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Original Title: Simplifying Physics-Linear Motion

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You are on page 1of 14

Srinivasan Nenmeli Ph D

Linear Motion

Linear motion is movement of an object,such as a

car, along a straight line path---no turns,

looping and so on.

Acceleration: we begin with the definition of

acceleration:

acceleration 'a'

a = (final velocity - initial velocity)/time

a = (v - u)/t ---------(1)

We can rewrite this in another form:

v = u + at -------------(2)

Note that we should always write "final

velocity-initial velocity" in the numerator.do

not reverse this, since the sign of 'a' will

change.

When a car or object loses speed , it has

negative acceleration or a is negative.!----that

is , it decelerates.

Note: Most text books use the notation of a

function for velocity and acceleration: v(t) and

a(t). Then initial velocity at time t=0 is

denoted by v(0). For ease of typing, I use 'u'

for initial velocity and 'v' for final velocity.

Distance traveled.

We can derive an useful formula for the distance

moved; Recall the formula

distance S = speed x time [or in school algebra

fashion: D = R t where R is called rate.]

If a car moves with constant speed;

S = v t

When the car accelerates, we take v as the

average velocity v':

v' = (u + v)/2

Then , s = ( u +v)t/2

Since v = u + at,

we get ;

S = ( u + u + at)t/2

S = ut + (1/2) a t

2

-----(3)

This is one of the most useful equations in

physics.

Note: We will use the unit of velocity as meter

per second or m/s. Do not get mixed up with

other units.

1 m/s = 3.6 km per hour = 2.24 miles per hour.

Acceleration will be expressed as meter per

second squared = m/ss.

Application

1 A jumbo jet Boeing 747 starts from zero

velocity at one end of runway and reaches the

take-off speed of 125 kmph in 42 seconds.

Calculate the distance of ground run before

take-off.

Note that the speed 125 kmph = 125/3.6 = 34.7

meter/second.

[ 1 m/s = 3600sec/1000 m=3.6 kmph]

the initial velocity u =0

final velocity v = 34.7 m/s

a= (34.7 -0)/42 = 0.826 m/ss

S = ut + (1/2)a t.t

= 0 + (1/2)0.826 (42)

2

= 728 meters.

This is a typical 'ground run' for a large

aircraft.

2 An aircraft debris falls from a burning

aircraft from a height of 500 meters. Find its

impact velocity on the ground.

For such free-fall problems, take acceleration

to be a= g due to gravity = 9.8 m/s.s

Note that the object coming down acclelerates

and 'a' is taken as positive. If an object is

thrown upwards, it decelerates and a = -g=-9.8

m/s.s

Using the relation:

s= ut + (1/2) g tt

500 = 0 + (1/2)9.8 t.t

time taken for the fall: t = 10.1 sec

v = u + at = 0 + 9.8 t = 98.9 m/s = 356 kmph

Note that the impact velocity is very high!

-------------------------------------------

Distance formula with out time

We can derive one more useful formula for

distance:

S = average velocity x time

= [(u + v)/2] [ (v-u)/a]

= (1/2 ) (v

2

-u

2

)/a

Rewriting , we get:

v

2

= u

2

+ 2 a S ------------- (4)

Application

A sprinter runs for 1000 m with acceleration of

2 m/s.

Find his speed at finish line:

v

2

= 0 + 2 x 2 x 1000 = 4000 m.m/ss

v = 63 m/s.

The time he takes for his run: t = (v-u)/a =

63/2 = 31.5 seconds.

-------------------------------------------

Free fall problems

1 John throws a ball vertically with a velocity

of 15 m/s.Find the maximum height the ball will

reach and the time it takes to reach that

height.

The ball reaches max height when its velocity

becomes zero.

Therefore v=0; u= 15 m/s

The acceleration a = -g = - 9.8 m/s.s

time taken for the ball to reach max height:

t = (v-u)/a = -15/-9.8 = 1.53 sec

s = ut + (1/2)g t.t

= 15 x 1.53 + 0.5 (-9.8) 1.53

2

= 22.95 - 11.47 = 11.48 meters

We can calculate the max height using equation

(4):

v

2

= u

2

+ 2 (-9.8) s

0 = 225 -19.6 s

or s = 11.48 m.

