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Step 5

Substitute the knowns along with their units into the appropriate equation, and obtain numerical solutions complete with units . This step produces the numerical answer; it also provides a check on units that can help you find errors. If the units of the answer are incorrect, then an error has been made. However, be warned that correct units do not guarantee that the numerical part of the answer is also correct.

Step 6

Check the answer to see if it is reasonable: Does it make sense? This final step is extremely important—the goal of physics is to accurately describe nature. To see if the answer is reasonable, check both its magnitude and its sign, in addition to its units. Your judgment will improve as you solve more and more physics problems, and it will become possible for you to make finer and finer judgments regarding whether nature is adequately described by the answer to a problem. This step brings the problem back to its conceptual meaning. If you can judge whether the answer is reasonable, you have a deeper understanding of physics than just being able to mechanically solve a problem.

When solving problems, we often perform these steps in different order, and we also tend to do several steps simultaneously. There is no rigid procedure that will work every time. Creativity and insight grow with experience, and the basics of problem solving become almost automatic. One way to get practice is to work out the text’s examples for yourself as you read. Another is to work as many end-of-section problems as possible, starting with the easiest to build confidence and progressing to the more difficult. Once you become involved in physics, you will see it all around you, and you can begin to apply it to situations you encounter outside the classroom, just as is done in many of the applications in this text.

Unreasonable results

Physics must describe nature accurately. Some problems have results that are unreasonable because one premise is unreasonable or because certain premises are inconsistent with one another. The physical principle applied correctly then produces an unreasonable result. For example, if a person starting a foot race accelerates at 0 . 40 m/s 2 size 12{0 "." "40 m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} for 100 s, his final speed will be 40 m/s (about 150 km/h)—clearly unreasonable because the time of 100 s is an unreasonable premise. The physics is correct in a sense, but there is more to describing nature than just manipulating equations correctly. Checking the result of a problem to see if it is reasonable does more than help uncover errors in problem solving—it also builds intuition in judging whether nature is being accurately described.

Use the following strategies to determine whether an answer is reasonable and, if it is not, to determine what is the cause.

Step 1

Solve the problem using strategies as outlined and in the format followed in the worked examples in the text . In the example given in the preceding paragraph, you would identify the givens as the acceleration and time and use the equation below to find the unknown final velocity. That is,

v = v 0 + at = 0 + 0 . 40 m/s 2 100 s = 40 m/s . size 12{v=v rSub { size 8{0} } + ital "at"=0+ left (0 "." "40"`"m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } right ) left ("100"`s right )="40"`"m/s"} {}

Step 2

Check to see if the answer is reasonable . Is it too large or too small, or does it have the wrong sign, improper units, …? In this case, you may need to convert meters per second into a more familiar unit, such as miles per hour.

40 m s 3.28 ft m 1 mi 5280 ft 60 s min 60 min 1 h = 89 mph size 12{ left ( { {"40 m"} over {s} } right ) left ( { {3 "." "28 ft"} over {m} } right ) left ( { {"1 mi"} over {"5280 ft"} } right ) left ( { {"60 s"} over {"min"} } right ) left ( { {"60 min"} over {"1 h"} } right )=89" mph"} {}

This velocity is about four times greater than a person can run—so it is too large.

Step 3

If the answer is unreasonable, look for what specifically could cause the identified difficulty . In the example of the runner, there are only two assumptions that are suspect. The acceleration could be too great or the time too long. First look at the acceleration and think about what the number means. If someone accelerates at 0 . 40 m/s 2 size 12{0 "." "40 m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} , their velocity is increasing by 0.4 m/s each second. Does this seem reasonable? If so, the time must be too long. It is not possible for someone to accelerate at a constant rate of 0 . 40 m/s 2 size 12{0 "." "40 m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} for 100 s (almost two minutes).

Section summary

  • The six basic problem solving steps for physics are:

    Step 1 . Examine the situation to determine which physical principles are involved.

    Step 2 . Make a list of what is given or can be inferred from the problem as stated (identify the knowns).

    Step 3 . Identify exactly what needs to be determined in the problem (identify the unknowns).

    Step 4 . Find an equation or set of equations that can help you solve the problem.

    Step 5 . Substitute the knowns along with their units into the appropriate equation, and obtain numerical solutions complete with units.

    Step 6 . Check the answer to see if it is reasonable: Does it make sense?

