Physical Science Vocab

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The sluggishness or apparent resistance an object offers to change in its state of motion.


Distance traveled per time


the speed of an object and specification of its direction of motion.


rate at which velocity changes with time; the change in velocity may be in magnitude or direction or both

Free Fall

state of fall free from air resistance and other forces except for gravity.


The quantity of matter in an object


The gravitational force exerted on an object by the nearest most-massive body


the fundamental SI unit of mass. One kilogram is the amount of mass in 1 liter of water


the SI unit of force. One Newton is the force that will give an object of mass 1 kg an acceleration of 1 m/s squared


The quantity of space an object occupies


any influence that can cause an object to be accelerated, measured in Newton's

Mechanical Equilibrium

the state of an object or system of objects for which any impressed forces cancel to zero and no acceleration occurs.

Static Equilibrium

an object that is not moving and has 0 acceleration.

Dynamic Equilibrium

an object that is moving, without accelerating.


the resistive forces that arise to oppose the motion or attempted motion of an object past another with which is in contact.

Terminal Speed

the speed at which the acceleration of a falling object terminates because friction balances the weight.


the product of the mass of an object and its velocity.


the product of the forces acting on an object and the time during which it acts.

Relationship of Impulse and Momentum

impulse is equal to the change in the momentum of the object that the impulse acts on.

Conservation of Momentum

when no external net force acts on an object or system of objects, no change of momentum takes place.

Elastic Collision

collision in which colliding objects rebound without lasting deformation or the generation of heat

Inelastic Collision

a collision in which the colliding objects become distorted and generates heat during the collision.

Newtons 1st Law

Every object continues in a state of rest, or in a state of motion in a straight line at a constant speed, unless it is compelled to change that stare by forces exerted upon it.

Newtons 2nd Law

The acceleration produced by a net force on an object is directly proportional to the net force, and is inversely proportional to the mass of the object.

Newtons 3rd Law

Whenever one object exerts a force on a second object, the second object exerts an equal and opposite force on the first object.


Mutual action between objects in which each one exerts an equal and opposite force on the other.

Force Pair

The action and reaction pair of forces that constitute an interaction.

Force Vector

An arrow drawn to scale so that its length represent the magnitude of a force and its direction of the force.

Velocity Vector

an arrow drawn to scale so that its length represents the magnitude of the velocity and its direction represents the direction of motion.


the net force of a combination of two or more vectors.

Vector Components

parts into which a vector can be separated and that act indifferent directions from the vector.

Net Force

the combination of all forces that act on an object.

Vector Quantity

A quantity that specifies direction and magnitude.

Support Foce

the force that supports an object against gravity, sometimes called normal force.


The resistive force that opposes the motion or attempted motion of an object through a fluid or past another object with which it is in contact.

Air Resistance

The force of friction acting on an object due to its motion through air.

Hang Time

The time that one's feet are off the ground during a vertical jump.

The Law Of Universal Gravititation

every mass in the universe attracts every other mass with a force that for two masses is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance separation them.

Inverse Square Law

a law relating the intensity of an effect to the inverse square of the distance from the cause.


a condition encountered in free-fall wherein a support force in lacking.


the product of the force and the distance through which the force moves


The rate time of work


the property of a system the that enables it to do work

Potential Energy

the stored energy that a body possesses because of its position

Kinetic Energy

Energy of Motion

Conservation of Energy

energy cannot be created or destroyed

Conservation of Energy Machines

the work output of any machine cannot exceed the work input


the percent of the work put into a machine that is converted into useful work output.


the transfer and distribution of heat energy that moves from molecule to molecule within a substance


the transfer of heat energy in a gas or liquid by means of currents in the heated fluid


the transfer of energy at the speed of light by means of electronic waves.

Newtons Law Of Cooling

the rate of loss of heat with time from an object is proportional to the excess temperature of the substance over the temperature of its surroundings

Green House Effect

the heating effect of a medium such as glass or the earth's atmosphere that is transparent to the short-wavelength radiation of sunlight but opaque to long-wavelength terrestrial radiation


the study of heat and its transformation to other form of energy

Absolute Zero

the lowest possible temperature that a substance may have

Thermal Energy

the total of the molecular energies - kinetic energy and potential energy- internal to a substance.

First Law Of Thermodynamics

a restatement of the law of energy conservation, usually as it applies to a system involving changes in temperature

Adiabatic Process

a process, usually of expansion or compression, wherein no heat enters of leaves a system

Second Law Of Thermodynamics

heat will never spontaneously flow from a cold object to a hot object.

Hot Engine

a device that changes thermal energy to mechanical work


the change of phase at the surface of a liquid as it passes to the gaseous phase


the change of phase form gas to liquid


a measure of the hotness and coldness of substances, related to the average kinetic energy per molecule in a substance, measured in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit or in Kelvin's.


the thermal energy that flows from a substance of higher temperature to a substance of lower temperature, commonly measured in calories or joules.

