<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Check Your Understanding Two blocks are at rest and in contact on a frictionless surface as shown below, with m 1 = 2.0 kg , m 2 = 6.0 kg , and applied force 24 N. (a) Find the acceleration of the system of blocks. (b) Suppose that the blocks are later separated. What force will give the second block, with the mass of 6.0 kg, the same acceleration as the system of blocks?

Two squares are shown side by side, touching each other. The left one is smaller and is labeled m1. The one on the right is bigger and is labeled m2. Force F acts on m1 from left to right.

a. 3.0 m / s 2 ; b. 18 N

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

View this video to watch examples of action and reaction.

View this video to watch examples of Newton’s laws and internal and external forces.


  • Newton’s third law of motion represents a basic symmetry in nature, with an experienced force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to an exerted force.
  • Two equal and opposite forces do not cancel because they act on different systems.
  • Action-reaction pairs include a swimmer pushing off a wall, helicopters creating lift by pushing air down, and an octopus propelling itself forward by ejecting water from its body. Rockets, airplanes, and cars are pushed forward by a thrust reaction force.
  • Choosing a system is an important analytical step in understanding the physics of a problem and solving it.

Conceptual questions

Identify the action and reaction forces in the following situations: (a) Earth attracts the Moon, (b) a boy kicks a football, (c) a rocket accelerates upward, (d) a car accelerates forward, (e) a high jumper leaps, and (f) a bullet is shot from a gun.

a. action: Earth pulls on the Moon, reaction: Moon pulls on Earth; b. action: foot applies force to ball, reaction: ball applies force to foot; c. action: rocket pushes on gas, reaction: gas pushes back on rocket; d. action: car tires push backward on road, reaction: road pushes forward on tires; e. action: jumper pushes down on ground, reaction: ground pushes up on jumper; f. action: gun pushes forward on bullet, reaction: bullet pushes backward on gun.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Suppose that you are holding a cup of coffee in your hand. Identify all forces on the cup and the reaction to each force.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

(a) Why does an ordinary rifle recoil (kick backward) when fired? (b) The barrel of a recoilless rifle is open at both ends. Describe how Newton’s third law applies when one is fired. (c) Can you safely stand close behind one when it is fired?

a. The rifle (the shell supported by the rifle) exerts a force to expel the bullet; the reaction to this force is the force that the bullet exerts on the rifle (shell) in opposite direction. b. In a recoilless rifle, the shell is not secured in the rifle; hence, as the bullet is pushed to move forward, the shell is pushed to eject from the opposite end of the barrel. c. It is not safe to stand behind a recoilless rifle.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!


(a) What net external force is exerted on a 1100.0-kg artillery shell fired from a battleship if the shell is accelerated at 2.40 × 10 4 m/s 2 ? (b) What is the magnitude of the force exerted on the ship by the artillery shell, and why?

a. F net = 2.64 × 10 7 N; b. The force exerted on the ship is also 2.64 × 10 7 N because it is opposite the shell’s direction of motion.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

A brave but inadequate rugby player is being pushed backward by an opposing player who is exerting a force of 800.0 N on him. The mass of the losing player plus equipment is 90.0 kg, and he is accelerating backward at 1.20 m/s 2 . (a) What is the force of friction between the losing player’s feet and the grass? (b) What force does the winning player exert on the ground to move forward if his mass plus equipment is 110.0 kg?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

A history book is lying on top of a physics book on a desk, as shown below; a free-body diagram is also shown. The history and physics books weigh 14 N and 18 N, respectively. Identify each force on each book with a double subscript notation (for instance, the contact force of the history book pressing against physics book can be described as F HP ), and determine the value of each of these forces, explaining the process used.

A picture of two books piled on a desk. Two free body diagrams are shown. The first one has F subscript ph pointing up and F subscript eh pointing down. The second has F subscript dp pointing up and F subscript hp and F subscript ep pointing down.

Because the weight of the history book is the force exerted by Earth on the history book, we represent it as F EH = −14 j ^ N . Aside from this, the history book interacts only with the physics book. Because the acceleration of the history book is zero, the net force on it is zero by Newton’s second law: F PH + F EH = 0 , where F PH is the force exerted by the physics book on the history book. Thus, F PH = F EH = ( −14 j ^ ) N = 14 j ^ N . We find that the physics book exerts an upward force of magnitude 14 N on the history book. The physics book has three forces exerted on it: F EP due to Earth, F HP due to the history book, and F DP due to the desktop. Since the physics book weighs 18 N, F EP = −18 j ^ N . From Newton’s third law, F HP = F PH , so F HP = −14 j ^ N . Newton’s second law applied to the physics book gives F = 0 , or F DP + F EP + F HP = 0 , so F DP = ( −18 j ^ ) ( −14 j ^ ) = 32 j ^ N . The desk exerts an upward force of 32 N on the physics book. To arrive at this solution, we apply Newton’s second law twice and Newton’s third law once.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

A truck collides with a car, and during the collision, the net force on each vehicle is essentially the force exerted by the other. Suppose the mass of the car is 550 kg, the mass of the truck is 2200 kg, and the magnitude of the truck’s acceleration is 10 m/s 2 . Find the magnitude of the car’s acceleration.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Questions & Answers

a length of copper wire was measured to be 50m with an uncertainty of 1cm, the thickness of the wire was measured to be 1mm with an uncertainty of 0.01mm, using a micrometer screw gauge, calculate the of copper wire used
Nicole Reply
If centripetal force is directed towards the center,why do you feel that you're thrown away from the center as a car goes around a curve? Explain
Maira Reply
Which kind of wave does wind form
Matthias Reply
calculate the distance you will travel if you mantain an average speed of 10N m/s for 40 second
Abdulai Reply
hw to calculate the momentum of the 2000.0 elephant change hunter at a speed of 7.50 m/s
Kingsley Reply
how many cm makes 1 inches
Hassan Reply
how do we convert from m/s to km/hr
Toni Reply
When paddling a canoe upstream, it is wisest to travel as near to the shore as possible. When canoeing downstream, it may be best to stay near the middle. Explain why?
SANA Reply
Explain why polarization does not occur in sound
one ship sailing east with a speed of 7.5m/s passes a certain point at 8am and a second ship sailing north at the same speed passed the same point at 9.30am at what distance are they closet together and what is the distance between them then
Kuber Reply
density of a subtance is given as 360g/cm,put it in it s.i unit form
Linda Reply
if m2 is twice of m1. find the ration of kinetic energy in COM system to lab system of elastic collision
Raman Reply
What is a volt equal to?
Clifton Reply
list and explain the 3 ways of charging a conductor
Chidimma Reply
conduction convention rubbing
formula of magnetic field
Yonas Reply
why polarization does not occur in sound
Integral of a vector
Rahat Reply
define surface integral of a vector?
Practice Key Terms 2

Get Jobilize Job Search Mobile App in your pocket Now!

Get it on Google Play Download on the App Store Now

Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 1. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12031/1.5
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'University physics volume 1' conversation and receive update notifications?