Newton's laws of motion

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Newton's laws of motion are three basic
law Law is a set of rules that are created and are law enforcement, enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. ...
s of
classical mechanics Classical mechanics is a Theoretical physics, physical theory describing the motion of macroscopic objects, from projectiles to parts of Machine (mechanical), machinery, and astronomical objects, such as spacecraft, planets, stars, and galax ...
that describe the relationship between the
motion In physics, motion is the phenomenon in which an object changes its Position (geometry), position with respect to time. Motion is mathematically described in terms of Displacement (geometry), displacement, distance, velocity, acceleration, speed ...
of an object and the
force In physics, a force is an influence that can change the motion of an Physical object, object. A force can cause an object with mass to change its velocity (e.g. moving from a Newton's first law, state of rest), i.e., to accelerate. Force can ...
s acting on it. These laws can be paraphrased as follows: # A body remains at rest, or in motion at a constant speed in a straight line, unless acted upon by a force. # When a body is acted upon by a force, the time rate of change of its
momentum In Newtonian mechanics, momentum (more specifically linear momentum or translational momentum) is the Multiplication, product of the mass and velocity of an object. It is a Euclidean vector, vector quantity, possessing a magnitude and a dire ...
equals the force. # If two bodies exert forces on each other, these forces have the same magnitude but opposite directions. The three laws of motion were first stated by
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, Theology, theologian, and author (described in his time as a "natural philosophy, natural philosopher"), widely ...
in his '' Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica'' (''Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy''), originally published in 1687. Newton used them to investigate and explain the motion of many physical objects and systems, which laid the foundation for classical mechanics. In the time since Newton, the conceptual content of classical physics has been reformulated in alternative ways, involving different mathematical approaches that have yielded insights which were obscured in the original, Newtonian formulation. Limitations to Newton's laws have also been discovered; new theories are necessary when objects move at very high speeds (
special relativity In physics, the special theory of relativity, or special relativity for short, is a scientific theory regarding the relationship between Spacetime, space and time. In Albert Einstein's original treatment, the theory is based on two Postulates of ...
), are very massive (
general relativity General relativity, also known as the general theory of relativity and Einstein's theory of gravity, is the differential geometry, geometric scientific theory, theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1915 and is the current descr ...
), or are very small (
quantum mechanics Quantum mechanics is a fundamental Scientific theory, theory in physics that provides a description of the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. It is the foundation of all quantum physics including qua ...
).

# Prerequisites

Newton's laws are often stated in terms of ''point'' or ''particle'' masses, that is, bodies whose volume is negligible. This is a reasonable approximation for real bodies when the motion of internal parts can be neglected, and when the separation between bodies is much larger than the size of each. For instance, the Earth and the Sun can both be approximated as pointlike when considering the orbit of the former around the latter, but the Earth is not pointlike when considering activities on its surface. The mathematical description of motion, or
kinematics Kinematics is a subfield of physics, developed in classical mechanics, that describes the Motion (physics), motion of points, Physical object, bodies (objects), and systems of bodies (groups of objects) without considering the forces that cause ...
, is based on the idea of specifying positions using numerical coordinates. Movement is represented by these numbers changing over time: a body's trajectory is represented by a function that assigns to each value of a time variable the values of all the position coordinates. The simplest case is one-dimensional, that is, when a body is constrained to move only along a straight line. Its position can then be given by a single number, indicating where it is relative to some chosen reference point. For example, a body might be free to slide along a track that runs left to right, and so its location can be specified by its distance from a convenient zero point, or
origin Origin(s) or The Origin may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Comics and manga * Origin (comics), ''Origin'' (comics), a Wolverine comic book mini-series published by Marvel Comics in 2002 * The Origin (Buffy comic), ''The Origin'' (Bu ...
, with negative numbers indicating positions to the left and positive numbers indicating positions to the right. If the body's location as a function of time is $s\left(t\right)$, then its average velocity over the time interval from $t_0$ to $t_1$ is $\frac = \frac.$Here, the Greek letter $\Delta$ ( delta) is used, per tradition, to mean "change in". A positive average velocity means that the position coordinate $s$ increases over the interval in question, a negative average velocity indicates a net decrease over that interval, and an average velocity of zero means that the body ends the time interval in the same place as it began.
Calculus Calculus, originally called infinitesimal calculus or "the calculus of infinitesimals", is the mathematics, mathematical study of continuous change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape, and algebra is the study of generalizati ...
gives the means to define an ''instantaneous'' velocity, a measure of a body's speed and direction of movement at a single moment of time, rather than over an interval. One notation for the instantaneous velocity is to replace $\Delta$ with the symbol $d$, for example,$v = \frac.$This denotes that the instantaneous velocity is the
derivative In mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented ...
of the position with respect to time. It can roughly be thought of as the ratio between an infinitesimally small change in position $ds$ to the infinitesimally small time interval $dt$ over which it occurs. More carefully, the velocity and all other derivatives can be defined using the concept of a limit. A function $f\left(t\right)$ has a limit of $L$ at a given input value $t_0$ if the difference between $f$ and $L$ can be made arbitrarily small by choosing an input sufficiently close to $t_0$. One writes, $\lim_ f(t) = L.$Instantaneous velocity can be defined as the limit of the average velocity as the time interval shrinks to zero:$\frac = \lim_ \frac.$ ''Acceleration'' is to velocity as velocity is to position: it is the derivative of the velocity with respect to time. Acceleration can likewise be defined as a limit:$a = \frac = \lim_\frac.$Consequently, the acceleration is the ''second derivative'' of position, often written $\frac$. Position, when thought of as a displacement from an origin point, is a vector: a quantity with both magnitude and direction. Velocity and acceleration are vector quantities as well. The mathematical tools of vector algebra provide the means to describe motion in two, three or more dimensions. Vectors are often denoted with an arrow, as in $\vec$, or in bold typeface, such as . Often, vectors are represented visually as arrows, with the direction of the vector being the direction of the arrow, and the magnitude of the vector indicated by the length of the arrow. Numerically, a vector can be represented as a list; for example, a body's velocity vector might be $\vec = \left(\mathrm, \mathrm\right)$, indicating that it is moving at 3 metres per second along a horizontal axis and 4 metres per second along the vertical axis. The same motion described in a different
coordinate system In geometry, a coordinate system is a system that uses one or more numbers, or coordinates, to uniquely determine the Position (geometry), position of the Point (geometry), points or other geometric elements on a manifold such as Euclidean space ...
will be represented by different numbers, and vector algebra can be used to translate between these alternatives. The physics concept of ''force'' makes quantitative the everyday idea of a push or a pull. Forces in Newtonian mechanics are often due to strings and ropes, friction, muscle effort, gravity, and so forth. Like displacement, velocity, and acceleration, force is a vector quantity.

# Laws

## First

Translated from the Latin, Newton's first law reads, :''Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.'' Newton's first law expresses the principle of
inertia Inertia is the idea that an object will continue its current motion until some force causes its speed or direction to change. The term is properly understood as shorthand for "the principle of inertia" as described by Newton in his Newton%27s_ ...
: the natural behavior of a body is to move in a straight line at constant speed. In the absence of outside influences, a body's motion preserves the status quo. The modern understanding of Newton's first law is that no
inertial observer In classical physics and special relativity, an inertial frame of reference (also called inertial reference frame, inertial frame, inertial space, or Galilean reference frame) is a frame of reference that is not undergoing any acceleration. ...
is privileged over any other. The concept of an inertial observer makes quantitative the everyday idea of feeling no effects of motion. For example, a person standing on the ground watching a train go past is an inertial observer. If the observer on the ground sees the train moving smoothly in a straight line at a constant speed, then a passenger sitting on the train will also be an inertial observer: the train passenger ''feels'' no motion. The principle expressed by Newton's first law is that there is no way to say which inertial observer is "really" moving and which is "really" standing still. One observer's state of rest is another observer's state of uniform motion in a straight line, and no experiment can deem either point of view to be correct or incorrect. There is no absolute standard of rest.

