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lecture 1

Topics:
What is physics?
What is classical mechanics?
Degrees of freedom
The Art of Theoretical Physics
Motion, trajectories and F = ma
F = ma two initial conditions/degree of freedom
Finding trajectories numerically
Forces of the form F(t)
What is physics?
According to Wikipedia
Physics (from the Greek, (physis), nature and o (physikos), natural)
is the science of Nature, from the quarks to the cosmos. Consequently, physics treats
of the fundamental constituents of the universe, the forces they exert on one another,
and the results produced by these forces. Sometimes, in modern physics, a more
sophisticated approach is taken that incorporates elements of the three areas listed
above; it relates to the laws of symmetry and conservation, such as those pertaining to
energy, momentum, charge, and parity.
As much as I like symmetry and conservation laws (which we will certainly talk a lot about
in this course) I am not sure that I like this denition much. It focuses a little too much on grand
theoretical principles and not enough on how useful physics is. Both poles of physics - the theo-
retical and the experimental/applied are crucial to the way physics works. True - physics addresses
the most fundamental questions in the universe - but we can address these questions usefully only
because we can use physics to build the tools required to answer the most difcult questions. And
the answers to these questions, in turn, allow us to build better tools and ask deeper questions. This
self-containedness - this cyclic give and take between mathematical theory and tool-building is the
glory of physics itself, and the reason why physics is important to all other areas of science. Physi-
cists build tools, both technological and mathematical, that are crucial to the pursuit of scientic
questions in all elds and which form the basis for much of our mathematics and technology.
And besides, physics is just a marvelously fun way of looking at the world.
What is classical mechanics?
Classical mechanics is a category dened by what it is not! It is not quantum mechanics. A classi-
cal mechanical system is any collection of objects that we can describe to a good approximation
without worrying about quantum mechanics. This includes most of the systems you are used to in
everyday life (if you dont worry too much about what goes on inside your computer or CD player
or TV set). In this course, we will discuss these mechanical systems, and we will push beyond
your everyday experience to discuss what happens when objects move at speeds close to the speed
of light. We wont study quantum mechanics explicitly, but we will talk about it at times. The
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underlying laws of the Universe seem to be quantum mechanical, and it is fun, instructive, and
not at all trivial to think about how classical physics emerges as an approximation to the quantum
mechanical world.
Degrees of freedom
We will start slowly, with some useful denitions.
Coordinates The coordinates of a physical system are the numbers (possibly dimensional)
that describe the system at a given xed time.
Frame of reference The coordinates we use to describe the system are always somewhat ar-
bitrary, depending on conventions. Mathematically, we should be able to change our system
of coordinates and still describe things. But in physical problems, it is usually easiest to
restrict the allowed coordinate systems. Fortunately, in physics, there is an obvious way of
specifying the conventions that we use in a physical problem. We simply describe in detail
how to measure the coordinates at any given time. Such a description is called a frame of
reference. We will not always mention the frame of reference explicitly, because we have
in mind something very intuitive and simple - the set of clocks, measuring sticks and other
stuff that we need to study classical phenomena in a laboratory. But we will see (particu-
larly when we discuss relativity in a few weeks) that it is important that to have a frame of
reference that xes our conventions. Otherwise, we can get into all kinds of problems.
Conguration The conguration q(t) of a mechanical system is a number or vector consist-
ing of values of a set of independent coordinates that completely describe the system at time
t.
We will call the conguration q, without specifying (at least for another few seconds) whether q is
a single variable, or some kind of vector describing several coordinates at once. The word inde-
pendent in the denition means that none of the numbers in our set of coordinates is redundent or
dependent of the others. That is we asume that the coordinates in the conguration are indepen-
dent in the sense that each can in independently changed, and each different set of values describes
something physically different. Given a set of values of the coordinates at some particular time,
we can gure out what the conguration is and thus what the system looks like at that time. Thus
