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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Calculate the average acceleration between two points in time.
  • Calculate the instantaneous acceleration given the functional form of velocity.
  • Explain the vector nature of instantaneous acceleration and velocity.
  • Explain the difference between average acceleration and instantaneous acceleration.
  • Find instantaneous acceleration at a specified time on a graph of velocity versus time.

The importance of understanding acceleration spans our day-to-day experience, as well as the vast reaches of outer space and the tiny world of subatomic physics. In everyday conversation, to accelerate means to speed up; applying the brake pedal causes a vehicle to slow down. We are familiar with the acceleration of our car, for example. The greater the acceleration, the greater the change in velocity over a given time. Acceleration is widely seen in experimental physics. In linear particle accelerator experiments, for example, subatomic particles are accelerated to very high velocities in collision experiments, which tell us information about the structure of the subatomic world as well as the origin of the universe. In space, cosmic rays are subatomic particles that have been accelerated to very high energies in supernovas (exploding massive stars) and active galactic nuclei. It is important to understand the processes that accelerate cosmic rays because these rays contain highly penetrating radiation that can damage electronics flown on spacecraft, for example.

Average acceleration

The formal definition of acceleration is consistent with these notions just described, but is more inclusive.

Average acceleration

Average acceleration is the rate at which velocity changes:

a = Δ v Δ t = v f v 0 t f t 0 ,

where a is average acceleration    , v is velocity, and t is time. (The bar over the a means average acceleration.)

Because acceleration is velocity in meters divided by time in seconds, the SI units for acceleration are often abbreviated m/s 2 —that is, meters per second squared or meters per second per second. This literally means by how many meters per second the velocity changes every second. Recall that velocity is a vector—it has both magnitude and direction—which means that a change in velocity can be a change in magnitude (or speed), but it can also be a change in direction. For example, if a runner traveling at 10 km/h due east slows to a stop, reverses direction, continues her run at 10 km/h due west, her velocity has changed as a result of the change in direction, although the magnitude of the velocity is the same in both directions. Thus, acceleration occurs when velocity changes in magnitude (an increase or decrease in speed) or in direction, or both.

Acceleration as a vector

Acceleration is a vector in the same direction as the change in velocity, Δ v . Since velocity is a vector, it can change in magnitude or in direction, or both. Acceleration is, therefore, a change in speed or direction, or both.

Keep in mind that although acceleration is in the direction of the change in velocity, it is not always in the direction of motion. When an object slows down, its acceleration is opposite to the direction of its motion. Although this is commonly referred to as deceleration [link] , we say the train is accelerating in a direction opposite to its direction of motion.

Questions & Answers

what is a wave?
show that coefficient of friction of solid block inclined at an angle is equivalent to trignometric tangent of angle
thanks for that definition.
Dodou Reply
Hi everyone please can dere be motion without force?
whats is schrodinger equation
l went spiral spring
what is position?
Adhar Reply
position is simply where you are or where you were
position is the location of an object with respect to a two or three dimensional axes or space.
Can dere be motion without force?
what is the law of homogeinity?
auson Reply
two electric lines of force never interested each other. why?
Sujit Reply
proof that for BBC lattice structure 4r\root 5 and find Apf for the BBC structure
Eric Reply
what is physics?
Abdulaziz Reply
physics is deine as the specific measrument of of volume, area,nd distances...
if a string of 2m is suspended an an extended 3m elasticity is been applied.... is hooks law obeyed?
if a string of 2m is suspended an an extended 3m elasticity is been applied.... is hooks law obeyed?
proof that for a BBC lattice structure a= 4r/ root 5 find the APF for the BBC structure
if a string of 2m is suspended an an extended 3m elasticity is been applied.... is hooks law obeyed?
Enyia Reply
tell me conceptual quetions of mechanics
Syeda Reply
I want to solve a physical question
a displacement vector has a magnitude of 1.62km and point due north . another displacement vector B has a magnitude of 2.48 km and points due east.determine the magnitude and direction of (a) a+ b and (b) a_ b
Kou Reply
use Pythogorous
A student opens a 12kgs door by applying a constant force of 40N at a perpendicular distance of 0.9m from the hinges. if the door is 2.0m high and 1.0m wide determine the magnitude of the angular acceleration of the door. ( assume that the door rotates freely on its hinges.) please assist me to d
what is conditions met to produce shm
Enocy Reply
what is shm
Why is Maxwell saying that light is an electromagnetic wave?
1st condition; It(th e BBC's system) must have some inertia which will enable it to possess Kinetic energy 2. must be able to store potential energy
I meant "the system" not the BBC'S....."
what a answer bro
kindly tell us the name of your university
GUlam Ishaq Khan INSTITUTE of engineering science
Department of Environment Ionian University Zante Greece
why light wave travel faster than sounds
ALI Reply
Why light travel faster than sounds?
Light travel faster than sound because it does not need any medium to travel through.
when an aeroplane flies....why it does not fall on the earth?
As an aeroplane moves, it hits a wind,we have the wind flowing at the upper and lower zone of the aeroplane, the one that is moving on the upper zone moves at a greater speed than that of the lower zone, this creates a low pressure on the upper zone and a greater pressure at the lower zone.
which thing of aeroplane moves it upward?
good question
about force
am pleased to join the group
It a privilege to be here
Light speed is more than sound speed. C=3×10*8m/s V=320-340 m/s
A body of mass 2kg slides down a rough plane inclined to horizontal at 30degrees. find the energy that is wasted as a result of friction if the co-efficient of kinetic f
official Reply
ten applications of Newton's second law of motion
Alale Reply
Calculate the volume at S.T.P of a gas whose volume at -5° and 746 mmHg
Mlungisi Reply
Practice Key Terms 2

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Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 1. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12031/1.5
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