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9.1: Introduction Newton’s Second Law and Circular Motion

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    I shall now recall to mind that the motion of the heavenly bodies is circular, since the motion appropriate to a sphere is rotation in a circle.

    Nicholas Copernicus

    We have already shown that when an object moves in a circular orbit of radius r with angular velocity \(\overrightarrow{\boldsymbol{\omega}}\) it is most convenient to choose polar coordinates to describe the position, velocity and acceleration vectors. In particular, the acceleration vector is given by

    \[\overrightarrow{\mathbf{a}}(t)=-r\left(\frac{d \theta}{d t}\right)^{2} \hat{\mathbf{r}}(t)+r \frac{d^{2} \theta}{d t^{2}} \hat{\boldsymbol{\theta}}(t) \nonumber \]

    Then Newton’s Second Law, \(\overrightarrow{\mathbf{F}}=m \overrightarrow{\mathbf{a}}\) can be decomposed into radial \((\hat{\mathbf{r}}-)\) and tangential \((\hat{\boldsymbol{\theta}}-)\) components

    \[F_{r}=-m r\left(\frac{d \theta}{d t}\right)^{2}(\text { circular motion }) \nonumber \]

    \[F_{\theta}=m r \frac{d^{2} \theta}{d t^{2}} \quad(\text { circular motion }) \nonumber \]

    For the special case of uniform circular motion, \(d^{2} \theta / d t^{2}=0\), and so the sum of the tangential components of the force acting on the object must therefore be zero,

    \[F_{\theta}=0 \nonumber \]

    This page titled 9.1: Introduction Newton’s Second Law and Circular Motion is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Peter Dourmashkin (MIT OpenCourseWare) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.