Isaac Newton's second law of motion relates to how a force acting upon an object causes an acceleration that is entirely predictable. This means that if you hit two objects with the same force, the lighter one will go farther. This also means, then, that if you hit two objects that are the same mass, the one you hit harder will go farther.
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Isaac Newton was born in 1642. Before he distilled the laws of motion, people had misconceptions about how the world worked. Of course, they had observed objects moving, but they had no way to explain the particular things that were happening. Newton's three laws of motion both cleared up wrong ideas about motion and gave people a new way to understand why objects behaved the way they did.
Newton's First and Third Laws
In order to understand Newton's second law, you must also know about Newton's first and third laws. Newton's first law is that objects that are moving continue to move and objects that are stopped continue to stay stopped. This is called inertia.
Newton's third law is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When you stand on the floor, your weight is pushing down on the floor, but the floor is also pushing up on you.
Newton's Second Law
Newton's second law is often written as F = M x A. Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration. "Force" means a push or a pull. "Mass" means the amount of matter in an object. "Acceleration" means a change in motion. When you increase the force you apply to an object, it will accelerate more quickly, because its mass will not change. If you use objects of different masses, but apply the same force, the heavier one will accelerate less.
Gravity is a force that is often linked to Newton's second law. On Earth, the acceleration because of gravity's force is about 10 meters per second per second. The reason that people on earth have weight is because of the force of gravity acting on their mass. Because the acceleration from gravity is a constant on earth, it is a useful tool in explaining Newton's second law.
Experiment for Kids
Given all this information, here is an experiment you can do with kids to help them understand Newton's second law. This experiment will show how force changes when mass changes and acceleration stays the same.
Find a number of objects of similar sizes, but different masses (e.g. baseballs, tennis balls, whiffle balls, etc.). Explain that gravity's acceleration is always the same, no matter what type of object it is acting upon. Set all of the objects at equal heights, then put something fragile (like an egg) or something that will show an impact (like a container full of sand) beneath each of the objects. Then, drop the items one by one and observe how they affect the egg, or how the crater from their impact is larger depending on the mass.
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