## Second

:''The change of motion of an object is proportional to the force impressed; and is made in the direction of the straight line in which the force is impressed.'' By "motion", Newton meant the quantity now called
momentum In Newtonian mechanics, momentum (more specifically linear momentum or translational momentum) is the Multiplication, product of the mass and velocity of an object. It is a Euclidean vector, vector quantity, possessing a magnitude and a dire ...
, which depends upon the amount of matter contained in a body, the speed at which that body is moving, and the direction in which it is moving. In modern notation, the momentum of a body is the product of its mass and its velocity: $\vec = m\vec \, .$ Newton's second law, in modern form, states that the time derivative of the momentum is the force: $\vec = \frac \, .$ If the mass $m$ does not change with time, then the derivative acts only upon the velocity, and so the force equals the product of the mass and the time derivative of the velocity, which is the acceleration: $\vec = m\vec \, .$ As the acceleration is the second derivative of position with respect to time, this can also be written $\vec = m\frac \vec\, .$ The forces acting on a body add as vectors, and so the total force on a body depends upon both the magnitudes and the directions of the individual forces. When the net force on a body is equal to zero, then by Newton's second law, the body does not accelerate, and it is said to be in
mechanical equilibrium In classical mechanics Classical mechanics is a Theoretical physics, physical theory describing the motion of macroscopic objects, from projectiles to parts of Machine (mechanical), machinery, and astronomical objects, such as spacecraft, ...
. A state of mechanical equilibrium is ''stable'' if, when the position of the body is changed slightly, the body remains near that equilibrium. Otherwise, the equilibrium is ''unstable.'' A common visual representation of forces acting in concert is the
free body diagram A free body diagram consists of a diagrammatic representation of a single body or a subsystem of bodies isolated from its surroundings showing all the forces acting on it. In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, i ...
, which schematically portrays a body of interest and the forces applied to it by outside influences. For example, a free body diagram of a block sitting upon an
inclined plane An inclined plane, also known as a ramp, is a flat supporting surface tilted at an angle from the vertical direction, with one end higher than the other, used as an aid for raising or lowering a load. The inclined plane is one of the six clas ...
can illustrate the combination of gravitational force, "normal" force, friction, and string tension. Newton's second law is sometimes presented as a ''definition'' of force, i.e., a force is that which exists when an inertial observer sees a body accelerating. In order for this to be more than a tautology — acceleration implies force, force implies acceleration — some other statement about force must also be made. For example, an equation detailing the force might be specified, like
Newton's law of universal gravitation Newton's law of universal gravitation is usually stated as that every particle attracts every other particle in the universe with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the dist ...
. By inserting such an expression for $\vec$ into Newton's second law, an equation with predictive power can be written. Newton's second law has also been regarded as setting out a research program for physics, establishing that important goals of the subject are to identify the forces present in nature and to catalogue the constituents of matter.

## Third

:''To every action, there is always opposed an equal reaction; or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.'' Overly brief paraphrases of the third law, like "action equals reaction" might have caused confusion among generations of students: the "action" and "reaction" apply to different bodies. For example, consider a book at rest on a table. The Earth's gravity pulls down upon the book. The "reaction" to that "action" is ''not'' the support force from the table holding up the book, but the gravitational pull of the book acting on the Earth. Newton's third law relates to a more fundamental principle, the
conservation of momentum In Newtonian mechanics, momentum (more specifically linear momentum or translational momentum) is the Multiplication, product of the mass and velocity of an object. It is a Euclidean vector, vector quantity, possessing a magnitude and a dire ...
. The latter remains true even in cases where Newton's statement does not, for instance when force fields as well as material bodies carry momentum, and when momentum is defined properly, in
quantum mechanics Quantum mechanics is a fundamental Scientific theory, theory in physics that provides a description of the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. It is the foundation of all quantum physics including qua ...
as well. In Newtonian mechanics, if two bodies have momenta $\vec_1$ and $\vec_2$ respectively, then the total momentum of the pair is $\vec = \vec_1 + \vec_2$, and the rate of change of $\vec$ is $\frac = \frac + \frac.$ By Newton's second law, the first term is the total force upon the first body, and the second term is the total force upon the second body. If the two bodies are isolated from outside influences, the only force upon the first body can be that from the second, and vice versa. By Newton's third law, these forces have equal magnitude but opposite direction, so they cancel when added, and $\vec$ is constant. Alternatively, if $\vec$ is known to be constant, it follows that the forces have equal magnitude and opposite direction.

Various sources have proposed elevating other ideas used in classical mechanics to the status of Newton's laws. For example, in Newtonian mechanics, the total mass of a body made by bringing together two smaller bodies is the sum of their individual masses.
Frank Wilczek Frank Anthony Wilczek (; born May 15, 1951) is an American theoretical physics, theoretical physicist, mathematician and Nobel laureate. He is currently the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( ...
has suggested calling attention to this assumption by designating it "Newton's Zeroth Law". Another candidate for a "zeroth law" is the fact that at any instant, a body reacts to the forces applied to it at that instant. Likewise, the idea that forces add like vectors (or in other words obey the
superposition principle The superposition principle, also known as superposition property, states that, for all linear systems, the net response caused by two or more stimuli is the sum of the responses that would have been caused by each stimulus individually. So tha ...
), and the idea that forces change the energy of a body, have both been described as a "fourth law".

# Work and energy

Physicists developed the concept of
energy In physics, energy (from Ancient Greek: wikt:ἐνέργεια#Ancient_Greek, ἐνέργεια, ''enérgeia'', “activity”) is the physical quantity, quantitative physical property, property that is #Energy transfer, transferred to a phy ...
after Newton's time, but it has become an inseparable part of what is considered "Newtonian" physics. Energy can broadly be classified into kinetic, due to a body's motion, and
potential Potential generally refers to a currently unrealized ability. The term is used in a wide variety of fields, from physics to the social sciences to indicate things that are in a state where they are able to change in ways ranging from the simple re ...
, due to a body's position relative to others.
Thermal energy The term "thermal energy" is used loosely in various contexts in physics and engineering. It can refer to several different well-defined physical concepts. These include the internal energy or enthalpy of a body of matter and radiation; heat, de ...
, the energy carried by heat flow, is a type of kinetic energy not associated with the macroscopic motion of objects but instead with the movements of the atoms and molecules of which they are made. According to the work-energy theorem, when a force acts upon a body while that body moves along the line of the force, the force does ''work'' upon the body, and the amount of work done is equal to the change in the body's kinetic energy. In many cases of interest, the net work done by a force when a body moves in a closed loop — starting at a point, moving along some trajectory, and returning to the initial point — is zero. If this is the case, then the force can be written in terms of the
gradient In vector calculus, the gradient of a scalar-valued function, scalar-valued differentiable function of Function of several variables, several variables is the vector field (or vector-valued function) \nabla f whose value at a point p is the "d ...
of a function called a
scalar potential In mathematical physics, scalar potential, simply stated, describes the situation where the difference in the potential energy, potential energies of an object in two different positions depends only on the positions, not upon the path taken by t ...
: $\vec = -\vecU \, .$ This is true for many forces including that of gravity, but not for friction; indeed, almost any problem in a mechanics textbook that does not involve friction can be expressed in this way. The fact that the force can be written in this way can be understood from the
conservation of energy In physics and chemistry, the law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant; it is said to be Conservation law, ''conserved'' over time. This law, first proposed and tested by Émilie du Chât ...
. Without friction to dissipate a body's energy into heat, the body's energy will trade between potential and (non-thermal) kinetic forms while the total amount remains constant. Any gain of kinetic energy, which occurs when the net force on the body accelerates it to a higher speed, must be accompanied by a loss of potential energy. So, the net force upon the body is determined by the manner in which the potential energy decreases.

