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College Physics for AP® Courses

3.5 Addition of Velocities

College Physics for AP® Courses3.5 Addition of Velocities
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  1. Preface
  2. 1 Introduction: The Nature of Science and Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 1.1 Physics: An Introduction
    3. 1.2 Physical Quantities and Units
    4. 1.3 Accuracy, Precision, and Significant Figures
    5. 1.4 Approximation
    6. Glossary
    7. Section Summary
    8. Conceptual Questions
    9. Problems & Exercises
  3. 2 Kinematics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 2.1 Displacement
    3. 2.2 Vectors, Scalars, and Coordinate Systems
    4. 2.3 Time, Velocity, and Speed
    5. 2.4 Acceleration
    6. 2.5 Motion Equations for Constant Acceleration in One Dimension
    7. 2.6 Problem-Solving Basics for One Dimensional Kinematics
    8. 2.7 Falling Objects
    9. 2.8 Graphical Analysis of One Dimensional Motion
    10. Glossary
    11. Section Summary
    12. Conceptual Questions
    13. Problems & Exercises
    14. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  4. 3 Two-Dimensional Kinematics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 3.1 Kinematics in Two Dimensions: An Introduction
    3. 3.2 Vector Addition and Subtraction: Graphical Methods
    4. 3.3 Vector Addition and Subtraction: Analytical Methods
    5. 3.4 Projectile Motion
    6. 3.5 Addition of Velocities
    7. Glossary
    8. Section Summary
    9. Conceptual Questions
    10. Problems & Exercises
    11. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  5. 4 Dynamics: Force and Newton's Laws of Motion
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 4.1 Development of Force Concept
    3. 4.2 Newton's First Law of Motion: Inertia
    4. 4.3 Newton's Second Law of Motion: Concept of a System
    5. 4.4 Newton's Third Law of Motion: Symmetry in Forces
    6. 4.5 Normal, Tension, and Other Examples of Force
    7. 4.6 Problem-Solving Strategies
    8. 4.7 Further Applications of Newton's Laws of Motion
    9. 4.8 Extended Topic: The Four Basic Forces—An Introduction
    10. Glossary
    11. Section Summary
    12. Conceptual Questions
    13. Problems & Exercises
    14. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  6. 5 Further Applications of Newton's Laws: Friction, Drag, and Elasticity
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 5.1 Friction
    3. 5.2 Drag Forces
    4. 5.3 Elasticity: Stress and Strain
    5. Glossary
    6. Section Summary
    7. Conceptual Questions
    8. Problems & Exercises
    9. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  7. 6 Gravitation and Uniform Circular Motion
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 6.1 Rotation Angle and Angular Velocity
    3. 6.2 Centripetal Acceleration
    4. 6.3 Centripetal Force
    5. 6.4 Fictitious Forces and Non-inertial Frames: The Coriolis Force
    6. 6.5 Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation
    7. 6.6 Satellites and Kepler's Laws: An Argument for Simplicity
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  8. 7 Work, Energy, and Energy Resources
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 7.1 Work: The Scientific Definition
    3. 7.2 Kinetic Energy and the Work-Energy Theorem
    4. 7.3 Gravitational Potential Energy
    5. 7.4 Conservative Forces and Potential Energy
    6. 7.5 Nonconservative Forces
    7. 7.6 Conservation of Energy
    8. 7.7 Power
    9. 7.8 Work, Energy, and Power in Humans
    10. 7.9 World Energy Use
    11. Glossary
    12. Section Summary
    13. Conceptual Questions
    14. Problems & Exercises
    15. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  9. 8 Linear Momentum and Collisions
    1. Connection for AP® courses
    2. 8.1 Linear Momentum and Force
    3. 8.2 Impulse
    4. 8.3 Conservation of Momentum
    5. 8.4 Elastic Collisions in One Dimension
    6. 8.5 Inelastic Collisions in One Dimension
    7. 8.6 Collisions of Point Masses in Two Dimensions
    8. 8.7 Introduction to Rocket Propulsion
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  10. 9 Statics and Torque
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 9.1 The First Condition for Equilibrium
    3. 9.2 The Second Condition for Equilibrium
    4. 9.3 Stability
    5. 9.4 Applications of Statics, Including Problem-Solving Strategies
    6. 9.5 Simple Machines
    7. 9.6 Forces and Torques in Muscles and Joints
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  11. 10 Rotational Motion and Angular Momentum
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 10.1 Angular Acceleration
    3. 10.2 Kinematics of Rotational Motion
    4. 10.3 Dynamics of Rotational Motion: Rotational Inertia
    5. 10.4 Rotational Kinetic Energy: Work and Energy Revisited
    6. 10.5 Angular Momentum and Its Conservation
    7. 10.6 Collisions of Extended Bodies in Two Dimensions
    8. 10.7 Gyroscopic Effects: Vector Aspects of Angular Momentum
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  12. 11 Fluid Statics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 11.1 What Is a Fluid?
    3. 11.2 Density
    4. 11.3 Pressure
    5. 11.4 Variation of Pressure with Depth in a Fluid
    6. 11.5 Pascal’s Principle
    7. 11.6 Gauge Pressure, Absolute Pressure, and Pressure Measurement
    8. 11.7 Archimedes’ Principle
    9. 11.8 Cohesion and Adhesion in Liquids: Surface Tension and Capillary Action
    10. 11.9 Pressures in the Body
    11. Glossary
    12. Section Summary
    13. Conceptual Questions
    14. Problems & Exercises
    15. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  13. 12 Fluid Dynamics and Its Biological and Medical Applications
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 12.1 Flow Rate and Its Relation to Velocity
    3. 12.2 Bernoulli’s Equation
    4. 12.3 The Most General Applications of Bernoulli’s Equation
    5. 12.4 Viscosity and Laminar Flow; Poiseuille’s Law
    6. 12.5 The Onset of Turbulence
