# Exploring Newton's 3rd Law: Mass & Reaction

• xWaldorf
In summary: The maximum force is defined as the maximum force that the object can exert. It might be determined by the breaking of the molecular bonds of the object.
xWaldorf
So there's something I'm missing when I think of Newton's 3rd law of motion.
If all forces between two objects exist in equal magnitude and opposite direction, how is it that, for example, when I'm driving my car, the car "runs through" all the air molecules, and they seemingly don't exert the same force back on my car (although i know that they do), a force of a full iszed car running at X kph?
how is it that hitting a wall with my car has different results from "hitting" air molecules, when the reaction is supposed to be the same - same force on my care on the opposite direction.
In other words, in what way the mass of an object affects the reaction, and what am I missing here?

I realize that the forces don't cancel out because they act on different objects, that is not the misconception I am struggling with

When the car interacts with the air, there is not much force on the air and not much force on the car. Equal and opposite.

When the car interacts with a wall, there is a lot of force on the car and a lot of force on the wall. Equal and opposite.

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russ_watters and Rishabh Narula
xWaldorf said:
Summary:: in what way the mass of an object affects the reaction, and what am I missing here?

So there's something I'm missing when I think of Newton's 3rd law of motion.
If all forces between two objects exist in equal magnitude and opposite direction, how is it that, for example, when I'm driving my car, the car "runs through" all the air molecules, and they seemingly don't exert the same force back on my car (although i know that they do), a force of a full iszed car running at X kph?
how is it that hitting a wall with my car has different results from "hitting" air molecules, when the reaction is supposed to be the same - same force on my care on the opposite direction.
In other words, in what way the mass of an object affects the reaction, and what am I missing here?

I realize that the forces don't cancel out because they act on different objects, that is not the misconception I am struggling with

Let's take the standard example. First you punch a wall with a force of, let's say, ##100N##. The wall is perfectly capable of returning that force. It doesn't move and the equal and opposite reaction is ##100N##.

Now, suppose you punch a paper screen. The paper screen is only capable of a force of ##5N##, say. The equal and opposite reaction is ##5N## and your fist goes through the paper.

The maximum force you can exert on something depends on the thing you hit.

In the example of the car, the air provides a limited resisting force. This decelerates the car and the car pushes on the air with the same force. If the car hits a wall, the wall can provide an enormous resisting force and the car decelerates much more quickly. In both cases, the magnitude of the resisting force determines the equal and opposite forces.

A car, moving at a certain speed, does not imply any particular force. Your car is traveling with a speed and a momentum, but there is no implied force. The magnitude of the force is determined by what is resisting its motion.

Rishabh Narula, hmmm27, hutchphd and 1 other person
Thanks!
so does that mean that the paper in your example has a force of 5N applied on it by my fist? or it has 10N but only capable of returning 5N?
does the mass determine the resistance capability?

xWaldorf said:
Thanks!
so does that mean that the paper in your example has a force of 5N applied on it by my fist? or it has 10N but only capable of returning 5N?
does the mass determine the resistance capability?
The force applied by your fist might increase rapidly to ##5N## but at that point the paper cannot sustain further force, so it tears and your fist goes through. You cannot get beyond ##5N## with something that gives way to that value.

You might like to think about what determines the maximum force you can apply to a wall. Hint: assume the wall is completely rigid.

PeroK said:
The force applied by your fist might increase rapidly to ##5N## but at that point the paper cannot sustain further force, so it tears and your fist goes through. You cannot get beyond ##5N## with something that gives way to that value.

