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3.0: Prelude to Two-Dimensional Kinematics

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The arc of a basketball, the orbit of a satellite, a bicycle rounding a curve, a swimmer diving into a pool, blood gushing out of a wound, and a puppy chasing its tail are but a few examples of motions along curved paths. In fact, most motions in nature follow curved paths rather than straight lines. Motion along a curved path on a flat surface or a plane (such as that of a ball on a pool table or a skater on an ice rink) is two-dimensional, and thus described by two-dimensional kinematics. Motion not confined to a plane, such as a car following a winding mountain road, is described by three-dimensional kinematics. Both two- and three-dimensional kinematics are simple extensions of the one-dimensional kinematics developed for straight-line motion in the previous chapter. This simple extension will allow us to apply physics to many more situations, and it will also yield unexpected insights about nature.

Figure $$\PageIndex{1}$$: Everyday motion that we experience is, thankfully, rarely as tortuous as a rollercoaster ride like this—the Dragon Khan in Spain’s Universal Port Aventura Amusement Park. However, most motion is in curved, rather than straight-line, paths. Motion along a curved path is two- or three-dimensional motion, and can be described in a similar fashion to one-dimensional motion. (credit: Boris23/Wikimedia Commons)

Contributors

• Paul Peter Urone (Professor Emeritus at California State University, Sacramento) and Roger Hinrichs (State University of New York, College at Oswego) with Contributing Authors: Kim Dirks (University of Auckland) and Manjula Sharma (University of Sydney). This work is licensed by OpenStax University Physics under a Creative Commons Attribution License (by 4.0).