    7. 12.6 Motion of an Object in a Viscous Fluid
    8. 12.7 Molecular Transport Phenomena: Diffusion, Osmosis, and Related Processes
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  14. 13 Temperature, Kinetic Theory, and the Gas Laws
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 13.1 Temperature
    3. 13.2 Thermal Expansion of Solids and Liquids
    4. 13.3 The Ideal Gas Law
    5. 13.4 Kinetic Theory: Atomic and Molecular Explanation of Pressure and Temperature
    6. 13.5 Phase Changes
    7. 13.6 Humidity, Evaporation, and Boiling
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  15. 14 Heat and Heat Transfer Methods
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 14.1 Heat
    3. 14.2 Temperature Change and Heat Capacity
    4. 14.3 Phase Change and Latent Heat
    5. 14.4 Heat Transfer Methods
    6. 14.5 Conduction
    7. 14.6 Convection
    8. 14.7 Radiation
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  16. 15 Thermodynamics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 15.1 The First Law of Thermodynamics
    3. 15.2 The First Law of Thermodynamics and Some Simple Processes
    4. 15.3 Introduction to the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Heat Engines and Their Efficiency
    5. 15.4 Carnot’s Perfect Heat Engine: The Second Law of Thermodynamics Restated
    6. 15.5 Applications of Thermodynamics: Heat Pumps and Refrigerators
    7. 15.6 Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Disorder and the Unavailability of Energy
    8. 15.7 Statistical Interpretation of Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics: The Underlying Explanation
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  17. 16 Oscillatory Motion and Waves
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 16.1 Hooke’s Law: Stress and Strain Revisited
    3. 16.2 Period and Frequency in Oscillations
    4. 16.3 Simple Harmonic Motion: A Special Periodic Motion
    5. 16.4 The Simple Pendulum
    6. 16.5 Energy and the Simple Harmonic Oscillator
    7. 16.6 Uniform Circular Motion and Simple Harmonic Motion
    8. 16.7 Damped Harmonic Motion
    9. 16.8 Forced Oscillations and Resonance
    10. 16.9 Waves
    11. 16.10 Superposition and Interference
    12. 16.11 Energy in Waves: Intensity
    13. Glossary
    14. Section Summary
    15. Conceptual Questions
    16. Problems & Exercises
    17. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  18. 17 Physics of Hearing
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 17.1 Sound
    3. 17.2 Speed of Sound, Frequency, and Wavelength
    4. 17.3 Sound Intensity and Sound Level
    5. 17.4 Doppler Effect and Sonic Booms
    6. 17.5 Sound Interference and Resonance: Standing Waves in Air Columns
    7. 17.6 Hearing
    8. 17.7 Ultrasound
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  19. 18 Electric Charge and Electric Field
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 18.1 Static Electricity and Charge: Conservation of Charge
    3. 18.2 Conductors and Insulators
    4. 18.3 Conductors and Electric Fields in Static Equilibrium
    5. 18.4 Coulomb’s Law
    6. 18.5 Electric Field: Concept of a Field Revisited
    7. 18.6 Electric Field Lines: Multiple Charges
    8. 18.7 Electric Forces in Biology
    9. 18.8 Applications of Electrostatics
    10. Glossary
    11. Section Summary
    12. Conceptual Questions
    13. Problems & Exercises
    14. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  20. 19 Electric Potential and Electric Field
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 19.1 Electric Potential Energy: Potential Difference
    3. 19.2 Electric Potential in a Uniform Electric Field
    4. 19.3 Electrical Potential Due to a Point Charge
    5. 19.4 Equipotential Lines
    6. 19.5 Capacitors and Dielectrics
    7. 19.6 Capacitors in Series and Parallel
    8. 19.7 Energy Stored in Capacitors
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  21. 20 Electric Current, Resistance, and Ohm's Law
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 20.1 Current
    3. 20.2 Ohm’s Law: Resistance and Simple Circuits
    4. 20.3 Resistance and Resistivity
    5. 20.4 Electric Power and Energy
    6. 20.5 Alternating Current versus Direct Current
    7. 20.6 Electric Hazards and the Human Body
    8. 20.7 Nerve Conduction–Electrocardiograms
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  22. 21 Circuits, Bioelectricity, and DC Instruments
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 21.1 Resistors in Series and Parallel
    3. 21.2 Electromotive Force: Terminal Voltage
    4. 21.3 Kirchhoff’s Rules
    5. 21.4 DC Voltmeters and Ammeters
    6. 21.5 Null Measurements
    7. 21.6 DC Circuits Containing Resistors and Capacitors
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  23. 22 Magnetism
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 22.1 Magnets
    3. 22.2 Ferromagnets and Electromagnets
    4. 22.3 Magnetic Fields and Magnetic Field Lines
    5. 22.4 Magnetic Field Strength: Force on a Moving Charge in a Magnetic Field
    6. 22.5 Force on a Moving Charge in a Magnetic Field: Examples and Applications
    7. 22.6 The Hall Effect
    8. 22.7 Magnetic Force on a Current-Carrying Conductor
    9. 22.8 Torque on a Current Loop: Motors and Meters
    10. 22.9 Magnetic Fields Produced by Currents: Ampere’s Law
    11. 22.10 Magnetic Force between Two Parallel Conductors
    12. 22.11 More Applications of Magnetism
    13. Glossary
    14. Section Summary
    15. Conceptual Questions
    16. Problems & Exercises
    17. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  24. 23 Electromagnetic Induction, AC Circuits, and Electrical Technologies
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 23.1 Induced Emf and Magnetic Flux
    3. 23.2 Faraday’s Law of Induction: Lenz’s Law
    4. 23.3 Motional Emf
    5. 23.4 Eddy Currents and Magnetic Damping
    6. 23.5 Electric Generators
    7. 23.6 Back Emf
    8. 23.7 Transformers
