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Newtons First Law

Newtons first law of motion states that a body will remain in its state of rest or uniform
motion in a straight line unless acted upon by a resultant force.
Note: (1) The first law implies that all matter has inertia, i.e. the property of a body which
resists change in motion. (2) Mass is a measure of the Inertia of the body. The more mass a
body has, the greater is its inertia and the harder it is to change its state of motion.
Newtons Second Law
A body in straight line motion is said to have a linear momentum.
The linear momentum of a body is defined as the product of its mass and velocity. p = mv
Momentum is a vector quantity. Its direction is the same as the direction of the velocity.
The SI unit of momentum is kg m s-1 or N s.
Change in momentum = final momentum - initial momentum: p = pf - pi = mv- mu
Newtons Second Law provides a quantitative definition of force.
Newtons second law of motion states that the rate of change of momentum of a body is
proportional to the resultant force acting on it and the change takes place in the direction of
the resultant force.
dp d (mv)
From the second law, we can state
For a body of constant mass,



F = ma
Force is a vector quantity. The SI unit of force is the Newton (N).
One newton is defined as the resultant force which when acting on a 1 kg mass produces an
acceleration of 1 ms-2
Only a resultant or net force results in acceleration.

dt is the correct second law equation. The common second law equation F = ma is
valid only for a body of constant mass m.
dp d (mv)
Upon differentiation, F= dt = dt =m dt +v dt
If the mass m is changing but the velocity v is kept constant, as for example, a rocket is losing
mass as it burns fuel, then force is given as
Acceleration and the resultant force are always in the same direction.
If the resultant force F = 0, then acceleration a = 0. This means that in the absence of any
resultant force, a body is either at rest or at constant velocity.
Steps To Solving Problems Using Newtons Second Law Of Motion

Sketch the forces. Identify and sketch all the external forces acting on the object. This
is called a free body diagram. Denote the arrows for forces, velocities and

accelerations in the following way:


Isolate the object of interest. Treat the object as a point mass and identify all the
forces acting on it.

Choose a convenient axis in the direction of the acceleration. Resolve all forces along
this axis.

Find the resultant or net force Fnet along the chosen axis, by vector addition.

Let the resultant or net force Fnet = ma.

Worked Examples on Newtons Second Law of Motion:

1. A block of mass 2.0 kg is being pulled on a horizontal bench by a force of 12 N. If the
block accelerates at 5.0 ms-2, what is the frictional force f between the block and the bench?

2. If the 12 N force is now acting at 30o to the horizontal and the same block continues to
move horizontally on the bench, What is (a) the acceleration of the block and (b) the Normal
Contact Force N?

3. Two blocks A and B of masses 2.0 kg and 3.0 kg are connected by a string as shown in the
figure. They are pulled by a force F on a smooth horizontal surface. The acceleration of the
system is 1.0 m s-2.

Worked Example on Force due to Varying Mass

1) A rocket has a mass of 13600 kg when fueled on the launching pad. It is fired vertically
upward. Gases are exhausted at the rate of 146 kgs-1 with a speed of 1520 ms-1, relative to the
(a) What is the thrust?
(b) What is the initial acceleration of the rocket?
=1520 146=2.22 105 N
(a) Thrust
(b) The net force acting on rocket = Thrust-weight = 2.22105-136009.81=8.86104 N
Initial acceleration = 8.86104/13600=6.51 ms-2
2) A conveyor belt is moving at a constant speed of 1.5 ms-1. To keep the belt moving when it
is transporting luggage requires a greater driving force than for an empty belt. On average,
the rate at which luggage is placed on one end of the belt and lifted off at the other end is 20
kg s-1. Why is an additional driving force required, and what is its value?
Luggage is dropped onto the conveyor belt. Frictional
force FBL provides the horizontal driving force on the
luggage to accelerate it to velocity of the belt.
By Newtons third law, there exists FLB, which slows the
belt down.
Thus additional force F is needed to balance FLB for the
belt to move with constant velocity.



conveyor belt

By Newtons third law, FLB = FBL = 30 N. Thus the additional driving force F = 30 N acting
to the right is needed
3) Water from a hose of density and cross sectional area A is splashing on a wall at a
constant velocity v. Find the average pressure P exerted on the wall, assuming that the water
does not rebound after hitting the wall.




