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  • Define mass and inertia.
  • Understand Newton's first law of motion.

Experience suggests that an object at rest will remain at rest if left alone, and that an object in motion tends to slow down and stop unless some effort is made to keep it moving. What Newton’s first law of motion     states, however, is the following:

Newton’s first law of motion

A body at rest remains at rest, or, if in motion, remains in motion at a constant velocity unless acted on by a net external force.

Note the repeated use of the verb “remains.” We can think of this law as preserving the status quo of motion.

Rather than contradicting our experience, Newton’s first law of motion    states that there must be a cause (which is a net external force) for there to be any change in velocity (either a change in magnitude or direction) . We will define net external force in the next section. An object sliding across a table or floor slows down due to the net force of friction acting on the object. If friction disappeared, would the object still slow down?

The idea of cause and effect is crucial in accurately describing what happens in various situations. For example, consider what happens to an object sliding along a rough horizontal surface. The object quickly grinds to a halt. If we spray the surface with talcum powder to make the surface smoother, the object slides farther. If we make the surface even smoother by rubbing lubricating oil on it, the object slides farther yet. Extrapolating to a frictionless surface, we can imagine the object sliding in a straight line indefinitely. Friction is thus the cause of the slowing (consistent with Newton’s first law). The object would not slow down at all if friction were completely eliminated. Consider an air hockey table. When the air is turned off, the puck slides only a short distance before friction slows it to a stop. However, when the air is turned on, it creates a nearly frictionless surface, and the puck glides long distances without slowing down. Additionally, if we know enough about the friction, we can accurately predict how quickly the object will slow down. Friction is an external force.

Newton’s first law is completely general and can be applied to anything from an object sliding on a table to a satellite in orbit to blood pumped from the heart. Experiments have thoroughly verified that any change in velocity (speed or direction) must be caused by an external force. The idea of generally applicable or universal laws is important not only here—it is a basic feature of all laws of physics. Identifying these laws is like recognizing patterns in nature from which further patterns can be discovered. The genius of Galileo, who first developed the idea for the first law, and Newton, who clarified it, was to ask the fundamental question, “What is the cause?” Thinking in terms of cause and effect is a worldview fundamentally different from the typical ancient Greek approach when questions such as “Why does a tiger have stripes?” would have been answered in Aristotelian fashion, “That is the nature of the beast.” True perhaps, but not a useful insight.


The property of a body to remain at rest or to remain in motion with constant velocity is called inertia    . Newton’s first law is often called the law of inertia    . As we know from experience, some objects have more inertia than others. It is obviously more difficult to change the motion of a large boulder than that of a basketball, for example. The inertia of an object is measured by its mass    . Roughly speaking, mass is a measure of the amount of “stuff” (or matter) in something. The quantity or amount of matter in an object is determined by the numbers of atoms and molecules of various types it contains. Unlike weight, mass does not vary with location. The mass of an object is the same on Earth, in orbit, or on the surface of the Moon. In practice, it is very difficult to count and identify all of the atoms and molecules in an object, so masses are not often determined in this manner. Operationally, the masses of objects are determined by comparison with the standard kilogram.

Which has more mass: a kilogram of cotton balls or a kilogram of gold?


They are equal. A kilogram of one substance is equal in mass to a kilogram of another substance. The quantities that might differ between them are volume and density.

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Section summary

  • Newton’s first law of motion    states that a body at rest remains at rest, or, if in motion, remains in motion at a constant velocity unless acted on by a net external force. This is also known as the law of inertia    .
  • Inertia is the tendency of an object to remain at rest or remain in motion. Inertia is related to an object’s mass.
  • Mass is the quantity of matter in a substance.

Conceptual questions

How are inertia and mass related?

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What is the relationship between weight and mass? Which is an intrinsic, unchanging property of a body?

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Questions & Answers

why static friction is greater than Kinetic friction
Ali Reply
draw magnetic field pattern for two wire carrying current in the same direction
Ven Reply
An American traveler in New Zealand carries a transformer to convert New Zealand’s standard 240 V to 120 V so that she can use some small appliances on her trip.
nkombo Reply
What is the ratio of turns in the primary and secondary coils of her transformer?
How electric lines and equipotential surface are mutually perpendicular?
Abid Reply
The potential difference between any two points on the surface is zero that implies È.Ŕ=0, Where R is the distance between two different points &E= Electric field intensity. From which we have cos þ =0, where þ is the angle between the directions of field and distance line, as E andR are zero. Thus
sorry..E and R are non zero...
By how much leeway (both percentage and mass) would you have in the selection of the mass of the object in the previous problem if you did not wish the new period to be greater than 2.01 s or less than 1.99 s?
Elene Reply
what Is linear momentum
Victoria Reply
why no diagrams
Blessing Reply
Describe an experiment to determine short half life
Tyson Reply
what is science
Kenedy Reply
it's a natural phenomena
please can someone help me with explanations of wave
there are seven basic type of wave radio waves, gyamma rays (nuclear energy), microwave,etc you can also search 🔍 on Google :-)
A 20MH coil has a resistance of 50 ohms and us connected in series with a capacitor to a 520MV supply
Musa Reply
what is physics
Caya Reply
it is the science which we used in our daily life
Physics is the branch of science that deals with the study of matter and the interactions it undergoes with energy
it is branch of science which deals with study of happening in the human life
A 20MH coil has a resistance of 50 ohms and is connected in series with a capacitor to a 250MV supply if the circuit is to resonate at 100KHZ, Determine 1: the capacitance of the capacitor 2: the working voltage of the circuit, given that pie =3.142
Physics is the branch of science that deals with the study of matter and the interactions it undergoes with energy
Heat is transfered by thermal contact but if it is transfered by conduction or radiation, is it possible to reach in thermal equilibrium?
Eden Reply
Yes, It is possible by conduction if Surface is Adiabatic
Yeah true ilwith d help of Adiabatic
what are the fundamentals qualities
Magret Reply
what is physic3
what is physic
Physics? Is a branch of science dealing with matter in relation to energy.
Physic... Is a purging medicine, which stimulates evacuation of the bowels.
are you asking for qualities or quantities?
fundamental quantities are, length , mass, time, current, luminous intensity, amount of substance, thermodynamic temperature.
fundamental quantities are quantities that are independent of others and cannot be define in terms of other quantities there is nothing like Qualities we have only fundamental quantities which includes; length,mass,time, electric current, luminous density, temperature, amount of substance etc
give examples of three dimensional frame of reference
Ekwunazor Reply
Yes the Universe itself
Examine different types of shoes, including sports shoes and thongs. In terms of physics, why are the bottom surfaces designed as they are? What differences will dry and wet conditions make for these surfaces?
Lathan Reply
sports shoes are designed in such a way they are gripped well with your feet and their bases have and high friction surfaces, Thong shoes are for comfort, these are easily removed and light weight. these are usually low friction surfaces but in wet conditions they offer greater friction.
thong sleepers are usually used in restrooms.
Practice Key Terms 4

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