    9. 23.8 Electrical Safety: Systems and Devices
    10. 23.9 Inductance
    11. 23.10 RL Circuits
    12. 23.11 Reactance, Inductive and Capacitive
    13. 23.12 RLC Series AC Circuits
    14. Glossary
    15. Section Summary
    16. Conceptual Questions
    17. Problems & Exercises
    18. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  25. 24 Electromagnetic Waves
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 24.1 Maxwell’s Equations: Electromagnetic Waves Predicted and Observed
    3. 24.2 Production of Electromagnetic Waves
    4. 24.3 The Electromagnetic Spectrum
    5. 24.4 Energy in Electromagnetic Waves
    6. Glossary
    7. Section Summary
    8. Conceptual Questions
    9. Problems & Exercises
    10. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  26. 25 Geometric Optics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 25.1 The Ray Aspect of Light
    3. 25.2 The Law of Reflection
    4. 25.3 The Law of Refraction
    5. 25.4 Total Internal Reflection
    6. 25.5 Dispersion: The Rainbow and Prisms
    7. 25.6 Image Formation by Lenses
    8. 25.7 Image Formation by Mirrors
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  27. 26 Vision and Optical Instruments
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 26.1 Physics of the Eye
    3. 26.2 Vision Correction
    4. 26.3 Color and Color Vision
    5. 26.4 Microscopes
    6. 26.5 Telescopes
    7. 26.6 Aberrations
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  28. 27 Wave Optics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 27.1 The Wave Aspect of Light: Interference
    3. 27.2 Huygens's Principle: Diffraction
    4. 27.3 Young’s Double Slit Experiment
    5. 27.4 Multiple Slit Diffraction
    6. 27.5 Single Slit Diffraction
    7. 27.6 Limits of Resolution: The Rayleigh Criterion
    8. 27.7 Thin Film Interference
    9. 27.8 Polarization
    10. 27.9 *Extended Topic* Microscopy Enhanced by the Wave Characteristics of Light
    11. Glossary
    12. Section Summary
    13. Conceptual Questions
    14. Problems & Exercises
    15. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  29. 28 Special Relativity
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 28.1 Einstein’s Postulates
    3. 28.2 Simultaneity And Time Dilation
    4. 28.3 Length Contraction
    5. 28.4 Relativistic Addition of Velocities
    6. 28.5 Relativistic Momentum
    7. 28.6 Relativistic Energy
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  30. 29 Introduction to Quantum Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 29.1 Quantization of Energy
    3. 29.2 The Photoelectric Effect
    4. 29.3 Photon Energies and the Electromagnetic Spectrum
    5. 29.4 Photon Momentum
    6. 29.5 The Particle-Wave Duality
    7. 29.6 The Wave Nature of Matter
    8. 29.7 Probability: The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
    9. 29.8 The Particle-Wave Duality Reviewed
    10. Glossary
    11. Section Summary
    12. Conceptual Questions
    13. Problems & Exercises
    14. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  31. 30 Atomic Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 30.1 Discovery of the Atom
    3. 30.2 Discovery of the Parts of the Atom: Electrons and Nuclei
    4. 30.3 Bohr’s Theory of the Hydrogen Atom
    5. 30.4 X Rays: Atomic Origins and Applications
    6. 30.5 Applications of Atomic Excitations and De-Excitations
    7. 30.6 The Wave Nature of Matter Causes Quantization
    8. 30.7 Patterns in Spectra Reveal More Quantization
    9. 30.8 Quantum Numbers and Rules
    10. 30.9 The Pauli Exclusion Principle
    11. Glossary
    12. Section Summary
    13. Conceptual Questions
    14. Problems & Exercises
    15. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  32. 31 Radioactivity and Nuclear Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 31.1 Nuclear Radioactivity
    3. 31.2 Radiation Detection and Detectors
    4. 31.3 Substructure of the Nucleus
    5. 31.4 Nuclear Decay and Conservation Laws
    6. 31.5 Half-Life and Activity
    7. 31.6 Binding Energy
    8. 31.7 Tunneling
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  33. 32 Medical Applications of Nuclear Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 32.1 Medical Imaging and Diagnostics
    3. 32.2 Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation
    4. 32.3 Therapeutic Uses of Ionizing Radiation
    5. 32.4 Food Irradiation
    6. 32.5 Fusion
    7. 32.6 Fission
    8. 32.7 Nuclear Weapons
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  34. 33 Particle Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 33.1 The Yukawa Particle and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle Revisited
    3. 33.2 The Four Basic Forces
    4. 33.3 Accelerators Create Matter from Energy
    5. 33.4 Particles, Patterns, and Conservation Laws
    6. 33.5 Quarks: Is That All There Is?
    7. 33.6 GUTs: The Unification of Forces
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  35. 34 Frontiers of Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 34.1 Cosmology and Particle Physics
    3. 34.2 General Relativity and Quantum Gravity
    4. 34.3 Superstrings
    5. 34.4 Dark Matter and Closure
    6. 34.5 Complexity and Chaos
    7. 34.6 High-Temperature Superconductors
    8. 34.7 Some Questions We Know to Ask
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  36. A | Atomic Masses
  37. B | Selected Radioactive Isotopes
  38. C | Useful Information
  39. D | Glossary of Key Symbols and Notation
  40. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
    11. Chapter 11
    12. Chapter 12
    13. Chapter 13
    14. Chapter 14
    15. Chapter 15
    16. Chapter 16
    17. Chapter 17
    18. Chapter 18
    19. Chapter 19
    20. Chapter 20
    21. Chapter 21
    22. Chapter 22
    23. Chapter 23
    24. Chapter 24
    25. Chapter 25
    26. Chapter 26
    27. Chapter 27
    28. Chapter 28
    29. Chapter 29
    30. Chapter 30
    31. Chapter 31
    32. Chapter 32
    33. Chapter 33
    34. Chapter 34
  41. Index