# Examples

## Uniformly accelerated motion

If a body falls from rest near the surface of the Earth, then in the absence of air resistance, it will accelerate at a constant rate. This is known as
free fall In Classical mechanics, Newtonian physics, free fall is any motion of a physical body, body where gravity is the only force acting upon it. In the context of general relativity, where gravitation is reduced to a space-time curvature, a body in ...
. The speed attained during free fall is proportional to the elapsed time, and the distance traveled is proportional to the square of the elapsed time. Importantly, the acceleration is the same for all bodies, independently of their mass. This follows from combining Newton's second law of motion with his law of universal gravitation. The latter states that the magnitude of the gravitational force from the Earth upon the body is $F = \frac ,$ where $m$ is the mass of the falling body, $M$ is the mass of the Earth, $G$ is Newton's constant, and $r$ is the distance from the center of the Earth to the body's location, which is very nearly the radius of the Earth. Setting this equal to $ma$, the body's mass $m$ cancels from both sides of the equation, leaving an acceleration that depends upon $G$, $M$, and $r$, and $r$ can be taken to be constant. This particular value of acceleration is typically denoted $g$: $g = \frac \approx \mathrm.$ If the body is not released from rest but instead launched upwards and/or horizontally with nonzero velocity, then free fall becomes
projectile motion Projectile motion is a form of motion (physics), motion experienced by an object or particle (a projectile) that is projected in a gravitational field, such as from Earth's planetary surface, surface, and moves along a curved path under the ac ...
. When air resistance can be neglected, projectiles follow
parabola In mathematics, a parabola is a plane curve which is Reflection symmetry, mirror-symmetrical and is approximately U-shaped. It fits several superficially different Mathematics, mathematical descriptions, which can all be proved to define exact ...
-shaped trajectories, because gravity affects the body's vertical motion and not its horizontal. At the peak of the projectile's trajectory, its vertical velocity is zero, but its acceleration is $g$ downwards, as it is at all times. Setting the wrong vector equal to zero is a common confusion among physics students.

## Uniform circular motion

When a body is in uniform circular motion, the force on it changes the direction of its motion but not its speed. For a body moving in a circle of radius $r$ at a constant speed $v$, its acceleration has a magnitude$a = \frac$and is directed toward the center of the circle. The force required to sustain this acceleration, called the
centripetal force A centripetal force (from Latin ''centrum'', "center" and ''petere'', "to seek") is a force that makes a body follow a curved trajectory, path. Its direction is always orthogonality, orthogonal to the motion of the body and towards the fixed po ...
, is therefore also directed toward the center of the circle and has magnitude $mv^2/r$. Many
orbit In celestial mechanics, an orbit is the curved trajectory of an physical body, object such as the trajectory of a planet around a star, or of a natural satellite around a planet, or of an satellite, artificial satellite around an object or pos ...
s, such as that of the Moon around the Earth, can be approximated by uniform circular motion. In such cases, the centripetal force is gravity, and by Newton's law of universal gravitation has magnitude $GMm/r^2$, where $M$ is the mass of the larger body being orbited. Therefore, the mass of a body can be calculated from observations of another body orbiting around it. Newton's cannonball is a
thought experiment A thought experiment is a hypothetical situation in which a hypothesis, theory, or principle is laid out for the purpose of thinking through its consequences. History The ancient Greek ''deiknymi'' (), or thought experiment, "was the most anci ...
that interpolates between projectile motion and uniform circular motion. A cannonball that is lobbed weakly off the edge of a tall cliff will hit the ground in the same amount of time as if it were dropped from rest, because the force of gravity only affects the cannonball's momentum in the downward direction, and its effect is not diminished by horizontal movement. If the cannonball is launched with a greater initial horizontal velocity, then it will travel farther before it hits the ground, but it will still hit the ground in the same amount of time. However, if the cannonball is launched with an even larger initial velocity, then the curvature of the Earth becomes significant: the ground itself will curve away from the falling cannonball. A very fast cannonball will fall away from the inertial straight-line trajectory at the same rate that the Earth curves away beneath it; in other words, it will be in orbit (imagining that it is not slowed by air resistance or obstacles).

## Harmonic motion

Consider a body of mass $m$ able to move along the $x$ axis, and suppose an equilibrium point exists at the position $x = 0$. That is, at $x = 0$, the net force upon the body is the zero vector, and by Newton's second law, the body will not accelerate. If the force upon the body is proportional to the displacement from the equilibrium point, and directed to the equilibrium point, then the body will perform
simple harmonic motion In mechanics and physics, simple harmonic motion (sometimes abbreviated ) is a special type of Periodic function, periodic motion of a body resulting from a dynamic equilibrium between an inertial force, proportional to the acceleration of the b ...
. Writing the force as $F = -kx$, Newton's second law becomes $m\frac = -kx \, .$ This differential equation has the solution $x(t) = A \cos \omega t + B \sin \omega t \,$ where the frequency $\omega$ is equal to $\sqrt$, and the constants $A$ and $B$ can be calculated knowing, for example, the position and velocity the body has at a given time, like $t = 0$. One reason that the harmonic oscillator is a conceptually important example is that it is good approximation for many systems near a stable mechanical equilibrium. For example, a
pendulum A pendulum is a weight suspended from a wikt:pivot, pivot so that it can swing freely. When a pendulum is displaced sideways from its resting, Mechanical equilibrium, equilibrium position, it is subject to a restoring force due to gravity that ...
has a stable equilibrium in the vertical position: if motionless there, it will remain there, and if pushed slightly, it will swing back and forth. Neglecting air resistance and friction in the pivot, the force upon the pendulum is gravity, and Newton's second law becomes $\frac = -\frac \sin\theta,$where $L$ is the length of the pendulum and $\theta$ is its angle from the vertical. When the angle $\theta$ is small, the
sine In mathematics, sine and cosine are trigonometric functions of an angle. The sine and cosine of an acute angle are defined in the context of a right triangle: for the specified angle, its sine is the ratio of the length of the side that is oppo ...
of $\theta$ is nearly equal to $\theta$ (see
Taylor series In mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented in ...
), and so this expression simplifies to the equation for a simple harmonic oscillator with frequency $\omega = \sqrt$. A harmonic oscillator can be ''damped,'' often by friction or viscous drag, in which case energy bleeds out of the oscillator and the amplitude of the oscillations decreases over time. Also, a harmonic oscillator can be ''driven'' by an applied force, which can lead to the phenomenon of
resonance Resonance describes the phenomenon of increased amplitude that occurs when the frequency of an applied Periodic function, periodic force (or a Fourier analysis, Fourier component of it) is equal or close to a natural frequency of the system ...
.

## Objects with variable mass

Newtonian physics treats matter as being neither created nor destroyed, though it may be rearranged. It can be the case that an object of interest gains or loses mass because matter is added to or removed from it. In such a situation, Newton's laws can be applied to the individual pieces of matter, keeping track of which pieces belong to the object of interest over time. For instance, if a rocket of mass $M\left(t\right)$, moving at velocity $\vec\left(t\right)$, ejects matter at a velocity $\vec$ relative to the rocket, then $\vec = M \frac - \vec \frac \,$ where $\vec$ is the net external force (e.g., a planet's gravitational pull).

# Rigid-body motion and rotation

A rigid body is an object whose size is too large to neglect and which maintains the same shape over time. In Newtonian mechanics, the motion of a rigid body is often understood by separating it into movement of the body's
center of mass In physics, the center of mass of a distribution of mass in space (sometimes referred to as the balance point) is the unique point where the weight function, weighted relative position (vector), position of the distributed mass sums to zero. Thi ...
and movement around the center of mass.

## Center of mass

Significant aspects of the motion of an extended body can be understood by imagining the mass of that body concentrated to a single point, known as the center of mass. The location of a body's center of mass depends upon how that body's material is distributed. For a collection of pointlike objects with masses $m_1, \ldots, m_N$ at positions $\vec_1, \ldots, \vec_N$, the center of mass is located at $\vec = \sum_^N \frac,$ where $M$ is the total mass of the collection. In the absence of a net external force, the center of mass moves at a constant speed in a straight line. This applies, for example, to a collision between two bodies. If the total external force is not zero, then the center of mass changes velocity as though it were a point body of mass $M$. This follows from the fact that the internal forces within the collection, the forces that the objects exert upon each other, occur in balanced pairs by Newton's third law. In a system of two bodies with one much more massive than the other, the center of mass will approximately coincide with the location of the more massive body.

