If a falling egg weighs only 1 newton, how can it exert a force of 1000 newtons …

If a falling egg weighs only 1 newton, how can it exert a force of 1000 newtons on a table when it hits?

As the egg falls, it is experiencing only one force: a downward weight of 1 N. But when it hits the table, it suddenly experiences a second force: an upward support force of perhaps 1000 N. The table is acting to prevent the egg from penetrating its surface. The net force on the egg is then 999 N, because the upward 1 N force partially cancels the downward 1000 N force. If the egg could tolerate such forces, it would accelerate upward rapidly and wouldn’t enter the table’s surface. Because the egg is fragile, it shatters. The force that the egg exerts on the table is also 1000 N, this time in the downward direction. The egg and table push on one another equally hard. The table doesn’t move much in response to this large downward force because it’s so massive and because it’s resting on the floor. But if you were to put your hand under the falling egg, you would feel the egg push hard against your hand as it hit.

When you push up on an object, are you creating thermal energy or does that only…

When you push up on an object, are you creating thermal energy or does that only occur when something does work on you?

When you lift a heavy object, you do work on that object. After all, you exert an upward force on it and it moves in the direction of that force. However your muscles are inefficient and you consume more food energy (calories) during the lifting process than you actually transfer to the heavy object. Whatever energy you consume that doesn’t go into the object remains in you as thermal energy. Any time you tighten your muscles, whether you do work on something, it does work on you, or neither does work on the other, you end up wasting some food energy as thermal energy.

If every force always has an equal and opposite force pushing against it (like t…

If every force always has an equal and opposite force pushing against it (like the bowling ball and your arm in today’s lecture), how can anything at all accelerate? Wouldn’t forces always cancel each other out?

The two equal but opposite forces are being exerted on different objects! In many cases, those two objects are free to accelerate independently and they will accelerate—in opposite directions! For example, when I push on a bowling ball, it pushes back on me with an equal but opposite force. If my force on the bowling ball is the only force it experiences, it will accelerate in the direction of my force on it. Since it exerts an opposite force on me, I will accelerate in the opposite direction—we will push apart!

Why doesn’t an egg break when it falls into a pile of feathers? Isn’t the pile o…

Why doesn’t an egg break when it falls into a pile of feathers? Isn’t the pile of feathers exerting the same force on it (perhaps 1000 newtons) that a table would if it were to hit that table?

The egg doesn’t break because the feathers exert a much smaller force on the egg than the table would. The feathers can move so when the egg first hits them, the feathers don’t have to stop the egg so quickly. To keep the egg from penetrating into the table, the table has to stop the egg’s descent in about a thousandth of a second. That required a huge upward force on the egg of perhaps 1000 N. This large upward force, exerted on one small point of the egg, breaks the egg. But when the egg hits the feathers, the feathers can stop the egg’s descent leisurely in about a tenth of a second. They only have to push upward on the egg with a smaller force of perhaps 10 N. This modest force, exerted on many points of the egg, shouldn’t break the egg. During this tenth of a second, the feathers and the egg will both move downward and the egg will come to a stop well below the place at which it first touched the feathers.

If it takes less force to push something up a ramp, why doesn’t it also take les…

If it takes less force to push something up a ramp, why doesn’t it also take less work?

When you lift an object using a ramp, the uphill force you exert on it is less than its weight but the distance you must travel along the ramp is more than if you simply lifted the object straight up. Since the work you do on the object is the product of the force you exert on it times the distance it travels in the direction of that force, the work isn’t changed by using the ramp. For example, if you lift a cart weighing 15 N straight up for 0.2 meters, you do 3 newton-meter or 3 joules of work on it. To raise that cart that same 0.2 meters upward on the ramp, you’d have to exert a 3 N force on it as you pushed it 1.0 meter along the ramp. The work you’d do to raise the cart by pushing it up the ramp would be 3 joules again. No matter how you raise the cart to the height of 0.2 meters, you’re going to do 3 joules of work on it.

If Newton’s third law is true – then how can you move anything? If it exerts the…

If Newton’s third law is true – then how can you move anything? If it exerts the exact same amount of force on you that you exert on it, wouldn’t the net force be zero and the object wouldn’t move?

The total force on the two of you (the object you’re pushing on and you yourself) would be zero, but the object would be experiencing a force and you would be experiencing a force. As a result, the object accelerates in one direction and you accelerate in the other! To see this, imaging standing on a frozen pond with a friend. If the two of you push on one another, you will both experience forces. You will push your friend away from you and your friend will push you in the opposite direction. You will both accelerate and begin to drift apart. Each of you individually will experience a net force. (It’s true that the two of you together will experience zero net force, which means that as a combined object, you won’t accelerate. The way this appears is that your overall center of mass won’t accelerate. It will remain in the middle of the pond even as the two of you travel apart toward opposite sides of the pond.)

If the downward motion of lifting a weight transfers energy to you, why does you…

If the downward motion of lifting a weight transfers energy to you, why does your arm get tired?

Your body is unable to store working that’s done on it and also wastes energy even when it is not doing any work. When you lower a weight, the weight does transfer energy to you, but your body turns that energy into thermal energy. You get a little bit hotter. If you were made out of rubber, you might store it as elastic potential energy (like a stretched rubber band). Instead, your muscles don’t save the energy in a useful form. As for getting tired, your muscles turn food energy into thermal energy even when you aren’t doing work. That’s what happens during isometric exercises. There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s like a car, which wastes energy when it’s stopped at a light.

Is it impossible to do work on a ball while carrying it horizontally, or were yo…

Is it impossible to do work on a ball while carrying it horizontally, or were you only referring to the force of gravity in the demonstration? Or must you be “pushing” the ball?

When I carried the ball horizontally at constant velocity, I did no work on the ball. That’s because the force I exerted on the ball was directly upward and the direction the ball moved was exactly horizontal. Since work is force times distance in the direction of that force, the work I did was exactly zero. But when I first started the ball moving horizontally, there was a brief period during which I had to push the ball forward horizontally. That’s when I “got the ball moving.” During that brief period, I did do work on the ball and I gave it kinetic energy. It needed that kinetic energy to move horizontally. When I reached my destination, there was a brief period during which I had to pull the ball backward horizontally. That’s when I “stopped the ball from moving.” During that brief period, I did negative work on the ball and removed its kinetic energy.