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Velocity

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This article has been reviewed by the following Topic Editor: Peter Saundry

In physics, velocity is the rate of change rate of change of position. Since velocity is a vector physical quantity; both magnitude and direction are required to define it. Specifically velocity is the first derivative of spatial location with respect to the variable of time. The absolute value (magnitude) of velocity is speed, a quantity that is measured in meters per second (m/s or ms−1) when using the SI (metric) system.

For example, "five meters per second" is a scalar and not a vector, whereas "five meters per second east" is a vector. The average velocity v of an object moving through a displacement, , during a time interval, , is described by the formula:

The rate of change of velocity is acceleration, the way an object's speed or direction changes over time, or in strict mathematical terms the first derivative with respect to time.

The instantaneous velocity vector v of an object that has positions x(t) at time t and x ) at time , can be computed as the derivative of position:

The equation for an object's velocity can be obtained mathematically by evaluating the integral of the equation for its acceleration beginning from some initial period time t 0 to some point in time later Tn.

The final velocity v of an object which starts with velocity u and then accelerates at constant acceleration a for a period of time Δt is:

The average velocity of an object undergoing constant acceleration is (u + v) ÷ 2, where u is the initial velocity and v is the final velocity. To find the position, x, of such an accelerating object during a time interval, Δt, then:

When only the object's initial velocity is known, the expression,

can be used.

This can be expanded to give the position at any time t in the following way:

These basic equations for final velocity and position can be combined to form an equation that is independent of time, also known as Torricelli's equation:

The above equations are valid for both Newtonian mechanics and special relativity. Where Newtonian mechanics and special relativity differ is in how different observers would describe the same situation. In particular, in Newtonian mechanics, all observers agree on the value of t and the transformation rules for position create a situation in which all non-accelerating observers would describe the acceleration of an object with the same values. Neither is true for special relativity. In other words only relative velocity can be calculated.

Kinetic energy (energy of motion, a scalar quantity), EK, of a moving object (in classical mechanics) is given by

Escape velocity is the minimum velocity(11 km/s) a body must have in order to escape from the gravitational field of the earth. To escape from the Earth's gravitational field an object must have greater kinetic energy than its gravitational potential energy. The value of the escape velocity from the Earth's surface is approximately 11,100 meters/sec.

Relative velocity is a measurement of velocity between two objects as determined in a single coordinate system. Relative velocity is fundamental in both classical and modern physics, since many systems in physics deal with the relative motion of two or more particles. In Newtonian mechanics, the relative velocity is independent of the chosen inertial reference frame. This is not the case anymore with special relativity in which velocities depend on the choice of reference frame.

If an object A is moving with velocity vector v and an object B with velocity vector w, then the velocity of object A relative to object B is defined as the difference of the two velocity vectors:

Usually the inertial frame is chosen in which the latter of the two mentioned objects is in rest.

In polar coordinates, a two-dimensional velocity is described by a radial velocity, defined as the component of velocity away from or toward the origin, and an angular velocity, which is the rate of rotation about the origin (with positive quantities representing counter-clockwise rotation and negative quantities representing clockwise rotation, in a right-handed coordinate system).

The radial and angular velocities can be derived from the Cartesian velocity and displacement vectors by decomposing the velocity vector into radial and transverse components. The transverse velocity is the component of velocity along a circle centered at the origin.

where VT is the transverse velocity and VR is the radial velocity

The magnitude of the radial velocity is the dot product of the velocity vector and the unit vector in the direction of the displacement.

where r is the displacement.

The magnitude of the transverse velocity is that of the cross product of the unit vector in the direction of the displacement and the velocity vector. It is also the product of the angular speed ω and the magnitude of the displacement.

such that

Angular momentum in scalar form is given by:

where m is mass and r the distance to the origin. The sign convention for angular momentum is the same as that for angular velocity.

The expression mr 2 is known as moment of inertia. If forces are in the radial direction only with an inverse square dependence, as in the case of a gravitational orbit, angular momentum is constant, and transverse speed is inversely proportional to the distance, angular speed is inversely proportional to the distance squared, and the rate at which area is swept out is constant. These relations are known as Kepler's laws of planetary motion.

• David Halliday, Robert Resnick, Jearl Walker. 2010. Fundamentals of Physics. 1136 pages
• Robert Resnick and Jearl Walker, Fundamentals of Physics, Wiley; 7 Sub edition (June 16, 2004). ISBN 0471232319.
• Physicsclassroom.com, Speed and Velocity
• Introduction to Mechanisms (Carnegie Mellon University)

Citation

Milton Beychok (Contributing Author);Wikipedia (Content Source);Peter Saundry (Topic Editor) "Velocity". In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment). [First published in the Encyclopedia of Earth April 11, 2010; Last revised Date September 28, 2011; Retrieved May 23, 2013 <http://www.eoearth.org/article/Velocity?topic=49549>