## Rotational analogues of Newton's laws

When Newton's laws are applied to rotating extended bodies, they lead to new quantities that are analogous to those invoked in the original laws. The analogue of mass is the
moment of inertia The moment of inertia, otherwise known as the mass moment of inertia, angular mass, second moment of mass, or most accurately, rotational inertia, of a rigid body is a quantity that determines the torque needed for a desired angular accelera ...
, the counterpart of momentum is
angular momentum In physics, angular momentum (rarely, moment of momentum or rotational momentum) is the rotational analog of Momentum, linear momentum. It is an important physical quantity because it is a Conservation law, conserved quantity—the total angular ...
, and the counterpart of force is
torque In physics and mechanics, torque is the rotational equivalent of linear force. It is also referred to as the moment of force (also abbreviated to moment). It represents the capability of a force to produce change in the rotational motion of the ...
. Angular momentum is calculated with respect to a reference point. If the displacement vector from a reference point to a body is $\vec$ and the body has momentum $\vec$, then the body's angular momentum with respect to that point is, using the vector
cross product In mathematics, the cross product or vector product (occasionally directed area product, to emphasize its geometric significance) is a binary operation on two Euclidean vector, vectors in a three-dimensional Orientation (vector space), oriented E ...
, $\vec = \vec \times \vec.$ Taking the time derivative of the angular momentum gives $\frac = \left(\frac\right) \times \vec + \vec \times \frac = \vec \times m\vec + \vec \times \vec.$ The first term vanishes because $\vec$ and $m\vec$ point in the same direction. The remaining term is the torque, $\vec = \vec \times \vec.$ When the torque is zero, the angular momentum is constant, just as when the force is zero, the momentum is constant. The torque can vanish even when the force is non-zero, if the body is located at the reference point ($\vec = 0$) or if the force $\vec$ and the displacement vector $\vec$ are directed along the same line. The angular momentum of a collection of point masses, and thus of an extended body, is found by adding the contributions from each of the points. This provides a means to characterize a body's rotation about an axis, by adding up the angular momenta of its individual pieces. The result depends on the chosen axis, the shape of the body, and the rate of rotation.

## Multi-body gravitational system

Newton's law of universal gravitation states that any body attracts any other body along the straight line connecting them. The size of the attracting force is proportional to the product of their masses, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Finding the shape of the orbits that an inverse-square force law will produce is known as the
Kepler problem In classical mechanics, the Kepler problem is a special case of the two-body problem, in which the two bodies interact by a central force ''F'' that varies in strength as the inverse-square law, inverse square of the distance ''r'' between them. ...
. The Kepler problem can be solved in multiple ways, including by demonstrating that the Laplace–Runge–Lenz vector is constant, or by applying a duality transformation to a 2-dimensional harmonic oscillator. However it is solved, the result is that orbits will be
conic section In mathematics, a conic section, quadratic curve or conic is a curve obtained as the intersection of the Conical surface, surface of a cone (geometry), cone with a plane (mathematics), plane. The three types of conic section are the hyperbola, ...
s, that is,
ellipse In mathematics, an ellipse is a plane curve surrounding two focus (geometry), focal points, such that for all points on the curve, the sum of the two distances to the focal points is a constant. It generalizes a circle, which is the special ty ...
s (including circles),
parabola In mathematics, a parabola is a plane curve which is Reflection symmetry, mirror-symmetrical and is approximately U-shaped. It fits several superficially different Mathematics, mathematical descriptions, which can all be proved to define exact ...
s, or
hyperbola In mathematics, a hyperbola (; pl. hyperbolas or hyperbolae ; adj. hyperbolic ) is a type of smooth function, smooth plane curve, curve lying in a plane, defined by its geometric properties or by equations for which it is the solution set. A h ...
s. The eccentricity of the orbit, and thus the type of conic section, is determined by the energy and the angular momentum of the orbiting body. Planets do not have sufficient energy to escape the Sun, and so their orbits are ellipses, to a good approximation; because the planets pull on one another, actual orbits are not exactly conic sections. If a third mass is added, the Kepler problem becomes the three-body problem, which in general has no exact solution in closed form. That is, there is no way to start from the differential equations implied by Newton's laws and, after a finite sequence of standard mathematical operations, obtain equations that express the three bodies' motions over time.
Numerical methods Numerical analysis is the study of algorithms that use numerical approximation (as opposed to symbolic computation, symbolic manipulations) for the problems of mathematical analysis (as distinguished from discrete mathematics). It is the study of ...
can be applied to obtain useful, albeit approximate, results for the three-body problem. The positions and velocities of the bodies can be stored in variables within a computer's memory; Newton's laws are used to calculate how the velocities will change over a short interval of time, and knowing the velocities, the changes of position over that time interval can be computed. This process is looped to calculate, approximately, the bodies' trajectories. Generally speaking, the shorter the time interval, the more accurate the approximation.

# Chaos and unpredictability

## Nonlinear dynamics

Newton's laws of motion allow the possibility of chaos. That is, qualitatively speaking, physical systems obeying Newton's laws can exhibit sensitive dependence upon their initial conditions: a slight change of the position or velocity of one part of a system can lead to the whole system behaving in a radically different way within a short time. Noteworthy examples include the three-body problem, the
double pendulum In physics and mathematics, in the area of dynamical systems, a double pendulum also known as a chaos pendulum is a pendulum with another pendulum attached to its end, forming a simple physical system that exhibits rich dynamical systems, dynamic ...
, dynamical billiards, and the
Fermi–Pasta–Ulam–Tsingou problem In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science ...
. Newton's laws can be applied to
fluid In physics, a fluid is a liquid, gas, or other material that continuously Deformation (physics), deforms (''flows'') under an applied shear stress, or external force. They have zero shear modulus, or, in simpler terms, are Matter, substances wh ...
s by considering a fluid as composed of infinitesimal pieces, each exerting forces upon neighboring pieces. The Euler momentum equation is an expression of Newton's second law adapted to fluid dynamics. A fluid is described by a velocity field, i.e., a function $\vec\left(\vec,t\right)$ that assigns a velocity vector to each point in space and time. A small object being carried along by the fluid flow can change velocity for two reasons: first, because the velocity field at its position is changing over time, and second, because it moves to a new location where the velocity field has a different value. Consequently, when Newton's second law is applied to an infinitesimal portion of fluid, the acceleration $\vec$ has two terms, a combination known as a ''total'' or ''material'' derivative. The mass of an infinitesimal portion depends upon the fluid
density Density (volumetric mass density or specific mass) is the substance's mass per unit of volume. The symbol most often used for density is ''ρ'' (the lower case Greek language, Greek letter Rho (letter), rho), although the Latin letter ''D'' ca ...
, and there is a net force upon it if the fluid pressure varies from one side of it to another. Accordingly, $\vec = \vec/m$ becomes $\frac + (\vec \cdot \vec) \vec = -\frac \vecP + \vec ,$ where $\rho$ is the density, $P$ is the pressure, and $\vec$ stands for an external influence like a gravitational pull. Incorporating the effect of
viscosity The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its drag (physics), resistance to deformation at a given rate. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal concept of "thickness": for example, syrup has a higher viscosity than water. Viscosity quant ...
turns the Euler equation into a Navier–Stokes equation: $\frac + (\vec \cdot \vec) \vec = -\frac \vecP + \nu \nabla^2 \vec + \vec ,$ where $\nu$ is the
kinematic viscosity The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its drag (physics), resistance to deformation at a given rate. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal concept of "thickness": for example, syrup has a higher viscosity than water. Viscosity quant ...
.

## Singularities

It is mathematically possible for a collection of point masses, moving in accord with Newton's laws, to launch some of themselves away so forcefully that they fly off to infinity in a finite time. This unphysical behavior, known as a "noncollision singularity", depends upon the masses being pointlike and able to approach one another arbitrarily closely, as well as the lack of a relativistic speed limit in Newtonian physics. It is not yet known whether or not the Euler and Navier–Stokes equations exhibit the analogous behavior of initially smooth solutions "blowing up" in finite time. The question of existence and smoothness of Navier–Stokes solutions is one of the Millennium Prize Problems.

