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You are on page 1of 17

Momentum

Dale E. Gary

NJIT Physics Department

3.3 Center of Mass

We are now going to discuss the notion of center of mass, with which you

are certainly already familiar. Think of a system of N particles a = 1, …, N,

with masses ma and positions ra. The center of mass (or CM) is defined to

be the position 1 N m1r1 mN rN

R aa

M a 1

m r

M

Like any vector equation, this represents separate equations for each of the

components (X, Y, Z):

1 N 1 N 1 N

X ma xa , Y M

M a 1 a 1

ma ya , Z

M

a 1

ma za .

You can think of the center of mass as a weighted average of the positions

of each mass element, i.e. weighted by the mass of that element, or

equivalently it is the vector sum of the ra, each multiplied by the fraction of

mass at that location.

To get a feeling for CM, let’s look at the center of mass for a two particle

system, which might, for example, represent the Sun and Earth, or two

stars in orbit around each other.

September 17, 2008

Center of Mass and Equation of Motion

1 N m1r1 m2r2

In this case, R

M a 1

m r

a a

m1 m2

, which can be seen in the figure.

CM

m1

It is easy to show that the distance of the CM from m1

and m2 is in the ratio m2/m1. The figure shows the case r1 R m2

where m1 4m2. In particular, if m1 >> m2, then the CM

r2

will be very close to m1.

O

Note that the time derivative of the center of mass for N particles is just the

CM velocity 1 N 1 N

R

M a 1

ma ra

M a 1

pa

Differentiating this expression, we get the very useful relation for the

equation of motion: Fext MR

This says that the CM of a collection of particles moves as if the external

forces on all of the individual particles were concentrated at the CM. This is

why we can treat extended objects (e.g. a baseball) as a point mass.

September 17, 2008

Calculating the Center of Mass

Although we developed the foregoing for a set of point particles, the result

obviously applies to extended objects by replacing the summation with an

integral, and treating infinitesimal parts of the object as having mass dm.

The CM expression then becomes 1

M

R r dm

where the integral extends over the object.

If you have a uniform extended object of total mass M, you may be given

the size or volume, from which you can determine the density, or

alternatively you may be given the density, from which you determine the

volume. In either case, the integral over the mass is replaced by an

integral over the volume 1

R

M r dV

practice this with a solid hemisphere, for homework.

Example 3.2: The CM of a Solid Cone

Statement of the problem: z

Find the CM position for the uniform solid cone shown in the figure.

Solution: R

You should be able to see immediately from the symmetry

of the problem that the CM lies on the z axis. This greatly

simplifies the problem, since we can now concentrate only r=Rz/h

on the z component. To find the height Z of the CM, h

1 1

Z

M z dV

V z dx dy dz

y

where the density M/V can be brought outside the

integral because the cone is uniform, and we have

replaced dV with the cartesian element of volume dx dy dz. x

Note that we have to do an integration over x, y and z,

despite the fact that this is only the z component.

If there is any trick to this, it is that we can do the x, y integrals in our head—the

area at a given height z is a circle of radius r = Rz/h, of area pr2 = pR2z2/h2. The

integral then becomes pR 2 3 pR 2 h 4 3 pR 2 h

Vh

Z 2 z dz 2

Vh 4

h where

4

V

3

September 17, 2008

Example 3.2: Cylindrical Coords

Solution:

Although the text solves the problem as just shown, from the symmetry of the

problem it is a more natural choice to use cylindrical coordinates. The cylindrical

element of volume is dV = r dr df dz. (Convince yourself this is right.) The integral

is then 1

V

Z z rdr df dz

1 2p

V 0

R2 z2

zdz rdr 2p zdz p 2

1 Rz / h 1

V 0 V h

which then leads to the previous result.

If you do not know the volume of a cone, the way to calculate it parallels the

above, but without the z:

V dV rdr df dz

dz rdr df

2p

0

R 2 z 2 pR 2 h

dz rdr 2p dz p 2

Rz / h h

0 0 h 3

3.4 Angular Momentum for a Single

Particle

As you know, in addition to the law of conservation of momentum, there is

an independent but obviously related law of conservation of angular

momentum.

The angular momentum of a single particle is defined as the vector

rp

where I am forced to use the over-arrow because I cannot make the script

bold. Here r × p is the vector product of the particle’s position vector r,

relative to the chosen origin O, and its momentum p, as shown in the figure.

