Physics Lesson 3.7.1 - The meaning of Motion Maps

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Welcome to our Physics lesson on The meaning of Motion Maps, this is the first lesson of our suite of physics lessons covering the topic of The Meaning of Acceleration. Constant and Non-Constant Acceleration. Gravitational Acceleration, you can find links to the other lessons within this tutorial and access additional physics learning resources below this lesson.

The meaning of Motion Maps

Before starting with the topic, it is worth explaining the meaning of "motion maps."

In Kinematics, Motion Maps are a useful visual tool for analysing and demonstrating what we know about how an object moves. In general, a motion map can represent the position, velocity, and acceleration of an object at various clock readings (we haven't discussed the acceleration yet, but we will cover it in this tutorial, so it is better including the concept of acceleration in the motion map explanation).

A motion map has many similarities with a motion graph. They both have a origin (reference point), a positive and a negative direction and they both include units. The only difference is that a motion graph doesn't show any object but only numbers. On the other hand, a motion map shows the moving object and the way how it is moving is shown through arrows. Longer the arrows, faster the object is moving.

The figure below represents a simple motion map.

Physics Tutorials: This image shows

The black dots represent an object "photographed" in equal intervals of time (clock readings). It is easy to notice that the object (the black dot) is making a uniform motion (it has a constant velocity) because the distance between two consecutive dots (which in fact represent the position of the object at every two consecutive equal time intervals) is always the same (5 units). Therefore, we can appoint a velocity vector (arrow) to each black dot whose length (in this case) is always the same. The arrow is also inserted to show the moving direction as it's not for sure the object is always moving in the positive direction. Look at the figure below.

Physics Tutorials: This image shows

We can understand this is a uniform motion judging on the arrows' length only. In this way, we don't have to check whether the object has moved the same number of units at each time interval.

We can appoint numbers to the units shown in the motion map. We can illustrate the time intervals with numerical values as well. For example, if one square represents 1 m and the time interval between two consecutive dots (the clock) is 0.5 s, we can find the following values:

Displacement at every time interval = ∆x = 5 m
Total Displacement = ∆xtot = 8 × 5 m = 40 m
Time interval (clock) = ∆t = 0.5 s
Total time elapsed = ttot = 8 × 0.5 s = 4 s
Average velocity = < v > = ∆xtot/ttot= 40 m/4s= 10 m/s
Instantaneous velocity = v= ∆x/∆t = 5m/0.5s= 10 m/s

(We have considered a single distance unit and consequently a single time interval when calculating the instantaneous velocity).

Since the above motion map represents a uniform motion (motion done at the same velocity), we can draw an important conclusion based on the above findings:

"In a uniform motion, the values of average and instantaneous velocity are equal."

This conclusion is drawn with the help of the motion map discussed above.

You have reach the end of Physics lesson 3.7.1 The meaning of Motion Maps. There are 5 lessons in this physics tutorial covering The Meaning of Acceleration. Constant and Non-Constant Acceleration. Gravitational Acceleration, you can access all the lessons from this tutorial below.

More The Meaning of Acceleration. Constant and Non-Constant Acceleration. Gravitational Acceleration Lessons and Learning Resources

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Tutorial IDPhysics Tutorial TitleTutorialVideo
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3.7The Meaning of Acceleration. Constant and Non-Constant Acceleration. Gravitational Acceleration
Lesson IDPhysics Lesson TitleLessonVideo
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3.7.1The meaning of Motion Maps
3.7.2The meaning of Acceleration
3.7.3Constant and non-constant acceleration
3.7.4Average and Instantaneous Acceleration
3.7.5Gravitational acceleration

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  6. Continuing learning kinematics - read our next physics tutorial: Equations of Motion

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