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Apply principles of vector addition to determine relative velocity.
  • Explain the significance of the observer in the measurement of velocity.

The information presented in this section supports the following AP® learning objectives and science practices:

  • 3.A.1.1 The student is able to express the motion of an object using narrative, mathematical, and graphical representations. (S.P. 1.5, 2.1, 2.2)
  • 3.A.1.3 The student is able to analyze experimental data describing the motion of an object and is able to express the results of the analysis using narrative, mathematical, and graphical representations. (S.P. 5.1)

Relative Velocity

If a person rows a boat across a rapidly flowing river and tries to head directly for the other shore, the boat instead moves diagonally relative to the shore, as in Figure 3.43. The boat does not move in the direction in which it is pointed. The reason, of course, is that the river carries the boat downstream. Similarly, if a small airplane flies overhead in a strong crosswind, you can sometimes see that the plane is not moving in the direction in which it is pointed, as illustrated in Figure 3.44. The plane is moving straight ahead relative to the air, but the movement of the air mass relative to the ground carries it sideways.

A boat is trying to cross a river. Due to the velocity of river the path traveled by boat is diagonal. The velocity of boat v boat is in positive y direction. The velocity of river v river is in positive x direction. The resultant diagonal velocity v total which makes an angle of theta with the horizontal x axis is towards north east direction.
Figure 3.43 A boat trying to head straight across a river will actually move diagonally relative to the shore as shown. Its total velocity (solid arrow) relative to the shore is the sum of its velocity relative to the river plus the velocity of the river relative to the shore.
An airplane is trying to fly straight north with velocity v sub p. Due to wind velocity v sub w in south west direction making an angle theta with the horizontal axis, the plane's total velocity is thirty eight point 0 meters per seconds oriented twenty degrees west of north.
Figure 3.44 An airplane heading straight north is instead carried to the west and slowed down by wind. The plane does not move relative to the ground in the direction it points; rather, it moves in the direction of its total velocity (solid arrow).

In each of these situations, an object has a velocity relative to a medium (such as a river) and that medium has a velocity relative to an observer on solid ground. The velocity of the object relative to the observer is the sum of these velocity vectors, as indicated in Figure 3.43 and Figure 3.44. These situations are only two of many in which it is useful to add velocities. In this module, we first re-examine how to add velocities and then consider certain aspects of what relative velocity means.

How do we add velocities? Velocity is a vector (it has both magnitude and direction); the rules of vector addition discussed in Vector Addition and Subtraction: Graphical Methods and Vector Addition and Subtraction: Analytical Methods apply to the addition of velocities, just as they do for any other vectors. In one-dimensional motion, the addition of velocities is simple—they add like ordinary numbers. For example, if a field hockey player is moving at 5 m/s5 m/s size 12{"5 m/s"} {} straight toward the goal and drives the ball in the same direction with a velocity of 30 m/s30 m/s size 12{"30 m/s"} {} relative to her body, then the velocity of the ball is 35 m/s35 m/s size 12{"35 m/s"} {} relative to the stationary, profusely sweating goalkeeper standing in front of the goal.