a conguration is just a mathematical snapshot of the system at a given time.
One way of describing the underlying problem of classical mechanics is that we want to under-
stand how the conguration of the system evolves with time. That is we want to put the snapshots
together into a mathematical movie to describe how the system moves.
Degrees of freedom The number of independent components of the conguration q is called
the number of degrees of freedom of the mechanical system.
The number of degrees of freedom is the number of independent ways in which the system can
move. Here are some examples. A point mass sliding on an airtrack, described by only a single co-
ordinate, has one degree of freedom. We get more degrees of freedom if we go to more dimensions
or to more complicated objects.
2
system coordinate # of DOFs
point mass on a track (distance along the track) 1
point mass on a at surface (x, y) 2
point mass in 3-d r = (x, y, z) 3
rigid body in 3-d r of center + 3 angles 6
2 masses + massless spring r
1
and r
2
6
2 masses + massive spring r
1
, r
2
and spring
A continuous massive spring formally has an innite number of degrees of freedom, because to
specify its conguration we would have to give a continuous function describing how much every
point on the spring is stretched. Really, of course, a physical spring has a nite but very large
number of degrees of freedom, because it is not actually continuous, but is made up of atoms. But
the difference between and Avogadros number is often not very important.
This brings up an important philosophical point. What the heck is a point mass? What is a
rigid body? What is a massless spring? Most of you have probably been dealing with physics
problems for so long that you are used to these phrases. But it is important to remember that
these are mathematical idealizations. Real physical systems are complicated, and in fact, what we
choose for q may depend on what kind of physical questions we want to ask, what level of accuracy
we need in the answer, and even how long we want to study the system.
So for example, for a hockey puck sliding on the ice at the Boston Garden, we might decide
that the conguration is specied by giving the x and y coordinates that determine the pucks
position in the plane of the ice. Then q would stand for the two dimensional vector, (x, y). But
if we do this, we have ignored many details. For example, for a shot that comes off the ice, we
would need to include the z coordinate to describe the motion of the puck. For some purposes,
we would also need to include descriptions of the puck itself. For example, we have not included
an angular variable that would allow us to specify how the puck is turned about its vertical axis.
This is probably good enough for most problems. But sometimes, more information is required
to give a good description of the physics. For example, if we wanted to understand how a rapidly
rotating puck moves, we might need this more detailed information. We could also go on and
describe how the puck might deform when hit by the stick, and so on. We could include more and
more information until we got down to the level where we begin to see the molecular structure of
the rubber of the puck. At this point, we begin to see quantum mechanical effects, and classical
mechanics is no longer enough to give an accurate description.
The Art of Theoretical Physics
This is a good lesson. The coordinates that we use to describe the system may depend on what
kind of information we want to get out of our mechanical model of the system, and how accurately
we want our model to reproduce reality. We usually will not go over these niceties each time we
discuss a system, but they are important to remember. There is really a very important point here.
In physics courses, we frequently discuss toy systems which are obviously oversimplied, in
which we have clearly left out features that are important in the real world. This is not something
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to apologize for. This is precisely the art of theoretical physics. We work hard to abstract the
essential physics of a system, without including things that dont matter at the level of description
that we are interested in. This down-to-earth ability to focus on the crucial parameters is far more
important than fancy mathematical gymnastics.
In fact, I believe, getting better at this art is one of the most useful things you can get out of
this course. It is generally useful far beyond this or future physics courses. The ability to build
mathematical models of phenomena is crucial to many elds. But models can be as misleading as
they can be useful unless they focus on the right parameters, and unless the modeler is aware of the
models limitations. Physics is the paradigm for this kind of thinking. This is one of the reasons
why, over the years, trained physicists have been so much in demand in very different elds.
Motion, trajectories and F = ma
Trajectory A trajectory is a possible motion of a physical system.
We describe a trajectory by giving the value, q(t) of the coordinates of the system as a function
