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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

how many subject is in physics
Adeshina Reply
the write question should be " How many Topics are in O- Level Physics, or other branches of physics.
effiom
how many topic are in physics
Praise
yh I need someone to explain something im tryna solve . I'll send the question if u down for it
Tamdy Reply
a ripple tank experiment a vibrating plane is used to generate wrinkles in the water .if the distance between two successive point is 3.5cm and the wave travel a distance of 31.5cm find the frequency of the vibration
Tamdy
the range of objects and phenomena studied in physics is
Bethel Reply
what is Linear motion
Hamza Reply
straight line motion is called linear motion
then what
Amera
linear motion is a motion in a line, be it in a straight line or in a non straight line. It is the rate of change of distance.
Saeedul
Hi
aliyu
your are wrong Saeedul
Richard
Linear motion is a one-dimensional motion along a straight line, and can therefore be described mathematically using only one spatial dimension
Jason
is a one-dimensional motion along a straight line, and can therefore be described mathematically using only one spatial dimensions. 
Praise
what is a classical electrodynamics?
Marga
what is dynamics
Marga
dynamic is the force that stimulates change or progress within the system or process
Oze
what is the formula to calculate wavelength of the incident light
David Reply
if a spring is is stiffness of 950nm-1 what work will be done in extending the spring by 60mmp
Hassan Reply
State the forms of energy
Samzy Reply
machanical
Ridwan
Word : Mechanical wave Definition : The waves, which need a material medium for their propagation, e.g., Sound waves. \n\nOther Definition: The waves, which need a material medium for their propagation, are called mechanical waves. Mechanical waves are also called elastic waves. Sound waves, water waves are examples of mechanical waves.t Definition: wave consisting of periodic motion of matter; e.g. sound wave or water wave as opposed to electromagnetic wave.h
Clement Reply
correct
Akinpelu
what is mechanical wave
Akinpelu Reply
a wave which require material medium for its propagation
syed
The S.I unit for power is what?
Samuel Reply
watt
Okoli
Am I correct
Okoli
it can be in kilowatt, megawatt and so
Femi
yes
Femi
correct
Jaheim
kW
Akinpelu
OK that's right
Samuel
SI.unit of power is.watt=j/c.but kw.and Mw are bigger.umots
syed
What is physics
aish Reply
study of matter and its nature
Akinpelu
The word physics comes from a Greek word Physicos which means Nature.The Knowledge of Nature. It is branch of science which deals with the matter and energy and interaction between them.
Uniform
why in circular motion, a tangential acceleration can change the magnitude of the velocity but not its direction
Syafiqah Reply
reasonable
Femi
because it is balanced by the inward acceleration otherwise known as centripetal acceleration
MUSTAPHA
What is a wave
Mutuma Reply
Tramsmission of energy through a media
Mateo
is the disturbance that carry materials as propagation from one medium to another
Akinpelu
mistakes thanks
Akinpelu
find the triple product of (A*B).C given that A =i + 4j, B=2i - 3j and C = i + k
Favour Reply
Difference between north seeking pole and south seeking pole
Stanley Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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