Asked by: Melissa Thomas

Force, on the other hand, is the push or pull that is applied to an object to CHANGE its momentum. Newton's second law of motion defines force as the product of mass times ACCELERATION (vs. velocity). Since acceleration is the change in velocity divided by time, you can connect the two concepts with the following relationship:

force = mass x (velocity / time) = (mass x velocity) / time = momentum / time

Multiplying both sides of this equation by time:

force x time = momentum

To answer your original question, then, the difference between force and momentum is time. Knowing the amount of force and the length of time that force is applied to an object will tell you the resulting change in its momentum.

Answered by: Paul Walorski, B.A., Part-time Physics Instructor

Interestingly enough, this, along with Newton's Third law, gives us conservation of momentum. Newton's Third law says that for a force exerted by object 1 on object 2, object 2 exerts a force on object 1 that is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the force object 1 exerts. Or, more succinctly, F[1->2] = -F[2->1]. Now the total change in momentum for any interaction is the integral of F[1->2] over time plus the integral of F[2->1] over time, which equals the integral of F[1->2] minus the integral of F[1->2], which equals zero - always!

A similar argument for conservation of energy can be made using the fact that energy is the integral of force with respect to position.

Answered by: Gregory Ogin, Physics Undergraduate Student, UST, St. Paul, MN

F = m * v/t

Multiply both sides by time to arrive at

F t = m v

Since mv is momentum, we can see that the momentum conferred to an object by a force equals the force times the time the force is applied. Thus if a 15 Newton force to the right is applied to an initially stationary object for 3 seconds, it will have a momentum of 45 kg m/s to the right.

Most students who ask this question are usually trying to figure out the reverse situation, however. If an object hits me with a certain amount of momentum, how much force does it hit me with? Note that due to Newton's 3rd Law, this can be calculated the same way. If a thrown egg hits your hand with a momentum of 5 kg m/s, the force it applies to your hand depends on the time it takes for your hand to absorb the momentum. If you hold your hand very stiffly (and try to make the egg stop in a very short period of time) the ball exerts a high force on your hand, e.g. 100 N for 1/20th of a second. However as anyone who has ever played in an egg toss knows, if you let your hand 'give' and extend the amount of time it takes to absorb the momentum, the egg exerts a smaller force on your hand, e.g. 10 N for 1/2 a second.

Answered by: Rob Landolfi, Science Teacher, Washington, DC

'I believe there is no philosophical high-road in science, with epistemological signposts. No, we are in a jungle and find our way by trial and error, building our road behind us as we proceed.'**Max Born**

(*1882-1970*)

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