Assume that the water does not rebound, v =0, the average force <FWH> acting by the wall
on the hose containing water is
F WH =v dt =v dt
----------(1), where dt =rate of change of volume

( )


V = Ax

= A = Av

F WH =vAv= A v 2


Since FWH is equal and opposite to FHW

Thus pressure the water exerts on the wall is



= v 2

Newtons Third Law

Newtons third law of motion states that if body A exerts a force on body B, then body B
exerts an equal and opposite force on body A.
1) The gravitational force of attraction that the Earth exerts on the Moon and the force that
the Moon exerts on the Earth.
2) The gravitational force of attraction that the Earth exerts on a book (i.e. weight of the
book) and the force that the book exerts on the Earth.
3) Electric force of attraction between an electron and a proton.
4) The backward force exerted by a person on the ground as he walks and the forward force
exerted by the ground on the person.
5) Force exerted by rocket on ejected gas and the force that the ejected gas exerts on the
rocket (i.e. thrust).
Note: (1) The two forces must be of the same type, i.e. if one is an electrical force, then the
other must be electrical too.

(2) Since action and reaction forces do not act on the same body, an action reaction pair does
not cancel out to produce zero resultant force on any one object.
1. Two bodies of masses A (mass m) and B (mass 3m) are in contact and
placed on a frictionless surface. A horizontal force, F, of 12 N is applied
body A which in turn pushes body B. What is the force that body A acts
body B? (9N)


3m to


Impulse is defined as the product of the force acting on a body and the time interval during
which the force is exerted.
Impulse is a vector quantity. Its unit is kg m s-1 or N s.
Consider a constant force F acting on an object for a time interval t as shown.
During the time interval, the impulse is given by
force x time interval = F t
Note that F t is equal to the Area under F-t graph.
By Newtons 2nd Law,


So F t = p = change in momentum
0 of the body.
The impulse of the force acting on a body is equal to the change in momentum
t1 t
In general, if the force is not constant, we can make this conclusion
i.e. Impulse = F dt = area under F - t graph = change in momentum of the body


Worked Examples on Impulse

1. Consider the two situations
(i) a 1.0 kg putty is dropped to the floor, where it hits with a speed of 4.0 m s-1 and sticks to it,
and (ii) a 1.0 kg rubber ball hits the floor with a speed of 4.0 m s-1
What is the change in momentum (or impulse) of the object in each case?
If the time of contact with the floor is 2.0 s, what is the magnitude of the force acting on the
object in each case?


Take +ve

4.0 ms-1


4.0 ms-1

upward velocity as positive

(i) Change of momentum of the putty = final momentum initial momentum
= mvf mvi
= 0 (1.0)(-4.0)
= 4.0 ms-1
Since Ft = p, F = 4.0/2.0 = 2.0 N

4.0 ms-1

ii) Change of momentum of the rubber ball =final momentum initial momentum
= mvf mvi
= (1.0)(4.0) (1.0)(-4.0)
= 8.0 ms-1
Since Ft = p, F = 8.0/2.0 = 4.0 N
2. An object moving with an initial velocity of 12.0 m s-1 (i) Calculate the change in
momentum of the object after 22.0 s, (ii) Find the average
force F acting on the object.

p= Fdt =areaunder the Ft graph=170 Ns


The change in momentum after 22.0 s is 170 Ns.

(ii) The average force <F> is defined as that constant force, which
when acting over the same time interval, t, produces the same impulse as the varying force.
This also means that area under <F> - t graph = area under original F - t graph.
F t = p

F 22.0=170
F =7.7 N
Exercises: Use the concept of impulse to explain:
(a) Use of seat belt in a car
Explanation: The seat belt extends slightly before arresting the forward lunge of the


