PHYS 2211 Module 4

4: Motion in Two and Three Dimensions

The Red Arrows is the aerobatics display team of Britain’s Royal Air Force. Based in Lincolnshire, England, they perform precision flying shows at high speeds, which requires accurate measurement of position, velocity, and acceleration in three dimensions. (credit: modification of work by Phil Long)

To give a complete description of kinematics, we must explore motion in two and three dimensions. After all, most objects in our universe do not move in straight lines; rather, they follow curved paths. From kicked footballs to the flight paths of birds to the orbital motions of celestial bodies and down to the flow of blood plasma in your veins, most motion follows curved trajectories.

Fortunately, the treatment of motion in one dimension in the previous module has given us a foundation on which to build, as the concepts of position, displacement, velocity, and acceleration defined in one dimension can be expanded to two and three dimensions. Consider the Red Arrows, also known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic team of the United Kingdom. Each jet follows a unique curved trajectory in three-dimensional airspace, as well as has a unique velocity and acceleration. Thus, to describe the motion of any of the jets accurately, we must assign to each jet a unique position vector in three dimensions as well as a unique velocity and acceleration vector. We can apply the same basic equations for displacement, velocity, and acceleration we derived in Motion Along a Straight Line to describe the motion of the jets in two and three dimensions, but with some modifications—in particular, the inclusion of vectors.

In this module we also explore two special types of motion in two dimensions: projectile motion and circular motion.  In the chapter-opening picture, each jet has a relative motion with respect to any other jet in the group or to the people observing the air show on the ground.

4.1 Displacement and Velocity Vectors

  • Calculate position vectors in a multidimensional displacement problem.
  • Solve for the displacement in two or three dimensions.
  • Calculate the velocity vector given the position vector as a function of time.
  • Calculate the average velocity in multiple dimensions.

4.2 Acceleration Vector

  • Calculate the acceleration vector given the velocity function in unit vector notation.
  • Describe the motion of a particle with a constant acceleration in three dimensions.
  • Use the one-dimensional motion equations along perpendicular axes to solve a problem in two or three dimensions with a constant acceleration.
  • Express the acceleration in unit vector notation.

4.3 Projectile Motion

  • Use one-dimensional motion in perpendicular directions to analyze projectile motion.
  • Calculate the range, time of flight, and maximum height of a projectile that is launched and impacts a flat, horizontal surface.
  • Find the time of flight and impact velocity of a projectile that lands at a different height from that of launch.
  • Calculate the trajectory of a projectile.

Projectile Motion Simulation

4.4 Uniform Circular Motion

  • Solve for the centripetal acceleration of an object moving on a circular path.
  • Use the equations of circular motion to find the position, velocity, and acceleration of a particle executing circular motion.
  • Explain the differences between centripetal acceleration and tangential acceleration resulting from non-uniform circular motion.
  • Evaluate centripetal and tangential acceleration in non-uniform circular motion, and find the total acceleration vector.

Module 4 Class Activities

Module 4 Self Assessment Practice Problems