It is important to understand the implications of the

p=mv statement that the angular momentum is about the

origin O. In the figure at left, we can make the

r rp 0 angular momentum of the particle disappear by simply

rp

r into page shifting our origin. How can we define away a

conserved quantity like this?

Just consider that angular momentum has little

O

meaning for a single particle, but when a second body

is included, shifting the origin affects that one, too.

September 17, 2008

Angular Momentum and Torque

The time derivative of angular momentum is

d

r p r p r p

dt

but because p m

r, the first term is identically zero (the vector product of a

vector with itself is zero). In addition, we can replace the p in the second

term with the net force F, and we then recognize the torque.

rF

The text using the greek capital gamma for torque, and I will, too. Other

popular symbols are t and N.

In many two-body problems one should choose the origin O so that the net

torque is zero. For example, a planet orbiting the Sun feels a gravitational

force F = GmM/r2 from the Sun. A hallmark of such motion is that the force

is central, i.e. is directed along the line between the two centers. Choosing

the origin at the Sun greatly simplifies the problem because this ensures

that there is no torque (r × F = 0), so the angular momentum r × p is

constant, from which we can immediately deduce that r and p must remain

in a fixed plane through the Sun. Let’s take a closer look at that problem.

Kepler’s Second Law

Kepler’s second law states that

As each planet moves around the Sun, a line drawn from the

planet to the Sun sweeps out equal areas in equal times.

The situation is shown in the figure below, where we show two segments of

the orbit that I will approximate as triangles (the approximation becomes

exact in the limit as the width of the triangles goes to zero). Kepler’s 2nd law

is equivalent to saying that so long as the elapsed time dt for the planet to

go from P to Q is the same as for it to go from P’ to Q’, then the areas of

these two triangles must be equal. Equivalently, dA/dt = constant.

Q P A well-known property of the vector product is that

dA two sides of a triangle are given by vectors a and b,

then the area is A 12 a b (see problem 3.24—this is

related to area = ½ base × height). Thus, the area of

triangle OPQ is dA 12 r vdt .

dA 1

r dA This can be rearranged to get: r p

Q dt 2m 2m

P which, since the angular

dr = vdt

momentum constant implies that Kepler’s law holds.

September 17, 2008

3.5 Angular Momentum for N Particles

We can extend these ideas to N particles, a = 1, 2, …, N, following very much

the same procedure as we did for

momentum in lecture 1. Each particle has

angular momentum a all

(with ra rapameasured from the same origin

O), so the total angular momentum is

L ra pa

a

The time derivative of the total angular momentum is

L r F

a a

a

where, exactly as before, the net force on particle a is

Fa Fab Faext

b a

consisting of the inter-particle forces Fab, and the external force Faext.

Substituting into the L-dot equation, we have

r F r F ext

L a ab a a

a b a a

As before, we use the fact that Fab = -Fba to replace the sum over ba with

one over b>a containing matching pairs, to get

L r - r F r F ext

a b ab a a

a b >a a

Conservation of Angular Momentum

In lecture 1, the paired terms canceled directly. This time, the first sum is

again zero, but for a different reason. Clearly ra – rb 0, but rather, we

assume that the inter-particle forces are central forces, so that the vector ra

– rb is aligned with the force Fab, so the cross-product is zero. So finally we

are left with the time derivative of total angular moment equal to the

externally applied torque

L r F ext ext

a a

a

In particular, if there are no applied torques, then L = constant, which leads

to

Principle of Conservation of Angular Momentum

If the net external torque ext on an N-particle system is zero,

the system’s total angular momentum L = S ra× pa is constant.

central, and that they obey Newton’s third law. You can imagine a system

where the first of these is not true, but for nearly all cases the law holds.

Moment of Inertia

We will deal with (and extend) the idea of moment of inertia in Chapter 10.

However, you should be familiar with the basics from your Introductory

Physics course. In particular, you should recall that the angular momentum

about an axis of rotation (say the z axis) is

Lz Iw

where I is the moment of inertia about the axis of rotation, and w is the

angular velocity.

In your earlier course, you learned that the moment of inertia is known for a

few standard bodies (i.e. for a uniform sphere of mass M, radius R, the

moment of inertia through the center is I = 2/5 MR2).

In general, for any multiparticle system, I = Smara2, where ra is the distance

of mass ma from the axis of rotation. The moment of inertia for an

extended object, can be calculated by replacing the sum with an integral.

