LAWS OF MOTION
Each and every object in the universe interacts with every other object. The cool breeze interacts with the tree. The tree interacts with the Earth. In fact, all species interact with nature. But, what is the difference between a human’s interaction with nature and that of an animal’s. Human’s interaction has one extra quality. We not only interact with nature but also try to understand and explain natural phenomena scientifically.
In the history of mankind, the most curiosity driven scientific question asked was about motion of objects-‘How things move?’ and ‘Why things move?’ Surprisingly, these simple questions have paved the way for development from early civilization to the modern technological era of the 21st century.
Objects move because something pushes or pulls them. For example, if a book is at rest, it will not move unless a force is applied on it. In other words, to move an object a force must be applied on it. About 2500 years ago, the famous philosopher, Aristotle, said that ‘Force causes motion’. This statement is based on common sense. But any scientific answer cannot be based on common sense. It must be endorsed with quantitative experimental proof.
In the 15th century, Galileo challenged Aristotle’s idea by doing a series of experiments. He said force is not required to maintain motion.
Galileo demonstrated his own idea using the following simple experiment. When a ball rolls from the top of an inclined plane to its bottom, after reaching the ground it moves some distance and continues to move on to another inclined plane of same angle of inclination as shown in the Figure 3.1(a). By increasing the smoothness of both the inclined planes, the ball reach almost the same height(h) from where it was released (L1) in the second plane (L2) (Figure 3.1(b)). The motion of the ball is then observed by varying the angle of inclination of the second plane keeping the same smoothness. If the angle of inclination is reduced, the ball travels longer distance in the second plane to reach the same height (Figure3.1 (c)). When the angle of inclination is made zero, the ball moves forever in the horizontal direction (Figure 3.1(d)). If the Aristotelian idea were true, the ball would not have moved in the second plane even if its smoothness is made maximum since no force acted on it in the horizontal direction.
From this simple experiment, Galileo proved that force is not required to maintain motion. An object can be in motion even without a force acting on it
In essence, Aristotle coupled the motion with force while Galileo decoupled the motion and force.