Why do objects move?

  • #1
Hi all,

Molecules have different degrees of freedom.

So, when I push a wooden block, why doesn't all the energy that I provide via a push contribute to the degrees of freedom of the molecules of wood? ( my hand is also made of molecules, so it's basically molecules dealing with molecules )

Why does the block move at all?
 

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  • #2
phinds
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Your hand and the block repel each other due to electrical repulsion. It's the same reason you don't fall into your chair or the floor. So when you push the block, it wants to get away from your hand, so it moves.
 
  • #3
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So, when I push a wooden block, why doesn't all the energy that I provide via a push contribute to the degrees of freedom of the molecules of wood? ( my hand is also made of molecules, so it's basically molecules dealing with molecules )

Why does the block move at all?

When you try to touch a wooden block - what happens at the molecular level?
Try to imagine the outermost layer of wood and the surface molecules with nuclei and 'electron cloud'- so your fingers molecular layer interacts with it - you push harder the bounded molecules of the block provides reaction force .
things remain static till your 'macro-push' aggregate of all the forces leads to a translation of the block- so as a lay person you say that the action of your 'pushing' force led to a displacement of the block.
the motion gets generated by action of forces in nature.
For classical bodies people have experimented with forces and 'motion' and have come to depict the laws of motion.
If one goes to molecular level of action and reaction-deformation/stripping etc. one will go for many -body systems and to solve for motion will get pretty complicated and models ,idealized ones helps in understanding mechanical motions.
 
  • #4
Your hand and the block repel each other due to electrical repulsion. It's the same reason you don't fall into your chair or the floor. So when you push the block, it wants to get away from your hand, so it moves.

Thanks for the answer.

But, when I push the block some of the energy that my hand supplies surely creates vibrations in it.

Why not all of the energy from my hand is used in increasing the vibrations of the molecules of the block rather than moving it. (if some why not all)
 
  • #5
phinds
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Thanks for the answer.

But, when I push the block some of the energy that my hand supplies surely creates vibrations in it.

Why not all of the energy from my hand is used in increasing the vibrations of the molecules of the block rather than moving it. (if some why not all)
I don't know what you are talking about with these "vibrations of the molecules" so I'll have to leave that to someone else.
 
  • #6
jbriggs444
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But, when I push the block some of the energy that my hand supplies surely creates vibrations in it.

Why not all of the energy from my hand is used in increasing the vibrations of the molecules of the block rather than moving it. (if some why not all)
Consider a 1 kg uniform rod floating in space. You exert a 1 Newton force perpendicular to the rod for a duration of 1 second. Does the work done by your hand on the rod depend on whether you push it at the end or in the middle?

Answer this question and you should have the answer to yours.
 
  • #7
sophiecentaur
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But, when I push the block some of the energy that my hand supplies surely creates vibrations in it.
That is totally correct. The amount of energy that you can transfer to the motion of the block will be limited to how much of the work done on it is dissipated internally as the block is distorted. If you use a very large force for a brief time, then more energy will be used up by 'friction' between vibrating the particles as it distorts a lot. If you use a small force for a longer time then the amount of distortion will be much less and more of the work will turn up a KE of the whole block.
I have deliberately used arm waving terms here but there are better, higher level arguments which say the same thing.
 
  • #8
Delta2
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Thanks for the answer.

But, when I push the block some of the energy that my hand supplies surely creates vibrations in it.

Why not all of the energy from my hand is used in increasing the vibrations of the molecules of the block rather than moving it. (if some why not all)
I can reverse the question and ask why not all of the energy to go into macroscopic (translational/rotational) velocity and not microscopic (vibrational) velocity?

Hard for me to give a satisfying answer to any of the two questions (the forward or the reversed :D). I guess the energy will be split not necessarily with equal percentages. When we observe macroscopic interaction of bodies like collisions, most of the energy goes into macroscopic velocity while a small percentage goes as heat or collision's sound which is both cases of microscopic velocity. On the other hand when we heat a body or we light it up a body with photons of high enough frequency most if not all of the energy goes into microscopic velocity.
 
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  • #9
sophiecentaur
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Hard for me to give a satisfying answer to any of the two questions (the forward or the reversed :D). I guess the energy will be split not necessarily with equal percentages.
It all depends on the particular case. If the Energy Input is in the form of Mechanical Work (Force X Distance) and the material of the block is inelastic then the limiting final value of KE of the block will be equal to the Work done as Distance →∞ (and Force → 0) and the limiting value of KE will be zero as Distance → 0.
If the block is perfectly elastic then the final KE will always equal the Work put in.
I don't think it is necessary to consider the microscopic situation if you use Coefficient of Restitution or use the complex Modulus of the material (assuming linear behaviour).
 