In two-dimensional motion, either graphical or analytical techniques can be used to add velocities. We will concentrate on analytical techniques. The following equations give the relationships between the magnitude and direction of velocity (vv size 12{v} {} and θθ size 12{θ} {}) and its components (vxvx size 12{v rSub { size 8{x} } } {} and vyvy size 12{v rSub { size 8{y} } } {}) along the x- and y-axes of an appropriately chosen coordinate system:

v x = v cos θ v x = v cos θ size 12{v rSub { size 8{x} } =v"cos"θ} {}
3.72
v y = v sin θ v y = v sin θ size 12{v rSub { size 8{y} } =v"sin"θ} {}
3.73
v = v x 2 + v y 2 v = v x 2 + v y 2 size 12{v= sqrt {v rSub { size 8{x} } rSup { size 8{2} } +v rSub { size 8{y} } rSup { size 8{2} } } } {}
3.74
θ = tan 1 ( v y / v x ) . θ = tan 1 ( v y / v x ) . size 12{θ="tan" rSup { size 8{ - 1} } \( v rSub { size 8{y} } /v rSub { size 8{x} } \) } {}
3.75
The figure shows components of velocity v in horizontal x axis v x and in vertical y axis v y. The angle between the velocity vector v and the horizontal axis is theta.
Figure 3.45 The velocity, v v size 12{v} {} , of an object traveling at an angle θ θ size 12{θ} {} to the horizontal axis is the sum of component vectors vx vx size 12{v} {subx} and vy vy size 12{v} {suby} .

These equations are valid for any vectors and are adapted specifically for velocity. The first two equations are used to find the components of a velocity when its magnitude and direction are known. The last two are used to find the magnitude and direction of velocity when its components are known.

Take-Home Experiment: Relative Velocity of a Boat

Fill a bathtub half-full of water. Take a toy boat or some other object that floats in water. Unplug the drain so water starts to drain. Try pushing the boat from one side of the tub to the other and perpendicular to the flow of water. Which way do you need to push the boat so that it ends up immediately opposite? Compare the directions of the flow of water, heading of the boat, and actual velocity of the boat.

Example 3.6 Adding Velocities: A Boat on a River

A boat is trying to cross a river. Due to the velocity of the river the path traveled by the boat is diagonal. The velocity of the boat, v boat, is equal to zero point seven five meters per second and is in positive y direction. The velocity of the river, v-river, is equal to one point two meters per second and is in positive x direction. The resultant diagonal velocity v total, which makes an angle of theta with the horizontal x axis, is towards north east direction.
Figure 3.46 A boat attempts to travel straight across a river at a speed 0.75 m/s. The current in the river, however, flows at a speed of 1.20 m/s to the right. What is the total displacement of the boat relative to the shore?

Refer to Figure 3.46, which shows a boat trying to go straight across the river. Let us calculate the magnitude and direction of the boat's velocity relative to an observer on the shore, vtotvtot size 12{v rSub { size 8{"tot"} } } {}. The velocity of the boat, vboatvboat size 12{v rSub { size 8{"boat"} } } {}, is 0.75 m/s in the y y size 12{y} {} -direction relative to the river and the velocity of the river, vrivervriver size 12{v rSub { size 8{"river"} } } {}, is 1.20 m/s to the right.

Strategy

We start by choosing a coordinate system with its xx-axis parallel to the velocity of the river, as shown in Figure 3.46. Because the boat is directed straight toward the other shore, its velocity relative to the water is parallel to the yy-axis and perpendicular to the velocity of the river. Thus, we can add the two velocities by using the equations vtot=vx2+vy2vtot=vx2+vy2 size 12{v rSub { size 8{"tot"} } = sqrt {v rSub { size 8{x} } rSup { size 8{2} } +v rSub { size 8{y} } rSup { size 8{2} } } } {} and θ=tan1(vy/vx)θ=tan1(vy/vx) size 12{θ="tan" rSup { size 8{ - 1} } \( v rSub { size 8{y} } /v rSub { size 8{x} } \) } {} directly.

Solution

The magnitude of the total velocity is

vtot=vx2+vy2,vtot=vx2+vy2, size 12{v rSub { size 8{"tot"} } = sqrt {v rSub { size 8{x} } rSup { size 8{2} } +v rSub { size 8{y} } rSup { size 8{2} } } ","} {}
3.76

where

v x = v river = 1 . 20 m/s v x = v river = 1 . 20 m/s size 12{v rSub { size 8{x} } =v rSub { size 8{"river"} } =1 "." "20"" m/s"} {}
3.77

and

vy=vboat=0.750 m/s.vy=vboat=0.750 m/s. size 12{v rSub { size 8{y} } =v rSub { size 8{ ital "boat"} } =0 "." "750 m/s."} {}
3.78

Thus,

v tot = ( 1 . 20 m/s ) 2 + ( 0 . 750 m/s ) 2 v tot = ( 1 . 20 m/s ) 2 + ( 0 . 750 m/s ) 2 size 12{v rSub { size 8{"tot"} } = sqrt { \( 1 "." "20"" m/s" \) rSup { size 8{2} } + \( 0 "." "750"" m/s" \) rSup { size 8{2} } } } {}
3.79

yielding

vtot=1.42 m/s.vtot=1.42 m/s. size 12{v rSub { size 8{"tot"} } =1 "." "42"" m/s."} {}
3.80

The direction of the total velocity θ θ size 12{θ} {} is given by:

θ=tan1(vy/vx)=tan1(0.750/1.20).θ=tan1(vy/vx)=tan1(0.750/1.20). size 12{θ="tan" rSup { size 8{ - 1} } \( v rSub { size 8{y} } /v rSub { size 8{x} } \) ="tan" rSup { size 8{ - 1} } \( 0 "." "750"/1 "." "20" \) "."} {}
3.81

This equation gives

θ=32..θ=32.. size 12{θ="32" "." 0º} {}
3.82

Discussion

Both the magnitude vv and the direction θθ of the total velocity are consistent with Figure 3.46. Note that because the velocity of the river is large compared with the velocity of the boat, it is swept rapidly downstream. This result is evidenced by the small angle (only 32.0º32.0º size 12{"32.0º"} {}) the total velocity has relative to the riverbank.