Conceptual questions

What information do you need in order to choose which equation or equations to use to solve a problem? Explain.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

What is the last thing you should do when solving a problem? Explain.

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Questions & Answers

hi guys can you teach me how to solve a logarithm?
Villaflor Reply
how about a conceptual framework can you simplify for me? needed please
Villaflor
Hello what happens when electrone stops its rotation around its nucleus if it possible how
Afzal
I think they are constantly moving
Villaflor
yep what is problem you are stuck into context?
S.M
not possible to fix electron position in space,
S.M
Physics
Beatriz
yes of course Villa flor
David
equations of kinematics for constant acceleration
Sagcurse Reply
A bottle full of water weighs 45g when full of mercury,it weighs 360g.if the empty bottle weighs 20g.calculate the relative density of mercury and the density of mercury....pls I need help
Lila Reply
well You know the density of water is 1000kg/m^3.And formula for density is density=mass/volume Then we must calculate volume of bottle and mass of mercury: Volume of bottle is (45-20)/1000000=1/40000 mass of mercury is:(360-20)/1000 kg density of mercury:(340/1000):1/50000=(340•40000):1000=13600
Sobirjon
the latter is true
Sobirjon
100g of water is mixed with 60g of a liquid of relative density 1.2.assuming no changes in volume occurred,find the average relative density of the mixture...take density of water as 1g/cm3 and density of liquid 1.2g/cm3
Lila
plz hu can explain Heisenberg's uncertainty principle
Emmanuel Reply
who can help me with my problem about acceleration?
Vann Reply
ok
Nicholas
how to solve this... a car is heading north then smoothly made a westward turn during the travel the speed of the car remains constant at 1.5km/h what is the acceleration of the car? the total travel time of the car as it smoothly changed its direction is 15 minutes
Vann
i think the acceleration is 0 since the car does not change its speed unless there are other conditions
Ben
yes I have to agree, the key phrase is, "the speed of the car remains constant...," all other information is not needed to conclude that acceleration remains at 0 during the entire time
Luis
who can help me with a relative density question
Lila
1cm3 sample of tin lead alloy has mass 8.5g.the relative density of tin is 7.3 and that of lead is 11.3.calculate the percentage by weight of tin in the alloy. assuming that there is no change of volume when the metals formed the alloy
Lila
morning, what will happen to the volume of an ice block when heat is added from -200°c to 0°c... Will it volume increase or decrease?
adefenwa Reply
no
Emmanuel
hi what is physical education?
Kate
BPED..is my course.
Kate
No
Emmanuel
I think it is neither decreases nor increases ,it remains in the same volume because of its crystal structure
Sobirjon
100g of water is mixed with 60g of a liquid of relative density 1.2.assuming no changes in volume occurred,find the average relative density of the mixture. take density of water as 1g/cm3 and density of liquid as 1.2g/cm3
Lila
Sorry what does it means"no changes in volume occured"?
Sobirjon
volume can be the amount of space occupied by an object. But when an object does not change in shape it will still occupy the same space. Thats why the volume will still remain the same
Ben
Most soilds expand when heated but if it changes state at 0C it will have less volume. Ice floats because it is less dense ie a larger mass per unit volume.
Richard
how to calculate velocity
Okwethu Reply
v=d/t
Emeka
his about the speed?
Villaflor
how about speed
Villaflor
v=d/t
Nisha
hello bro hw is life with you
Jacob Reply
Mine is good. How about you?
Chase
Hi room of engineers
lawan Reply
yes,hi sir
Okwethu
hello
akinmeji
Hello
Mishael
hello
Jerry
hi
Sakhi
hi
H.C
so, what is going on here
akinmeji
u are all wlc just ask your question anybody. can answer
Ajayi
good morning ppl
ABDUL
If someone has not studied Mathematics enough yet, should theu study it first then study Phusics or Study Basics of Physics whilst srudying Math as well?
Riaz Reply
whether u studied maths or not, it is advisable to start from d basics cuz it is essential to know dem
Nuru
yea you are right
Badmus
wow, you got this w/o knowing math
Thomas
I guess that's it
Thomas
later people
Thomas
mathematics is everywhere
Anand
thanks but dat doesn't mean it is good without maths @Riaz....... Maths is essential in sciences particularly wen it comes to PHYSICS but PHYSICS must be started from the basic which may also help in ur mathematical ability
