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  • Define and distinguish between instantaneous acceleration, average acceleration, and deceleration.
  • Calculate acceleration given initial time, initial velocity, final time, and final velocity.
An airplane flying very low to the ground, just above a beach full of onlookers, as it comes in for a landing.
A plane decelerates, or slows down, as it comes in for landing in St. Maarten. Its acceleration is opposite in direction to its velocity. (credit: Steve Conry, Flickr)

In everyday conversation, to accelerate means to speed up. The accelerator in a car can in fact cause it to speed up. The greater the acceleration    , the greater the change in velocity over a given time. The formal definition of acceleration is consistent with these notions, but more inclusive.

Average acceleration

Average Acceleration is the rate at which velocity changes ,

a - = Δ v Δ t = v f v 0 t f t 0 , size 12{ { bar {a}}= { {Δv} over {Δt} } = { {v"" lSub { size 8{f} } - v rSub { size 8{0} } } over {t rSub { size 8{f} } - t rSub { size 8{0} } } } } {}

where a - size 12{ { bar {a}}} {} is average acceleration, v size 12{v} {} is velocity, and t size 12{t} {} is time. (The bar over the a size 12{a} {} means average acceleration.)

Because acceleration is velocity in m/s divided by time in s, the SI units for acceleration are m/s 2 size 12{"m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} , meters per second squared or meters per second per second, which literally means by how many meters per second the velocity changes every second.

Recall that velocity is a vector—it has both magnitude and direction. This means that a change in velocity can be a change in magnitude (or speed), but it can also be a change in direction . For example, if a car turns a corner at constant speed, it is accelerating because its direction is changing. The quicker you turn, the greater the acceleration. So there is an acceleration when velocity changes either in magnitude (an increase or decrease in speed) or in direction, or both.

Acceleration as a vector

Acceleration is a vector in the same direction as the change in velocity, Δ v size 12{Dv} {} . Since velocity is a vector, it can change either in magnitude or in direction. Acceleration is therefore a change in either speed or direction, or both.

Keep in mind that although acceleration is in the direction of the change in velocity, it is not always in the direction of motion . When an object slows down, its acceleration is opposite to the direction of its motion. This is known as deceleration    .

A subway train arriving at a station. A velocity vector arrow points along the track away from the train. An acceleration vector arrow points along the track toward the train.
A subway train in Sao Paulo, Brazil, decelerates as it comes into a station. It is accelerating in a direction opposite to its direction of motion. (credit: Yusuke Kawasaki, Flickr)

Misconception alert: deceleration vs. negative acceleration

Deceleration always refers to acceleration in the direction opposite to the direction of the velocity. Deceleration always reduces speed. Negative acceleration, however, is acceleration in the negative direction in the chosen coordinate system . Negative acceleration may or may not be deceleration, and deceleration may or may not be considered negative acceleration. For example, consider [link] .

Four separate diagrams of cars moving. Diagram a: A car moving toward the right. A velocity vector arrow points toward the right. An acceleration vector arrow also points toward the right. Diagram b: A car moving toward the right in the positive x direction. A velocity vector arrow points toward the right. An acceleration vector arrow points toward the left. Diagram c: A car moving toward the left. A velocity vector arrow points toward the left. An acceleration vector arrow points toward the right. Diagram d: A car moving toward the left. A velocity vector arrow points toward the left. An acceleration vector arrow also points toward the left.
(a) This car is speeding up as it moves toward the right. It therefore has positive acceleration in our coordinate system. (b) This car is slowing down as it moves toward the right. Therefore, it has negative acceleration in our coordinate system, because its acceleration is toward the left. The car is also decelerating: the direction of its acceleration is opposite to its direction of motion. (c) This car is moving toward the left, but slowing down over time. Therefore, its acceleration is positive in our coordinate system because it is toward the right. However, the car is decelerating because its acceleration is opposite to its motion. (d) This car is speeding up as it moves toward the left. It has negative acceleration because it is accelerating toward the left. However, because its acceleration is in the same direction as its motion, it is speeding up ( not decelerating).

