Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Laws of Motion

When Isaac Newton sat down and thought about how things move, he worked out three laws that are now so familiar they seem like common sense. First, he said that objects have "inertia," which is a measure of resistance to changes in their motion. Inertia means that things remain still until you give them a push. Similarly, objects that are moving keep moving unless something stops or pushes on them. Second, the mass of the object determines what effect a particular push will have on the motion (or lack of it). The third law, which is the most famous, feels slightly different. It says that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If I push you, I feel an equal push in return. This is the principle by which space rockets and jet engines work: When they push out an exhaust gas from the nozzle at the rear, the engines get a push forward. This is why you should be careful when you step off a boat. To move yourself forward, you inevitably move the boat backward. If you don't take that into account, you can end up taking a swim!
by Michael Brooks, 30 Second Theory

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