Lectures on Physics has been derived from Benjamin Crowell's Light and Matter series of free introductory textbooks on physics. See the editorial for more information....

Counting equations and unknowns

Counting equations and unknowns is just as useful as in one dimension, but every object's momentum vector has three components, so an unknown momentum vector counts as three unknowns. Conservation of momentum is a single vector equation, but it says that all three components of the total momentum vector stay constant, so we count it as three equations. Of course if the motion happens to be confined to two dimensions, then we need only count vectors as having two components.

A two-car crash with sticking

Shooting pool

Last Update: 2009-06-21