How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works
 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
 
Question 1544: What does it mean to coast?

If something is coasting or moving at a steady pace, is it experiencing a net force of zero? NP
That's exactly right! Coasting and zero net force go hand-in-hand: when an object is experiencing zero net force, it doesn't accelerate and thus it coasts. A coasting object is an inertial object, meaning that it moves at a steady pace along a straightline path. And if the coasting object is at rest, it stays at rest.

To clarify the term "net force," note that when an object is experiencing several separate forces, it doesn't accelerate in response to each one individually. Instead, it accelerates in response to the sum of all the forces acting on it: the net force. Remember that forces have directions associated with them (forces are vector quantities), so when you sum them you must consider their directions carefully. The proper force to consider in Newton's second law is actually the net force on the object. If you know both the net force on the object and the object's mass, you can predict the object's acceleration. And if the net force is zero, then the object doesn't accelerate at all it coasts.

         

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