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Acceleration

In physics, acceleration is the rate of change of velocity over time. In one dimension, acceleration is the rate at which something speeds up or slows down. However, since velocity is a vector, acceleration describes the rate of change of both the magnitude and the direction of velocity. Acceleration has the dimensions L T −2. In SI units, acceleration is measured in meters per second per second (m/s2).

In common speech, the term acceleration is used for an increase in speed (the magnitude of velocity); a decrease in speed is called deceleration. In physics, a change in the direction of velocity also is an acceleration: for rotary motion, the change in direction of velocity results in centripetal (toward the center) acceleration; where as the rate of change of speed is a tangential acceleration.

In classical mechanics, for a body with constant mass, the acceleration of the body is proportional to the net force acting on it (Newton's second law): $\mathbf{F} = m\mathbf{a} \quad \to \quad \mathbf{a} = \mathbf{F}/m$

where F is the resultant force acting on the body, m is the mass of the body, and a is its acceleration.

Average and instantaneous acceleration

Average acceleration is the change in velocity (Δv) divided by the change in time (Δt). Instantaneous acceleration is the acceleration at a specific point in time which is for a very short interval of time as Δt approaches zero.

Tangential and centripetal acceleration

The velocity of a particle moving on a curved path as a function of time can be written as: $\mathbf{v} (t) =v(t) \frac {\mathbf{v}(t)}{v(t)} = v(t) \mathbf{u}_\mathrm{t}(t) ,$

with v(t) equal to the speed of travel along the path, and $\mathbf{u}_\mathrm{t} = \frac {\mathbf{v}(t)}{v(t)} \ ,$

a unit vector tangent to the path pointing in the direction of motion at the chosen moment in time. Taking into account both the changing speed v(t) and the changing direction of ut, the acceleration of a particle moving on a curved path on a planar surface can be written using the chain rule of differentiation as: \begin{alignat}{3} \mathbf{a} & = \frac{d \mathbf{v}}{dt} \\ & = \frac{\mathrm{d}v }{\mathrm{d}t} \mathbf{u}_\mathrm{t} +v(t)\frac{d \mathbf{u}_\mathrm{t}}{dt} \\ & = \frac{\mathrm{d}v }{\mathrm{d}t} \mathbf{u}_\mathrm{t}+ \frac{v^2}{R}\mathbf{u}_\mathrm{n}\ , \\ \end{alignat}

where un is the unit (inward) normal vector to the particle's trajectory, and R is its instantaneous radius of curvature based upon the osculating circle at time t. These components are called the tangential acceleration and the radial acceleration or centripetal acceleration (see also circular motion and centripetal force).

Extension of this approach to three-dimensional space curves that cannot be contained on a planar surface leads to the Frenet-Serret formulas.

Relation to relativity

After completing his theory of special relativity, Albert Einstein realized that forces felt by objects undergoing constant proper acceleration are actually feeling themselves being accelerated, so that, for example, a car's acceleration forwards would result in the driver feeling a slight pressure between himself and his seat. In the case of gravity, which Einstein concluded is not actually a force, this is not the case; acceleration due to gravity is not felt by an object in free-fall. This was the basis for his development of general relativity, a relativistic theory of gravity.

ACCELERATION

In physics, and more specifically kinematics, acceleration is the change in velocity over time. Because velocity is a vector, it can change in two ways: a change in magnitude and/or a change in direction. In one dimension, acceleration is the rate at which something speeds up or slows down. However, as a vector quantity, acceleration is also the rate at which direction changes. Acceleration has the dimensions L T−2. In SI units, acceleration is measured in metres per second squared (m/s2).

In common speech, the term acceleration commonly is used for an increase in speed (the magnitude of velocity); a decrease in speed is called deceleration. In physics, a change in the direction of velocity also is an acceleration: for motion on a planar surface, the change in direction of velocity results in centripetal acceleration; whereas the rate of change of speed is a tangential acceleration.

In classical mechanics, for a body with constant mass, the acceleration of the body is proportional to the resultant (total) force acting on it (Newton's second law): $\mathbf{F} = m\mathbf{a} \quad \to \quad \mathbf{a} = \mathbf{F}/m$

where F is the resultant force acting on the body, m is the mass of the body, and a is its acceleration.

Average and instantaneous acceleration

Average acceleration is the change in velocity (Δv) divided by the change in time (Δt). Instantaneous acceleration is the acceleration at a specific point in time.

