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Friday, March 12, 2010

Rotational Motion - New Concepts

For the 3 Chem-Phys sections, we are into rotational motion. This is typically a challenging topic because it is brand new. Keep in mind what makes it new revolves (ha, ha) around 3 new concepts:
- Torque
- Moment of inertia
- Angular momentum

Torques are produced by forces, and specifically those forces that cause a change in rotational motion. In other words, torques produce angular accelerations (analogous to forces causing linear accelerations). Mathematically, individual forces cause a torque = F(r)[sin(theta)]. Torque is a cross product vector, t = r x F.

Moment of inertia is analogous to mass in linear motion. It is a 'resistance to a change in rotational motion.' The higher the inertia, the smaller the angular acceleration from the same torque. Together, torque, t, and moment of inertia, I, are related through the 2nd law for rotations:
t = I(alpha)

The moment of inertia has units of kg m^2, and numerically tells us about the distribution of mass about the axis of rotation of the object or system.

Angular momentum, L, is also a cross product vector, L = r x p. The direction is found with the curly RHR, as we do in class. Remember the conservation of linear momentum? Momentum is conserved for a system if no external forces act on the system. Here is the analogy: angular momentum is conserved for a system if there is no external torques acting on the system. Individual objects can have angular impulse in collisions, but for the system it is conserved. We will get into this in a big way, and I'll soon have some how to videos up for rotations.

Let's have some fun with it!

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