You might like to think about what determines the maximum force you can apply to a wall. Hint: assume the wall is completely rigid.

how is the maximum force defined? when the object shatters? if so I'd assume the molecular bonds of that particular matter determine the maximum force wouldn't it? - because i guess you're talking of a situation when the wall or paper is stationary due to something holding it.
and if it is so, what couldn't we go beyond that force if we took a floating block of wall in space, and attach an imaginary spaceship to it and star accelerating until the force applied on the wall by our accelerating spaceship go beyond that maximum?
I hope I am making my qustions clear hahah

xWaldorf said:
how is the maximum force defined? when the object shatters? i

Yes, that's it.

xWaldorf said:
Summary:: in what way the mass of an object affects the reaction, and what am I missing here?

when I'm driving my car, the car "runs through" all the air molecules, and they seemingly don't exert the same force back on my car
This is a very simplified model for air resistance but it will do for the purpose. As your car speeds up, the resistive force due to all the air particles that it hits will increase (at a rate that approximates to a square law). Eventually, the resistive force will equal the driving force and you will reach the terminal velocity - after which there can be no more acceleration.

This is not just a Third Law phenomenon. The Third Law always applies but the Third Law aspect is that each particle experiences an equal and opposite force to the force it exerts on the car.

It's the Second Law that describes the acceleration during the process and, in this case, the rate at which you are pushing particles along determines how many of those 'Third Law Pairs' are involved in each second.

Then it's the First Law that tells you there will be no further acceleration when the net force is zero.

You need to read such laws very carefully and literally and not try to use them out of context.

Lnewqban
xWaldorf said:
Summary:: in what way the mass of an object affects the reaction, and what am I missing here?
Your question is more related to the Second Law than to the Third one.
I believe that what you are missing is the concept of the Laws of Motion, energy-wise, and why they happen to be.

How would you define "force"?
According to
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Force

"In physics, a force is any interaction that, when unopposed, will change the motion of an object. A force can cause an object with mass to change its velocity (which includes to begin moving from a state of rest), i.e., to accelerate. Force can also be described intuitively as a push or a pull. A force has both magnitude and direction, making it a vector quantity. It is measured in the SI unit of Newtons and represented by the symbol F."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton's_laws_of_motion

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impulse_(physics)

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Lnewqban said:
force is any interaction that, when unopposed, will change the motion of an object.
I think that could have been written much better. All interactions and forces, in practice are 'opposed' so the statement nullifies itself as a way of 'explaining' things to the uninitiated. We are dealing with a topic that is subject to personal interventions of many people, some who know stuff and others who haven't a clue. (I do not refer to this thread, of course, and I don't want to raise any hackles.) The discussion suffers from lack of proper definitions and takes us back to the situation before Science was properly formalised. People of Newton's generation did not have the luxury of clear texts to read but had to deal with and interpret pages of writing because concise Maths was not an accepted language. The subject couldn't have been taught at that level to every secondary school age child in the country until that problem had been resolved by basic Maths education. Wiki often suffers from attempts and failures to present things in an effort to 'clear them up' with a simple string of words.

Trying to maintain a conversation under that constriction is, in my view, doomed just to add more confusion.

## 1. What is Newton's 3rd Law?

Newton's 3rd Law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means that whenever an object exerts a force on another object, the second object will exert an equal and opposite force back on the first object.

## 2. How does mass affect Newton's 3rd Law?

The mass of an object does not directly affect Newton's 3rd Law. However, the greater the mass of an object, the greater the force it can exert and the greater the force it can withstand.

## 3. Can you give an example of Newton's 3rd Law in action?

One example of Newton's 3rd Law is when a person jumps off a boat onto a dock. As the person pushes down on the boat to jump, the boat exerts an equal and opposite force on the person, propelling them onto the dock.

## 4. How is Newton's 3rd Law related to the concept of inertia?

Newton's 3rd Law is directly related to the concept of inertia, which is an object's resistance to changes in motion. When an object exerts a force on another object, the second object will experience an equal and opposite force, causing it to resist changes in motion.

## 5. Is Newton's 3rd Law applicable to all types of forces?

Yes, Newton's 3rd Law is applicable to all types of forces, including gravitational, electromagnetic, and contact forces. It is a fundamental law of physics that applies to all interactions between objects.

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