Earlier in Kinematics, we described motion in terms of displacement, velocity, and acceleration. Now in Newton's Laws, we describe the changes that occur to the motion of material bodies in terms of force and mass. Force is the cause of acceleration. Make sure you can reproduce the outline at left from memory. Organizing your knowledge base will help retention, conceptual understanding, and self-assessment.
In teaching my course over the years, I have often been asked by students the relative importance of different topics for the MCAT. Although an opinion in terms of the explicit distribution of questions can be fairly straightforward, my answers would tend to go into somewhat greater depth because there is often more to the answer than simply 'what will be on the test'. With regard to the topics of fundamental mechanics, while the basic concepts and classic model problems do directly appear with good frequency on the MCAT, the concepts appear, even more so, indirectly as underpinnings of almost everything else in science. With regard to Newton's Laws, for the MCAT itself, there is the fundamental core you need to come to know intuitively. You need to habitually associate net force with acceleration, for example, or be able to unpack the inclined plane or distinguish kinetic and static friction. But don't leave it at that. Take time and step back. In learning mechanics you are building a foundation for understanding all science.
Newton's Laws Cards
Conceptual Vocabulary Self-Test
Basic Terms Crossword Puzzle
Basic Puzzle Solution
Conceptual Vocabulary for Dynamics
Force is anything that can cause a massive body to accelerate. It may be experienced as a lift, a push, or a pull.
Mass is a fundamental concept in physics, roughly corresponding to the intuitive idea of how much matter there is in an object.
Dynamics is the branch of classical mechanics that is concerned with the effects of forces on the motion of objects.
Sir Isaac Newton was an English scientist whose treatise Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion.
Galileo Galilei was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who achieved the first systematic studies of uniformly accelerated motion, improved the telescope and supported Copernicanism.
Weight is a measurement of the gravitational force acting on an object.
Newton's laws of motion are three physical laws which provide relationships between the forces acting on a body and its movement through space.
The centripetal force is the external force required to make a body follow a circular path at constant speed. The force is directed inward, toward the center of the circle.
Friction is the force that opposes the relative motion or tendency toward such motion of two surfaces in contact.
The coefficient of friction is a dimensionless quantity used to calculate the force of friction (static or kinetic).
The normal force is the component, perpendicular to the surface of contact, of the contact force exerted by the surface.
A contact force is a force between two objects that are touching each other.
The newton is the SI derived unit of force.
Inertia is the property of an object to remain at constant velocity unless acted upon by an outside force.
A resultant or net force is a vector produced when two or more forces act upon a single object.
Newton's third law states that forces occur in pairs, one called the action and the other the reaction.
A fundamental force or interaction is a mechanism by which particles interact with each other and which cannot be explained in terms of another interaction.
Sliding friction is when two solid surfaces slide against each other.
An inertial frame of reference is one in which Newton's first and second laws of motion are valid, ie. that is neither rotating nor accelerated.
Tension is a reaction force applied by a stretched string, rope or a similar object, upon the objects which stretch it.
Rolling resistance is the frictional resistance that occurs when an object rolls. It is usually much smaller than sliding friction.
The dyne is a unit of force specified in the centimeter-gram-second (cgs) system of units.
A fictitious force is an apparent force that acts on all masses in a non-inertial frame of reference arising from the acceleration of the non-inertial reference frame itself.
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