Introduction to High School Physics

By Michael O. Smathers, eHow Contributor
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High school physics aims to give you a basic understanding of how forces in the universe interact and affect matter and energy. The concepts you learn, such as Newton's Laws of Motion or the Laws of Thermodynamics, will enable you to develop a foundation from which you build more advanced physics knowledge. High school physics curricula all teach the same basic concepts.

1. Force, Velocity and Acceleration

Physics deals with forces, or influences that provide acceleration to a mass. Although you commonly may think of acceleration in the sense of going faster, acceleration refers to any change in velocity--a measurement of the speed and direction of travel. When diagramming forces, you use arrows representing vectors, or lines of force that interact with one another to form a net force. For example, a force of 50 newtons pushing an object forward and a force of 25 newtons pushing in the opposite direction results in a net force of 25 newtons. When dealing with these forces mathematically, an opposite force is represented as a negative value, in this case -25. Were the two forces pushing in the same direction, the net force would be 75 newtons.

Newton's Three Laws of Motion

Isaac Newton's Three Laws of Motion dictate how matter interacts with other matter and how it responds to force. The first law holds that objects in a state of uniform motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. The second law, from which we derive the equation F=ma, states that the amount of force needed to alter an object's velocity equals the object's mass multiplied by the level of acceleration change. The third law holds that every action force produces an equal and opposite force to react to it. Pushing a door open with a force of 20 Newtons means that the door is exerting a force of 20 Newtons on your hand.

Energy and Work

Energy is defined as the ability to do work.. Although specific types of energy such as electrical, thermal or mechanical energy exist, they all fall under two broad categories: potential energy--the energy of an object at rest--and kinetic

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