of time. There are an innite number of possible trajectories for any interesting physical system
(that is, unless everything is nailed down and completely xed). Our everyday experience tells us
that knowing the conguration of the system at some time is not enough information to allow us
to calculate the trajectory. A snapshot doesnt tell us how the system is moving. We also need to
know the velocity of the system the derivative of q with respect to time. We will sometimes use
the notation of a dot over an object to represent a time derivative:
q(t)
d
dt
q(t) . (1)
If q describes more than one coordinate, then q describes the same number of independent veloci-
ties - but we will continue to call q the velocity, even if it has multiple components. If q is a vector,
q is the same kind of vector. For the hockey puck,
q = (x, y) , q = ( x, y) . (2)
Then we can say that if we know q and q at a particular time, we should be able to calculate the
trajectory. For example, if we know where the hockey puck is and how fast and in what direction it
is moving, we can plot its trajectory by just assuming that it continues to move at a constant speed
along the line determined by its position and velocity.
Something important has happened. I have snuck in one of the critical assumptions of mechan-
ics. Let me say it with the formality it deserves.
A The trajectory, or subsequent motion, of a mechanical system is com-
pletely determined if we know the conguration, q and the velocity, q at some
given time.
(3)
Because the number of components of q and of q are both equal to the number of degrees of
freedom, this means that we have to specify two constants per degree of freedom in order to
specify how the system moves. This is a biggie. We will come back to this again and again, as you
will see.
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One of the central problems of mechanics is to calculate what these trajectories are for various
systems that is to say, to gure out how things move. To begin, let us think about what this
process is like for a system specied by a single coordinate, x. Newton tells us that to gure out
how x changes as a function of time, we dene our coordinates in an appropriate inertial frame
(well talk much more about what this means later) and use his second law
F = ma (4)
where F is the force on the object, m is its mass, and a is its acceleration (also sometimes written
as x one dot for each time derivative)
a
d
2
dt
2
x x (5)
We will have much more to say about mass, but for now, we will just assume that m is a xed
property of the object. The force, F, is more complicated. In general, F will depend on what the
system is doing. Since we have already assumed that all we need to know about the system at a
given time is q and q, in this case x and x, all F can depend on is q, q and t. So in general, F
at time t is some function of x and x, at that same time, and t, F
_
x(t), x(t), t
_
. Then Newtons
second law becomes a formula for the acceleration:
x =
1
m
F(x, x, t) (6)
Note that in general, in Newtons second law, the force is a function of all three variables, x,
x, and t. Because of things like this, we will often have to discuss the calculus of functions of
several variables. I realize that some of you are just beginning to study this subject formally in
math courses. In general, in this course, I will often make use of mathematics that many of you
have not seen. We wont be using any deep properties of the subject, just things that you would
guess immediately from your knowledge of calculus of a single variable, vectors, and algebra. The
proofs can wait until (or if) you take the appropriate math course. The important thing is that you
try to understand the physics, and not faint when unfamiliar mathematics is thrown at you.
F = ma two initial conditions/degree of freedom
Now the rst deep question I want to address is this: Why should the fundamental law of me-
chanics (which Newtons second law certainly is) be a formula for acceleration? A partial answer
comes from the mathematics. A formula like (6) is called a second order differential equation
because it involves a second derivative but no higher derivatives. Our mathematician friends tell
us that a second order differential equation for x has in general an innite number of solutions,
which can be labeled by the values of x and x at some given time. These conditions that specify
the solution are sometimes called the initial conditions, and this is certainly appropriate for the
physics applications we have in mind. Once we specify the initial conditions, the initial position
and velocity, the solution of the differential equation, which is the trajectory, is completely spec-
ied. This means that if the fundamental law is a second order differential equation, like (6), the
mathematics guarantees that assumption A is satised. Thus we have shown that F = ma implies
A. This is a good thing.
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In general, I am not so interested in proofs in this course, at least not in the mathematical sense.
