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We use the set of equations for constant acceleration to solve this problem. Since there are two objects in motion, we have separate equations of motion describing each animal. But what links the equations is a common parameter that has the same value for each animal. If we look at the problem closely, it is clear the common parameter to each animal is their position x at a later time t . Since they both start at x 0 = 0 , their displacements are the same at a later time t , when the cheetah catches up with the gazelle. If we pick the equation of motion that solves for the displacement for each animal, we can then set the equations equal to each other and solve for the unknown, which is time.


  1. Equation for the gazelle: The gazelle has a constant velocity, which is its average velocity, since it is not accelerating. Therefore, we use [link] with x 0 = 0 :
    x = x 0 + v t = v t .

    Equation for the cheetah: The cheetah is accelerating from rest, so we use [link] with x 0 = 0 and v 0 = 0 :
    x = x 0 + v 0 t + 1 2 a t 2 = 1 2 a t 2 .

    Now we have an equation of motion for each animal with a common parameter, which can be eliminated to find the solution. In this case, we solve for t :
    x = v t = 1 2 a t 2 t = 2 v a .

    The gazelle has a constant velocity of 10 m/s, which is its average velocity. The acceleration of the cheetah is 4 m/s 2 . Evaluating t , the time for the cheetah to reach the gazelle, we have
    t = 2 v a = 2 ( 10 ) 4 = 5 s .
  2. To get the displacement, we use either the equation of motion for the cheetah or the gazelle, since they should both give the same answer.
    Displacement of the cheetah:
    x = 1 2 a t 2 = 1 2 ( 4 ) ( 5 ) 2 = 50 m .

    Displacement of the gazelle:
    x = v t = 10 ( 5 ) = 50 m .

    We see that both displacements are equal, as expected.


It is important to analyze the motion of each object and to use the appropriate kinematic equations to describe the individual motion. It is also important to have a good visual perspective of the two-body pursuit problem to see the common parameter that links the motion of both objects.

Check Your Understanding A bicycle has a constant velocity of 10 m/s. A person starts from rest and runs to catch up to the bicycle in 30 s. What is the acceleration of the person?

a = 2 3 m/s 2 .

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  • When analyzing one-dimensional motion with constant acceleration, identify the known quantities and choose the appropriate equations to solve for the unknowns. Either one or two of the kinematic equations are needed to solve for the unknowns, depending on the known and unknown quantities.
  • Two-body pursuit problems always require two equations to be solved simultaneously for the unknowns.

Conceptual questions

When analyzing the motion of a single object, what is the required number of known physical variables that are needed to solve for the unknown quantities using the kinematic equations?

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State two scenarios of the kinematics of single object where three known quantities require two kinematic equations to solve for the unknowns.

If the acceleration, time, and displacement are the knowns, and the initial and final velocities are the unknowns, then two kinematic equations must be solved simultaneously. Also if the final velocity, time, and displacement are the knowns then two kinematic equations must be solved for the initial velocity and acceleration.

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Questions & Answers

A spring with 50g mass suspended from it,has its length extended by 7.8cm 1.1 determine the spring constant? 1.2 it is observed that the length of the spring decreases by 4.7cm,from its original length, when a toy is place on top of it. what is the mass of the toy?
Silindelo Reply
solution mass = 50g= 0.05kg force= 50 x 10= 500N extension= 7.8cm = 0.078m using the formula Force= Ke K = force/extension 500/.078 = 6410.25N/m
1.2 Decrease in length= -4.7cm =-0.047m mass=? acceleration due to gravity= 10 force = K x e force= mass x acceleration m x a = K x e mass = K x e/acceleration = 6410.25 x 0.047/10 = 30.13kg
1.1 6.28Nm-¹
1.2 0.03kg or 30g
I used g=9.8ms-²
you should explain how yoy got the answer Anita
with the fomular F=mg I got the value for force because now the force acting on the spring is the weight of the object and also you have to convert from grams to kilograms and cm to meter
so the spring constant K=F/e where F is force and e is extension
In this first example why didn't we use P=P° + ¶hg where ¶ is density
Anita Reply
Density = force applied x area p=fA =p = mga, then a=h therefore substitute =p =mgh
Please correct me
sorry I had a little typo in my question
Density = m/v (mass/volume) simple as that
Hlehle vilakazi how density is equal to force * area and you also wrote p= mgh which is machenical potential energy ? how ?
what is wave
Alfred Reply
who can state the third equation of motion
wave is a distrubance that travelled in medium from one point to another with carry energy .
wave is a periodic disturbance that carries energy from one medium to another..
two particles rotate in a rigid body then acceleration will be ?
kinza Reply
same acceleration for all particles because all prticles will be moving with same angular velocity.so at any time interval u find same acceleration of all the prticles
what is electromagnetism
David Reply
It is the study of the electromagnetic force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature. ... It includes the electric force, which pushes all charged particles, and the magnetic force, which only pushes moving charges.
what is units?
Subhajit Reply
units as in how
What is th formular for force
Joseph Reply
F = m x a
State newton's second law of motion
Seth Reply
can u tell me I cant remember
force is equal to mass times acceleration
The acceleration of a system is directly proportional to the and in the same direction as the external force acting on the system and inversely proportional to its mass that is f=ma
The uniform seesaw shown below is balanced on a fulcrum located 3.0 m from the left end. The smaller boy on the right has a mass of 40 kg and the bigger boy on the left has a mass 80 kg. What is the mass of the board?
Asad Reply
Consider a wave produced on a stretched spring by holding one end and shaking it up and down. Does the wavelength depend on the distance you move your hand up and down?
Sohail Reply
no, only the frequency and the material of the spring
how to read physics ncert?
beat line read important. line under line
how can one calculate the value of a given quantity
Helen Reply
To determine the exact value of a percent of a given quantity we need to express the given percent as fraction and multiply it by the given number.
briefly discuss rocket in physics
Ibrahim Reply
ok let's discuss
What is physics
Nura Reply
physics is the study of natural phenomena with concern with matter and energy and relationships between them
a potential difference of 10.0v is connected across a 1.0AuF in an LC circuit. calculate the inductance of the inductor that should be connected to the capacitor for the circuit to oscillate at 1125Hza potential difference of 10.0v is connected across a 1.0AuF in an LC circuit. calculate the inducta
Royalty Reply
L= 0.002H
how did you get it?
is the magnetic field of earth changing
tibebeab Reply
what is thought to be the energy density of multiverse and is the space between universes really space
can you explain it
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