Specific Heat Capacity

the quantity of heat per unit mass required to raise the temperature of a substance by 1 Celsius degree.


the rapid state of evaporation that takes place within the liquid as well as at its surface.


the process of changing phase from a solid to a gas without passing through the liguid phase (dry ice)

Heat Of Fusion

The amount of energy to change phase from solid to liquid (and vice versa.)

Heat Of Vaporization

The amount of energy required to change phase from liquid to gas (and vice versa.)

Sine Curve

A wave form traced by simple harmonic motion.


For a wave or vibration, the maximum displacement on either side of the equilibrium (midpoint) position.


The distance between successive crests, troughs, or identical parts of a wave.


For a vibrating body or medium, the number of vibrations per unit time.


The SI unit of frequency.


the time required for a vibration or a wave to make a complete cycle; equal to 1/frequency.

Wave Speed

The speed with which waves pass a particular point: wave speed=frequency X wavelength.

Transverse Wave

A wave in which the medium vibrates in a direction perpendicular (transverse) to the direction in which the wave travels.

Longitudinal Wave

A wave in which the medium vibrates in a direction parallel (longitudinal) with the direction in which the wave travels.


Condensed region of the medium through which a longitudinal wave travels.


Rarefied region of the medium through which a longitudinal wave travels.

Interference Pattern

The pattern formed by superposition of different sets of waves, which produces mutual reinforcement in some places and cancellation in others.

Standing Wave

A stationary wave pattern formed in a medium when two sets of identical waves pass through the medium in opposite directions.

Doppler Effect

The change in frequency of wave motion resulting in motion of the sender or the receiver.

Bow Wave

The V-shaped wave made by an object moving across a liquid surface at a speed greater than the wave speed.

Shock Wave

the cone-shaped wave made by an object moving at supersonic speed through a fluid.

Sonic Boom

The loud sound resulting from a shock wave.


Describes a sound of frequency too low to be heard by the normal human ear----below 20 hertz.

Ultra Sonic

Describes a sound of a frequency too high to be heard by the normal human ear---above 20,000 hertz.


Reechoed Sound


The bending of a wave, either through a non-uniform medium or from one medium to another, caused by differences in wave speed.

Forced Vibration

The setting up of vibrations in an object by a vibrating force.

Natural Frequency

A frequency at which an elastic object naturally tends to vibrate, so that minimum energy is required to produce a forced vibration or to continue vibration at the frequency.

Fundamental Frequency

The lowest frequency of vibration, or the first harmonic. In a string, the vibration makes a single segment.


The response of a body when a forcing frequency matches it natural frequency.


A series of alternate reinforcements and cancellations produced by the interference of two waves of slightly different frequency, heard as a throbbing effect in sound waves.


The characteristics timbre of a musical sound.

Partial Tone

One of the frequencies present in complex tone.


A partial tone that is an integer multiple of the fundamental frequency.

Electromagnetic Wave

An energy-carrying wave emitted by vibrating electrical charges (often electrons) and composed of oscillating electric and magnetic fields that regenerate one another.

Electromagnetic Spectrum

The range of electromagnetic waves that extends in frequency from radio waves to gamma rays.


The term applied to materials through which light can pass in straight lines.

Additive Primary Colors

The three colors—red, blue, and green.

Subtractive Primary Colors

the three colors of absorbing pigments---magenta, yellow, and cyan.

Complementary Colors

Any two colors that, when added, will produce white light.


The bending of light that passes around an obstacle.


The result of superposing different waves of the same wavelength. Constructive interference results from crest-to-crest reinforcement; destructive interference results from crest-to-through cancellation.


The alignment of the transverse electric vectors that make up electromagnetic radiation.


The return of light rays from a surface in such a way that the angle at which a given ray is returned is equal to the angle at which it strikes the surface.


The bending of an oblique ray of light when it passes from one transparent medium to another.

Law Of Reflection

The angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection.

Critical Angle

The minimum angle of incidence inside a medium at which a light ray is totally reflected.

Total Internal Reflection

The total reflection of light raveling within a medium that strikes the boundary of another medium at an angle at, or greater than, the critical angle.

Converging Lens

A lens that is thicker in the middle than at the edges.

Diverging Lens

A lens that is thinner in the middle than at the edges.

Virtual Image

An image formed by light rays that do not converge at the location of the image.

Real Image

An image formed by light rays that converge at the location of the image.


Limitations on the formation of perfect images, which are inherent, to some degree, in all optical systems.

Photoelectric Effect

The emission of electrons from a metal surface when light shines on it.

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