In the previous chapter, we described the motion of an object along a straight line in terms of its position, velocity and acceleration. We saw that such a motion can be uniform or non-uniform. We have not yet discovered what causes the motion. Why does the speed of an object change with time? Do all motions require a cause? If so, what is the nature of this cause? In this chapter we shall make an attempt to quench all such curiosities.
Fig. 9.3 shows a wooden block on a horizontal table. Two strings X and Y are tied to the two opposite faces of the block as shown. If we apply a force by pulling the string X, the block begins to move to the right. Similarly, if we pull the string Y, the block moves to the left. But, if the block is pulled from both the sides with equal forces, the block will not move. Such forces are called balanced forces and do not change the state of rest or of motion of an object. Now, let us consider a situation in which two opposite forces of different magnitudes pull the block. In this case, the block would begin to move in the direction of the greater force. Thus, the two forces are not balanced and the unbalanced force acts in the direction the block moves. This suggests that an unbalanced force acting on an object brings it in motion.
By observing the motion of objects on an inclined plane Galileo deduced that objects move with a constant speed when no force acts on them. He observed that when a marble rolls down an inclined plane, its velocity increases [Fig. 9.5(a)]. In the next chapter, you will learn that the marble falls under the unbalanced force of gravity as it rolls down and attains a definite velocity by the time it reaches the bottom. Its velocity decreases when it climbs up as shown in Fig. 9.5(b). Fig. 9.5(c) shows a marble resting on an ideal frictionless plane inclined on both sides. Galileo argued that when the marble is released from left, it would roll down the slope and go up on the opposite side to the same height from which it was released.
9.3 Inertia and Mass All the examples and activities given so far illustrate that there is a resistance offered by an object to change its state of motion. If it is at rest it tends to remain at rest; if it is moving it tends to keep moving. This property of an object is called its inertia. Do all bodies have the same inertia? We know that it is easier to push an empty box than a box full of books. Similarly, if we kick a football it flies away. But if we kick a stone of the same size with equal force, it hardly moves. We may, in fact, get an injury in our foot while doing so! Similarly, in activity 9.2, instead of a five-rupees coin if we use a one-rupee coin, we find that a lesser force is required to perform the activity.
The first law of motion indicates that when an unbalanced external force acts on an object, its velocity changes, that is, the object gets an acceleration. We would now like to study how the acceleration of an object depends on the force applied to it and how we measure a force. Let us recount some observations from our everyday life. During the game of table tennis if the ball hits a player it does not hurt him. On the other hand, when a fast moving cricket ball hits a spectator, it may hurt him. A truck at rest does not require any attention when parked along a roadside. But a moving truck, even at speeds as low as 5 m s–1, may kill a person standing in its path. A small mass, such as a bullet may kill a person when fired from a gun. These observations suggest that the impact produced by the objects depends on their mass and velocity.
The first two laws of motion tell us how an applied force changes the motion and provide us with a method of determining the force. The third law of motion states that when one object exerts a force on another object, the second object instantaneously exerts a force back on the first. These two forces are always equal in magnitude but opposite in direction. These forces act on different objects and never on the same object. In the game of football sometimes we, while looking at the football and trying to kick it with a greater force, collide with a player of the opposite team. Both feel hurt because each applies a force to the other. In other words, there is a pair of forces and not just one force. The two opposing forces are also known as action and reaction forces.
Suppose two objects (two balls A and B, say) of masses mA and mB are travelling in the same direction along a straight line at different velocities uA and uB, respectively [Fig. 9.14(a)]. And there are no other external unbalanced forces acting on them. Let uA > uB and the two balls collide with each other as shown in Fig. 9.14(b). During collision which lasts for a time t, the ball A exerts a force FAB on ball B and the ball B exerts a force FBA on ball A. Suppose vA and vB are the velocities of the two balls A and B after the collision, respectively [Fig. 9.14(c)].