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The requirement of an observer in both identifying and quantifying motion brings about new dimensions to the understanding of motion. Notably, the motion of a body and its measurement is found to be influenced by the state of motion of the observer itself and hence by the state of motion of the attached frame of reference. As such, a given motion is evaluated differently by different observers (system of references).

Two observers in the same state of motion, such as two persons standing on the platform, perceive the motion of a passing train in exactly same manner. On the other hand, the passenger in a speeding train finds that the other train crossing it on the parallel track in opposite direction has the combined speed of the two trains ( v 1 + v 1 ) . The observer on the ground, however, find them running at their individual speeds v 1 and v 2 .

From the discussion above, it is clear that motion of an object is an attribute, which can not be stated in absolute term; but it is a kind of attribute that results from the interaction of the motions of the both object and observer (frame of reference).

Frame of reference and observer

Frame of reference is a mathematical construct to specify position or location of a point object in space. Basically, frame of reference is a coordinate system. There are plenty of coordinate systems in use, but the Cartesian coordinate system, comprising of three mutually perpendicular axes, is most common. A point in three dimensional space is defined by three values of coordinates i.e. x,y and z in the Cartesian system as shown in the figure below. We shall learn about few more useful coordinate systems in next module titled " Coordinate systems in physics ".

Frame of reference

A point in three dimensional space is defined by three values of coordinates

We need to be specific in our understanding of the role of the observer and its relation with frame of reference. Observation of motion is considered an human endeavor. But motion of an object is described in reference of both human and non-human bodies like clouds, rivers, poles, moon etc. From the point of view of the study of motion, we treat reference bodies capable to make observations, which is essentially a human like function. As such, it is helpful to imagine ourselves attached to the reference system, making observations. It is essentially a notional endeavor to consider that the measurements are what an observer in that frame of reference would make, had the observer with the capability to measure was actually present there.

Earth is our natural abode and we identify all non-moving ground observers equivalent and at rest with the earth. For other moving systems, we need to specify position and determine motion by virtually (in imagination) transposing ourselves to the frame of reference we are considering.

Measurement from a moving reference

Take the case of observations about the motion of an aircraft made by two observers one at a ground and another attached to the cloud moving at certain speed. For the observer on the ground, the aircraft is moving at a speed of ,say, 1000 km/hr.

Questions & Answers

which colour has the shortest wavelength in the white light spectrum
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if x=a-b, a=5.8cm b=3.22 cm find percentage error in x
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x=5.8-3.22 x=2.58
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Moment of inertia of a bar in terms of perpendicular axis theorem
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Centre of mass of two uniform rods of same length but made of different materials and kept at L-shape meeting point is origin of coordinate
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A balloon is released from the ground which rises vertically up with acceleration 1.4m/sec^2.a ball is released from the balloon 20 second after the balloon has left the ground. The maximum height reached by the ball from the ground is
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Torque
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Source:  OpenStax, Physics for k-12. OpenStax CNX. Sep 07, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10322/1.175
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