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Newtons second law of motion is perhaps his most famous. This leaflet will discuss this law and

give some examples of its use.

Momentum, denoted p, can be defined as:

p = mass velocity = mv

Momentum is a vector quantity and is expressed in SI units by kg m s1 or equivalently by N s.

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

takes place in the direction of that force.

F=

d

(mv).

dt

F = m dtd (v) = ma ,

where F = force (N), m = mass (kg), and a = acceleration (m s2 ).

Worked Example

A railway engine pulls a wagon of mass 10 000 kg along a straight track at a steady speed. The pull

force in the couplings between the engine and wagon is 1000 N. If the pull force is increased to 1400

N and the resistance to movement of the wagon remains constant, what would be the acceleration

of the wagon?

The resultant force on the wagon is 1400 1000 = 400 N. From Newtons second law, F = ma

400 = 10000 a. Therefore, the acceleration, a = 0.04 m s2 .

Worked Example

A caravan of mass 1000 kg is pulled by a force of 3500 N and experiences a constant frictional force

of 500 N. Assume that g = 10 m s2 .

(i) Draw a force diagram of the caravan showing the magnitude of the forces.

www.mathcentre.ac.uk

(ii) Calculate the magnitude and direction of the resultant force on the caravan.

The resultant horizontal force = 3500 500 = 3000 N.

(iii) Calculate the acceleration the caravan experiences.

The force here, as calculated in part (ii), is 3000 N to the right and the mass of the caravan is 1000

kg. So we have that a = 3000/1000 = 3 m s2 to the right.

Worked Example

An object of mass 60 kg is on a slope angled at 40 to the horizontal. Under the action of its own

weight it accelerates down the slope. Neglecting any frictional force calculate the magnitude of its

acceleration.

R

50

X

X

Y

Y

40

600 N

600 N

Resolving the weight into its components of force, the force acting down the slope, X = 600 cos 50 =

386N (to 3 significant figures) and the force acting perpendicular to the slope Y = 600 sin 50 =

460N.

From Newtons second law in the direction of the slope, X = ma 386 = 60 a. Therefore, the

acceleration a = 6.43 m s2 .

Exercises

1. A resultant force of 16 N causes a mass to accelerate at a rate of 5 m s2 . Determine the

mass.

2. Find the acceleration of a 16 kg box along a horizontal floor when it is pushed with a resultant

force of 8 N parallel to the floor.

3. An object of mass 40 kg is on a slope angled at 30 . Under the action of its own weight

it accelerates down the slope. Neglecting any frictional force calculate the magnitude of its

acceleration. (Assume g = 10 m s2 ).

Answers

1. m = 3.2kg

2

2. a = 0.5 m s2

3. a = 5 m s2

www.mathcentre.ac.uk

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