Example 3.7 Calculating Velocity: Wind Velocity Causes an Airplane to Drift

Calculate the wind velocity for the situation shown in Figure 3.47. The plane is known to be moving at 45.0 m/s due north relative to the air mass, while its velocity relative to the ground (its total velocity) is 38.0 m/s in a direction 20.0º20.0º size 12{"20" "." 0 rSup { size 8{o} } } {} west of north.

An airplane is trying to fly north with velocity v p equal to forty five meters per second at angle of one hundred and ten degrees but due to wind velocity v w in south west direction making an angle theta with the horizontal axis it reaches a position in north west direction with resultant velocity v total equal to thirty eight meters per second and the direction is twenty degrees west of north.
Figure 3.47 An airplane is known to be heading north at 45.0 m/s, though its velocity relative to the ground is 38.0 m/s at an angle west of north. What is the speed and direction of the wind?

Strategy

In this problem, somewhat different from the previous example, we know the total velocity vtotvtot size 12{v rSub { size 8{ bold "tot"} } } {} and that it is the sum of two other velocities, vwvw size 12{v rSub { size 8{w} } } {} (the wind) and vpvp size 12{v rSub { size 8{p} } } {} (the plane relative to the air mass). The quantity vpvp size 12{v rSub { size 8{p} } } {} is known, and we are asked to find vwvw size 12{v rSub { size 8{w} } } {}. None of the velocities are perpendicular, but it is possible to find their components along a common set of perpendicular axes. If we can find the components of vwvw size 12{v rSub { size 8{w} } } {}, then we can combine them to solve for its magnitude and direction. As shown in Figure 3.47, we choose a coordinate system with its x-axis due east and its y-axis due north (parallel to vpvp size 12{v rSub { size 8{p} } } {}). (You may wish to look back at the discussion of the addition of vectors using perpendicular components in Vector Addition and Subtraction: Analytical Methods.)

Solution

Because vtotvtot size 12{v rSub { size 8{ bold "tot"} } } {} is the vector sum of the vwvw and vpvp, its x- and y-components are the sums of the x- and y-components of the wind and plane velocities. Note that the plane only has vertical component of velocity so vpx=0vpx=0 and vpy=vpvpy=vp. That is,

v tot x = v w x v tot x = v w x size 12{v rSub { size 8{"tot"x} } =v rSub { size 8{wx} } } {}
3.83

and

vtoty=vwy+vp.vtoty=vwy+vp. size 12{v rSub { size 8{"tot"y} } =v rSub { size 8{wx} } +v rSub { size 8{p} } "."} {}
3.84

We can use the first of these two equations to find v wx v wx size 12{v rSub { size 8{ ital "wx"} } } {} :

v wx =vtotx=vtotcos 110º. v wx =vtotx=vtotcos 110º. size 12{v rSub { size 8{wx} } =v rSub { size 8{"tot"x} } =v rSub { size 8{"tot"} } "cos110" rSup { size 8{o} } "."} {}
3.85

Because v tot = 38 . 0 m / s v tot = 38 . 0 m / s size 12{v rSub { size 8{ ital "tot"} } ="38" "." 0m/s} {} and cos 110º = 0.342 cos 110º = 0.342 size 12{"cos""110º""=""-""0.342"} {} we have

v wx =(38.0 m/s)(–0.342)=–13.0 m/s.v wx =(38.0 m/s)(–0.342)=–13.0 m/s. size 12{v rSub { size 8{wx} } = \( "38" "." "0 m/s" \) \( "–0" "." "342" \) "=–13" "." "0 m/s."} {}
3.86

The minus sign indicates motion west which is consistent with the diagram.

Now, to find v w y v w y size 12{v rSub { size 8{ ital "wy"} } } {} we note that

v tot y = v w y + v p v tot y = v w y + v p size 12{v rSub { size 8{"tot"y} } =v rSub { size 8{wx} } +v rSub { size 8{p} } } {}
3.87

Here vtoty= vtotsin 110ºvtoty= vtotsin 110º size 12{v rSub { size 8{"tot"y} } =v rSub { size 8{"tot"} }  = v rSub { size 8{"tot"} }  "sin 110º"} {}; thus,

vwy=(38.0 m/s)(0.940)45.0 m/s=9.29 m/s.vwy=(38.0 m/s)(0.940)45.0 m/s=9.29 m/s. size 12{v rSub { size 8{wy} } = \( "38" "." 0" m/s" \) \( 0 "." "940" \) - "45" "." 0" m/s"= - 9 "." "29"" m/s."} {}
3.88

This minus sign indicates motion south which is consistent with the diagram.