  • #10
Thanks everyone for learned answers.

But somehow I fail to understand this process.

Let me put it in reverse.

When my hand touches the block, millions and millions of electrons come very close by.

When such a thing happens, instantaneous repulsion takes place.

So, in such a scenario where is the scope for the energy provided by my hand to increase the internal energy of the block??

Is there some loophole in this act of repulsion??

Thanks for patience
 
  • #11
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To be precise, when you push on the block, it accelerates. The block can move (at constant velocity) when no net force is being applied.
 
  • #12
phinds
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Thanks everyone for learned answers.

But somehow I fail to understand this process.

Let me put it in reverse.

When my hand touches the block, millions and millions of electrons come very close by.

When such a thing happens, instantaneous repulsion takes place.

So, in such a scenario where is the scope for the energy provided by my hand to increase the internal energy of the block??

Is there some loophole in this act of repulsion??

Thanks for patience

So you have gone from asking why all of the energy goes into heat to asking why ANY of it goes into heat :smile:

Your current question is answered in both post #7 and post#8
 
  • #13
russ_watters
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Thanks everyone for learned answers.

But somehow I fail to understand this process.

Let me put it in reverse.

When my hand touches the block, millions and millions of electrons come very close by.

When such a thing happens, instantaneous repulsion takes place.

So, in such a scenario where is the scope for the energy provided by my hand to increase the internal energy of the block??

Is there some loophole in this act of repulsion??

Thanks for patience
It looks to me like you are confusing heat (thermal) energy with mechanical energy.

If you lightly touch a cold object, the random motions of the molecules in your hand transfer energy individually to the molecules in the object, making them vibrate more.

When you push on an object, all the force/motion is in one direction, so the entire object moves together. It can't just vibrate more in place because it isn't allowed to by your hand being in the way!
 
  • #14
Delta2
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If I can successfully rephrase the OP , maybe in a way that reflects my own thinking on this situation:

" All forces between two bodies are of the A-type: that is, forces between the molecules/electron clouds of the two bodies. Why some forces of the A-type (like the force from a hand pushing a block) increase/change the macroscopic kinetic energy, while some other forces of the A-type (like the friction force) increase the microscopic kinetic energy?"

Well the answer (maybe not satisfying but I am trying ) is that though all forces are of A-type, still each force might have some additional characteristics that make them differ. The force from our hand pushing a block is kind of an organized force, as Russ says all the force/motion is in one direction and this causes an organized-tuned microscopic movement which we perceive as a macroscopic movement. On the other hand a friction force is less organized, it is causing a random microscopic movement which we perceive as heat or sound wave energy.
 
  • #15
sophiecentaur
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It is often best to take a simple model to get an understanding of a complex system. We can only take on board a limited number of variables in our search to understand a bit of Physics. There is absolutely no need to reach for the microscopic level for the first level of understanding of this, in fact it can just muddy the water. When the macroscopic situation is well understood then it may (or may not) be worth while looking at the smaller scale. It struck me that a motor car suspension system, treated in block diagram terms, could help.
At its very simplest level, the whole system consists of a mass, a spring and a friction / damping element. When the car hits a speed bump, the spring will be compressed according to how fast you hit the bump. The amount of compression will depend on the mass, the stiffness of the springs and the rate that you hit the bump (the resonant frequency of the system and the time profile of the force. The faster (and hence more) the spring is compressed against the mass of the car, the more energy will be dissipated in the damper. Going very slowly over the bump will involve minimal spring compression and the car body will be raised by the full height of the bump. All the work goes into raising the car.
If you hit the bump fast, there will be enough force on the spring to compress it and cause some dissipation in the damper. (That is your lost thermal energy.) Hitting the bump fast enough will displace the spring by the full height of the bump without raising the car at all - like my old 2CV, it will run over a sleeping policeman with no disturbance to the passengers. The damper will have dissipated all the energy of the wheels going up and down.
 
  • #16
I may be wrong but I feel that some answers are evasive. Sorry for this.

Nevertheless, as Russ Waters said that thermal energy is different from mechanical energy... So, does it mean that thermal energy travels the space between the electrons, then reaches near all the atoms/nuclei in the molecule and thus makes the whole molecule vibrate?

Or, as Sophiecentaur said... Should such questions be relegated to the background?

Or, as per Delta... Are there other characteristics of forces that should be studied?

