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College Physics for AP® Courses

4.4 Newton's Third Law of Motion: Symmetry in Forces

College Physics for AP® Courses4.4 Newton's Third Law of Motion: Symmetry in Forces
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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:

  • Understand Newton's third law of motion.
  • Apply Newton's third law to define systems and solve problems of motion.

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

  • 3.A.2.1 The student is able to represent forces in diagrams or mathematically using appropriately labeled vectors with magnitude, direction, and units during the analysis of a situation. (S.P. 1.1)
  • 3.A.3.1 The student is able to analyze a scenario and make claims (develop arguments, justify assertions) about the forces exerted on an object by other objects for different types of forces or components of forces. (S.P. 6.4, 7.2)
  • 3.A.3.3 The student is able to describe a force as an interaction between two objects and identify both objects for any force. (S.P. 1.4)
  • 3.A.4.1 The student is able to construct explanations of physical situations involving the interaction of bodies using Newton's third law and the representation of action-reaction pairs of forces. (S.P. 1.4, 6.2)
  • 3.A.4.2 The student is able to use Newton's third law to make claims and predictions about the action-reaction pairs of forces when two objects interact. (S.P. 6.4, 7.2)
  • 3.A.4.3 The student is able to analyze situations involving interactions among several objects by using free-body diagrams that include the application of Newton's third law to identify forces. (S.P. 1.4)
  • 3.B.2.1 The student is able to create and use free-body diagrams to analyze physical situations to solve problems with motion qualitatively and quantitatively. (S.P. 1.1, 1.4, 2.2)
  • 4.A.2.1 The student is able to make predictions about the motion of a system based on the fact that acceleration is equal to the change in velocity per unit time, and velocity is equal to the change in position per unit time. (S.P. 6.4)
  • 4.A.2.2 The student is able to evaluate using given data whether all the forces on a system or whether all the parts of a system have been identified. (S.P. 5.3)
  • 4.A.3.1 The student is able to apply Newton's second law to systems to calculate the change in the center-of-mass velocity when an external force is exerted on the system. (S.P. 2.2)

There is a passage in the musical Man of la Mancha that relates to Newton’s third law of motion. Sancho, in describing a fight with his wife to Don Quixote, says, “Of course I hit her back, Your Grace, but she’s a lot harder than me and you know what they say, ‘Whether the stone hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone, it’s going to be bad for the pitcher.’” This is exactly what happens whenever one body exerts a force on another—the first also experiences a force (equal in magnitude and opposite in direction). Numerous common experiences, such as stubbing a toe or throwing a ball, confirm this. It is precisely stated in Newton’s third law of motion.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion

Whenever one body exerts a force on a second body, the first body experiences a force that is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the force that it exerts.

This law represents a certain symmetry in nature: Forces always occur in pairs, and one body cannot exert a force on another without experiencing a force itself. We sometimes refer to this law loosely as “action-reaction,” where the force exerted is the action and the force experienced as a consequence is the reaction. Newton’s third law has practical uses in analyzing the origin of forces and understanding which forces are external to a system.

We can readily see Newton’s third law at work by taking a look at how people move about. Consider a swimmer pushing off from the side of a pool, as illustrated in Figure 4.9. She pushes against the pool wall with her feet and accelerates in the direction opposite to that of her push. The wall has exerted an equal and opposite force back on the swimmer. You might think that two equal and opposite forces would cancel, but they do not because they act on different systems. In this case, there are two systems that we could investigate: the swimmer or the wall. If we select the swimmer to be the system of interest, as in the figure, then Fwall on feetFwall on feet size 12{F rSub { size 8{"wall on feet"} } } {} is an external force on this system and affects its motion. The swimmer moves in the direction of Fwall on feetFwall on feet size 12{F rSub { size 8{"wall on feet"} } } {}. In contrast, the force Ffeet on wallFfeet on wall size 12{F rSub { size 8{"feet on wall"} } } {} acts on the wall and not on our system of interest. Thus Ffeet on wallFfeet on wall size 12{F rSub { size 8{"feet on wall"} } } {} does not directly affect the motion of the system and does not cancel Fwall on feetFwall on feet size 12{F rSub { size 8{"wall on feet"} } } {}. Note that the swimmer pushes in the direction opposite to that in which she wishes to move. The reaction to her push is thus in the desired direction.

