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Newton’s 3 Laws, with a bicycle - Joshua Manley


75,174 Questions Answered

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Why would it be hard to pedal a 10,000 pound bicycle? This simple explanation shows how Newton’s 3 laws of motion help you ride your bike.

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There was this fellow in England named Sir Isaac Newton. A little bit stuffy, bad hair, but quite an intelligent guy. He worked on developing both calculus and physics at the same time. In his work, he came up with the three basic ideas that we still use to describe the physics of motion (up to a point). The ideas have been tested and verified so many times over the years that scientists now call them Newton's Three Laws of Motion.

It is helpful when describing forces acting on an object to label their direction. Since forces have both Magnitude (Size) and direction, they are said to be vector quantities. Vectors are represented by arrows and can be added if they face in the same direction or subtracted if they are in the opposite directions. Vector diagrams are pictures which include vector arrows to represent all of the forces which act on a single object.

Draw a vector diagram of a bicycle being pedaled and label all of the forces which act on it. If you are unsure about all of the forces that act, search google to help you figure out which forces act and then label them with arrows in your diagram.

Bicycle with thick tires, like mountain bikes, tend to go slower than bicycles with thin tires, like road bikes, when you apply the same amount of force, even if the bicycles are the same weight. This is due to the frictional force between the road and the tire.

According the the conservation of energy theory, energy cannot be created or destroyed. However, since the bicycle with smaller tires is traveling faster than the bicycle with the larger tires, it has more kinetic energy (the energy of movement). Where does this excess energy go?

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Director Candy Kugel
  • Educator Joshua Manley
  • Producer Marilyn Kraemer
  • Animator Rick Broas
  • Narrator Joshua Manley

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