passenger. This increases the time at which the momentum of the passenger is brought to
zero. The average force on the passenger is thus reduced.
(c) Crumple zones of a car
Explanation: The crumple zones of the car help to increase the time of impact as the
momentum of the crashing car is brought to zero. This reduces the average force acting on the
passengers in the passenger compartment.
Conservation of Linear Momentum
When two bodies collide, the forces that one acts on the other constitute the action-reaction
pair. Each body receives an equal and opposite impulse F t. As such, the change in linear
momentum of each body is equal and opposite. The resultant change in linear momentum of
the system is zero. In other words, the total momentum of the system of two colliding bodies
remains constant.
The principle of conservation of momentum states that the total momentum of a system of
colliding objects remains constant provided no resultant external force acts on the system.
Explanation of Conservation Of Linear Momentum Using Newtons Laws
Consider an isolated system of two objects m1 and m2 whereby m1 is striking m2. (An isolated
system is one which has no external forces acting on it.)
Mathematically, we can deduce the principle of conservation of linear momentum by
applying Newtons second and third laws to the colliding bodies as illustrated below:
during collision

before collision


after collision







From Newtons third law, the contact forces of impact are action and reaction pair
F21 = - F12
If the two bodies are in contact for a time of t,
F21 t = - F12 t (1)
impulse on m1 = F21 t (Recall that impulse = change in momentum)
F12 t = m1v1 m1u1
impulse on m2 = F12 t
F21 t = m2v2 m2u2
Substitute into (1),
(m1v1 m1u1) = - (m2v2 m2u2)
Rearranging => m1u1 + m2u2 = m1v1 + m2v2
Thus, total linear momentum before collision = total linear momentum after collision,
which proves the principle of conservation of linear momentum.


1) F12 and F21 are internal forces of the system. i.e. forces which arise between the interacting
objects of the system.
2) If there is an external force present, for example, friction, then the law of conservation of
linear momentum is NOT obeyed.
3) The angular momentum of the system is ALSO obeyed, but is beyond the syllabus.

Worked Example on Conservation of momentum

m M

Calculate the recoil velocity of a 4.0 kg rifle which shoots a 0.050 kg bullet at a speed of 280
m s-1.
Assume that the initial total momentum of the rifle and bullet is zero.
By CoM,
0 = -MV + mv
V = 3.5 ms-1.
Types of Collisions:
Generally there are 3 types of collisions:
1. Elastic Collision in which both momentum and kinetic energy are conserved.
2. Inelastic Collision in which momentum is conserved but kinetic energy is not.
3. Completely inelastic Collision in which momentum is conserved, but kinetic energy is not
and the particles stick together after collision.
In all types of collision, momentum is always conserved (so long as there is no resultant
external force, such as friction, acting on the system).
In inelastic collisions, for example between a lump of plasticine and a hard surface, some of
the kinetic energy is converted to internal energy (sum of pe and ke) and sound energy.
Elastic collisions occur between atomic and subatomic particles.
Collision of 2 Bodies in 1 Dimension (Head-On Elastic Collisions)
Consider an elastic head-on collision between 2 atomic particles.
before collision



after collision



Since it is an elastic collision, both momentum and kinetic energy are conserved.
m1 u1 +m2 u 2=m1 v 1+ m2 v 2
By conservation of momentum,
By conservation of k.e,

2 1
2 1
m1 u1 + m2 u2 = m1 v 1 + m 2 v 2

From (1)

m2 ( u 2v 2 ) =m1 ( v 1u1 )

From (1)

m2 ( u 22v 22 ) =m1 ( v 12u12 )


u2 +v 2=v 1 +u1


v 2v 1=u1u2




Equation (5) tells us that the relative speed of separation is equal to the relative speed of
approach. This is an important equation, which should be memorized for use in solving
elastic collision problems.
v 2=u 1u2 +v 1
From equation (5)
Substitute into equation (3) gives

m2 [ u 2( u1u 2+ v 1 ) ]=m1 ( v 1u 1)


v 1=

m1m 2
2 m2
u1 +
m1 +m2
m1+m2 2



v 2=

2 m1
m m1
u1+ 2
m1 +m2
m1 +m2 2


If m = M (two particles of equal mass)
From (6) and (7), we get v1 = u2 and v2 = u1
That is for elastic collision of two particles of equal mass, the particles simply exchange
their velocities after the collision.
If u2 = 0 (particle M originally at rest)
(i) If m = M: we get v1 = 0 and v2 = u1
The two particles exchange velocities (i.e. The colliding particle comes to rest after
collision while the collided particle moves off with the velocity of the colliding particle.
(ii) If m << M: we get v1 -u1 and v2 = 0
m rebounds with almost the same speed, M remains stationary.
(iii) If m >> M: we get v1 u1 and v2 = 2u1
m continues with the same speed, M goes off with twice the speed of m.
Steps to Solving Problems Using the Principle of Conservation of Momentum
1. Draw before and after diagrams, marking the masses and velocities involved.
2. Draw a line/axis along which the law applies and mark one direction positive.