A swimmer is exerting a force with her feet on a wall inside a swimming pool represented by an arrow labeled as vector F sub Feet on wall, pointing toward the right, and the wall is also exerting an equal force on her feet, represented by an arrow labeled as vector F sub Wall on feet, having the same length but pointing toward the left. The direction of acceleration of the swimmer is toward the left, shown by an arrow toward the left.
Figure 4.9 When the swimmer exerts a force Ffeet on wallFfeet on wall size 12{F rSub { size 8{"feet on wall"} } } {} on the wall, she accelerates in the direction opposite to that of her push. This means the net external force on her is in the direction opposite to Ffeet on wallFfeet on wall size 12{F rSub { size 8{"feet on wall"} } } {}. This opposition occurs because, in accordance with Newton’s third law of motion, the wall exerts a force Fwall on feetFwall on feet size 12{F rSub { size 8{"wall on feet"} } } {} on her, equal in magnitude but in the direction opposite to the one she exerts on it. The line around the swimmer indicates the system of interest. Note that Ffeet on wallFfeet on wall size 12{F rSub { size 8{"feet on wall"} } } {} does not act on this system (the swimmer) and, thus, does not cancel Fwall on feetFwall on feet size 12{F rSub { size 8{"wall on feet"} } } {}. Thus the free-body diagram shows only Fwall on feetFwall on feet size 12{F rSub { size 8{"wall on feet"} } } {}, ww size 12{w} {}, the gravitational force, and BFBF size 12{ ital "BF"} {}, the buoyant force of the water supporting the swimmer’s weight. The vertical forces ww size 12{w} {} and BFBF size 12{ ital "BF"} {} cancel since there is no vertical motion.

Similarly, when a person stands on Earth, the Earth exerts a force on the person, pulling the person toward the Earth. As stated by Newton’s third law of motion, the person also exerts a force that is equal in magnitude, but opposite in direction, pulling the Earth up toward the person. Since the mass of the Earth is so great, however, and F=maF=ma, the acceleration of the Earth toward the person is not noticeable.

Other examples of Newton’s third law are easy to find. As a professor paces in front of a whiteboard, she exerts a force backward on the floor. The floor exerts a reaction force forward on the professor that causes her to accelerate forward. Similarly, a car accelerates because the ground pushes forward on the drive wheels in reaction to the drive wheels pushing backward on the ground. You can see evidence of the wheels pushing backward when tires spin on a gravel road and throw rocks backward. In another example, rockets move forward by expelling gas backward at high velocity. This means the rocket exerts a large backward force on the gas in the rocket combustion chamber, and the gas therefore exerts a large reaction force forward on the rocket. This reaction force is called thrust. It is a common misconception that rockets propel themselves by pushing on the ground or on the air behind them. They actually work better in a vacuum, where they can more readily expel the exhaust gases. Helicopters similarly create lift by pushing air down, thereby experiencing an upward reaction force. Birds and airplanes also fly by exerting force on air in a direction opposite to that of whatever force they need. For example, the wings of a bird force air downward and backward in order to get lift and move forward. An octopus propels itself in the water by ejecting water through a funnel from its body, similar to a jet ski. In a situation similar to Sancho’s, professional cage fighters experience reaction forces when they punch, sometimes breaking their hand by hitting an opponent’s body.

Example 4.3 Getting Up To Speed: Choosing the Correct System

A physics professor pushes a cart of demonstration equipment to a lecture hall, as seen in Figure 4.10. Her mass is 65.0 kg, the cart’s is 12.0 kg, and the equipment’s is 7.0 kg. Calculate the acceleration produced when the professor exerts a backward force of 150 N on the floor. All forces opposing the motion, such as friction on the cart’s wheels and air resistance, total 24.0 N.