# Relation to other formulations of classical physics

Classical mechanics can be mathematically formulated in multiple different ways, other than the "Newtonian" description (which itself, of course, incorporates contributions from others both before and after Newton). The physical content of these different formulations is the same as the Newtonian, but they provide different insights and facilitate different types of calculations. For example,
Lagrangian mechanics In physics, Lagrangian mechanics is a formulation of classical mechanics founded on the stationary-action principle (also known as the principle of least action). It was introduced by the Italian-French mathematician and astronomer Joseph-Loui ...
helps make apparent the connection between symmetries and conservation laws, and it is useful when calculating the motion of constrained bodies, like a mass restricted to move along a curving track or on the surface of a sphere.
Hamiltonian mechanics Hamiltonian mechanics emerged in 1833 as a reformulation of Lagrangian mechanics. Introduced by Sir William Rowan Hamilton, Hamiltonian mechanics replaces (generalized) velocities \dot q^i used in Lagrangian mechanics with (generalized) ''momenta ...
is convenient for
statistical physics Statistical physics is a branch of physics that evolved from a foundation of statistical mechanics, which uses methods of probability theory and statistics, and particularly the Mathematics, mathematical tools for dealing with large populations ...
, leads to further insight about symmetry, and can be developed into sophisticated techniques for
perturbation theory In mathematics and applied mathematics, perturbation theory comprises methods for finding an approximation theory, approximate solution to a problem, by starting from the exact solution (equation), solution of a related, simpler problem. A crit ...
. Due to the breadth of these topics, the discussion here will be confined to concise treatments of how they reformulate Newton's laws of motion.

## Lagrangian

Lagrangian mechanics In physics, Lagrangian mechanics is a formulation of classical mechanics founded on the stationary-action principle (also known as the principle of least action). It was introduced by the Italian-French mathematician and astronomer Joseph-Loui ...
differs from the Newtonian formulation by considering entire trajectories at once rather than predicting a body's motion at a single instant. It is traditional in Lagrangian mechanics to denote position with $q$ and velocity with $\dot$. The simplest example is a massive point particle, the Lagrangian for which can be written as the difference between its kinetic and potential energies: $L(q,\dot) = T - V,$ where the kinetic energy is $T = \fracm\dot^2$ and the potential energy is some function of the position, $V\left(q\right)$. The physical path that the particle will take between an initial point $q_i$ and a final point $q_f$ is the path for which the integral of the Lagrangian is "stationary". That is, the physical path has the property that small perturbations of it will, to a first approximation, not change the integral of the Lagrangian.
Calculus of variations The calculus of variations (or Variational Calculus) is a field of mathematical analysis that uses variations, which are small changes in Function (mathematics), functions and functional (mathematics), functionals, to find maxima and minima of f ...
provides the mathematical tools for finding this path. Applying the calculus of variations to the task of finding the path yields the
Euler–Lagrange equation In the calculus of variations and classical mechanics, the Euler–Lagrange equations are a system of second-order ordinary differential equations whose solutions are stationary points of the given action (physics), action functional. The equations ...
for the particle, $\frac \left(\frac\right) = \frac.$ Evaluating the
partial derivative In mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented in m ...
s of the Lagrangian gives $\frac (m \dot) = -\frac,$ which is a restatement of Newton's second law. The left-hand side is the time derivative of the momentum, and the right-hand side is the force, represented in terms of the potential energy. Landau and Lifshitz argue that the Lagrangian formulation makes the conceptual content of classical mechanics more clear than starting with Newton's laws. Lagrangian mechanics provides a convenient framework in which to prove
Noether's theorem Noether's theorem or Noether's first theorem states that every differentiable symmetry Symmetry (from grc, συμμετρία "agreement in dimensions, due proportion, arrangement") in everyday language refers to a sense of harmonio ...
, which relates symmetries and conservation laws. The conservation of momentum can be derived by applying Noether's theorem to a Lagrangian for a multi-particle system, and so, Newton's third law is a theorem rather than an assumption.

## Hamiltonian

In
Hamiltonian mechanics Hamiltonian mechanics emerged in 1833 as a reformulation of Lagrangian mechanics. Introduced by Sir William Rowan Hamilton, Hamiltonian mechanics replaces (generalized) velocities \dot q^i used in Lagrangian mechanics with (generalized) ''momenta ...
, the dynamics of a system are represented by a function called the Hamiltonian, which in many cases of interest is equal to the total energy of the system. The Hamiltonian is a function of the positions and the momenta of all the bodies making up the system, and it may also depend explicitly upon time. The time derivatives of the position and momentum variables are given by partial derivatives of the Hamiltonian, via Hamilton's equations. The simplest example is a point mass $m$ constrained to move in a straight line, under the effect of a potential. Writing $q$ for the position coordinate and $p$ for the body's momentum, the Hamiltonian is $\mathcal(p,q) = \frac + V(q).$ In this example, Hamilton's equations are $\frac = \frac$ and $\frac = -\frac.$ Evaluating these partial derivatives, the former equation becomes $\frac = \frac,$ which reproduces the familiar statement that a body's momentum is the product of its mass and velocity. The time derivative of the momentum is $\frac = -\frac,$ which, upon identifying the negative derivative of the potential with the force, is just Newton's second law once again. As in the Lagrangian formulation, in Hamiltonian mechanics the conservation of momentum can be derived using Noether's theorem, making Newton's third law an idea that is deduced rather than assumed. Among the proposals to reform the standard introductory-physics curriculum is one that teaches the concept of energy before that of force, essentially "introductory Hamiltonian mechanics".

## Hamilton–Jacobi

The
Hamilton–Jacobi equation In physics, the Hamilton–Jacobi equation, named after William Rowan Hamilton and Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi, is an alternative formulation of classical mechanics, equivalent to other formulations such as Newton's laws of motion, Lagrangian mechan ...
provides yet another formulation of classical mechanics, one which makes it mathematically analogous to wave optics. This formulation also uses Hamiltonian functions, but in a different way than the formulation described above. The paths taken by bodies or collections of bodies are deduced from a function $S\left(\vec_1,\vec_2,\ldots,t\right)$ of positions $\vec_i$ and time $t$. The Hamiltonian is incorporated into the Hamilton–Jacobi equation, a
differential equation In mathematics, a differential equation is an functional equation, equation that relates one or more unknown function (mathematics), functions and their derivatives. In applications, the functions generally represent physical quantities, the der ...
for $S$. Bodies move over time in such a way that their trajectories are perpendicular to the surfaces of constant $S$, analogously to how a light ray propagates in the direction perpendicular to its wavefront. This is simplest to express for the case of a single point mass, in which $S$ is a function $S\left(\vec,t\right)$, and the point mass moves in the direction along which $S$ changes most steeply. In other words, the momentum of the point mass is the
gradient In vector calculus, the gradient of a scalar-valued function, scalar-valued differentiable function of Function of several variables, several variables is the vector field (or vector-valued function) \nabla f whose value at a point p is the "d ...
of $S$: $\vec = \frac \vec S.$ The Hamilton–Jacobi equation for a point mass is $- \frac = H\left(\vec, \vec S, t \right).$ The relation to Newton's laws can be seen by considering a point mass moving in a time-independent potential $V\left(\vec\right)$, in which case the Hamilton–Jacobi equation becomes $-\frac = \frac \left(\vec S\right)^2 + V(\vec).$ Taking the gradient of both sides, this becomes $-\vec\frac = \frac \vec \left(\vec S\right)^2 + \vec V.$ Interchanging the order of the partial derivatives on the left-hand side, and using the power and
chain rule In calculus, the chain rule is a formula that expresses the derivative of the Function composition, composition of two differentiable functions and in terms of the derivatives of and . More precisely, if h=f\circ g is the function such that h(x) ...
s on the first term on the right-hand side, $-\frac\vec S = \frac \left(\vec S \cdot \vec\right) \vec S + \vec V.$ Gathering together the terms that depend upon the gradient of $S$, This is another re-expression of Newton's second law. The expression in brackets is a ''total'' or ''material'' derivative as mentioned above, in which the first term indicates how the function being differentiated changes over time at a fixed location, and the second term captures how a moving particle will see different values of that function as it travels from place to place:

