Why do tornadoes spin? And why do tornadoes spin so rapidly? The answer is that the air masses that produce tornadoes are themselves rotating, and when the radii of the air masses decrease, their rate of rotation increases. An ice skater increases her spin in an exactly analogous manner, as seen in Figure 10.2. The skater starts her rotation with outstretched limbs and increases her rate of spin by pulling them in toward her body. The same physics describes the exhilarating spin of a skater and the wrenching force of a tornado. We will find that this is another example of the importance of conservation laws and their role in determining how changes happen in a system, supporting Big Idea 5. The idea that a change of a conserved quantity is always equal to the transfer of that quantity between interacting systems (Enduring Understanding 5.A) is presented for both energy and angular momentum (Enduring Understanding 5.E). The conservation of angular momentum in relation to the external net torque (Essential Knowledge 5.E.1) parallels that of linear momentum conservation in relation to the external net force. The concept of rotational inertia is introduced, a concept that takes into account not only the mass of an object or a system, but also the distribution of mass within the object or system. Therefore, changes in the rotational inertia of a system could lead to changes in the motion (Essential Knowledge 5.E.2) of the system. We shall see that all important aspects of rotational motion either have already been defined for linear motion or have exact analogues in linear motion.
Clearly, therefore, force, energy, and power are associated with rotational motion. This supports Big Idea 3, that interactions are described by forces. The ability of forces to cause torques (Enduring Understanding 3.F) is extended to the interactions between objects that result in nonzero net torque. This nonzero net torque in turn causes changes in the rotational motion of an object (Essential Knowledge 3.F.2) and results in changes of the angular momentum of an object (Essential Knowledge 3.F.3).
Similarly, Big Idea 4, that interactions between systems cause changes in those systems, is supported by the empirical observation that when torques are exerted on rigid bodies these torques cause changes in the angular momentum of the system (Enduring Understanding 4.D).
Again, there is a clear analogy between linear and rotational motion in this interaction. Both the angular kinematics variables (angular displacement, angular velocity, and angular acceleration) and the dynamics variables (torque and angular momentum) are vectors with direction depending on whether the rotation is clockwise or counterclockwise with respect to an axis of rotation (Essential Knowledge 4.D.1). The angular momentum of the system can change due to interactions (Essential Knowledge 4.D.2). This change is defined as the product of the average torque and the time interval during which torque is exerted (Essential Knowledge 4.D.3), analogous to the impulse-momentum theorem for linear motion.
The concepts in this chapter support:
Big Idea 3. The interactions of an object with other objects can be described by forces.
Enduring Understanding 3.F. A force exerted on an object can cause a torque on that object.
Extended Knowledge 3.F.2. The presence of a net torque along any axis will cause a rigid system to change its rotational motion or an object to change its rotational motion about that axis.
Extended Knowledge 3.F.3. A torque exerted on an object can change the angular momentum of an object.
Big Idea 4. Interactions between systems can result in changes in those systems.
Enduring Understanding 4.D. A net torque exerted on a system by other objects or systems will change the angular momentum of the system.
Extended Knowledge 4.D.1. Torque, angular velocity, angular acceleration, and angular momentum are vectors and can be characterized as positive or negative depending upon whether they give rise to or correspond to counterclockwise or clockwise rotation with respect to an axis.
Extended Knowledge 4.D.2. The angular momentum of a system may change due to interactions with other objects or systems.
Extended Knowledge 4.D.3. The change in angular momentum is given by the product of the average torque and the time interval during which the torque is exerted.
Big Idea 5. Changes that occur as a result of interactions are constrained by conservation laws.
Enduring Understanding 5.A. Certain quantities are conserved, in the sense that the changes of those quantities in a given system are always equal to the transfer of that quantity to or from the system by all possible interactions with other systems.
Extended Knowledge 5.A.2. For all systems under all circumstances, energy, charge, linear momentum, and angular momentum are conserved.
Enduring Understanding 5.E. The angular momentum of a system is conserved.
Extended Knowledge 5.E.1. If the net external torque exerted on the system is zero, the angular momentum of the system does not change.
Extended Knowledge 5.E.2. The angular momentum of a system is determined by the locations and velocities of the objects that make up the system. The rotational inertia of an object or system depends upon the distribution of mass within the object or system. Changes in the radius of a system or in the distribution of mass within the system result in changes in the system's rotational inertia, and hence in its angular velocity and linear speed for a given angular momentum. Examples should include elliptical orbits in an Earth-satellite system. Mathematical expressions for the moments of inertia will be provided where needed. Students will not be expected to know the parallel axis theorem.