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The Elements of Relativity$
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David M. Wittman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199658633

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199658633.001.0001

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Acceleration and Force

Acceleration and Force

(p.13) 2 Acceleration and Force
The Elements of Relativity

David M. Wittman

Oxford University Press

This chapter develops crucial distinctions between constant‐velocity (also called inertial) frames of reference and accelerating ones. Inertial frames respect Newton’s first law—objects maintain constant velocity unless acted upon by a net force—while accelerating frames violate this law. Therefore, much of our thinking about whether the laws of physics are the same in all frames will really concern *inertial* frames. Newton’s first law gives us a foolproof test for distinguishing accelerating frames from inertial frames; this testworks even if velocitymeasurements are not directly available. We sometimes invent fictitious forces (such as “centrifugal force”) to explain the acceleration of free objects in accelerating frames, but we know how to determine that these are indeed fictitious.We also examine relationships between acceleration, force, andmass (Newton’s second law).We *define*mass as the ratio of force to acceleration, so mass represents a resistance to acceleration, or inertia.

Keywords:   Newton’s laws of motion, fictitious force, force, acceleration, mass, inertia, inertial frame

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