The final mathematical quantity discussed in Lesson 1 is acceleration. An often confused quantity, acceleration has a meaning much different than the meaning associated with it by sports announcers and other individuals. The definition of acceleration is:

· **Acceleration** is a vector quantity that is defined as the rate at which an object changes its velocity. An object is accelerating if it is changing its velocity.

Sports announcers will occasionally say that a person is accelerating if he/she is moving fast. Yet acceleration has nothing to do with going fast. A person can be moving very fast and still not be accelerating. Acceleration has to do with changing how fast an object is moving. If an object is not changing its velocity, then the object is not accelerating. The data at the right are representative of a northward-moving accelerating object. The velocity is changing over the course of time. In fact, the velocity is changing by a constant amount – 10 m/s – in each second of time. Anytime an object’s velocity is changing, the object is said to be accelerating; it has an acceleration.

Comments are closed.