What is a Projectile?
In Unit 1 of the Physics Classroom Tutorial, we learned a variety of means to describe the 1-dimensional motion of objects. In Unit 2 of the Physics Classroom Tutorial, we learned how Newton's laws help to explain the motion (and specifically, the changes in the state of motion) of objects that are either at rest or moving in 1-dimension. Now in this unit we will apply both kinematic principles and Newton's laws of motion to understand and explain the motion of objects moving in two dimensions. The most common example of an object that is moving in two dimensions is a projectile. Thus, Lesson 2 of this unit is devoted to understanding the motion of projectiles. A projectile is an object upon which the only force acting is gravity. There are a variety of examples of projectiles. An object dropped from rest is a projectile (provided that the influence of air resistance is negligible). An object that is thrown vertically upward is also a projectile (provided that the influence of air resistance is negligible). And an object which is thrown upward at an angle to the horizontal is also a projectile (provided that the influence of air resistance is negligible). A projectile is any object that once projected or dropped continues in motion by its own inertia and is influenced only by the downward force of gravity.
By definition, a projectile has a single force that acts upon it - the force of gravity. If there were any other force acting upon an object, then that object would not be a projectile. Thus, the free-body diagram of a projectile would show a single force acting downwards and labeled force of gravity (or simply Fgrav). Regardless of whether a projectile is moving downwards, upwards, upwards and rightwards, or downwards and leftwards, the free-body diagram of the projectile is still as depicted in the diagram at the right. By definition, a projectile is any object upon which the only force is gravity.
Projectile Motion and...
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