However, in the notes, and in lecture if I have time, I will give a physicsts proof that the solution
of a second order differential equation is specied by q and q.
Here is a simple and probably very familiar example. Suppose that the force is constant,
F(x, x, t) = F
0
= ma = m
d
2
dt
2
x = m x (7)
The solution for x(t) can be written in terms of x and x at t = 0 as
x(t) =
F
0
2m
t
2
+ x(0) t + x(0) (8)
We will see one general way of getting this result later. But is easy to check that (6) is satised by
computing the second derivative.
x(t) =
F
0
m
t + x(0) (9)
x(t) =
F
0
m
(10)
This shows that the t
2
term is right. You can check that the other terms in (8) are correct by setting
t = 0 in (8) and (9).
The latest version of Mathematica has a fantastic function that allows you to input initial con-
ditions in real time. Check out the notebook lecture-1-1.nb.
There is nothing special about t = 0. We could just as well write the solution in terms of the
position and velocity at some arbitrary time t
0
, as
x(t) =
F
0
2m
(t t
0
)
2
+ x(t
0
) (t t
0
) + x(t
0
) (11)
I hope that I have convinced you that F = ma implies two initial conditions/degree of freedom.
That doesnt mean that Newtons second law is equivalent to A because we havent show that any
system that requires two initial conditions/degree of freedom satises F = ma. But there is a
mathematical sense it which this true at least for one degree of freedom. I am not going to talk
about this in lecture, because the argument is a slightly intricate exercise in multivariable calculus.
But it may be fun for those of you who like that sort of thing, so I have included it as an appendix
to the lecture notes.
What have we really learned from this mathematical philosophy? I have argued that Newtons
second law is actually equivalent to assumption A each implies the other. Of course, we havent
really understood why F is equal to ma, because we still dont know why assumption A is true.
That leads naturally to another question. Must A be true for some reason? Can we imagine a
world very different from our own in which it is not? Actually, I dont think A must be true. In
fact, I dont really think it is true. Like most of the things we teach as physical laws, it is only an
approximation to what is really going on. We will come back to this much later. But this is a nice
example of the kind of thinking that we will be doing a lot of in this course.
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Should you take Physics 16?
Because this is the rst day of the class, you are all full of adrenaline and are paying close attention
to every word I say. But normally, at about this point in a 1.5 hour lecture, you would all be
falling asleep and would need a little something to perk you up. This is where we normally put
a miniexam, a small problem that you work on with a random group of other students. Since we
havent done enough yet to warrant a miniexam, I thought that instead, I would say a bit about the
course, and then see whether you have any questions and maybe ask you some questions myself.
There is a lot more detailed information on the information sheet on the web page. I work hard to
keep it updated, so please read it carefully.
Presumably you are all here because you have good preparation in physics and math and you
are afraid that Physics 15a would be boring. The rst thing to say is that Physics 15a would
probably not be boring. It is a good rigorous course, and almost all of you would learn something.
However, for many of you, Physics 16 may be more fun, because I will spend a lot less time on
statics, assuming you already know about adding up vector forces and torques on objects that are
not moving. I will also spend a bit less time trying to nail down the connection between physics
and calculus, assuming that you are all pretty well started along that path. This will allow me more
time to indulge in ights of theoretical fancy, such as trying to understand why F is equal to ma.
You should consider 16 if this appeals to you.
I would make one request. Dont take 16 because you think that it is going to be hard for you
and you want a challenge. And dont drop it because you think it is going to be hard for you and
you dont want a challenge. In fact, Physics 16 is in many ways a very humane course. We will
do civilized things like having a take-home component of our exams so that we can correct for
problems that some people have with time pressure on exams. And while the material is hard, as
long as you get the help that we are eager to give you, the work is really not very different from
that in 15a. For some of you it may take a little more time (although I am planning to reduce the
length of the problem sets a little this year), so as I say at the end of the information sheet, it is
important to think about it in the context of your whole schedule, curricular and extracurricular.
Finding trajectories numerically
If you are given a complicated force law, depending (for one degree of freedom) on x, x and t, you