Tangential and centripetal acceleration

The velocity of a particle moving on a curved path as a function of time can be written as: $\mathbf{v} (t) =v(t) \frac {\mathbf{v}(t)}{v(t)} = v(t) \mathbf{u}_\mathrm{t}(t) ,$

with v(t) equal to the speed of travel along the path, and $\mathbf{u}_\mathrm{t} = \frac {\mathbf{v}(t)}{v(t)} \ ,$

a unit vector tangent to the path pointing in the direction of motion at the chosen moment in time. Taking into account both the changing speed v(t) and the changing direction of ut, the acceleration of a particle moving on a curved path on a planar surface can be written using the chain rule of differentiation as: \begin{alignat}{3} \mathbf{a} & = \frac{d \mathbf{v}}{dt} \\ & = \frac{\mathrm{d}v }{\mathrm{d}t} \mathbf{u}_\mathrm{t} +v(t)\frac{d \mathbf{u}_\mathrm{t}}{dt} \\ & = \frac{\mathrm{d}v }{\mathrm{d}t} \mathbf{u}_\mathrm{t}+ \frac{v^2}{R}\mathbf{u}_\mathrm{n}\ , \\ \end{alignat}

where un is the unit (outward) normal vector to the particle's trajectory, and R is its instantaneous radius of curvature based upon the osculating circle at time t. These components are called the tangential acceleration and the radial acceleration, respectively. The negative of the radial acceleration is the centripetal acceleration, which points inward, toward the center of curvature.

Extension of this approach to three-dimensional space curves that cannot be contained on a planar surface leads to the Frenet-Serret formulas.

Relation to relativity

After completing his theory of special relativity, Albert Einstein realized that forces felt by objects undergoing constant proper acceleration are actually feeling themselves being accelerated, so that, for example, a car's acceleration forwards would result in the driver feeling a slight push backwards. In the case of gravity, which Einstein concluded is not actually a force, this is not the case; acceleration due to gravity is not felt by an object in free-fall. This was the basis for his development of general relativity, a relativistic theory of gravity.

ACCELERATION

In physics, and more particularly kinematics, acceleration is the change in velocity over time. Because velocity is a vector, it can change in two ways: a change in magnitude and/or a change in direction. In one dimension, acceleration is the rate at which something speeds up or slows down. However, more generally, acceleration is a vector quantity expressing the change with time of the velocity both in magnitude and in direction. Acceleration has the dimensions L T−2. In SI units, acceleration is measured in metres per second squared (m/s2).

In common speech, the term acceleration commonly is used for an increase in speed (the magnitude of velocity); a decrease in speed is called deceleration. In physics, a change in the direction of velocity also is an acceleration: for motion on a planar surface, the change in direction of velocity results in centripetal acceleration; whereas the rate of change of speed is a tangential acceleration.

In classical mechanics, the acceleration of a body is proportional to the resultant (total) force acting on it (Newton's second law): $\mathbf{F} = m\mathbf{a} \quad \to \quad \mathbf{a} = \mathbf{F}/m$

where F is the resultant force acting on the body, m is the mass of the body, and a is its acceleration.

Tangential and centripetal acceleration

The velocity of a particle moving on a curved path can be written as: $\boldsymbol v (t) =v(t) \frac { \boldsymbol v (t)}{v(t)} = v(t) \mathbf{u_t}(t) ,$

with v (t) the speed of travel along the path, and $\mathbf{u_t} = \frac {\boldsymbol v( t)}{v(t)} \ ,$

a unit vector tangent to the path pointing in the direction of motion at the chosen moment in time. Taking into account both the changing speed v(t) and the changing direction of ut, the acceleration of a particle moving on a curved path on a planar surface can be written using the chain rule of differentiation as: \begin{alignat}{3} \mathbf{a} & = \frac{d \boldsymbol v}{dt} \\ & = \frac{\mathrm{d}v }{\mathrm{d}t} \mathbf{u}_\mathrm{t} +v(t)\frac{d \mathbf {u_t}}{dt} \\ & = \frac{\mathrm{d}v }{\mathrm{d}t} \mathbf{u}_\mathrm{t}- \frac{v^2}{R}\mathbf{u}_\mathrm{n}\ , \\ \end{alignat}

where un is the unit (outward) normal vector to the particle's trajectory, and R is its instantaneous radius of curvature based upon the osculating circle at time t. These components are called the tangential acceleration and the radial acceleration, respectively. The negative of the radial acceleration is the centripetal acceleration, which points inward, toward the center of curvature.

Extension of this approach to three-dimensional space curves that cannot be contained on a planar surface leads to the Frenet-Serret formulas.

Relation to relativity

After completing his theory of special relativity, Albert Einstein realized that forces felt by objects undergoing constant proper acceleration are indistinguishable from those in a gravitational field. This was the basis for his development of general relativity, a relativistic theory of gravity. This is also the basis for the popular twin paradox, which asks why one twin ages less when moving away from his sibling at near light-speed and then returning, since the non-aging twin can say that it is the other twin that was moving. General relativity solved the "why does only one object feel accelerated?" problem which had plagued philosophers and scientists since Newton's time (and caused Newton to endorse absolute space). In special relativity, only inertial frames of reference (non-accelerated frames) can be used and are equivalent; general relativity considers all frames, even accelerated ones, to be equivalent. (The path from these considerations to the full theory of general relativity is traced in the introduction to general relativity.)

Acceleration

where ut and un are (respectively) the unit tangent vector and the unit normal vector to the particle's trajectory, and R is its radius of curvature. These components are called the tangential acceleration and the centripetal acceleration, respectively. 