# Relation to other physical theories

## Thermodynamics and statistical physics

In
statistical physics Statistical physics is a branch of physics that evolved from a foundation of statistical mechanics, which uses methods of probability theory and statistics, and particularly the Mathematics, mathematical tools for dealing with large populations ...
, the
kinetic theory of gases Kinetic (Ancient Greek: κίνησις “kinesis”, movement or to move) may refer to: * Kinetic theory, describing a gas as particles in random motion * Kinetic energy, the energy of an object that it possesses due to its motion Art and ent ...
applies Newton's laws of motion to large numbers (typically on the order of Avogadro's number) of particles. Kinetic theory can explain, for example, the
pressure Pressure (symbol: ''p'' or ''P'') is the force applied perpendicular to the surface of an object per unit area over which that force is distributed. Gauge pressure (also spelled ''gage'' pressure)The preferred spelling varies by country and e ...
that a gas exerts upon the container holding it as the aggregate of many impacts of atoms, each imparting a tiny amount of momentum. The
Langevin equation In physics, a Langevin equation (named after Paul Langevin) is a stochastic differential equation describing how a system evolves when subjected to a combination of deterministic and fluctuating ("random") forces. The dependent variables in a Lange ...
is a special case of Newton's second law, adapted for the case of describing a small object bombarded stochastically by even smaller ones. It can be written$m \vec = -\gamma \vec + \vec \,$where $\gamma$ is a
drag coefficient In fluid dynamics, the drag coefficient (commonly denoted as: c_\mathrm, c_x or c_) is a dimensionless quantity that is used to quantify the drag (physics), drag or resistance of an object in a fluid environment, such as air or water. It is used ...
and $\vec$ is a force that varies randomly from instant to instant, representing the net effect of collisions with the surrounding particles. This is used to model
Brownian motion Brownian motion, or pedesis (from grc, πήδησις "leaping"), is the random motion of particles suspended in a medium (a liquid or a gas). This pattern of motion typically consists of Randomness, random fluctuations in a particle's po ...
.

## Electromagnetism

Newton's three laws can be applied to phenomena involving
electricity Electricity is the set of physics, physical Phenomenon, phenomena associated with the presence and motion of matter that has a property of electric charge. Electricity is related to magnetism, both being part of the phenomenon of electromagne ...
and
magnetism Magnetism is the class of physical attributes that are mediated by a magnetic field, which refers to the capacity to induce attractive and repulsive phenomena in other entities. Electric currents and the magnetic moments of elementary particles ...
, though subtleties and caveats exist.
Coulomb's law Coulomb's inverse-square law, or simply Coulomb's law, is an experimental law of physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through Spacetime, ...
for the electric force between two stationary, electrically charged bodies has much the same mathematical form as Newton's law of universal gravitation: the force is proportional to the product of the charges, inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them, and directed along the straight line between them. The Coulomb force that a charge $q_1$ exerts upon a charge $q_2$ is equal in magnitude to the force that $q_2$ exerts upon $q_1$, and it points in the exact opposite direction. Coulomb's law is thus consistent with Newton's third law. Electromagnetism treats forces as produced by ''fields'' acting upon charges. The
Lorentz force law Lorentz is a name derived from the Roman surname, Laurentius (disambiguation), Laurentius, which means "from Laurentum". It is the German form of Laurence. Notable people with the name include: Given name * Lorentz Aspen (born 1978), Norwegian he ...
provides an expression for the force upon a charged body that can be plugged into Newton's second law in order to calculate its acceleration. According to the Lorentz force law, a charged body in an electric field experiences a force in the direction of that field, a force proportional to its charge $q$ and to the strength of the electric field. In addition, a ''moving'' charged body in a magnetic field experiences a force that is also proportional to its charge, in a direction perpendicular to both the field and the body's direction of motion. Using the vector
cross product In mathematics, the cross product or vector product (occasionally directed area product, to emphasize its geometric significance) is a binary operation on two Euclidean vector, vectors in a three-dimensional Orientation (vector space), oriented E ...
,$\vec = q \vec + q \vec \times \vec.$ If the electric field vanishes ($\vec = 0$), then the force will be perpendicular to the charge's motion, just as in the case of uniform circular motion studied above, and the charge will circle (or more generally move in a
helix A helix () is a shape like a corkscrew or spiral staircase. It is a type of smoothness (mathematics), smooth space curve with tangent lines at a constant angle to a fixed axis. Helices are important in biology, as the DNA molecule is formed as ...
) around the magnetic field lines at the
cyclotron frequency Cyclotron resonance describes the interaction of external forces with charged particles experiencing a magnetic field, thus already moving on a circular path. It is named after the cyclotron, a cyclic particle accelerator that utilizes an oscillati ...
$\omega = qB/m$.
Mass spectrometry Mass spectrometry (MS) is an analytical technique that is used to measure the mass-to-charge ratio of ions. The results are presented as a ''mass spectrum'', a plot of intensity as a function of the mass-to-charge ratio. Mass spectrometry is us ...
works by applying electric and/or magnetic fields to moving charges and measuring the resulting acceleration, which by the Lorentz force law yields the
mass-to-charge ratio The mass-to-charge ratio (''m''/''Q'') is a physical quantity Ratio, relating the ''mass'' (quantity of matter) and the ''electric charge'' of a given particle, expressed in Physical unit, units of kilograms per coulomb (kg/C). It is most widely ...
. Collections of charged bodies do not always obey Newton's third law: there can be a change of one body's momentum without a compensatory change in the momentum of another. The discrepancy is accounted for by momentum carried by the electromagnetic field itself. The momentum per unit volume of the electromagnetic field is proportional to the
Poynting vector In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical scienc ...
. There is subtle conceptual conflict between electromagnetism and Newton's first law: Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism predicts that electromagnetic waves will travel through empty space at a constant, definite speed. Thus, some inertial observers seemingly have a privileged status over the others, namely those who measure the
speed of light The speed of light in vacuum, commonly denoted , is a universal physical constant that is important in many areas of physics. The speed of light is exactly equal to ). According to the special relativity, special theory of relativity, is ...
and find it to be the value predicted by the Maxwell equations. In other words, light provides an absolute standard for speed, yet the principle of inertia holds that there should be no such standard. This tension is resolved in the theory of special relativity, which revises the notions of ''space'' and ''time'' in such a way that all inertial observers will agree upon the speed of light in vacuum.

## Special relativity

In special relativity, the rule that Wilczek called "Newton's Zeroth Law" breaks down: the mass of a composite object is not merely the sum of the masses of the individual pieces. Newton's first law, inertial motion, remains true. A form of Newton's second law, that force is the rate of change of momentum, also holds, as does the conservation of momentum. However, the definition of momentum is modified. Among the consequences of this is the fact that the more quickly a body moves, the harder it is to accelerate, and so, no matter how much force is applied, a body cannot be accelerated to the speed of light. Depending on the problem at hand, momentum in special relativity can be represented as a three-dimensional vector, $\vec = m\gamma \vec$, where $m$ is the body's
rest mass The invariant mass, rest mass, intrinsic mass, proper mass, or in the case of bound systems simply mass, is the portion of the total mass of an object or system A system is a group of interacting or interrelated elements that act according ...
and $\gamma$ is the
Lorentz factor The Lorentz factor or Lorentz term is a quantity (physics), quantity expressing how much the measurements of time, length, and other physical properties change for an object while that object is moving. The expression appears in several equations ...
, which depends upon the body's speed. Alternatively, momentum and force can be represented as
four-vector In special relativity, a four-vector (or 4-vector) is an object with four components, which transform in a specific way under Lorentz transformations. Specifically, a four-vector is an element of a four-dimensional vector space considered as a r ...
s. Newtonian mechanics is a good approximation to special relativity when the speeds involved are small compared to that of light.