3. Equate the total momentum before collision to the total momentum after collision.
4. In elastic collision, equate total kinetic energy before collision to total kinetic energy after
collision to obtain another equation, if necessary.
1) On an air track, a rider of mass 200 g travelling at a speed of 3.0 m s-1 collides with a
stationary rider of mass 100 g and sticks to it. Calculate the resultant speed of the riders and
the loss in kinetic energy that occurs. What happens to this energy?


Note that this is a complete inelastic collision since the 2 riders stick together after collision.
Mu=( M + m ) v
By CoM,
0.200 3.0=0.300 v

v =2.0 m s

Loss KE= M u 2 ( M + m ) v2 =0.30 J
This KE is converted into internal energy and sound energy.
2) The pellet from an air rifle is fired horizontally into a ball of plasticine suspended by a
vertical thread, causing the ball to rise through a vertical height of 10 cm. Calculate the speed
of the pellet, given that its mass is 1.2 g and the mass of the plasticine is 96 g.
Identify that this is a completely inelastic collision, in which momentum is conserved, KE is
not conserved after collision.
After collision, final KE of system at lowest point = final PE at the highest point
mv=( m+ M ) v '

By CoM,

By CoE,


( m+M ) v 2= ( m+M ) gh
v ' = 2 gh

(2) into (1):


( m+mM ) v =(1+ Mm ) 2 gh=113 m s




3) (a) In a gas, a hydrogen molecule, mass

2.00 u and velocity 1.88 x 103 m s-1,
405 ms-1
1.88103 ms-1
collides elastically and head on with an
oxygen molecule, mass 32.0 u and velocity hydrogen molecule
405 m s-1, as illustrated in the figure below.
oxygen molecule
In qualitative terms, what can be stated
about the subsequent motion as a result of knowing that (i) the collision is elastic, (ii) the
collision is head on?
(b) Using your answers to (a), (i) determine the velocity of separation of the two molecules
after the collision, (ii) apply the law of conservation of momentum to collision,
(iii) determine the velocity of both molecules after the collision. (N2000 P3 Q1)
(a) (i) Both momentum and kinetic energy of the molecules are conserved.
(ii) Relative speed of approach of the two molecules is equal to their relative speed of




(b) (i) relative speed of separation = relative speed of approach

v2 v1 = u1 u2 = 1.88103 (405) = 2285 ms-1

(ii) By CoM,


mu1+ Mu2 = mv1 + Mv2

2.00u(1.88103) + 32.0u(-405) = 2.00uv1+32.0uv2

(iii) From (1) v2 v1 = 2285 v2 = 2285 + v1

Substitute (3) into (2) v1 = -2421 ms-1, v2 = -136 ms-1




1. Describe how projectile motion of a ball is affected when air resistance is taken into
Air resistance/drag slows down the motion of the ball, reduces both the horizontal and
vertical component of velocity
Maximum height reached is less
Range is less
Acceleration is no longer constant, acceleration is greater than g when going up and smaller
than g when going down
Time to go up is shorter than time to go down
Final velocity/KE is less than initial velocity/KE because of work done against air resistance
2. Discuss how airbags/seat belts reduce risk of fatal injury in car collision
increased impact time
same loss of momentum
force = change of momentum/impact time
therefore force is reduced
3. Discuss how the driving wheels of a car can generate a motive force.
Engine provides turning effects/torque on axle of the wheel
Tyres pushes back on the ground
Friction on the tyre is in the forward direction this is motive(driving) force
4. Why does an astronaut in a satellite feel weightless?
The gravitational force acting on the astronaut is providing the centripetal force for
centripetal acceleration. The satellite has the same centripetal acceleration as the astronaut.
There is zero contact force between the astronaut and the satellite. Hence the astronaut does
not feel gravity, or feels weightless.
5. Describe the properties of the geo-stationary orbit and the advantages it offers when a
satellite is used for communications.
maintains a fixed position relative to surface of Earth
period is 24 hrs (1 day) or same as for Earth.s rotation
offers uninterrupted communication between transmitter and receiver
steerable dish not necessary
6. Describe and explain what happens to the speed of a satellite as a result of atmospheric
Atmospheric friction reduces total energy of satellite.(E = -GMm/2r)
Orbital radus decreases
satellite loses potential energy but gains kinetic energy
speed increases as it spirals towards the Earth.
7. Explain why it is necessary to exert a centripetal force on a body as it moves along the
curved track
Change in direction means there is a change of velocity
This requires an acceleration that is perpendicular to the velocity