Now that the perpendicular components of the wind velocity vwxvwx size 12{v rSub { size 8{wx} } } {} and vwyvwy size 12{v rSub { size 8{wy} } } {} are known, we can find the magnitude and direction of vwvw size 12{v rSub { size 8{w} } } {}. First, the magnitude is

v w = v w x 2 + v w y 2 = ( 13 . 0 m/s ) 2 + ( 9 . 29 m/s ) 2 v w = v w x 2 + v w y 2 = ( 13 . 0 m/s ) 2 + ( 9 . 29 m/s ) 2
3.89

so that

vw=16.0 m/s.vw=16.0 m/s. size 12{v rSub { size 8{w} } ="16" "." 0" m/s."} {}
3.90

The direction is:

θ = tan 1 ( v w y / v w x ) = tan 1 ( 9 . 29 / 13 . 0 ) θ = tan 1 ( v w y / v w x ) = tan 1 ( 9 . 29 / 13 . 0 ) size 12{θ="tan" rSup { size 8{ - 1} } \( v rSub { size 8{wy} } /v rSub { size 8{wx} } \) ="tan" rSup { size 8{ - 1} } \( - 9 "." "29"/ - "13" "." 0 \) } {}
3.91

giving

θ=35..θ=35.. size 12{θ="35" "." 6º"."} {}
3.92

Discussion

The wind's speed and direction are consistent with the significant effect the wind has on the total velocity of the plane, as seen in Figure 3.47. Because the plane is fighting a strong combination of crosswind and head-wind, it ends up with a total velocity significantly less than its velocity relative to the air mass as well as heading in a different direction.

Note that in both of the last two examples, we were able to make the mathematics easier by choosing a coordinate system with one axis parallel to one of the velocities. We will repeatedly find that choosing an appropriate coordinate system makes problem solving easier. For example, in projectile motion we always use a coordinate system with one axis parallel to gravity.

Relative Velocities and Classical Relativity

When adding velocities, we have been careful to specify that the velocity is relative to some reference frame. These velocities are called relative velocities. For example, the velocity of an airplane relative to an air mass is different from its velocity relative to the ground. Both are quite different from the velocity of an airplane relative to its passengers (which should be close to zero). Relative velocities are one aspect of relativity, which is defined to be the study of how different observers moving relative to each other measure the same phenomenon.

Nearly everyone has heard of relativity and immediately associates it with Albert Einstein (1879–1955), the greatest physicist of the 20th century. Einstein revolutionized our view of nature with his modern theory of relativity, which we shall study in later chapters. The relative velocities in this section are actually aspects of classical relativity, first discussed correctly by Galileo and Isaac Newton. Classical relativity is limited to situations where speeds are less than about 1% of the speed of light—that is, less than 3,000 km/s3,000 km/s size 12{"3,000 km/s"} {}. Most things we encounter in daily life move slower than this speed.

Let us consider an example of what two different observers see in a situation analyzed long ago by Galileo. Suppose a sailor at the top of a mast on a moving ship drops his binoculars. Where will it hit the deck? Will it hit at the base of the mast, or will it hit behind the mast because the ship is moving forward? The answer is that if air resistance is negligible, the binoculars will hit at the base of the mast at a point directly below its point of release. Now let us consider what two different observers see when the binoculars drop. One observer is on the ship and the other on shore. The binoculars have no horizontal velocity relative to the observer on the ship, and so he sees them fall straight down the mast. (See Figure 3.48.) To the observer on shore, the binoculars and the ship have the same horizontal velocity, so both move the same distance forward while the binoculars are falling. This observer sees the curved path shown in Figure 3.48. Although the paths look different to the different observers, each sees the same result—the binoculars hit at the base of the mast and not behind it. To get the correct description, it is crucial to correctly specify the velocities relative to the observer.

A person is observing a moving ship from the shore. Another person is on top of ship's mast. The person in the ship drops binoculars and sees it dropping straight. The person on the shore sees the binoculars taking a curved trajectory.
Figure 3.48 Classical relativity. The same motion as viewed by two different observers. An observer on the moving ship sees the binoculars dropped from the top of its mast fall straight down. An observer on shore sees the binoculars take the curved path, moving forward with the ship. Both observers see the binoculars strike the deck at the base of the mast. The initial horizontal velocity is different relative to the two observers. (The ship is shown moving rather fast to emphasize the effect.)

Example 3.8 Calculating Relative Velocity: An Airline Passenger Drops a Coin

An airline passenger drops a coin while the plane is moving at 260 m/s. What is the velocity of the coin when it strikes the floor 1.50 m below its point of release: (a) Measured relative to the plane? (b) Measured relative to the Earth?

A person standing on ground is observing an airplane. Inside the airplane a woman is sitting on seat. The airplane is moving in the right direction. The woman drops the coin which is vertically downwards for her but the person on ground sees the coin moving horizontally towards right.
Figure 3.49 The motion of a coin dropped inside an airplane as viewed by two different observers. (a) An observer in the plane sees the coin fall straight down. (b) An observer on the ground sees the coin move almost horizontally.

Strategy

Both problems can be solved with the techniques for falling objects and projectiles. In part (a), the initial velocity of the coin is zero relative to the plane, so the motion is that of a falling object (one-dimensional). In part (b), the initial velocity is 260 m/s horizontal relative to the Earth and gravity is vertical, so this motion is a projectile motion. In both parts, it is best to use a coordinate system with vertical and horizontal axes.

