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Solving Problems with Newton’s Second Law

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Newton's Second Law

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Solving Problems with Newton’s Second Law


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Learners examine Newton’s second law, F = ma, and solve problems using this formula.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Explain that when an object’s mass remains constant, its acceleration is directly proportional to and in the same direction as the net force applied to the object.
  • Describe the object’s mass as inversely proportional to its acceleration when the net force is constant.
  • Identify the relationship, F = ma, as Newton’s second law.
  • dentify the given and unknown quantities in a story problem.
  • Devise a plan to solve a problem using Newton’s second law.

Everything You'll Have Covered

Sir Isaac Newton was born in England, and performed experiments in many different areas, including mathematics, physics, and astronomy. He is probably best known for his three laws of motion.

Newton's first law states, "An object in motion will continue its motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force." The first law was based upon some of Galileo's experiments involving inclined planes. Newton's second law goes on to state that an object's acceleration depends on the net force acting on it and the mass of the object. The law is generally represented with the mathematical relationship: F = ma. Newton's third law states "for every action force, there is an equal and opposite reaction force."

Newton's second law describes the relationship between force, mass, and acceleration. When the mass of the object is kept constant, but the force exerted upon it increases, the object will accelerate. The net force is directly proportional and in the same direction as the object's acceleration. If instead the net force is kept constant, as the mass of the object increases, the acceleration decreases. It is important to realize that an acceleration indicates that the object's velocity is changing, either in direction or speed.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 20 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts constant and changing velocity, acceleration, forces and their impact on an object’s motion
Course Physics
Type of Tutorial Problem Solving
Key Vocabulary acceleration, force, inertia