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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.

Getting up to speed: choosing the correct system

A physics professor pushes a cart of demonstration equipment to a lecture hall, as seen in [link] . 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.
A professor pushes a cart of demonstration equipment. The lengths of the arrows are proportional to the magnitudes of the forces (except for f 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 [link] , since it asks for the acceleration of the entire group of objects. Only F floor size 12{F rSub { size 8{"floor"} } } {} and f 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 this example so that F prof 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.


Since they accelerate as a unit, we define the system to be the professor, cart, and equipment. This is System 1 in [link] . The professor pushes backward with a force F foot size 12{F rSub { size 8{"foot"} } } {} of 150 N. According to Newton’s third law, the floor exerts a forward reaction force F floor 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, f size 12{f} {} opposes the motion and is thus in the opposite direction of F floor size 12{F rSub { size 8{"floor"} } } {} . Note that we do not include the forces F prof size 12{F rSub { size 8{"prof"} } } {} or F cart size 12{F rSub { size 8{"cart"} } } {} because these are internal forces, and we do not include F foot 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.

Questions & Answers

Water is flowing in a pipe with a varying cross-sectional area, and at all points the water completely fills the pipe. At point 1 the cross-sectional area of the pipe is 0.077 m2, and the magnitude of the fluid velocity is 3.50 m/s. (a) What is the fluid speed at points in the pipe where the cross
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A particle behave like a wave and we do not why?
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Andrew Reply
What is physics
LordRalph Reply
the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. The subject matter of physics includes mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms.
and the word of matter is anything that have mass and occupied space
what is phyices
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Whats the formula
Okiri Reply
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a man has created by who?
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double slit experiment
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Chukwuemeka Reply
what's the conversation like?
some sort of blatherring or mambo jambo you may say
I still don't understand what this group is all about oo
ufff....this associated with physics ..so u can ask questions related to all topics of physics..
what is sound?
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Mercy Reply
what is upthrust
Up thrust is a force
upthrust is a upward force that acts vertical in the ground surface.
yes rodney's answer z correct
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you think the human body could produce such Force
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Omosebi Reply
the total amount of heat energy required to change the physical state of a unit mass of matter without a corresponding change in temperature.
is there any difference between specific heat and heat capacity.....
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what is physics
AbleGod Reply
Practice Key Terms 2

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