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According to Newton's first law, an object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

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Introduction

According to Newton's first law, an object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. It is the natural tendency of objects to keep on doing what they're doing. All objects resist changes in their state of motion. In the absence of an unbalanced force, an oject in motion will maintain this state of motion. This is often called the law of inertia.

Consider for instance the unfortunate collision of a car with a wall. Upon contact with the wall, an unbalanced force acts upon the car to abruptly decelerate it to rest. Any passengers in the car will also be deccelerated to rest if they are strapped to the car by seat belts. Being strapped tightly to the car, the passengers share the same state of motion as the car. As the car accelerates, the passengers accelerate with it; as the car decelerates, the passengers decelerate with it; and as the car maintains a constant speed, the passengers maintain a constant speed as well.

If the car were to abruptly stop and the seat belts were not being worn, then the passengers in motion would continue in motion.

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Middle

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Now consider a book sliding from left to right across a table top. Sometime in the prior history of the book, it may have been given a shove and set in motion from a rest position. Or perhaps it acquired its motion by sliding down an incline from an elevated position. Whatever the case, our focus is not upon the history of the book but rather upon the current situation of a book sliding across a table top. The book is in motion and at the moment there is no one pushing it to the right.

The force of gravity pulling downward and the force of the table pushing upwards on the book are of equal magnitude and opposite directions. These two forces balance each other. Yet there is no force present to balance the force of friction. As the book moves to the right, friction acts to the left to slow the book down. There is an unbalanced force; and as such, the book changes its state of motion. The book is not at equilibrium and subsequently accelerates. Unbalanced forces cause accelerations. In this

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Conclusion

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All objects resist changes in their state of motion. All objects have this tendency - they have inertia. But do some objects have more of a tendency to resist changes than others? Absolutely yes! The tendency of an object to resist changes in its state of motion is dependent upon mass. Inertia is that quantity which is exclusively dependent upon mass. The more mass which an object has, the more inertia it has - the more tendency it has to resist changes in its state of motion.

Suppose that there are two seemingly identical bricks at rest on the physics lecture table. Yet one brick consists of mortar and the other brick consists of Styrofoam. Without lifting the bricks, how could you tell which brick was the Styrofoam brick? You could give the bricks an identical push in an effort to change their state of motion. The brick which offers the least resistance is the brick with the least inertia - and therefore the brick with the least mass (i.e., the Styrofoam brick).

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