A professor is pushing a cart of demonstration equipment. Two systems are labeled in the figure. System one includes both the professor and cart, and system two only has the cart. She is exerting some force F sub prof toward the right, shown by a vector arrow, and the cart is also pushing her with the same magnitude of force directed toward the left, shown by a vector F sub cart, having same length as F sub prof. The friction force small f is shown by a vector arrow pointing left acting between the wheels of the cart and the floor. The professor is pushing the floor with her feet with a force F sub foot toward the left, shown by a vector arrow. The floor is pushing her feet with a force that has the same magnitude, F sub floor, shown by a vector arrow pointing right that has the same length as the vector F sub foot. A free-body diagram is also shown. For system one, friction force acting toward the left is shown by a vector arrow having a small length, and the force F sub floor is acting toward the right, shown by a vector arrow larger than the length of vector f. In system two, friction force represented by a short vector small f acts toward the left and another vector F sub prof is represented by a vector arrow toward the right. F sub prof is longer than small f.
Figure 4.10 A professor pushes a cart of demonstration equipment. The lengths of the arrows are proportional to the magnitudes of the forces (except for ff size 12{f} {}, since it is too small to draw to scale). Different questions are asked in each example; thus, the system of interest must be defined differently for each. System 1 is appropriate for this example, since it asks for the acceleration of the entire group of objects. Only FfloorFfloor size 12{F rSub { size 8{"floor"} } } {} and ff size 12{f} {} are external forces acting on System 1 along the line of motion. All other forces either cancel or act on the outside world. System 2 is chosen for Example 4.4 so that FprofFprof size 12{F rSub { size 8{"prof"} } } {} will be an external force and enter into Newton’s second law. Note that the free-body diagrams, which allow us to apply Newton’s second law, vary with the system chosen.

Strategy

Since they accelerate as a unit, we define the system to be the professor, cart, and equipment. This is System 1 in Figure 4.10. The professor pushes backward with a force FfootFfoot size 12{F rSub { size 8{"foot"} } } {} of 150 N. According to Newton’s third law, the floor exerts a forward reaction force FfloorFfloor size 12{F rSub { size 8{"floor"} } } {} of 150 N on System 1. Because all motion is horizontal, we can assume there is no net force in the vertical direction. The problem is therefore one-dimensional along the horizontal direction. As noted, ff size 12{f} {} opposes the motion and is thus in the opposite direction of FfloorFfloor size 12{F rSub { size 8{"floor"} } } {}. Note that we do not include the forces FprofFprof size 12{F rSub { size 8{"prof"} } } {} or FcartFcart size 12{F rSub { size 8{"cart"} } } {} because these are internal forces, and we do not include FfootFfoot size 12{F rSub { size 8{"foot"} } } {} because it acts on the floor, not on the system. There are no other significant forces acting on System 1. If the net external force can be found from all this information, we can use Newton’s second law to find the acceleration as requested. See the free-body diagram in the figure.

Solution

Newton’s second law is given by

a=Fnetm.a=Fnetm size 12{a = { {F rSub { size 8{"net"} } } over {m} } } {}.
4.18

The net external force on System 1 is deduced from Figure 4.10 and the discussion above to be

F net = F floor f = 150 N 24 . 0 N = 126 N . F net = F floor f = 150 N 24 . 0 N = 126 N size 12{F rSub { size 8{"net"} } = F rSub { size 8{"floor"} } -f ="150 N"-"24" "." "0 N"="126 N"} {} .
4.19

The mass of System 1 is

m=(65.0 + 12.0 + 7.0) kg = 84 kg.m=(65.0 + 12.0 + 7.0) kg = 84 kg size 12{m = \( "65" "." "0 "+" 12" "." "0 "+" 7" "." 0 \) " kg "=" 84 kg"} {}.
4.20