[We neglect air resistance over the object in

these free-fall problems.]

2 If an astronaut throws a ball up on the

surface of moon with an initial velocity of 15

m/s, calculate the max height the ball will

reach and the time it takes to reach the max

height.

The acceleration due to gravity g' on the moon

is one sixth of g on Earth.

g' = 9.8/6 = 1.63

The time for max height:

t = (v-u)/g' = (0 - 15)/(-1.63)= 9.2 sec

The max height:

S = ut + (1/2) g't.t

= 15 x 9.2 + 0.5 x (-1.63)(9.2)

2

= 138 - 68.98 = 69 meters.

Note that the ball goes to great heights on the

moon. This also explains why astronauts hop

about on the surface of the moon.!

Additional Problems

1 A cheetah spots a deer at a distance of 400

meters. The max acceleration a cheetah can

attain is 25 m/s or 90 mph. Can this cheetah

catch the deer, if a cheetah can sprint only for

15 seconds.

Assume u=0

S = 400 = ut + (1/2)a t.t

400 = 0.5 x 25 x t.t

t = 5.65 seconds

The cheetah can easily catch its prey.

2 A kingfisher swoops down on a fish from a

cliff. The height of the cliff is 1000 feet. The

acceleration of the kingfisher is 6ft/sec. The

fish is moving away from the cliff at the rate

of 10 feet per sec. How much time the bird will

take to catch the fish.?

[Hint: Use Pythagorian theorem to calculate the

distance from the bird to fish at various times,

in steps of 10 seconds.You can use a spreadsheet

calculation for 'simulating' the bird's path.]

3 A fast train accelerates from a station at 2

m/s to reach a speed of 90 kmph and then runs at

constant speed of 90 kmph for 10 minutes and

then slows down at a rate of 1 m/s to come to a

stop at the next station. Find the total time

and average speed of the train.

Instantaneous velocity and average velocity:

velocity measured over a small interval of time

would be 'instantaneous velocity'. Average

velocity is measured over a long time.

For instance the instantaneous velocity of a

truck can be 80 miles per hour.But over 8 hour

period, its velocity averaged would be much

lower. This duration may even include when the

truck was not moving and the truck driver takes

a lunch.

Both types of calculations have their uses.

-------------------------------------------

Summary

We have derived and used three equations or

formulae for the linear motion :

1 v = u +at

2 S = ut + (1/2) a t

2

3 v

2

= u

2

+ 2as

You should be able to derive these relations at

any time from basic concepts and use them.

Units used: velocity --- meters per second

acceleration--- meters per second

squared.

I have emphasized the concept of acceleration in

this tutorial ; the main reason is that much of

Newtonian physics is based on force and

Force = mass x acceleration, by Newton's second

law of motion.

We have used the acceleration due to gravity 'g'

in free-fall problems. g= 9.8 m/ss.

'g' varies with latitude and also decreases as

we climb to greater heights in space...but for

most calculations, 'g' is a constant.

We can create large 'g' forces as in centrifuges

.[Centrifuges are routinely used in

medical/chemical laboratories to separate

molecules floating in liquid samples.Learn how a

centrifuge operates in a laboratory and its

application.]

General Reading in Physics

[ There are plenty of books on popular physics .

Here is a short list , as a starter, to whet

your interests.]

1 Isaac Asimov --- 'understanding physics'

2 George Gamow --- a) Matter, Earth and Sky

b) One ,two, three---infinity

c) Thirty years that shook

physics

d) The great physicists from

Galileo to Einstein.

3 Walter Lewin---For the love of physics---Free

Press, New York

4 Joy Hakim The story of science , Smithsonian.

[ a set of three volumes; more historical than

technical; but the pictures and photos form a

large collection from science literature.]

[ About the author: The author obtained his

doctorate in 'Engineering Science' from Columbia

University, New York [School of Engineering and

Applied Sciences] in 1972.He had his early

training in chemistry and metal physics from

Indian Institute of Science ,Bangalore. He had

worked on numerous projects relating to nuclear

materials in the US and elsewhere. He loves

teaching and writing on basic sciences and

mathematics .]

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