will usually not be able to solve for the trajectories in terms of known functions. However, you
can always nd them by brute force, solving F = ma numerically. One simple way to do this is
to make small time steps and use the most important formula in Physics the Taylor expansion.
Suppose that you are given the initial conditions, x(t
0
) and x(t
0
). Then you can nd x and x
approximately for a slightly later time, t
0
+ t, by Taylor expanding the function x(t
0
+ t)
around t
0
. The Taylor expansion looks like this:
x(t
0
+ t) = x(t
0
) + t x(t
0
) + (12)
where the are terms with more powers of t. I love the Taylor expansion, and we are going
to come back to it many times in the course, and later we will talk about the higher order term.
But here, these can be ignored if t is sufciently small. This rst term in the Taylor expansion is
nothing more than the denition of the derivative:
x(t
0
+ t) = x(t
0
) + t x(t
0
) + x(t
0
) =
x(t
0
+ t) x(t
0
)
t
+ (13)
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How does this help us nd x(t). This is ne as far as it goes, because we are given the initial
conditions for x(t
0
) and x(t
0
). But what we would like to do is to be able to iterate this procedure
and nd x(t
0
+ nt) which would mean that we could nd x(t) (at least approximately) at a
whole sequence of future times. And in the next step we have a problem because we dont know
x(t
0
+ t) from the initial conditions. But now the key point is that we can also keep track of x
x(t
0
+ t) = x(t
0
) + t x(t
0
) + (14)
And we know x(t
0
) from F = ma:
x(t
0
) = a(t
0
) =
1
m
F(x(t
0
), x(t
0
), t
0
) (15)
You can always do this for F = ma. Given x and x at some time t
0
, you can always nd x
and x for an innitesimally later time, t
0
+ t.
Now that you know x and x for the later time t
0
+t, you can apply exactly the same procedure
again and compute them for t
0
+ 2t.
Then do it again and get x and x for t
0
+ 3t.
And so on!
This kind of iterative procedure is ideal for a computer the computer just has to do the
same things over and over again to construct the approximate trajectory. And if you want your
approximation to be more accurate, you just have to make t smaller, so that the that you
throw away in (12) and (14) are smaller. If you are doing this on a computer, it doesnt matter
how complicated the function F is. If we have time, we will play with the Mathematica notebook
lecture-1-2.nb where is process is carried out for some simple and not so simple force laws.
But sometimes, it is nice to have analytic expressions for the trajectories. You may be able
to nd such things if the force is a simple enough function. For the rest of this lecture and on
Thursday, we will give examples in which this can be done, both in general, using integration, and
in specic cases where the integrals can be done analytically.
Meanwhile, notice that the analysis we have just given really is a physicists proof of the
statement that a second order differential equation has a solution that is xed when we know q and
q at some time. We have proved this by actually constructing the solution! This is the best kind
of proof for a physicist one that not only tells you that the solution exists, but actually shows
you how to nd it. Of course this would never satisfy a mathematician too many loose ends?
But note that we can prove the general theorem this way that an n-th order differential
equation requires n initial conditions. Because our original equation was a second order differential
equation, we had to keep track of both x(t) and x(t) while we take our small time steps. In a rst
order differential equation, we would only have had to keep track of x(t), because the differential
equation would tell us x(t) directly in terms of x(t). Then we need only one initial condition. In
a third order differential equation, we would have to keep track of x(t), x(t) and x(t), because the
differential equation only tells us the third derivative. Then we would need three initial conditions.
And so on.
Forces of the form F(t)
The big general principle of mechanics that we have talked about today is that we need two initial
conditions per degree of freedom to specify how a system moves. Staple this in your brains. This
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is something we will come back to and will try to understand better. But now and next time we
will spend a bit of time discussing some examples of the different ways these initial conditions can
appear. There are more in Chapter 2 of Dave Morins book. Depending on how we are doing on
time, I may move this discussion to the next lecture.
The simplest and least interesting example of a force law in which the trajectories can be found
formally using integration is a force depending only on t, not on x or x. In this case, we can simply
use the fundamental theorem of integral calculus. The acceleration is the time derivative of the
velocity, so we can write F = ma in this case as
a(t) =
d
dt
v(t) =
1
m
F(t) (16)
The fundamental theorem tells us that the general solution to (16) can be written as
1
v(t) =
_
t
t
0
1
m
F(t