These values of F net F net size 12{F} {} and mm size 12{m} {} produce an acceleration of

a = F net m , a = 1 26 N 84 kg = 1 . 5 m/s 2 . a = F net m , a = 1 26 N 84 kg = 1 . 5 m/s 2 . alignl { stack { size 12{a= { {F rSub { size 8{"net"} } } over {m} } ,} {} # a = { {1"26 N"} over {"84"" kg"} } =" 1" "." "5 m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } "." {} } } {}
4.21

Discussion

None of the forces between components of System 1, such as between the professor’s hands and the cart, contribute to the net external force because they are internal to System 1. Another way to look at this is to note that forces between components of a system cancel because they are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. For example, the force exerted by the professor on the cart results in an equal and opposite force back on her. In this case both forces act on the same system and, therefore, cancel. Thus internal forces (between components of a system) cancel. Choosing System 1 was crucial to solving this problem.

Example 4.4 Force on the Cart—Choosing a New System

Calculate the force the professor exerts on the cart in Figure 4.10 using data from the previous example if needed.

Strategy

If we now define the system of interest to be the cart plus equipment (System 2 in Figure 4.10), then the net external force on System 2 is the force the professor exerts on the cart minus friction. The force she exerts on the cart, FprofFprof size 12{F rSub { size 8{"prof"} } } {}, is an external force acting on System 2. FprofFprof size 12{F rSub { size 8{"prof"} } } {} was internal to System 1, but it is external to System 2 and will enter Newton’s second law for System 2.

Solution

Newton’s second law can be used to find FprofFprof size 12{F rSub { size 8{"prof"} } } {}. Starting with

a = F net m a = F net m size 12{a = { {F rSub { size 8{"net"} } } over {m} } } {}
4.22

and noting that the magnitude of the net external force on System 2 is

Fnet=Fproff,Fnet=Fproff size 12{F rSub { size 8{"net"} } = F rSub { size 8{"prof"} } -f} {},
4.23

we solve for FprofFprof size 12{F rSub { size 8{"prof"} } } {}, the desired quantity:

F prof = F net + f . F prof = F net + f . size 12{F rSub { size 8{"prof"} } = F rSub { size 8{"net"} } + f} {}
4.24

The value of ff size 12{f} {} is given, so we must calculate net FnetFnet size 12{F} {}. That can be done since both the acceleration and mass of System 2 are known. Using Newton’s second law we see that

Fnet=ma,Fnet=ma size 12{F rSub { size 8{"net"} } = ital "ma"} {},
4.25

where the mass of System 2 is 19.0 kg (mm size 12{m} {}= 12.0 kg + 7.0 kg) and its acceleration was found to be a=1.5 m/s2a=1.5 m/s2 size 12{a=1 "." "50"" m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} in the previous example. Thus,

Fnet=ma,Fnet=ma size 12{F rSub { size 8{"net"} } = ital "ma"} {},
4.26
Fnet=(19.0 kg)(1.5 m/s2)=29 N.Fnet=(19.0 kg)(1.5 m/s2)=29 N size 12{F rSub { size 8{"net"} } = \( "19" "." "0 kg" \) \( 1 "." "50 m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } \) ="28" "." 5" N"} {}.
4.27

Now we can find the desired force:

Fprof=Fnet+f,Fprof=Fnet+f size 12{F rSub { size 8{"prof"} } =F rSub { size 8{"net"} } +f} {},
4.28
Fprof=29 N+24.0 N=53 N.Fprof=29 N+24.0 N=53 N size 12{F rSub { size 8{"prof"} } ="28" "." 5" N "+"24" "." "0 N "="52" "." "5 N"} {}.
4.29

Discussion

It is interesting that this force is significantly less than the 150-N force the professor exerted backward on the floor. Not all of that 150-N force is transmitted to the cart; some of it accelerates the professor.

The choice of a system is an important analytical step both in solving problems and in thoroughly understanding the physics of the situation (which is not necessarily the same thing).

PhET Explorations: Gravity Force Lab

Visualize the gravitational force that two objects exert on each other. Change properties of the objects in order to see how it changes the gravity force.

Figure 4.11
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