This acceleration requires centripetal force

1. Explain what is meant by the terms forced oscillations and resonance
forced oscillation: oscillations induced by application of (an external) periodic force
or occurs when a body is made to oscillate at by another oscillator
resonance occurs when the driver frequency = natural frequency
at resonance amplitude is a maximum
as driving frequency increases amplitude increases to a maximum then falls,
maximum amplitude (or resonance) occurs at natural frequency

2. State what is meant by a standing wave and explain how it is formed.

It consists of nodes and antinodes. It does not transfer energy.
It is formed by 2 waves (incident and/or reflected waves) of same frequency and amplitude
travelling in opposite directions superpose with each other.
maximum is where two waves interfere constructively
minimum is where they interfere destructively
3. Explain why the diffraction of sound waves is more likely to be noticeable than light waves
For noticeable diffraction, wavelength is approximately equal to gap size
Wavelength for sound is much bigger than for light

4. Explain why interference is detected with the 2 sound sources but not with 2 light sources.
for 2 light sources:
(a) not coherent,
(b) no constant phase relationship
(c) fringes would be too close together to observe
for 2 sound sources:
(a) are coherent,
(b) because signals are identical/from same signal generator/have the same wavelength or
(c) maxima are of appropriate separation can be detected

5. Explain how the diffraction grating produces the bright spectral lines for a particular
mention of interference or superposition
light from slits is coherent (condone sources are coherent)
path difference (from slits) is a multiple of one wavelength
waves arrive in phase,interference is constructive


waves add to produce larger amplitude

fringes(lines) are bright because waves from many slits are interfering

1. Comment on similarities and differences between boiling and melting.
Melting: Solid to Liquid
Not much change in separation
Same speed since same temperature
More random motion in liquid state
More vibration in solid state
Some change in PE component of internal energy
Boiling: Liquid to Gas
Separation vastly increased
Same speed since same temperature
Molecules in gas in random motion
Increased in distance between collisions from liquid to gas
PE component of internal energy is greatly increased
Work is needed to do push back atmosphere
(The last 2 points explain why specific latent heat of vaporization is much greater than
specific latent heat of fusion

2. Explain what is meant by internal energy of a gas.

internal energy = total kinetic energy + potential energy of (gas) molecules

3.. Explain how the kinetic theory model of an ideal gas predicts the existence of a gas
pressure inside a container. Go on to explain why this pressure decreases when some of the
air is removed from the container.
molecules have momentum
momentum change when molecules collide with wall
momentum change at wall leads to force
force per unit area is pressure
less air so fewer molecules
so change in momentum per second /rate of change is less
so pressure decreases

4. Use the kinetic theory of gases to explain why the pressure of an ideal gas decreases
(i) when it is expanded at constant temperature,
(ii) when its temperature is lowered at constant volume.
Pressure is in change in momentum of molecules per unit time per unit area
at constant temperature:


when volume increases molecules have further distance to travel between collisions
frequency of collisions (with the container walls) is reduced
so pressure decreases
at constant volume:
when temperature is lowered mean square speed/momentum/KE of molecules decreases
change in momentum/impulse (per collision) is lower
fewer collisions with the walls per unit time
so pressure decreases


1. State one similarity of electric and gravitational fields.

Both forces obey inverse square law

2. State one difference between electric and gravitational fields.

Forces in E field can be attraction/repulsion
Forces in g field is always attractive

3. Explain the motion of charged particle entering an E- field and a B-field.

in an electric field
force on charge is always in the same or opposite direction to the E- Field
there is an acceleration in the direction of the force
increases in vertical speed
horizontal speed remains constant
motion is in a parabolic path
in magnetic field
force/acceleration always perpendicular to direction of motion
no component of force/acceleration in the direction of motion
centripetal acceleration changes direction of velocity, but speed is unchanged.
motion is in a circular path

4. Explain the operation of the transformer.

changing current in primary gives rise to
changing flux in core
flux links with the secondary coil
changing flux in secondary coil, inducing e.m.f.