## General relativity

General relativity General relativity, also known as the general theory of relativity and Einstein's theory of gravity, is the differential geometry, geometric scientific theory, theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1915 and is the current descr ...
is theory of gravity that advances beyond that of Newton. In general relativity, gravitational force is reimagined as curvature of
spacetime In physics, spacetime is a mathematical model that combines the three-dimensional space, three dimensions of space and one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional manifold. Minkowski diagram, Spacetime diagrams can be used to visualize S ...
. A curved path like an orbit is not the result of a force deflecting a body from an ideal straight-line path, but rather the body's attempt to fall freely through a background that is itself curved by the presence of other masses. A remark by
John Archibald Wheeler John Archibald Wheeler (July 9, 1911April 13, 2008) was an American theoretical physicist. He was largely responsible for reviving interest in general relativity in the United States after World War II. Wheeler also worked with Niels Bohr in e ...
that has become proverbial among physicists summarizes the theory: "Spacetime tells matter how to move; matter tells spacetime how to curve." Wheeler himself thought of this reciprocal relationship as a modern, generalized form of Newton's third law. The relation between matter distribution and spacetime curvature is given by the
Einstein field equations In the General relativity, general theory of relativity, the Einstein field equations (EFE; also known as Einstein's equations) relate the geometry of spacetime to the distribution of Matter#In general relativity and cosmology, matter within it ...
, which require tensor calculus to express. The Newtonian theory of gravity is a good approximation to the predictions of general relativity when gravitational effects are weak and objects are moving slowly compared to the speed of light.

## Quantum mechanics

Quantum mechanics Quantum mechanics is a fundamental Scientific theory, theory in physics that provides a description of the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. It is the foundation of all quantum physics including qua ...
is a theory of physics originally developed in order to understand microscopic phenomena: behavior at the scale of molecules, atoms or subatomic particles. Generally and loosely speaking, the smaller a system is, the more an adequate mathematical model will require understanding quantum effects. The conceptual underpinning of quantum physics is very different from that of classical physics. Instead of thinking about quantities like position, momentum, and energy as properties that an object ''has'', one considers what result might ''appear'' when a
measurement Measurement is the quantification (science), quantification of variable and attribute (research), attributes of an object or event, which can be used to compare with other objects or events. In other words, measurement is a process of determi ...
of a chosen type is performed. Quantum mechanics allows the physicist to calculate the probability that a chosen measurement will elicit a particular result. The
expectation value In probability theory, the expected value (also called expectation, expectancy, mathematical expectation, mean, average, or first moment) is a generalization of the weighted average. Informally, the expected value is the arithmetic mean of a l ...
for a measurement is the average of the possible results it might yield, weighted by their probabilities of occurrence. The
Ehrenfest theorem The Ehrenfest theorem, named after Paul Ehrenfest Paul Ehrenfest (18 January 1880 – 25 September 1933) was an Austrian theoretical physicist, who made major contributions to the field of statistical mechanics and its relations with quantum phy ...
provides a connection between quantum expectation values and Newton's second law, a connection that is necessarily inexact, as quantum physics is fundamentally different from classical. In quantum physics, position and momentum are represented by mathematical entities known as
Hermitian operator In mathematics, a self-adjoint operator on an infinite-dimensional complex vector space ''V'' with inner product \langle\cdot,\cdot\rangle (equivalently, a Hermitian operator in the finite-dimensional case) is a linear map ''A'' (from ''V'' to itse ...
s, and the
Born rule The Born rule (also called Born's rule) is a key postulate of quantum mechanics which gives the probability that a measurement of a quantum system will yield a given result. In its simplest form, it states that the probability density of fin ...
is used to calculate the expectation values of a position measurement or a momentum measurement. These expectation values will generally change over time; that is, depending on the time at which (for example) a position measurement is performed, the probabilities for its different possible outcomes will vary. The Ehrenfest theorem says, roughly speaking, that the equations describing how these expectation values change over time have a form reminiscent of Newton's second law. However, the more pronounced quantum effects are in a given situation, the more difficult it is to derive meaningful conclusions from this resemblance.

# History

The concepts invoked in Newton's laws of motion — mass, velocity, momentum, force — have predecessors in earlier work, and the content of Newtonian physics was further developed after Newton's time. Newton combined knowledge of celestial motions with the study of events on Earth and showed that one theory of mechanics could encompass both.

## Antiquity and medieval background

The subject of physics is often traced back to
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Peripatet ...
; however, the history of the concepts involved is obscured by multiple factors. An exact correspondence between Aristotelian and modern concepts is not simple to establish: Aristotle did not clearly distinguish what we would call speed and force, and he used the same term for
density Density (volumetric mass density or specific mass) is the substance's mass per unit of volume. The symbol most often used for density is ''ρ'' (the lower case Greek language, Greek letter Rho (letter), rho), although the Latin letter ''D'' ca ...
and
viscosity The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its drag (physics), resistance to deformation at a given rate. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal concept of "thickness": for example, syrup has a higher viscosity than water. Viscosity quant ...
; he conceived of motion as always through a medium, rather than through space. In addition, some concepts often termed "Aristotelian" might better be attributed to his followers and commentators upon him. These commentators found that Aristotelian physics had difficulty explaining projectile motion. Aristotle divided motion into two types: "natural" and "violent". The "natural" motion of terrestrial solid matter was to fall downwards, whereas a "violent" motion could push a body sideways. Moreover, in Aristotelian physics, a "violent" motion requires an immediate cause; separated from the cause of its "violent" motion, a body would revert to its "natural" behavior. Yet a javelin continues moving after it leaves the hand of its thrower. Aristotle concluded that the air around the javelin must be imparted with the ability to move the javelin forward.
John Philoponus John Philoponus (Greek language, Greek: ; ; c. 490 – c. 570), also known as John the Grammarian or John of Alexandria, was a Byzantine Greek philologist, commentaries on Aristotle, Aristotelian commentator, Christian theology, Christian theologi ...
, a
Byzantine Greek Medieval Greek (also known as Middle Greek, Byzantine Greek, or Romaic) is the stage of the Greek language between the end of classical antiquity in the 5th–6th centuries and the end of the Middle Ages, conventionally dated to the Fall of Co ...
thinker active during the sixth century, found this absurd: the same medium, air, was somehow responsible both for sustaining motion and for impeding it. If Aristotle's idea were true, Philoponus said, armies would launch weapons by blowing upon them with bellows. Philoponus argued that setting a body into motion imparted a quality, impetus, that would be contained within the body itself. As long as its impetus was sustained, the body would continue to move. In the following centuries, versions of impetus theory were advanced by individuals including Nur ad-Din al-Bitruji,
Avicenna Ibn Sina ( fa, ابن سینا; 980 – June 1037 CE), commonly known in the West as Avicenna (), was a Persians, Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, philosophers, and writers of the ...
, Abu'l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī,
John Buridan Jean Buridan (; Latin: ''Johannes Buridanus''; – ) was an influential 14th-century French people, French Philosophy, philosopher. Buridan was a teacher in the Faculty (division)#Faculty of Art, faculty of arts at the University of Paris for hi ...
, and Albert of Saxony. In retrospect, the idea of impetus can be seen as a forerunner of the modern concept of momentum. (The intuition that objects move according to some kind of impetus persists in many students of introductory physics.)

## Inertia and the first law

The modern concept of inertia is credited to
Galileo Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Commonly referred to as Galileo, his name was pronounced (, ). He was ...
. Based on his experiments, Galileo concluded that the "natural" behavior of a moving body was to keep moving, until something else interfered with it. Galileo recognized that in projectile motion, the Earth's gravity affects vertical but not horizontal motion. However, Galileo's idea of inertia was not exactly the one that would be codified into Newton's first law. Galileo thought that a body moving a long distance inertially would follow the curve of the Earth. This idea was corrected by Isaac Beeckman,
René Descartes René Descartes ( or ; ; Latinisation of names, Latinized: Renatus Cartesius; 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French people, French philosopher, scientist, and mathematician, widely considered a seminal figure in the emergence of m ...
, and
Pierre Gassendi Pierre Gassendi (; also Pierre Gassend, Petrus Gassendi; 22 January 1592 – 24 October 1655) was a French philosopher A philosopher is a person who practices or investigates philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized stu ...
, who recognized that inertial motion should be motion in a straight line.

