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The important fall out of a constant acceleration is that its magnitude has a constant value and its direction is fixed. A change in either of the two attributes, constituting acceleration, shall render acceleration variable. This means that acceleration is along a straight line. But does this linear nature of acceleration mean that the associated motion is also linear? Answer is no.
Reason is again the “disconnect” between acceleration and velocity. We know that magnitude and direction of acceleration are solely determined by the mass of the object and net external force applied on it. Thus, a constant acceleration only indicates that the force i.e the cause that induces change in motion is linear. It does not impose any restriction on velocity to be linear.
It is imperative that if the initial velocity of the object is not aligned with linear constant acceleration like in the figure above, then the immediate effect of the applied force, causing acceleration, is to change the velocity. Since acceleration is defined as the time rate of change in velocity, the resulting velocity would be so directed and its magnitude so moderated that the change in velocity (not the resulting velocity itself) is aligned in the direction of force.
As the resulting velocity may not be aligned with the direction of force (acceleration), the resulting motion may not be linear either. For motion being linear, it is essential that the initial velocity and the force applied (and the resulting acceleration) are aligned along a straight line.
Examples of motions in more than one dimension with constant acceleration abound in nature. We have already seen that motion of a projectile in vertical plane has constant acceleration due to gravity, having constant magnitude, g, and fixed downward direction. If we neglect air resistance, we can assume that all non- propelled projectile motions above ground are accelerated with constant acceleration. In the nutshell, we can say that constant acceleration is unidirectional and linear, but the resulting velocity may not be linear. Let us apply this understanding to the motion of a projectile, which is essentially a motion under constant acceleration due to gravity.
In the figure, see qualitatively, how the initial velocity vector, v, is modified by the constant acceleration vector, g, at the end of successive seconds. Note that combined change in both magnitude and direction of the velocity is taking place at a constant rate and is in vertically downward direction.
In the context of constant acceleration, we must also emphasize that both magnitude and direction are constant. A constant acceleration in magnitude only is not sufficient. For constant acceleration, the direction of acceleration should also be same (i.e constant). We can have a look at a uniform circular motion in horizontal plane, which follows a horizontal circular path with a constant speed.
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