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Motion Laws

Newton's laws of motion

(Three Laws of Motion created by God and discovered by Isaac Newton.)

Newton's First and Second laws, in Latin, from the original 1687 edition of the Principia Mathematica.

Newton's laws of motion are three physical laws that form the basis for classical mechanics. They describe the relationship between the forces acting on a body and its motion due to those forces. They have been expressed in several different ways over nearly three centuries, and can be summarised as follows:

  1. First Law: Every body will persist in its state of rest or of uniform motion (constant velocity) in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it. This means that in the absence of a non-zero net force, the center of mass of a body either is at rest or moves at a constant velocity.
  2. Second Law: A body of mass m subject to a force F undergoes an acceleration a that has the same direction as the force and a magnitude that is directly proportional to the force and inversely proportional to the mass, i.e., F = ma. Alternatively, the total force applied on a body is equal to the time derivative of linear momentum of the body.
  3. Third Law: The mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear. This means that whenever a first body exerts a force F on a second body, the second body exerts a force −F on the first body. F and −F are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. This law is sometimes referred to as the action-reaction law, with F called the "action" and −F the "reaction".

The laws of motion were first compiled by Sir Isaac Newton in his work Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, first published on July 5, 1687. Newton used them to explain and investigate the motion of many physical objects and systems. For example, in the third volume of the text, Newton showed that these laws of motion, combined with his law of universal gravitation, explained Kepler's laws of planetary motion.

Newton's laws are applied to bodies (objects) which are considered or idealized as a particle, in the sense that the extent of the body is neglected in the evaluation of its motion, i.e., the object is small compared to the distances involved in the analysis, or the deformation and rotation of the body is of no importance in the analysis. Therefore, a planet can be idealized as a particle for analysis of its orbital motion around a star.

In their original form, Newton's laws of motion are not adequate to characterize the motion of rigid bodies and deformable bodies. Leonard Eulr in 1750 introduced a generalization of Newton's laws of motion for rigid bodies called the Euler's laws of motion, later applied as well for deformable bodies assumed as a continuum. If a body is represented as an assemblage of discrete particles, each governed by Newton’s laws of motion, then Euler’s laws can be derived from Newton’s laws. Euler’s laws can, however, be taken as axioms describing the laws of motion for extended bodies, independently of any particle structure.

Newton's Laws hold only with respect to a certain set of frames of reference called Newtonian or inertial reference frames. Some authors interpret the first law as defining what an inertial reference frame is; from this point of view, the second law only holds when the observation is made from an inertial reference frame, and therefore the first law cannot be proved as a special case of the second. Other authors do treat the first law as a corollary of the second. The explicit concept of an inertial frame of reference was not developed until long after Newton's death.

In the given interpretation mass, acceleration, momentum, and (most importantly) force are assumed to be externally defined quantities. This is the most common, but not the only interpretation: one can consider the laws to be a definition of these quantities.

At speeds approaching the speed of light the effects of special relativity must be taken into account.