Solution for (a)

Using the given information, we note that the initial velocity and position are zero, and the final position is 1.50 m. The final velocity can be found using the equation:

v y 2 = v 0y 2 2g(yy0). v y 2 = v 0y 2 2g(yy0). size 12{v rSub { size 8{y} rSup { size 8{2} } } =v rSub { size 8{0y} rSup { size 8{2} } } - 2g \( y - y rSub { size 8{0} } \) "."} {}
3.93

Substituting known values into the equation, we get

v y 2 = 0 2 2 ( 9 . 80 m/s 2 ) ( 1 . 50 m 0 m ) = 29 . 4 m 2 /s 2 v y 2 = 0 2 2 ( 9 . 80 m/s 2 ) ( 1 . 50 m 0 m ) = 29 . 4 m 2 /s 2 size 12{v rSub { size 8{y} rSup { size 8{2} } } =0 rSup { size 8{2} } - 2 \( 9 "." "80"" m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } \) \( - 1 "." "50"" m" - 0" m" \) ="29" "." 4" m" rSup { size 8{2} } "/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {}
3.94

yielding

vy=5.42 m/s.vy=5.42 m/s. size 12{v rSub { size 8{y} } = - 5 "." "42"" m/s."} {}
3.95

We know that the square root of 29.4 has two roots: 5.42 and -5.42. We choose the negative root because we know that the velocity is directed downwards, and we have defined the positive direction to be upwards. There is no initial horizontal velocity relative to the plane and no horizontal acceleration, and so the motion is straight down relative to the plane.

Solution for (b)

Because the initial vertical velocity is zero relative to the ground and vertical motion is independent of horizontal motion, the final vertical velocity for the coin relative to the ground is vy=5.42m/s vy=5.42m/s , the same as found in part (a). In contrast to part (a), there now is a horizontal component of the velocity. However, since there is no horizontal acceleration, the initial and final horizontal velocities are the same and vx =260 m/s vx =260 m/s size 12{"v subx =260 m/s"} {} . The x- and y-components of velocity can be combined to find the magnitude of the final velocity:

v = v x 2 + vy2. v = v x 2 + vy2. size 12{v= sqrt {v rSub { size 8{x} rSup { size 8{2} } } +v rSub { size 8{y} rSup { size 8{2} } } } "."} {}
3.96

Thus,

v = ( 260 m/s ) 2 + ( 5 . 42 m/s ) 2 v = ( 260 m/s ) 2 + ( 5 . 42 m/s ) 2 size 12{v= sqrt { \( "260"" m/s" \) rSup { size 8{2} } + \( - 5 "." "42"" m/s" \) rSup { size 8{2} } } } {}
3.97

yielding

v=260.06 m/s.v=260.06 m/s. size 12{v="260" "." "06"" m/s."} {}
3.98

The direction is given by:

θ = tan 1 ( v y / v x ) = tan 1 ( 5 . 42 / 260 ) θ = tan 1 ( v y / v x ) = tan 1 ( 5 . 42 / 260 ) size 12{θ="tan" rSup { size 8{ - 1} } \( v rSub { size 8{y} } /v rSub { size 8{x} } \) ="tan" rSup { size 8{ - 1} } \( - 5 "." "42"/"260" \) } {}
3.99

so that

θ=tan1(0.0208)=1.19º.θ=tan1(0.0208)=1.19º. size 12{θ="tan" rSup { size 8{ - 1} } \( - 0 "." "0208" \) = - 1 "." "19"º "."} {}
3.100

Discussion

In part (a), the final velocity relative to the plane is the same as it would be if the coin were dropped from rest on the Earth and fell 1.50 m. This result fits our experience; objects in a plane fall the same way when the plane is flying horizontally as when it is at rest on the ground. This result is also true in moving cars. In part (b), an observer on the ground sees a much different motion for the coin. The plane is moving so fast horizontally to begin with that its final velocity is barely greater than the initial velocity. Once again, we see that in two dimensions, vectors do not add like ordinary numbers—the final velocity v in part (b) is not (260 – 5.42) m/s(260 – 5.42) m/s size 12{ \( "260 – 5" "." "42" \) " m/s"} {}; rather, it is 260.06 m/s260.06 m/s size 12{"260" "." "06 m/s"} {}. The velocity's magnitude had to be calculated to five digits to see any difference from that of the airplane. The motions as seen by different observers (one in the plane and one on the ground) in this example are analogous to those discussed for the binoculars dropped from the mast of a moving ship, except that the velocity of the plane is much larger, so that the two observers see very different paths. (See Figure 3.49.) In addition, both observers see the coin fall 1.50 m vertically, but the one on the ground also sees it move forward 144 m (this calculation is left for the reader). Thus, one observer sees a vertical path, the other a nearly horizontal path.

Making Connections: Relativity and Einstein

Because Einstein was able to clearly define how measurements are made (some involve light) and because the speed of light is the same for all observers, the outcomes are spectacularly unexpected. Time varies with observer, energy is stored as increased mass, and more surprises await.

PhET Explorations: Motion in 2D

Try the new "Ladybug Motion 2D" simulation for the latest updated version. Learn about position, velocity, and acceleration vectors. Move the ball with the mouse or let the simulation move the ball in four types of motion (2 types of linear, simple harmonic, circle). Click to open media in new browser.

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