Why does an object accelerate when it changes direction?

Why does an object accelerate when it changes direction?

What you mean by “changes direction” is that the direction part of its velocity changes. For example, instead of heading east at 10 m/s (or 10 miles-per-hour, if that feels more comfortable), it heads north at 10 m/s (or 10 miles-per-hour). This change in direction involves acceleration. The car must accelerate toward the west in order to stop heading east, and it must accelerate toward the north in order to begin moving north. Actually, it probably does both at once, accelerating toward the northwest and shifting its direction of motion from eastward to northward.

If the Space Shuttle is always falls toward the center of the earth, how does it…

If the Space Shuttle is always falls toward the center of the earth, how does it get to outer space? If something accelerates, doesn’t it go faster and thus have its speed increase?

The second question first: no, an object can accelerate without going faster. In fact, a stopping object is accelerating! If an accelerating object can speed up or slow down, it can certainly maintain a constant speed. If you swing a ball around in a circle on a string, that ball is accelerating all the time but its speed isn’t changing.

Now the first question: for the space shuttle to reach orbit, it needs an additional force in the upward direction. It obtains that force by pushing exhaust gas downward so that the exhaust gas pushes it upward. During the time when it’s heading toward orbit, it’s not falling because it has an extra upward force on it. However, the Space Shuttle can leave its orbit and head off into outer space by traveling faster than it normally does. It acquires this increased speed by firing its rocket engines again. Its usual speed keeps it traveling in a circle near the earth’s surface. If it went a bit faster, its path wouldn’t be bent downward as much and it would travel more in a straight line and away from the earth. It would still be falling toward the earth (meaning that it would still be accelerating toward the earth), but its inertia would carry it farther away from the earth. If the Shuttle had enough speed, it would travel to the depths of space before the earth had time to slow its escape and bring it back.

Isn’t there “some” acceleration at the very start and very end of an elevator …

Isn’t there “some” acceleration at the very start and very end of an elevator ride? Why does one’s stomach take a flop when the elevator stops and not when it starts?

Yes, there is acceleration at the start and stop of an elevator ride. As the car starts, it accelerates toward the destination and as the car starts, it accelerates in the opposite direction. Your stomach takes a flop whenever you feel particularly light, as when you are falling or otherwise accelerating downward. As you accelerate downward, your body doesn’t have to support your stomach as much as normal and you feel strange. In fact, you feel somewhat weightless. You have this feeling whenever the elevator starts to move downward (and therefore accelerates downward) or stops moving upward (and there accelerates downward).

As the Space Shuttle falls, does it accelerate forever and does it go faster and…

As the Space Shuttle falls, does it accelerate forever and does it go faster and faster?

Yes to the first part, no to the second part. Remember that acceleration can change the direction of velocity without changing the magnitude of velocity (the speed of the object). When the space shuttle accelerates, its speed doesn’t change, only its direction of travel. Although it accelerates endlessly, it never goes faster or slower. Actually, if the shuttle’s orbit isn’t circular, its speed does increase and decrease slightly as it orbits the earth in an ellipse, but that’s an unimportant detail. For a circular orbit, the shuttle’s speed is constant but its velocity (speed and direction) is not constant!

Why is 45° above horizontal the ideal angle to throw something the greatest …

Why is 45° above horizontal the ideal angle to throw something the greatest distance if gravity is acting on the vertical direction but not the horizontal?

The 45° angle is ideal because it gives the ball a reasonable upward component of velocity and also a reasonable downfield component of velocity. The upward component is important because it determines how long the ball will stay off the ground. The downfield component is important because it determines how quickly the ball will travel downfield. If you use too much of the ball’s velocity to send it upward, it will stay off the ground a long time but will travel downfield too slowly to take advantage of that time. If you use too much of the ball’s velocity to send it downfield, it will cover the horizontal distances quickly but will stay of the ground for too short a time to travel very far. Thus an equal balance between the two (achieved at 45°) leads to the best distance. Note that this discussion is only true in the absence of air resistance.