Although gravitation is no longer on the AAMC's list for the new MCAT, the comparison and contrast of gravitational force with electrostatic force is so helpful to understanding that the subject remains as a supplemental chapter in this course. Both electrostatic force and gravitation are inverse square law forces. There are many important similarities in problem solving between gravitation and the electrostatic force. Learning a bit about gravitation will lay some important groundwork for understanding and modelling force and energy relationships. For many students, this will make electrostatics more accessible.
WikiPremed Resources
Gravitation Cards
Conceptual Vocabulary Self-Test
Basic Terms Crossword Puzzle
Basic Puzzle Solution
Conceptual Vocabulary for Gravitation
Gravitation is a natural phenomenon by which all objects with mass attract each other.
Tides are the cyclic rising and falling of Earth's ocean surface caused by the tidal forces of the Moon and the Sun acting on the oceans.
The center of mass of a system of particles is a specific point at which, for many purposes, the system's mass behaves as if it were concentrated.
The gravitational field around a single particle in classical mechanics is a vector field pointing directly towards the particle giving the magnitude of the force per unit mass for the array of points in space.
A orbit is the path that an object makes around another object while under the influence of a centripetal force such as gravity.
Escape velocity is the speed where the kinetic energy of an object is equal in magnitude to its potential energy in a gravitational field.
General relativity is the geometrical theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1915-16 unifying special relativity and Newton's law of universal gravitation.
Standard gravity is the nominal acceleration due to gravity at the Earth's surface at sea level.
The gravitational binding energy of an object consisting of loose material, held together by gravity alone, is the amount of energy required to pull all of the material apart, to infinity.
An inverse-square law is any physical law stating that some physical quantity or strength decreases proportional to the square of the distance from the source of that physical quantity.
The Cavendish experiment, performed in 1797 - 1798, was the first experiment to measure the force of gravity between laboratory masses.
The orbital period is the time it takes a planet (or another object) to make one full orbit.
A geosynchronous satellite is a satellite whose orbital track on the Earth repeats regularly over points on the Earth over time.
A geosynchronous orbit is an orbit around the Earth with an orbital period matching the Earth's sidereal rotation period.
A geostationary orbit is a geosynchronous orbit directly above the Earth's equator, with orbital eccentricity of zero. From the ground, such an object appears motionless in the sky.
A circular orbit is an elliptic orbit with the eccentricity equal to zero.
An ellipse is the locus of points on a plane where the sum of the distances from any point on the curve to two fixed points is constant.
The astronomical unit is a unit of length nearly equal to the semi-major axis of Earth's orbit around the Sun.
Perigee is the point at which an object in orbit around the Earth makes its closest approach to the Earth.
Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630) was a German mathematician whose primary contributions to astronomy and astrophysics were his three laws of planetary motion.
Perturbation is a term used in astronomy to describe alterations to an object's orbit caused by gravitational interactions with other bodies.
An apsis is the point of greatest or least distance of the elliptical orbit of an astronomical object from its center of attraction.
Heliocentrism is the theory that the sun is at the centre of the Universe and/or the Solar System.
A low Earth orbit is generally defined as an orbit within the locus extending from the Earth's surface up to an altitude of 2,000 km.
The specific orbital energy of an orbiting body traveling through space is the sum of its potential energy and kinetic energy per unit mass.
The standard gravitational parameter of a celestial body is the product of the gravitational constant and the mass.
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