objective banner

NOTE: This webpage displays better in Internet Explorer and Safari. Firefox has some known issues!

Newton's Laws of Motion


Picture this scene: England, mid 1600's, a young scientist meanders through a garden where he notices an apple fall to the ground. He takes notice. What is special about this apple? I am sure he had noticed apples falling before in his lifetime. But this particular time, with this particular apple, he started thinking. Since Earth's gravity causes this apple to fall to the ground, how far does the Earth's gravity actually extend? Just above the trees? To the moon? He knew that gravity was a force caused objects to fall down. He also knew that objects projected through the air also come down. After a little time, Sir Isaac Newton proposed that there were 3 laws that governed all moving objects, even the objects in space. We know them today as Newton's 3 Laws of Motion.

Newton's 1st law of Motion

Newton's First Law An object resting rests forever unless you apply a force.

An object moving will move forever unless you apply a force
states that an object in motion will stay in motion and an object at rest will stay at rest until an unbalanced force is applied. In other words, boxes resting on a wagon will stay at rest on the wagon until you give them a big push. On the flip side, if the wagon is moving and hits a rock, the wagon stops, but the boxes continue moving, until they hit the ground. Of course friction from the air also affects the boxes.
Newton Law Motion 1
Inertia is a property of matter that resists a change in motion when a force is applied. In order to change an object's motion, we need to apply a force bigger than what is already acting on it. If a box it at rest on the floor, we say the forces acting on the box are balanced. The net force is zero. In order for this box to move, we need to apply a force larger than the force of gravity holding the box down. The forces would then be unbalanced.

Newton's 2nd law of Motion

Newton's 2nd Law states that the force applied to an object to change its motion is equal to the object's mass times the acceleration of the object. The formula to calculate this force is F=ma. The unit for force is Newton's, or N. Suppose we want to push a 20 kg box across the floor. How much force is is required to make this box accelerate 2 m/s2?

First, plug the values into the formula:
F = (20kg)x (2 m/s2)
F = 40 kg * m/s2. The expression "kg * m/s2" can be replaced by "N"
F = 40N

It takes 40N of force to accelerate a 20kg box.

Newton's 3rd Law of Motion

Newton's 3rd Law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If Box A exerts a force on Box B, then Box B exerts an equal and opposite force on Box A. When does this happen in the real world? Let's take rocket liftoff, for instance. When a rocket is launched, it pushes on the ground and the ground pushes back.
Newton Law Motion 3


It is true that all you need to do in order to make an object move is apply enough force to it. If it moves, you have just done work. Work is described as the force required to move an object multiplied by the distance the object travelled, work = force x distance. The ability to do that work is called energy. There are 2 types of energy related to motion: potential and kinetic. Potential energy is stored energy. That stored energy can be released at a later time in the form of kinetic energy. Take for example a roller coaster. As the coaster is pulled up the first high hill, it stores more and more potential energy. As it goes down the hill, the potential energy is released as kinetic energy. If you raise a box into the air, it gains potential energy as you lift it higher. That energy is converted to kinetic energy when you drop the box.

Vocabulary click the vocabulary term

Balanced forces

Unbalanced forces

Net force


Newton's 1st law

Newton's 2nd Law

Newton's 3rd Law





Potential energy

Kinetic energy


Please contact the WEBMASTER with any problems related to this site. Copyright 2009 That Place Web Designs. All Rights Reserved.