Lesson 1: Newton's First Law of Motion

Newton's First Law

Inertia and Mass

State of Motion

Balanced and Unbalanced Forces


Lesson 2: Force and Its Representation

The Meaning of Force

Types of Forces

Free-Body Diagrams

Determining the Net Force


Lesson 3 : Newton's Second Law of Motion

Newton's Second Law

The Big Misconception

Finding Acceleration

Finding Individual Forces

Free Fall and Air Resistance


Lesson 4 : Newton's Third Law of Motion

Newton's Third Law

Action and Reaction Force Pairs


Lesson 4: Newton's Third Law of Motion

Newton's Third Law

A force is a push or a pull upon an object which results from its interaction with another object. Forces result from interactions! As discussed in Lesson 2, some forces result from contact interactions (normal, frictional, tensional, and applied forces are examples of contact forces) and other forces are the result of action-at-a-distance interactions (gravitational, electrical, and magnetic forces). According to Newton, whenever objects A and B interact with each other, they exert forces upon each other. When you sit in your chair, your body exerts a downward force on the chair and the chair exerts an upward force on your body. There are two forces resulting from this interaction - a force on the chair and a force on your body. These two forces are called action and reaction forces and are the subject of Newton's third law of motion. Formally stated, Newton's third law is:

"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

The statement means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object. The direction of the force on the first object is opposite to the direction of the force on the second object. Forces always come in pairs - equal and opposite action-reaction force pairs.

A variety of action-reaction force pairs are evident in nature. Consider the propulsion of a fish through the water. A fish uses its fins to push water backwards. But a push on the water will only serve to accelerate the water. In turn, the water reacts by pushing the fish forwards, propelling the fish through the water. The size of the force on the water equals the size of the force on the fish; the direction of the force on the water (backwards) is opposite the direction of the force on the fish (forwards). For every action, there is an equal (in size) and opposite (in direction) reaction force. Action-reaction force pairs make it possible for fish to swim.

Consider the flying motion of birds. A bird flies by use of its wings. The wings of a bird push air downwards. In turn, the air reacts by pushing the bird upwards. The size of the force on the air equals the size of the force on the bird; the direction of the force on the air (downwards) is opposite the direction of the force on the bird (upwards). For every action, there is an equal (in size) and opposite (in direction) reaction. Action-reaction force pairs make it possible for birds to fly.

Consider the motion of your automobile to school. An automobile is equipped with wheels which spin backwards. As the wheels spin backwards, they push the road backwards. In turn, the road reacts by pushing the wheels forward. The size of the force on the road equals the size of the force on the wheels (or automobile); the direction of the force on the road (downwards) is opposite the direction of the force on the wheels (upwards). For every action, there is an equal (in size) and opposite (in direction) reaction. Action-reaction force pairs make it possible for automobiles to move.

 

Check Your Understanding

1. While driving down the road, Anna Litical observed a bug striking the windshield of her car. Quite obviously, a case of Newton's third law of motion. The bug hit the windshield and the windshield hit the bug. Which of the two forces is greater: the force on the bug or the force on the windshield?

 

 

 

2. Rockets are unable to accelerate in space because ...

  1. there is no air in space for the rockets to push off of.
  2. there is no gravity is in space.
  3. there is no air resistance in space.
  4. ... nonsense! Rockets do accelerate in space.

 

 

 

3. A gun recoils when it is fired. The recoil is the result of action-reaction force pairs. As the gases from the gunpowder explosion expand, the gun pushes the bullet forwards and the bullet pushes the gun backwards. The acceleration of the recoiling gun is ...

  1. greater than the acceleration of the bullet.
  2. smaller than the acceleration of the bullet.
  3. the same size as the acceleration of the bullet.

 

 

 

4. In the top picture, a physics student is pulling upon a rope which is attached to a wall. In the bottom picture, the physics student is pulling upon a rope which is held by the Strongman. In each case, the force scale reads 500 Newtons. The physics student is pulling

  1. with more force when the rope is attached to the wall.
  2. with more force when the rope is attached to the Strongman.
  3. the same force in each case.

 

 

 




Lesson 4: Newton's Third Law of Motion

 


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