) dt

+ constant (17)
There are a number of things to note about (17):
1. We can easily verify that it works, because if we differentiate the left hand side with re-
spect to t, we just get the acceleration, a(t). On the right hand side, integral calculus tells
us that differentiating the integral with respect to t gives the integrand evaluated at t, and
differentiating the constant gives zero, so we get
a(t) =
1
m
F(t) (18)
which is F = ma.
2. We need to invent a new symbol for the argument of the integrand, because the previous
argument only works if the time dependence appears only as the upper limit of the integral,
so we have just put a prime on t. The dt

in (17) identies the variable t

as a completely
independent dummy variable. It is a dummy because in the expression (17), it doesnt
have any particular value. It is just a symbol to indicate exactly what integral we are doing.
This is simple but important. You should never ever write an equation like
A(t) =
_
t
t
0
B(t) dt (19)
Because the variable t in (19) appears in two ways as a real variable and as a dummy
variable and it cant be both. Thus (19) doesnt mean anything at all, and if we see it
on one of your problem sets or tests we will deal sternly with it!
1
Note that t

here is a dummy variable. We will discuss dummy variables in more detail below, but there is a
possible notational confusion. The symbol t

does not mean the derivative of t but is just a symbol for a new
independent variable. We could have called it s instead, but Daves book uses the t

notation in this way, so I am trying


to do it in lecture as well. You will have keep your wits about you to gure out what is going on, but you can almost
always tell from the context. If a

appears on a function, it is a derivative. If the

appears on a variable, it is a new
variable. Thus f

(x) means the derivative with respect to x of the function f(x), but f(x

) means the function f of


the variable x

and f

(x

) means the derivative with respect to the variable x

of the function f(x

).
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Also, the integral
_
t
t
0
B(t) dt

(20)
is not the same as
_
t
t
0
B(t

) dt

. (21)
Both of these expressions are sensible, they are just not the same. In fact, we can do the rst
integral explicity because the integrand B(t) doesnt depend on the integration variable, the
dummy variable t

-
_
t
t
0
B(t) dt

= (t t
0
) B(t) . (22)
3. The integral needs some lower limit, and we have called this t
0
, expecting it to have some-
thing to do with the initial conditions.
4. Finally, (17) appears to depend on both t
0
and the unknown constant. But we can determine
the constant by just setting t = t
0
, which gives
v(t
0
) =
_
t
0
t
0
1
m
F(t

) dt

+ constant (23)
The integral vanishes here because the range of integration is zero, so we know that
constant = v(t
0
) = x(t
0
) . (24)
We sometimes call the initial condition x(t
0
) an integration constant because of the way it
appears in (23).
Putting (24) back into (17) gives the nal result for the velocity,
v(t) =
_
t
t
0
1
m
F(t

) dt

+ v(t
0
) (25)
Another way to think about the result (25) is from the following chain (really just going back-
wards through the same argument):
_
t
t
0
1
m
F(t

) dt

=
_
t
t
0
a(t

) dt

=
_
t
t
0
_
d
dt

v(t

)
_
dt

= v(t) v(t
0
) (26)
which is equivalent to (25).
Now that we know v(t) as a function of t (at least formally, in terms of an integral), we can
nd x(t) by just repeating the procedure. But v is the time derivative of x, we can write
x(t) =
_
t
t
0
v(t

) dt

+ x(t
0
) (27)
where again, the initial condition appears as an integration constant. Then we can put (25) into
(27) to get
x(t) =
_
t
t
0
v(t

)
..
_
_
t

t
0
1
m
F(t

) dt

+ v(t
0
)
_
dt

+ x(t
0
) (28)
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Note the new variable of integration, again to keep from getting the integration variable confused
with the range of integration. Finally, we can do the integral for the term proportional to v(t
0
),
because it is just a constant, and get the result
x(t) =
_
t
t
0
_
t

t
0
1
m
F(t

) dt

dt

+ v(t
0
)(t t
0
) + x(t
0
) (29)
The terms in (29) are easy to understand. The last term is where the object started the initial
condition for the position. The middle term describes motion with constant velocity v(t
0
), which
is what the object would be doing if there were no force on it. And the rst term is the effect of
the force. Notice that (29) is valid for a constant force F(t) = F
0
(a constant is just a particularly
simple function of t). And sure enough, we can do the integral in that case and get (11).
x(t) =
_
t
t
0
_
t

