Is Angular Momentum really conserved

In summary, the conservation of angular momentum is a fundamental principle in physics, similar to the conservation of linear momentum. It is even more important than linear momentum, as it applies to a wider range of systems and can be a bit confusing due to its connection to rotational symmetry. The formula for angular momentum is F = dp/dt and &tau = dL/dt, and in a closed system, angular momentum must be conserved. However, it can change form, such as from mechanical to radiation, but the total angular momentum remains constant. It is also important to note that angular momentum is always measured with respect to a certain point, and can vary depending on the point chosen.
  • #1
I'm having a lot of trouble with this.

Is it really a conserved quantity, like linear momentum, or is this just a rule applied to certain systems.
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  • #2
It is even more important than linear momentum, as the main problem of dynamics was, for a long time, movement under central forces.

Angular momentum is preserved undir this kind of force. It can be a bit confusing because now it is customary to present this as a consequence or rotational symmetry, but angular momentum is preserved even in some cases where the force field is not rotationally symmetric.
  • #3

There's a Newton's law for angular momentum just like for linear momentum:

F = dp/dt

&tau = dL/dt

(&tau is torque and L is angular momentum)

So in a system with no external torque (such as any closed system), angular momentum must be conserved via Newton's law.


  • #4
What about this.

You have a straight rod, floating in space.

Now two projectiles are fired at the rod, from opposite directions and with velocity perpendicular to the line of the rod.

They both strike the rod at its ends and are fixed there by some mechanism.

Won't the impact of the particles constiute a moment about the rod causing it to rotate and essentially creating angular momentum where none existed before?
  • #5
In that case, you have applied an external torque, haven't you?
  • #6
Also, the total angular momentum of the two projectiles before they hit will be equal to the angular momentum of the spinning projectiles+rod system that results.
  • #7
by the way, kepler second law is related to the discussion
  • #8
So does a particle moving in a straight line have angular momentum?

If so what is the formula?
  • #9
Originally posted by ObsessiveMathsFreak
So does a particle moving in a straight line have angular momentum?

If so what is the formula?

The same as as the regular formula you just have to define the Point from which you are measuring the angular momentum.

For instance for your example, the system of the rod and two projectile, this would be the center of the rod.

Now imagine two rays extending from the center of the rod to each projectile. As the projectiles approach the rod, these rays will shorten and rotate around the center of the rod. And any given instant each ray will have a length(radius)and angular velocity. the cloeser the projectile to the rod, the shorter the radius and the greater the angular velocity. Thse two properties, plus the mass of the projectile determine the angular momentum of the projectiles with respect to the center of the rod. The decrease of the radius and increase of the angular velocity exactly compensate for each other leading to a constant angular momentum.
  • #10
ObsessiveMathsFreak basically asked whether angular momentum was a conserved in physics.

The answer is yes. The angular momentum of a closed system is always conserved. However it may change form. If might change from mechanical angular momentum to angular momentum of radiation. Consider a charge moving in a circle, say at the end of a string attached to a pole or something like that. The angular momentum is all mechanical at first. But as the charge moves it radiates and thus looses energy and will eventually slow down and stop. However the *total* angular momentum remains the same - The angular momentum was carried off in the form of electromagnetic energy.

And you can't say if something has angular momentum or not unless you say with respect to what point. If a particle is moving along the x-axis of a Cartesian coordinate system then the angular momentum with respect to the origin is zero - and the total angular momentum with respect to the origin will remain zero if the system is closed. However, for the same particle, the angular momentum is not zero with any point other than the origin.


1. What is Angular Momentum?

Angular momentum is a physical quantity that describes the rotational motion of an object around an axis. It is a vector quantity that takes into account both the mass and velocity of the object, as well as the distance between the object and the axis of rotation.

2. What does it mean for Angular Momentum to be conserved?

When we say that Angular Momentum is conserved, we mean that the total amount of angular momentum in a closed system remains constant over time. This means that no external forces are acting on the system and causing a change in its rotational motion.

3. Is Angular Momentum really conserved in all situations?

Yes, according to the law of conservation of angular momentum, angular momentum is always conserved in a closed system. However, it may appear to not be conserved in certain situations due to external forces acting on the system, such as friction or air resistance.

4. How is Angular Momentum conserved in an isolated system?

In an isolated system, the total angular momentum of the system remains constant because there are no external torques acting on the system. This means that the initial angular momentum of the system is equal to the final angular momentum, even if there are internal forces acting within the system.

5. Why is the conservation of Angular Momentum important?

The conservation of Angular Momentum is important because it is a fundamental law of physics that helps us understand and predict the behavior of rotating objects. It also allows us to analyze complex systems and determine the effects of different forces on their rotational motion.

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