Units Used This Topic:

Scalar quantities have magnitude only. Distance, speed and mass are scalar.

Vector quantities have magnitude and an associated direction. Displacement, velocity, force and acceleration are vector.

A vector quantity may be represented by an arrow. The length of the arrow represents the magnitude, and the direction of the arrow the direction of the vector quantity.

Question: Give the difference between a vector quantity and a scalar quantity.

A force is a push or pull that acts on an object due to the interaction with another object. All forces between objects are either:

  • contact forces – the objects are physically touching, e.g.  friction, air resistance, tension and normal contact force
  • non-contact forces – the objects are physically separated, e.g. gravitational force, electrostatic force and magnetic force.

Force is a vector quantity.

When two objects touch, there is a normal contact force between them, perpendicular to the surface where they touch.

Normal Contact Force

Weight is the force acting on an object due to gravity. The force of gravity close to the Earth is due to the gravitational field around the Earth.

The weight of an object depends on the gravitational field strength at the point where the object is.

The weight of an object can be calculated using the equation:

weight = mass × gravitational field strength

Question: A gymnast has a mass of 45 kg
gravitational field strength = 9.8 N/kg
Calculate the weight of the gymnast.

Question:An object has a weight of 6.4 N.
Calculate the mass of the object.
gravitational field strength = 9.8 N / kg

The weight of an object may be considered to act at a single point referred to as the object’s ‘centre of mass’.

Weight is measured using a calibrated spring-balance (a newtonmeter).

The weight of an object and the mass of an object are directly proportional.

Directly Proportional

Directly Proportional Relationship

A directly proportional relationship is a straight line through the origin

The gradient is constant

The independent variable changes by the same value for each increment in the dependent variable

Inversely Proportional

Inversely Proportional Relationship

To show a graph is an inversely proportional relationship, at any point on the curve:

independent variable x dependent variable = a constant

Resultant Forces

A number of forces acting on an object may be replaced by a single force that has the same effect as all the original forces acting together. This single force is called the resultant force.

The resultant force is the sum of all the individual forces acting on an object

learn this definition
Zero Resultant Force
Non-zero Resultant Force

Names & Directions of Forces

Forces on a Plane
Forces on a Skier
Forces on a Lamp

Resolving Forces

A single force can be resolved into two components acting at right angles to each other. The two component forces together have the same effect as the single force.

Resolving Forces

Adding Forces

When more than one force is acting we can find the resultant force using a scale diagram. Draw the forces with a ruler and a protractor.

Parallelogram of Forces to find the Resultant Force

Doing Work With Forces

When a force causes an object to move through a distance work is done on the object. So a force does work on an object when the force causes a displacement of the object.

The work done by a force on an object can be calculated using the equation:

work done = force × distance moved along the line of action of the force

Question: A cyclist used the brakes to slow down and stop the bicycle.
A constant braking force of 140 N stopped the bicycle in a distance of 24 m.
Calculate the work done by the braking force to stop the bicycle. Give the unit.

Question: A container was lifted a height of 14 m
The crane did 3 430 000 J of work on the container.
Calculate the force exerted by the crane on the container.

One joule of work is done when a force of one newton causes a displacement of one metre. 1 joule = 1 newton-metre

Work done against the frictional forces acting on an object causes a rise in the temperature of the object.

Question: A bicycle uses brakes to slow to a stop. Describe how the energy stores of the bicycle and the brakes change as the bike slows and stops. (2 marks)