How is Newton's first law of motion applicable to the real world?

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Answered by: Jennifer, An Expert in the Basic Concepts in Physics Category
Physics is the branch of science directly concerned with both the nature and properties of matter and energy. Throughout its history many notable scientists have influenced the field, however one stands above all others. Isaac Newton was an English scientist and mathematician who is largely renowned as "the father of physics".

Newton is best known for his work with the physical forces. His laws of gravity and motion are some of his most well-known work. Though the laws themselves may seem complex, at their core they are actually quite simple and explain the nature of the forces that surround us every day. Let's take a look at how Newton's first law of motion can be applied to the game of baseball.

First law of motion:

"When viewed in an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force."

More simply stated, Newton's first law explains that an object in motion will continue its movement at the same speed, in the same direction or an object at rest will remain immobile. That is unless the object is acted upon by an outside force.

Take for instance the baseball in play at a little league game. The ball begins its journey in the hands of the pitcher. Before he throws the ball it sits inside his glove. That ball would remain forever immobile in the pitcher's mitt if he failed to either drop or throw it. However, if the ball remained infinitely at rest we would have no game. So he pitcher winds up and transfers some of his energy to the ball, forcing it to careen through the air towards the batter.

The ball will continue to sail through the air until it reaches either the bat or the catcher's mitt. Let's say the batter is well seasoned and connects with the ball. The energy from the swinging bat on the moving ball forces the ball to change direction and it now soars upward. In a world completely void of forces that ball would continue to fly skyward, higher and higher. However thanks to Newton, we have a solid grasp on gravitational laws and know that gravity is a force acts on the earth every second of every day.

Due to the force of gravity the ball's speed will slow until eventually it stops. At this point gravity's force will change the direction of the ball and it will begin falling in a downward motion towards the ground. Outfielders take position, but none are able to get beneath the ball in time. It hits the ground and begins to roll.

That ball would seemingly roll forever, in a forceless world, if no player was able to stop it. There is however another well-known force that aids the outfielders, friction. The force of friction works against the movement of the ball, slowing it much like the force of gravity did while the ball was in the air. This time, however, once the force of friction stops the ball's movement, it will remain at rest until a player picks it up to put it back in play.

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