I just wonder like a baby
 
  • #17
russ_watters
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I may be wrong but I feel that some answers are evasive. Sorry for this.
No, people are not being evasive, it's just that wrong questions sometimes don't have answers and sometimes it is even hard to say why. I think I may be better at that than average. For example:
Nevertheless, as Russ Waters said that thermal energy is different from mechanical energy... So, does it mean that thermal energy travels the space between the electrons, then reaches near all the atoms/nuclei in the molecule and thus makes the whole molecule vibrate?
Thermal energy is not a "thing" like an object that moves around on its own. It is a statistical property of atoms. And it doesn't apply to subatomic particles. So for thermal energy, the concept of something happening inside the atom doesn't apply.
 
  • #18
@ Russ Waters
" Sometimes it is even hard to say why"

Is there an inkling that the question may be right?

BTW, my question about thermal energy 'moving, was in an ironic sense.
 
  • #19
phinds
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Is there an inkling that the question may be right?
What do you mean? Questions are not right are wrong, they just ARE. Answers are right or wrong. Please clarify what you are asking.
 
  • #20
russ_watters
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What do you mean? Questions are not right are wrong, they just ARE. Answers are right or wrong. Please clarify what you are asking.
A question itself is "wrong" when it doesn't make sense, which is often because it is based on a flawed premise.
 
  • #21
russ_watters
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@ Russ Waters
" Sometimes it is even hard to say why"

Is there an inkling that the question may be right?
Nope.
BTW, my question about thermal energy
'moving, was in an ironic.
I'm not sure I believe that, but either way, you should probably not be trying irony since your English is pretty poor and your questions (your understanding of physics) are pretty garbled. Just be straightforward.
 
  • #22
sophiecentaur
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Or, as Sophiecentaur said... Should such questions be relegated to the background?
It's not a matter of "should". It's a matter of sorting out the basic (more elementary) ideas first and then introducing complexity later. There would be no point, for instance, in trying to work out how a simple network of resistors will behave when connected to a battery by leaping into the Quantum Physiscs of the electrons involved. It's a matter of identifying the hierarchy of the knowledge in order to get somewhere useful. What is foreground and what is background? Both have equal worth but a completely bottom up approach will just get too complicated.
 
  • #23
OK fine. I sense some perturbance here. I don't want to hurt sentiments, that's for sure.

I dare to ask the question for the last time, otherwise I will just place it in the dungeons of propriety. ( please don't reiterate about correcting my understanding of the basics of physics- I have put my question in the layman's category!!! -- it is incumbent upon the teachers here to clear the confusion.)

1. When the numerous electrons of my hand and block repel one another, how come the internal energy of the block gets increased?

2. If some of the energy provided by my hand is instrumental in increasing the internal energy of the block, why not all of it gets utilised for this purpose.

Thanks everyone.
 
  • #24
OK fine. I sense some perturbance here. I don't want to hurt sentiments, that's for sure.

1. When the numerous electrons of my hand and block repel one another, how come the internal energy of the block gets increased?

2. If some of the energy provided by my hand is instrumental in increasing the internal energy of the block, why not all of it gets utilised for this purpose.

Thanks everyone.

I like the question. Here is my attempt at an answer.

Take a block and set it on a horizontal bench. Put the fingers of your hand as close to the block as it's possible to do without affecting the its position or internal structure in any way.

Now push your fingers forward by half the width of an atom. The electrons in your fingers and the electrons in the block repel and the internal electronic structure of the block starts to change, to find a new global equilibrium.

Stop now and the block will reach a new equilibrium, presumably with a very slightly higher temperature and a slight (elastic) deformation.

If you keep pushing, though, you'll reach the point where the force propagating out through "all the little springs" between the atoms is big enough to overcome the frictional reactive force between the block and the bench, the block will deform no more and instead it'll move, at which point the initial deformation will probably release (?). The interation forces between the block and the bench will be very complicated and will lead to heating of both.

The simplest model I can think of for this would be a 2-dimensional "block" made of nine atoms in a square, resting on a horizontal plane. There will be a frictional force between the plane and the bottom three atoms which are touching it, which acts to keep the block in place. If we try to push the block to the right by applying a force to the left-most atom of the middle layer we will see the block deform such that this atom displaces the central atom, which in turn displaces the right-most atom of the middle layer and all three of these atoms will then pull on the atoms in the bottom layer, urging them to the right. When this pull is bigger than the frictional force, the block will move.
 
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  • #25
Stephen Tashi
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OK fine. I sense some perturbance here. I don't want to hurt sentiments, that's for sure.