Nuru
A hydrometer of mass 0.15kg and uniform cross sectional area of 0.0025m2 displaced in water of density 1000kg/m3.what depth will the hydrometer sink
Lila
16.66 meters?
Darshik
16.71m2
aways
,i have a question of let me give answer
aways
the mass is stretched a distance of 8cm and held what is the potential energy? quick answer
aways
oscillation is a to and fro movement, it can also be referred to as vibration. e.g loaded string, loaded test tube or an hinged door
Olatunji Reply
what property makes the magnet to break?
Akshaya Reply
difference between charge and force
uwadiae Reply
charges: these are groups of ions which can be positive or negative. while force is said to be push or pull of an object. Generally, charge deals with ions while force deals with particles.
akinmeji
define oscillation
Munachukwu
what is up thrust
Lila Reply
upward force exerted by water on a body.
Matthew
A hydrometer of mass 0.15kg and of uniform cross sectional area 0.0025m2 displaced in water of density 1000kg/m3.what depth will the hydrometer sink
Lila
archimedes principle
Nicholas
mg=p(area x height)g
Nicholas
solve for height
Nicholas
what's is waves
nuraddeen
wave is disturbance which repeats periodically
Sunny
20 elements
nuraddeen
what is matter
daniel Reply
Anything that has mass. And it occupies space. So it has volume.
wenhe
stages of matter.
daniel
States of matter are solid liquid gas and plasma
wenhe
what are Newtown's law
Lila
An object as rest will remain at rest or in motion will remain at motion. Force is mass times acceleration. And a force will have equal and opposite reaction.
wenhe
do we have any thing like plasma as a states of matter
daniel
no
Nicholas
Plasma is a state of matter. It's much later on. The sun for example is not a gas ball. Its plasma.
wenhe
why is plasma a state of matter
Lila
In lower grades you are taught that there are 3 states of matter. But later on, you'll learn that if you eat gas enough. It turns to plasma
wenhe
Heat*
wenhe
yes we have plasma as a state of matter
akinmeji
it is anything that occupie space and has mass
Anand
I never head of that before
daniel
Anything that occupies space and has mass is matter.
wenhe
what is the difference between vapor and gas
Lila
Plasma is best described as an ionized gas because it is made up of positively and negatively charged particles.
akinmeji
Vapour is gas.
wenhe
Aside plasma, we also have Bose- Einstein. this is also another state of matter
akinmeji
was bose Einstein discovered by Albert Einstein
Lila
We have like 6 states or more. But those are newly discovered.
wenhe
OK, thanks at list I have experience about that one now.
daniel
Einstein​ predicted it
wenhe
With another person
wenhe
what are the other states
Lila
Fermionic condensate
wenhe
OK what is Albert Einstein
daniel
And maybe more. I just rmb those. Tbh for school you only need to know 4.
wenhe
Albert Einstein​is the name of a scientist
wenhe
OK
daniel
what is the physical state of water and salt
Lila
can I ask off topic question?
Kristine
Both are matter. So can theoretically exist in all those states. But in room temperature, water is liquid and salt is solid.
wenhe
Yes
wenhe
Its about precalculus
Kristine
I'm not very good at maths. But if I can answer... Lol
wenhe
The reflector of a radiotelescope is in the shape of a parabola revolve its axis, if the diameter of the reflector is 400ft. above the vertex of the parabola, what should be the depth of reflector?
Kristine
Are there any other factors given?
wenhe
Or just that?
wenhe
matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration
Vashist
Cuz with those factors, I can't solve it.
wenhe
none
Kristine
Well. There must be another factor given or something. Like an equation of the parabola. Or else I can't solve it
wenhe
explain why water and salt are compounds
Lila
That's chem. But both water and salt are made of more than 1 element. So they are compounds.
wenhe
Compound meaning 2 or more things added together.
wenhe
salt chemically is combination of sodium n chloride whereas water is oxygen n hydrogen
Friday
deficiency of vitamin E cause ?
Friday
I don't know if this is the equation or formula your looking for; (x-h)²=4c(y-k) (x-h)²=-4c(y-k) (y-k)²=-4c(x-h) (y-k)²=4c(x-h)
Kristine
If the parabola opens downward, the equation will be (x-h)²=-4c(y-k). If the parabola opens upward, (x-h)²=4c(y-k). If the parabola opens to the left it will be -4c and if the parabola opens to the right it will be 4c
Kristine

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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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