Newton's Third Law
Forces and Motion


Physics Narrative for 14-16 Supporting Physics Teaching

Interactions modelled as pairs of forces

Pairs of forces replace each interaction. The interaction diagram, introduced earlier in this episode, is a thorough way to keep tabs on all the force pairs (remember: one per interaction).

You can identify the interactions by paying close attention to the physical situation, noticing certain changes, and using your developed skills as a force-spotter to identify certain forces acting on objects according to their environment. The difference now is that you're also paying attention to the other end of the interaction, so treating the environment as a second object.

Now you have a universe of a pair of interacting objects, rather than an object isolated from its environment (as you did in the SPT: Forces topic and in episode 01 of this topic).

Reduce multiple interactions to sets of pairs

Where there are multiple interacting objects, you simply consider them in pairs. One interaction per pair. Two forces per interaction.

Once you've finished noticing all the interactions, and recording all the pairs, then simply inspect each object. Identify all the forces acting on it and then add these to calculate the resultant force.

The resultant force, acting on that single object, changes the motion of the object.

Ramming the point home

Research shows you can't say it enough, so we'll risk that error here.

Teacher Tip: The two forces in the force-pair of Newton's third law each act on two different objects.

Or, if you really must:

Teacher Tip: In identifying force-pairs, action is a force acting on one object and reaction is a force acting on a different object.

Newton's Third Law
is used in analyses relating to Collisions

Disable node explorer

IOP DOMAINS Physics CPD programme

Energy CPD videos

Our new set of videos gives teachers and coaches of physics a preview of the training we offer ahead of this term's live support sessions.

Find out more