In my opinion, explaining things at the atomic level would be complicated. You aren't asking a precise question and if you did put your question in precise form, it wouldn't be simple to give a rigorous answer.

I think the explanations you have been given are more or less based on classical model of atoms as charged masses. Taking that as our model, there are all sorts of forces acting among the atoms. Intuitively, if you exert force in one direction, you may create forces among the atoms in other directions, but "by symmetry" the net effect of those forces in other directions "cancels out". Admittedly that's not a rigorous explanation. It also doesn't explain why the translational motion of your finger doesn't result only in increased vibration of the atoms of the block of wood. Conservation of (net) momentum (as a vector) would explain why the block of wood must move instead of simply vibrate in place. However, how does one explain why momentum is conserved ? From a classical point of view, I think you can prove it from F= MA.

So it isn't the conservation of energy that requires the block move. Instead, it's conservation of momentum.
 
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  • #26
@ Richard

"The electrons in your fingers and the electrons in the block repel and the internal electronic structure of the block starts to change"

Why does this repulsion lead to a change in the internal structure?

Do electrons make transition to a higher level due to this repulsion, which leads to a change in the internal structure?

I don't think this is the case.
 
  • #27
sophiecentaur
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OK fine. I sense some perturbance here. I don't want to hurt sentiments, that's for sure.

I dare to ask the question for the last time, otherwise I will just place it in the dungeons of propriety. (
From the above responses, you will see that you are not upsetting anyone. PF members are more interested in getting answers to questions that satisfy them. Each apparently simple thread gives us all a chance to revisit our understanding and to try to restate things in our own minds. There is nothing exclusive or cabalistic about the Science that PF discusses; it is purely pragmatic and we look for reliable, workable models to describe the way things are.
Your question seems to require an answer that only uses your particular terms. That is asking far too much; things are just not that simple.
You didn't appear to respond to my model of a car suspension but it is actually the clue to the whole of your problem. Read it. Pushing an object does not just involve distorting 'electronic springs'. That will not cause any vibrations at all unless the speed at which the force is applied is extremely high. The loss mechanism for slow distortions within the block is the relevant matter. Now, you can either just accept that there is such a mechanism - and that is quite sufficient for an initial macroscopic approach - or go a lot deeper than your simple question implies* and understand how the mechanism works. There is an intermediate level of explanation which would involve a balloon of gas (with a rigid envelope), rather than a block. If the gas is 'ideal' then there will be no long term macroscopic energy loss, no gain in temperature and the balloon will end up with the total work available being transferred to macroscopic KE. For a real gas, the interactions of the molecules will involve inelastic collisions and the temperature will rise.

* Considering the electron interaction with the rest of the block as the action of a spring will only delay the acceleration of the block. Without loss, the block will end up at 'full speed'.
 
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  • #28
@ Richard

"The electrons in your fingers and the electrons in the block repel and the internal electronic structure of the block starts to change"

Why does this repulsion lead to a change in the internal structure?

Do electrons make transition to a higher level due to this repulsion, which leads to a change in the internal structure?

I don't think this is the case.

What leads you to believe that this is not the case?

When you say "higher level", what do you mean? Do you mean in the sense of the energy levels of an atom? As far as I understand it, in models of bulk materials, all these atomic energy levels get smushed together into bands and the electrons fill the bands. I think distorting the distribution of atomic nuclei by pushing them slightly closer together will lead to an increase in the overall energy stored in the object, but the overall process must be very complicated to model in detail.

I also think it's important to remember that these are only models and I'm very encouraged, as a new member here, by some of the other, very intelligent, replies you've received.

The tone you adopt seems to suggest that you think there is something 'very wrong' with the electronic structure model we are trying to elucidate. Can you explain why you are suspicious of it?
 
  • #29
sophiecentaur
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The tone you adopt seems to suggest that you think there is something 'very wrong' with the electronic structure model we are trying to elucidate. Can you explain why you are suspicious of it?
He would be very right in suggesting that the simple model he is using is just not enough to explain reality. In fact, the present models are far better at giving a good explanation.
 
  • #30
@ Sophiecentaur

I fully understand and acknowledge your example, but I have more doubts ( my fault only).


@richard

"What leads you to believe that this is not the case?"

Let me try to explain...

Imagine that a single hydrogen atom in my finger/hand comes close to a single hydrogen atom in the block..

Now, everytime I give a push, ( say I push the block a trillion times with different force each time, starting with infinitesimal force) would there be change in the internal energy of the hydrogen atom of the block every single time.

How is this possible, electron of the hydrogen atom has only fixed energy levels. It's energy levels are not infinite, imo.
 

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