  Encyclopedia > Momentum

Article Content

Momentum

In physics, momentum is a physical quantity related to the velocity and mass of an object.

In classical mechanics, momentum (traditionally written as p) is defined as the product of mass and velocity. It is thus a vector quantity.

The SI unit of momentum is newton-seconds, which can alternatively be expressed with the units kg.m/s.

An impulse changes the momentum of an object. An impulse is calculated as the integral of force with respect to duration.

$I=\int F\,dt$
using the definition of force yields:
$I=\int\frac{dp}{dt}\,dt$
$I=\int dp$
$I=\Delta p$

It is commonly believed that the physical laws should be invariant under translations. Thus, the definition of momentum was changed when Einstein formulated Special relativity so that its magnitude would remain invariant under relativistic transformations. See physical conservation law. We now define a vector, called the 4-momentum thus:

[E/c p]

where E is the total energy of the system, and p is called the "relativistic momentum" defined thus:

E = γmc2
p = γmv
and
$\gamma = \frac{1}{\sqrt{1 - v^2/c^2}}$.

The "length" of the vector that remains constant is defined thus:

$p\cdot p-E^2$

Massless objects such as photons also carry momentum; the formula is p=E/c, where E is the energy the photon carries and c is the speed of light.

In quantum mechanics momentum is defined as an operator on the wave function. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle defines limits on how accurately the momentum and position of a single observable system can be known at once.

A process may be said to gain momentum. The terminology implies that it requires effort to start such a process, but that it is relatively easy to keep it going.

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Search Encyclopedia
 Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!

Featured Article
 Midas Touch ... Midas has an ass' ears." The story of King Midas has been told by others with some variations. Dryden[?], in the Wife of Bath's Tale[?], by Geoffrey Chaucer, make ...  