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Calculating Acceleration from Force and Mass

The acceleration of an object equals the net force acting on it divided by its mass.

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A Professional Racer's Journey

What do you say when you go to a car dealer?

License: CC BY-NC 3.0

You talking to a sales representative at a car dealer. [Figure1]

Newton’s second law relates net force, acceleration, and mass. It shows how the net force on any object depends on its acceleration and its mass, given the formula below:

Fnet = ma

However, the original formula itself functions primarily to find the net force on an object. Here, we would have to be given both the mass and acceleration. But what if you know the net force and mass, and you are trying to find out about the acceleration?

We are able to transform the equation as shown below:

Fnet = ma

Fnet / m = ma / m

a = Fnet / m

In the new equation, we are able to solve for the acceleration of the object, given that we know the net force exerted on the object and the object’s mass.

You are a professional race car driver trying purchase a new race car since you crashed your old one. However, the problem is that you have to decide which one to buy. You want to ensure that you will not only win the next race but also set a new personal record. Thus, you ask the car dealer regarding various vehicles' engine power and mass.

Creative Applications

1. Why is it important that you ask for information regarding engine power?

2. How would you decide which car to buy?

3. Calculate the acceleration of a race car given that the engine can supply a force of 5000 N and 500 kg.

4. Why do you think velocity doesn't play as much of a role as acceleration?

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  1. [1]^ License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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