## Force and the second law

Christiaan Huygens Christiaan Huygens, Lord of Zeelhem, ( , , ; also spelled Huyghens; la, Hugenius; 14 April 1629 – 8 July 1695) was a Dutch mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics in their work, typica ...
, in his ''
Horologium Oscillatorium (English language, English: ''The Pendulum Clock: or Geometrical Demonstrations Concerning the Motion of Pendula as Applied to Clocks'') is a book published by Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens in 1673 and his major work on pendulums and horol ...
'' (1673), put forth the hypothesis that "By the action of gravity, whatever its sources, it happens that bodies are moved by a motion composed both of a uniform motion in one direction or another and of a motion downward due to gravity." Newton's second law generalized this hypothesis from gravity to all forces. One important characteristic of Newtonian physics is that forces can act at a distance without requiring physical contact. For example, the Sun and the Earth pull on each other gravitationally, despite being separated by millions of kilometres. This contrasts with the idea, championed by Descartes among others, that the Sun's gravity held planets in orbit by swirling them in a vortex of transparent matter, '' aether''. Newton considered aetherial explanations of force but ultimately rejected them. The study of magnetism by William Gilbert and others created a precedent for thinking of ''immaterial'' forces, and unable to find a quantitatively satisfactory explanation of his law of gravity in terms of an aetherial model, Newton eventually declared, " I feign no hypotheses": whether or not a model like Descartes's vortices could be found to underlie the ''Principia'''s theories of motion and gravity, the first grounds for judging them must be the successful predictions they made. And indeed, since Newton's time every attempt at such a model has failed.

## Momentum conservation and the third law

Johannes Kepler Johannes Kepler (; ; 27 December 1571 – 15 November 1630) was a German astronomer, German mathematician, mathematician, astrologer, Natural philosophy, natural philosopher and writer on music. He is a key figure in the 17th-century Scienti ...
suggested that gravitational attractions were reciprocal — that, for example, the Moon pulls on the Earth while the Earth pulls on the Moon — but he did not argue that such pairs are equal and opposite. In his '' Principles of Philosophy'' (1644), Descartes introduced the idea that during a collision between bodies, a "quantity of motion" remains unchanged. Descartes defined this quantity somewhat imprecisely by adding up the products of the speed and "size" of each body, where "size" for him incorporated both volume and surface area. Moreover, Descartes thought of the universe as a
plenum Plenum may refer to: * Plenum chamber A plenum chamber is a pressurised housing containing a fluid (typically air) at positive pressure. One of its functions is to equalise pressure for more even distribution, compensating for irregular supply ...
, that is, filled with matter, so all motion required a body to displace a medium as it moved. During the 1650s, Huygens studied collisions between hard spheres and deduced a principle that is now identified as the conservation of momentum.
Christopher Wren Sir Christopher Wren President of the Royal Society, PRS Fellow of the Royal Society, FRS (; – ) was one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history, as well as an anatomist, astronomer, geometer, and mathematician-physicist. ...
would later deduce the same rules for elastic collisions that Huygens had, and
John Wallis John Wallis (; la, Wallisius; ) was an English clergyman and mathematician who is given partial credit for the development of infinitesimal calculus. Between 1643 and 1689 he served as chief cryptographer for Parliament of the United Kingdom, ...
would apply momentum conservation to study inelastic collisions. Newton cited the work of Huygens, Wren, and Wallis to support the validity of his third law. Newton arrived at his set of three laws incrementally. In a 1684 manuscript written to Huygens, he listed four laws: the principle of inertia, the change of motion by force, a statement about relative motion that would today be called
Galilean invariance Galilean invariance or Galilean relativity states that the laws of motion are the same in all inertial frames of reference In classical physics and special relativity, an inertial frame of reference (also called inertial reference frame, i ...
, and the rule that interactions between bodies do not change the motion of their center of mass. In a later manuscript, Newton added a law of action and reaction, while saying that this law and the law regarding the center of mass implied one another. Newton probably settled on the presentation in the ''Principia,'' with three primary laws and then other statements reduced to corollaries, during 1685.

## After the ''Principia''

Newton expressed his second law by saying that the force on a body is proportional to its change of motion, or momentum. By the time he wrote the ''Principia,'' he had already developed calculus (which he called " the science of fluxions"), but in the ''Principia'' he made no explicit use of it, perhaps because he believed geometrical arguments in the tradition of
Euclid Euclid (; grc-gre, Wikt:Εὐκλείδης, Εὐκλείδης; BC) was an ancient Greek mathematician active as a geometer and logician. Considered the "father of geometry", he is chiefly known for the ''Euclid's Elements, Elements'' trea ...
to be more rigorous. Consequently, the ''Principia'' does not express acceleration as the second derivative of position, and so it does not give the second law as $F = ma$. This form of the second law was written (for the special case of constant force) at least as early as 1716, by
Jakob Hermann Jakob Hermann (16 July 1678 – 11 July 1733) was a mathematician who worked on problems in classical mechanics. He is the author of ''Phoronomia'', an early treatise on Mechanics in Latin, which has been translated by Ian Bruce in 2015-16. In 172 ...
;
Leonhard Euler Leonhard Euler ( , ; 15 April 170718 September 1783) was a Swiss mathematician, physicist, astronomer, geographer, logician and engineer who founded the studies of graph theory and topology and made pioneering and influential discoveries in ma ...
would employ it as a basic premise in the 1740s. Euler pioneered the study of rigid bodies and established the basic theory of fluid dynamics.
Pierre-Simon Laplace Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace (; ; 23 March 1749 – 5 March 1827) was a French scholar and polymath whose work was important to the development of engineering, mathematics, statistics, physics, astronomy, and philosophy. He summarized ...
's five-volume '' Traité de mécanique céleste'' (1798–1825) forsook geometry and developed mechanics purely through algebraic expressions, while resolving questions that the ''Principia'' had left open, like a full theory of the
tides Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravity, gravitational forces exerted by the Moon (and to a much lesser extent, the Sun) and are also caused by the Earth and Moon orbiting one another. Tide t ...
. The concept of energy became a key part of Newtonian mechanics in the post-Newton period. Huygens' solution of the collision of hard spheres showed that in that case, not only is momentum conserved, but kinetic energy is as well (or, rather, a quantity that in retrospect we can identify as one-half the total kinetic energy). The question of what is conserved during all other processes, like inelastic collisions and motion slowed by friction, was not resolved until the 19th century. Debates on this topic overlapped with philosophical disputes between the metaphysical views of Newton and Leibniz, and variants of the term "force" were sometimes used to denote what we would call types of energy. For example, in 1742, Émilie du Châtelet wrote, "Dead force consists of a simple tendency to motion: such is that of a spring ready to relax; living force is that which a body has when it is in actual motion." In modern terminology, "dead force" and "living force" correspond to potential energy and kinetic energy respectively. Conservation of energy was not established as a universal principle until it was understood that the energy of mechanical work can be dissipated into heat. With the concept of energy given a solid grounding, Newton's laws could then be derived within formulations of classical mechanics that put energy first, as in the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations described above. Modern presentations of Newton's laws use the mathematics of vectors, a topic that was not developed until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Vector algebra, pioneered by
Josiah Willard Gibbs Josiah Willard Gibbs (; February 11, 1839 – April 28, 1903) was an American scientist who made significant theoretical contributions to physics, chemistry, and mathematics. His work on the applications of thermodynamics was instrumental in t ...
and
Oliver Heaviside Oliver Heaviside Fellow of the Royal Society, FRS (; 18 May 1850 – 3 February 1925) was an English Autodidacticism, self-taught mathematician and physicist who invented a new technique for solving differential equations (equivalent to the La ...
, stemmed from and largely supplanted the earlier system of
quaternions In mathematics, the quaternion number system extends the complex numbers. Quaternions were first described by the Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton in 1843 and applied to mechanics in three-dimensional space. Hamilton defined a quatern ...
invented by
William Rowan Hamilton Sir William Rowan Hamilton Doctor of Law, LL.D, Doctor of Civil Law, DCL, Royal Irish Academy, MRIA, Royal Astronomical Society#Fellow, FRAS (3/4 August 1805 – 2 September 1865) was an Irish mathematician, astronomer, and physicist. He was the ...
.