.

16) The x -component of the velocity as a function in time is then vx (t ) = vx . time is shown in Figure 5. Let’s find the change in the x -component of the velocity as a function of time.0 + b0 t + b1 t 2 b2 t 3 + .18) t′=0 53 . 2 3 (5. The displacement as a function of time is the integral t′=t x(t ) − x0 = ∫ v x ( t ′ ) dt ′ . Denote the initial velocity at t = 0 by vx.15) The graph of the x -component of the acceleration vs.1.13 A non-constant acceleration vs.1.13 Figure 5.1.1. Then. (5. 0 = ∫ t′=0 t ′=t a x ( t ′ ) dt ′ = ∫ (b o 2 + b1 t ′ + b2 t ′ ) dt ′ = b0 t + t′=0 b1 t 2 2 + b2 t 3 3 .0 ≡ vx (t = 0) .17) Denote the initial position by x0 ≡ x(t = 0) . t′=t vx (t ) − vx. time graph. (5.ax (t) = b0 + b1 t + b2 t 2 (5.

0 3 2 6 12  t′=0 t′=t x(t ) − x0 = Finally the position is then b0 t 2 b1 t 3 b2 t 4 x(t ) = x0 + vx.1. Solution: a) We need to integrate the acceleration for both intervals. 1 s < t < t2 54 . -3 −(6 m ⋅ s )(t − t1 ). 1 s < t < t2 t1  After integrating we get vc0 . 2 6 12 (5. 0 < t < t1 = 1 s  vc (t ) =  . The acceleration of the car as a function of time is given by 0.18) to find  b1 t ′ 2 b2 t ′ 3  b0 t 2 b1 t 3 b2 t 4 v + b t + + d t = v t + + + .0 = 12 m ⋅ s-1 .19)  ′ ∫  x. 1 s < t < t2 a) Find the speed and position of the car as a function of time. For the second integral we need to be careful about the endpoints of the integral and the fact that the integral is the change in speed so we must subtract vc (t1 ) = vc 0 vc0 .1.17) for the x -component of the velocity in Equation (5.0 0 ′ 2 x. b) Graph the speed and position of the car as a function of time. the speed is constant. The bicyclist reaches the car when the car just comes to rest.Use Equation (5. The first interval is easy. Find the speed of the bicycle.20) Example 2: A car is driving through a green light at t = 0 located at x = 0 with an initial speed vc .1. 0 < t < t1 = 1 s  t vc (t) =  . 0 t + + + .0 and at t = 0 is 17 m behind the car. c) A bicycle rider is riding at a constant speed of vb. (5. t -3 2 vc0 − (3 m ⋅ s )(t − t1 ) t1 . 0 < t < t1 = 1 s ac =  . -3 v (t ) +  c 1 ∫ −(6 m ⋅ s )(t − t1 ).1.

So we use our expression for the speed for the interval 1 s < t < t2 . 55 . 1 s < t < t 1 1 2  b) Graph the speed and position of the car as a function of time. t ) .0 and at t = 0 is 17 m behind the car. -1 -3 3 12 m+(12 m ⋅ s )(t − t ) − (1 m ⋅ s )(t − t ) . -1 therefore xc (t1 ) = (12 m ⋅ s )(1 s)=12 m . 0 = vc (t2 ) = 12 m ⋅ s-1 − (3 m ⋅ s-3 )(t2 − t1 )2 . t  x (t ) + 12 m ⋅ s-1 − (3m ⋅ s-3 )(t − t )2 dt. Solution: The graphs of the speed and position are shown below. 1 s < t < t 1 2  c 1 ∫ t1  ( ) Upon integration we have  xc (0) + (12 m ⋅ s-1 )t. vc (t) =  -1 -3 2 12 m ⋅ s − (3 m ⋅ s )(t − t1 ) . 0 < t < t1 = 1 s  xc (t) =  -1 -3 3  xc (t1 ) + (12 m ⋅ s )(t − t1 ) − (1 m ⋅ s )(t − t1 )  ( We choose our coordinate system .Now substitute the endpoint so the integral to finally yield vc0 = 12 m ⋅ s-1 . 0 < t < t1 = 1 s  0 xc (t) =  . 1s < t < t t1 such 2 that xc (0) = 0 . So after substituting in the endpoints of the integration interval we have that (12 m ⋅ s-1 )t. Find the speed of the bicycle. Solution: we are looking for the instant that t2 the car has come to rest. The bicyclist reaches the car when the car just comes to rest. 0 < t < t1 = 1 s . 0 < t < t1 = 1 s xc (t) =  . 1 s < t < t2 For this one dimensional motion the change in position is the integral of the speed so t1   xc (0) + ∫ (12 m ⋅ s-1 )dt . c) A bicycle rider is riding at a constant speed of vb.

The second solution t2 = t1 − 2 s = 1 s − 2 s = − 1 s does not apply to our time interval and so t2 = t1 + 2 s = 1 s + 2 s = 3 s . Since the bicycle is traveling at a constant speed with an initial position xb0 = −17 m . the position of the bicycle is given by xb (t) = −17 m + vbt . We have two solutions: (t2 − t1 ) = 2 s or (t2 − t1 ) = −2 s . Therefore −17 m + vb (3 s) = 28 m .We can solve this for t2 : (t2 − t1 )2 = 4 s 2 . (3 s) 56 . So the speed of the bicycle is vb = (28 m + 17 m) = 15 m ⋅ s-1 . The bicycle and car intersect at instant t2 = 3 s : xb (t2 ) = xc (t2 ) . During the position of the car at t2 is then given by xc (t2 ) = 12 m+(12 m ⋅ s-1 )(t2 − t1 ) − (1 m ⋅ s-3 )(t2 − t1 )3 = 12 m+(12 m ⋅ s-1 )(2 s) − (1 m ⋅ s-3 )(2 s)3 = 28 m .