1. Energy levels in atoms are quantised. State the meaning of the word quantised.
having discrete/well-defined values of energies

2. Explain why it is essential for the atoms undergoing laser action to have a
metastable energy level.
so that electrons can remain in an excited state longer than normal, (10-3 s as compared to
normal lifetime of 10-9 s) in order to build up a population inversion

3. Electromagnetic waves and electrons have properties of both particles and waves. Explain
what evidence there is to support this statement.
electrons diffraction showing wave behaviour
electrons are deflected in electric or magnetic fields showing particle behaviour
interference of electromagnetic waves showing wave behaviour
photoelectric effect showing particle behaviour

4. State what is meant by the photoelectric effect and explain how observations made in
photoelectric experiments suggest that electromagnetic radiation behaves like a stream of
particles rather than a wave.
Photoelectric effect: e-m (light/uv) radiation causes electron emission from the surface of
Observations in Photoelectric Effect:
(i). there is a threshold frequency
-indicates light exists as particles(photons) whose energy depends on frequency E = hf
-with waves electrons would be expected at all frequencies
(ii). there is a max KE of emitted electrons
-explains this using photoelectric equation
-with waves no limit on maximum energy
(iii). no delay/emission starts immediately
-provided photon has enough energy electrons emitted
-with waves delay expected (for low intensity)

5. In each case, describe one piece of evidence which shows that

(i) matter has a wave-like nature,
electron diffraction in which (a beam of) electrons is diffracted by a thin crystal in which
interference pattern are produced


or electron tunnelling (in the STM) across a narrow gap

between a metal tip and a conducting surface at different potentials
(ii) light has a particle-like nature.
photoelectric effect in which electrons are emitted from a metal when it is illuminated by
light. Each electron absorbs a photon of light of frequency above a certain value (or when the
light frequency ? the threshold frequency)

6. Describe the differences and the similarities between the mechanisms that produce
characteristic X-ray spectra and optical line spectra.
in each case atoms are excited/supplied with energy
electrons fall to lower energy level
difference in energy between two levels emitted as photon
Optical Line Spectra:
outer electrons excited to higher levels,
excited electrons decay to lower level
X-ray Spectra:
inner electrons ejected
(outer) electrons fall to unoccupied level

7. Explain why, despite the electrostatic repulsion between protons, the nuclei of most atoms
of low nucleon number are stable.
strong nuclear force acts on all nucleons
both electrostatic repulsion and nuclear forces act on protons
strong nuclear force > electrostatic repulsion

8. Suggest why stable nuclei of higher nucleon number have greater numbers of neutrons
than protons.
neutrons spread the protons out
neutrons reduce electrostatic repulsion

9. State two reasons why measurements of the count rates may be unreliable.
background not accounted for
random nature of decay cannot predict which and when nuclei will disintegrate

10. Give two reasons why radioisotopes with short half-lives are particularly suitable for use
as a medical tracer.


High activity (so only a small sample needed)

Decays quickly
Less risk to patient/other people

11. Define mass defect.

Difference in mass between nucleus and the sum of the individual nucleons

12. Define half life.

Time taken for the activity/count rate to drop by half
OR time taken for half the atoms/nuclei to decay
[NOT mass, count, particles, radioisotope, sample]

13. Define decay constant.

the probability of decay in unit time

14. Outline 2 methods to distinguish between alpha, beta and gamma radiation
1. Deflection experiment: Pass the radiation through electric or magnetic flelds, showing
alpha positive, beta negative and gamma neutral.
2. Penetration through absorbers showing different penetration properties of the 3 radiations.

15. What is 1 eV?

I eV is the energy gained by an electron when it is accelerated through a p.d. of 1V.
16. Explain why it is advantageous to use neutrons in nuclear reaction.
It is small concentrated mass, has no charge, and does not experience electrical repulsion.