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Step 5

Substitute the knowns along with their units into the appropriate equation, and obtain numerical solutions complete with units . This step produces the numerical answer; it also provides a check on units that can help you find errors. If the units of the answer are incorrect, then an error has been made. However, be warned that correct units do not guarantee that the numerical part of the answer is also correct.

Step 6

Check the answer to see if it is reasonable: Does it make sense? This final step is extremely important—the goal of physics is to accurately describe nature. To see if the answer is reasonable, check both its magnitude and its sign, in addition to its units. Your judgment will improve as you solve more and more physics problems, and it will become possible for you to make finer and finer judgments regarding whether nature is adequately described by the answer to a problem. This step brings the problem back to its conceptual meaning. If you can judge whether the answer is reasonable, you have a deeper understanding of physics than just being able to mechanically solve a problem.

When solving problems, we often perform these steps in different order, and we also tend to do several steps simultaneously. There is no rigid procedure that will work every time. Creativity and insight grow with experience, and the basics of problem solving become almost automatic. One way to get practice is to work out the text's examples for yourself as you read. Another is to work as many end-of-section problems as possible, starting with the easiest to build confidence and progressing to the more difficult. Once you become involved in physics, you will see it all around you, and you can begin to apply it to situations you encounter outside the classroom, just as is done in many of the applications in this text.

Unreasonable results

Physics must describe nature accurately. Some problems have results that are unreasonable because one premise is unreasonable or because certain premises are inconsistent with one another. The physical principle applied correctly then produces an unreasonable result. For example, if a person starting a foot race accelerates at 0 . 40 m/s 2 size 12{0 "." "40 m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} for 100 s, his final speed will be 40 m/s (about 150 km/h)—clearly unreasonable because the time of 100 s is an unreasonable premise. The physics is correct in a sense, but there is more to describing nature than just manipulating equations correctly. Checking the result of a problem to see if it is reasonable does more than help uncover errors in problem solving—it also builds intuition in judging whether nature is being accurately described.

Use the following strategies to determine whether an answer is reasonable and, if it is not, to determine what is the cause.

Step 1

Solve the problem using strategies as outlined and in the format followed in the worked examples in the text . In the example given in the preceding paragraph, you would identify the givens as the acceleration and time and use the equation below to find the unknown final velocity. That is,

v = v 0 + at = 0 + 0 . 40 m/s 2 100 s = 40 m/s . size 12{v=v rSub { size 8{0} } + ital "at"=0+ left (0 "." "40"`"m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } right ) left ("100"`s right )="40"`"m/s"} {}

Step 2

Check to see if the answer is reasonable . Is it too large or too small, or does it have the wrong sign, improper units, …? In this case, you may need to convert meters per second into a more familiar unit, such as miles per hour.

40 m s 3.28 ft m 1 mi 5280 ft 60 s min 60 min 1 h = 89 mph size 12{ left ( { {"40 m"} over {s} } right ) left ( { {3 "." "28 ft"} over {m} } right ) left ( { {"1 mi"} over {"5280 ft"} } right ) left ( { {"60 s"} over {"min"} } right ) left ( { {"60 min"} over {"1 h"} } right )=89" mph"} {}

This velocity is about four times greater than a person can run—so it is too large.

Step 3

If the answer is unreasonable, look for what specifically could cause the identified difficulty . In the example of the runner, there are only two assumptions that are suspect. The acceleration could be too great or the time too long. First look at the acceleration and think about what the number means. If someone accelerates at 0 . 40 m/s 2 size 12{0 "." "40 m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} , their velocity is increasing by 0.4 m/s each second. Does this seem reasonable? If so, the time must be too long. It is not possible for someone to accelerate at a constant rate of 0 . 40 m/s 2 size 12{0 "." "40 m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} for 100 s (almost two minutes).

Section summary

  • The six basic problem solving steps for physics are:

    Step 1 . Examine the situation to determine which physical principles are involved.

    Step 2 . Make a list of what is given or can be inferred from the problem as stated (identify the knowns).

    Step 3 . Identify exactly what needs to be determined in the problem (identify the unknowns).

    Step 4 . Find an equation or set of equations that can help you solve the problem.

    Step 5 . Substitute the knowns along with their units into the appropriate equation, and obtain numerical solutions complete with units.

    Step 6 . Check the answer to see if it is reasonable: Does it make sense?

Conceptual questions

What information do you need in order to choose which equation or equations to use to solve a problem? Explain.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

What is the last thing you should do when solving a problem? Explain.

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Questions & Answers

Roofs are sometimes pushed off vertically during a tropical cyclone, and buildings sometimes explode outward when hit by a tornado. Use Bernoulli’s principle to explain these phenomena.
Aliraza Reply
Plz answer the question ☝️☝️
Aliraza
what's the basic si unit of acceleration
ELLOIN Reply
Explain why the change in velocity is different in the two frames, whereas the change in kinetic energy is the same in both.
Fabian Reply
Insulators (nonmetals) have a higher BE than metals, and it is more difficult for photons to eject electrons from insulators. Discuss how this relates to the free charges in metals that make them good conductors.
Muhammad Reply
Is the photoelectric effect a direct consequence of the wave character of EM radiation or of the particle character of EM radiation? Explain briefly.
Muhammad
Determine the total force and the absolute pressure on the bottom of a swimming pool 28.0m by 8.5m whose uniform depth is 1 .8m.
Henny Reply
how solve this problem?
Foday
P(pressure)=density ×depth×acceleration due to gravity Force =P×Area(28.0x8.5)
Fomukom
for the answer to complete, the units need specified why
muqaddas Reply
That's just how the AP grades. Otherwise, you could be talking about m/s when the answer requires m/s^2. They need to know what you are referring to.
Kyle
Suppose a speck of dust in an electrostatic precipitator has 1.0000×1012 protons in it and has a net charge of –5.00 nC (a very large charge for a small speck). How many electrons does it have?
Alexia Reply
how would I work this problem
Alexia
how can you have not an integer number of protons? If, on the other hand it supposed to be 1e12, then 1.6e-19C/proton • 1e12 protons=1.6e-7 C is the charge of the protons in the speck, so the difference between this and 5e-9C is made up by electrons
Igor
what is angular velocity
Obaapa Reply
angular velocity can be defined as the rate of change in radian over seconds.
Fidelis
Why does earth exert only a tiny downward pull?
Mya Reply
hello
Islam
Why is light bright?
Abraham Reply
what is radioactive element
Attah Reply
an 8.0 capacitor is connected by to the terminals of 60Hz whoes rms voltage is 150v. a.find the capacity reactance and rms to the circuit
Aisha Reply
thanks so much. i undersooth well
Valdes Reply
what is physics
Nwafor Reply
is the study of matter in relation to energy
Kintu
physics can be defined as the natural science that deals with the study of motion through space,time along with its related concepts which are energy and force
Fidelis
a submersible pump is dropped a borehole and hits the level of water at the bottom of the borehole 5 seconds later.determine the level of water in the borehole
Obrian Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics for ap® courses. OpenStax CNX. Nov 04, 2016 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11844/1.14
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