Questions & Answers

how can we find absolute uncertainty
ayesha Reply
it what?
Luke
in physics
ayesha
the basic formula is uncertainty in momentum multiplied buy uncertainty In position is greater than or equal to 4×pi/2. same formula for energy and time
Luke
I have this one question can you please look it up it's 9702/22/O/N/17 Question 1 B 3
ayesha
what
uma
would you like physics?
Suthar
yes
farooq
precision or absolute uncertainty is always equal to least count of that instrument
Iram
how do I unlock the MCQ and the Essay?
Ojeh Reply
what is the dimension of strain
Joy Reply
Is there a formula for time of free fall given that the body has initial velocity? In other words, formula for time that takes a downward-shot projectile to hit the ground. Thanks!
Cyclone Reply
hi
Agboro
hiii
Chandan
Hi
Sahim
hi
Jeff
hey
Priscilla
sup guys
Bile
Hy
Kulsum
What is unit of watt?
Kulsum
watt is the unit of power
Rahul
p=f.v
Rahul
watt can also be expressed as Nm/s
Rahul
what s i unit of mass
Maxamed
SI unit of mass is Kg(kilogram).
Robel
what is formula of distance
Maxamed
Formula for for the falling body with initial velocity is:v^2=v(initial)^2+2*g*h
Mateo
i can't understand
Maxamed
we can't do this calculation without knowing the height of the initial position of the particle
Chathu
sorry but no more in science
Imoreh
2 forces whose resultant is 100N, are at right angle to each other .if one of them makes an angle of 30 degree with the resultant determine it's magnitude
Victor Reply
50 N... (50 *1.732)N
Sahim
Plz cheak the ans and give reply..
Sahim
50 N...(50 *1.732)N
Ibrahim
Is earth is an inertial frame?
Sahim Reply
The abacus (plural abaci or abacuses), also called a counting frame, is a calculating tool that was in use in Europe, China and Russia, centuries before the adoption of the written Hindu–Arabic numeral system
Sahim
thanks
Irungu
Most welcome
Sahim
Hey.. I've a question.
Sahim Reply
Is earth inertia frame?
Sahim
only the center
Shii
What is an abucus?
Irungu
what would be the correct interrogation "what is time?" or "how much has your watch ticked?"
prakash Reply
someone please give answer to this.
prakash
a load of 20N on a wire of cross sectional area 8×10^-7m produces an extension of 10.4m. calculate the young modules of the material of the wire is of length 5m
Ebenezer Reply
Young's modulus = stress/strain strain = extension/length (x/l) stress = force/area (F/A) stress/strain is F l/A x
El
so solve it
Ebenezer
please
Ebenezer
two bodies x and y start from rest and move with uniform acceleration of a and 4a respectively. if the bodies cover the same distance in terms of tx and ty what is the ratio of tx to ty
Oluwatola Reply
what is cesium atoms?
prakash Reply
The atoms which form the element Cesium are known as Cesium atoms.
Naman
A material that combines with and removes trace gases from vacuum tubes.
Shankar
what is difference between entropy and heat capacity
Varun
Heat capacity can be defined as the amount of thermal energy required to warm the sample by 1°C. entropy is the disorder of the system. heat capacity is high when the disorder is high.
Chathu
I want learn physics
Vinodhini Reply
sir how to understanding clearly
Vinodhini
try to imagine everything you study in 3d
revolutionary
pls give me one title
Vinodhini
displacement acceleration how understand
Vinodhini
vernier caliper usage practically
Vinodhini
karthik sir is there
Vinodhini
what are the solution to all the exercise..?
What is realm
Vinodhini Reply
The quantum realm, also called the quantum scale, is a term of art inphysics referring to scales where quantum mechanical effects become important when studied as an isolated system. Typically, this means distances of 100 nanometers (10−9meters) or less or at very low temperature.
revolutionary
How to understand physics
Vinodhini Reply
i like physics very much
Vinodhini
i want know physics practically where used in daily life
Vinodhini
I want to teach physics very interesting to studentd
Vinodhini
how can you build interest in physics
Prince
by reading it
Austin
understanding difficult
Vinodhini
vinodhini mam, physics is used in our day to day life in all events..... everything happening around us can be explained in the base of physics..... saying simple stories happening in our daily life and relating it to physics and questioning students about how or why its happening like that can make
revolutionary
your class more interesting
revolutionary
anything send about physics daily life
Vinodhini
How to understand easily
Vinodhini
check out "LMES" youtube channel
revolutionary
even when you see this message in your phone...it works accord to a physics principle. you touch screen works based on physics, your internet works based on physics, etc....... check out google and search for it
revolutionary
what is mean by Newtonian principle of Relativity? definition and explanation with example
revolutionary Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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