Example 3.3: Collision of a Lump of

Putty with a Turntable

Statement of the problem:

A uniform circular turntable (mass M, radius R, center O, moment of inertia about O,

½ MR2) is at rest in the x, y plane and is mounted on a frictionless axle, which lies

along the vertical z axis. I throw a lump of putty (mass m) with speed v toward the

edge of the turntable so it approaches along a line that passes within a distance b of

O, as shown in the figure. When the putty hits the turntable, it sticks to the edge

and the two rotate together with angular velocity w. Find w.

Solution:

We use conservation of angular momentum. Since the turntable is not moving

initially, the initial angular momentum is that of the putty about O,

Lz ,ini r mv mvr sin mvb

After the putty sticks, the turntable starts to turn at some

unknown angular velocity, so that the angular momentum is

Lz , fin I tbl puttyw 1

2

MR 2 mR2 w r b

m vb

w Location of

m M / 2 R2 stuck putty

Special Case: Angular Momentum

About CM

The foregoing derivation of L ext was made under the (unstated) assumption

that Newton’s second law F = ma holds, but recall that this is only valid in an

inertial (non-accelerating) reference frame. We can state that L ext holds for

any origin O only for inertial reference frames.

We will see in Chapter 10, but state it now without proof, that the law holds

even in accelerating (non-inertial) frames as long as the origin is about the CM

of the system, even when the CM is undergoing acceleration.

d

L(about CM) ext (about CM)

dt

Stated another way, if ext(about CM) = 0 then L(about CM) is conserved. You

can show this yourself with the guidance of Prob. 3.37 of the text, if you are

curious.

This result shows the special nature of the CM.

Example 3.4: A Sliding and Spinning

Barbell

Statement of the problem:

A barbell consisting of two equal masses m mounted on the ends of a rigid massless

rod of length 2b is at rest on a frictionless horizontal table, lying on the x axis and

centered on the origin, as shown in the figure. At time t = 0, the left mass is given a

sharp tap, in the shape of a horizontal force F in the y direction, lasting for a short

time Dt. Describe the subsequent motion.

Solution:

The type of force described is called an impulse. When dealing with such a force, we

want to focus on the change in momentum due to the force, rather than the force

itself. Since P F ext, the momentum after the force acts is y

P F Dt (this is actually the change in momentum, DP, but

ext

It is important to recognize that this impulse does two things. x

It provides momentum to the CM, but at the same time, since

2b

it is off-center, it also provides a torque. We need to calculate F

both.

The CM relation is easy: vCM = FextDt / 2m. Since Fext is in the +y direction, vCM is too.

Example 3.4, cont’d

Solution, cont’d:

The rotational motion due to the torque is found using the methods of the chapter.

The torque is going to cause a change in angular momentum,

ext

L

with magnitude ext = Fb. Using the same approach as before to deal with the fact

that the force is an impulse, we find the angular momentum after the impulse is

L Lz ext Dt FbDt Iw

The moment of inertia of the dumbbell is easily calculated (since the rod is massless)

as I = 2mb2, since each mass can be considered a point mass, and each contributes

mb2 to the moment of inertia. Solving for the angular velocity: y

FbDt FDt wb

w 2

vcm

2mb 2mb

Note that just after the impulse, the velocity of the left mass x

mass is vright = vcm – wb = 0.

The subsequent motion is straightforward. The CM moves straight up the y axis

while the barbell continues to rotate at angular velocity w.

Example 3.4, Further Remarks

Remarks:

It always bothered me that if the same impulsive force were applied on the bar

between the two masses, i.e. at the CM, the barbell would move at the SAME speed

we just calculated for the CM, but without rotation.

From energy considerations, it seems that applying the same force in two locations

imparts DIFFERENT amounts of energy to the barbell. It always seemed to me that

the energy should be the same in the two situations, if the force is the same.

Hopefully this gives you the same sense of unease.

After more thought, however, one can understand the difference. Recall that work

(energy) is force through a distance. We are given the force, but what about the

distance over which it acts? In the case of hitting the barbell at the CM, the force

acts for a time Dt on the barbell moving at speed vCM, so the distance is s = vCM Dt. In

the case of this problem, where we hit the left mass, at a location a distance b from

the CM, the left mass moves at speed 2vCM (check it), so the force acts through a

distance s = 2vCM Dt. It is this difference that accounts for the difference in energy.

If you really want to be confused, however, think about the case where the impulse

force is due to a lump of putty that sticks to the barbell. The putty has the same

energy in both cases, but the putty plus barbell energy is different depending on

where the putty lands. What the… (There is an explanation—can you find it?)

September 17, 2008

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