t
0
1
m
F(t

) dt

dt

+ v(t
0
)(t t
0
) + x(t
0
)
=
_
t
t
0
_
t

t
0
F
0
m
dt

dt

+ v(t
0
)(t t
0
) + x(t
0
)
=
_
t
t
0
F
0
m
(t

t
0
) dt

+ v(t
0
)(t t
0
) + x(t
0
)
=
F
0
2m
(t t
0
)
2
+ v(t
0
)(t t
0
) + x(t
0
)
(30)
A A Implies F = ma
I am not going to talk about this in class, but here is a little mathematical appendix for those of you
who are interested. At least for a single degree of freedom, assumption A actually implies, under
very mild assumptions, the existence of a second order differential equation like Newtons second
law for the trajectories.
To see this, let us restate A in mathematics. Suppose that a system has one degree of freedom
so that the conguration of the system is given by the value of a single variable x (it wont matter,
but it makes the language simpler to talk about only a single coordinate). Since A is the statement
that the trajectory is determined by x and x at some given time, call the given time t
0
, then A
implies that we can write any possible trajectory x(t) as a function of four variables: t (of course);
the time t
0
at which we specify x and x; and of the initial values x(t
0
) = x
0
and x(t
0
) = v
0
. A
is just the statement that such a function exists. Since it exists, we can give it a name G and write
the statement A in mathematics as
A x(t) = G
_
x
0
, v
0
, t
0
, t
_
(31)
Furthermore, because we can specify x and x at any time we choose. We can use any t
0
in (31)
and get the same trajectory so long as we take x
0
and v
0
to be the values of the position and the
velocity on that trajectory at the time t
0
. This function G contains everything about all possible
motions of the system!
11
The mild assumption we need to get F = ma from this is a smoothness assumption. We must
assume we can differentiate our function x(t) with respect to time. Obviously, if we cant do this,
we have no hope of getting to Newton. This assumption is really very mild.
Now here is the basic idea. Because of the meaning of the initial conditions, we can put
x
0
= x(t
0
) and v
0
= x(t
0
) into (31) and rewrite it as
x(t) = G
_
x(t
0
), x(t
0
), t
0
, t
_
(32)
This is a peculiar equation, because the trajectory x(t) appears on both sides, on one side inside
the function G. Because of this, the equation is telling us something about the function x that
describes the trajectory. It is still more complicated than it has to be though, because it involves
two different times, t and t
0
. But the other peculiar thing is that the right hand side of (32) must be
completely independent of t
0
, because t
0
doesnt appear on the left had side at all. We can use this
to get information on the trajectory that only depends on a single time. In particular, now we can
start differentiating both sides of the equation with respect to t and afterwards, setting t
0
equal to
t to get an equation that only depends on the the trajectory and its derivatives at a single time. We
will see that differentiating zero or one time doesnt give us anything interesting - just tautologies.
But differentiating twice is interesting.
So here goes. First we set t
0
t in (32).
x(t) = G
_
x(t), x(t), t, t
_
(33)
This is a tautology, because we can use the time t as the initial time to specify the trajectory, and
this just says that the particle is where it is supposed to be at time t. To put it another way, if I
change all the ts to t
0
in (33),
x(t
0
) = G
_
x(t
0
), x(t
0
), t
0
, t
0
_
= G
_
x(t
0
), x(t
0
), t
0
, t
_

t=t
0
= x(t)|
t=t
0
(34)
this is just the statement of the initial condition for x(t
0
).
Likewise, differentiating once with respect to t gives us nothing new.
x(t) =

t
G
_
x(t
0
), x(t
0
), t
0
, t
_
=

t
G
_
x(t
0
), x(t
0
), t
0
, t
_

t
0
=t
(35)
Again we can set t
0
t because the left hand side doesnt depend on t
0
. The equation (35) just
says that the particle is going as fast as it should be going at time t.
x(t
0
) =

t
G
_
x(t
0
), x(t
0
), t
0
, t
0
_
=

t
G
_
x(t
0
), x(t
0
), t
0
, t
_

t=t
0
=

t
x(t)|
t=t
0
(36)
But differentiating twice with respect to t gives us a second order differential equation that the
trajectory must satisfy. And this is Newtons second law.
x(t) =

2
t
2
G
_
x(t
0
), x(t
0
), t
0
, t
_
=

2
t
2
G
_
x(t
0
), x(t
0
), t
0
, t
_

t
0
=t
(37)
The right hand side of (37) is just some function of x(t), x(t) and t. Thus as promised, is a second
order differential equation for x(t). This is just F = ma with
F(x(t), x(t), t) = m

2
t
2
G
_
x(t
0
), x(t
0
), t
0
, t
_

t
0
=t
(38)
From the function that is the mathematical description of the assumption A that the trajectory is
determined by an initial position and velocity, we can nd the force that makes F = ma work.
12