Physics 1

Unit 5: The Conservation of Momentum

The term "momentum" is commonly used to describe which team or player seems to have the upper hand in a game.  It could be baseball, football, tennis, or basketball. When things are "clicking", the team is said to have the momentum. But like many scientific terms, momentum (as a measurement of something) is not loosley defined like that. In physics, momentum is a strictly defined vector quantity that carries no ambiguity within a specific frame of reference. Newton called it "the quantity of motion" and expressed how a change in it can only be caused by a force external to the system of particles under consideration. In this unit, we will find out not only how to determine the momentum of a system, but also how common everyday experiences like collisions and explosions can be understood by considering its conservation. From billiard balls to firecrackers, momentum is a key concept used to understand the behavior of a physical system. So the momentum of your studying will now be swinging toward the second of the great conservation laws: The Conservation of Momentum.

Suggested timeframe: 3 weeks

Big Ideas:
•Physical systems (that may have internal structure) and objects (that do not have internal structure) can be characterized by certain properties.
•The concept of force can be used to describe the interactions between objects in systems or between systems themselves.
•Systems can change due to interactions with other systems.
•Laws of conservation of certain properties of systems restrict the manner in which systems can change due to interactions.

*The "AP" designation is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, products sold on this website.