Physics Formulas Reference

Some of the most important and frequently used formulas in physics are prsented and explained below.

Kinematics (Quantitative Description of Motion)


Formula Definition and explanations
s_{av} = \dfrac{d}{\Delta t}
sav is the average speed (scalar)
d is the distance
Δ t is the time elapsed
v_{av} = \dfrac{x_f - x_i}{t_f - t_i} =\dfrac{\Delta x}{\Delta t}
vav is the average velocity (vector)
Δ x is the displacement(vector)
Δ t is the time elapsed
a_{av} = \dfrac{v_f - v_i}{t_f - t_i} =\dfrac{\Delta v}{\Delta t}
aav is the average acceleartion (vector)
Δ v is the change in velocity (vector)
Δ t is the time elapsed
v_{av} = \dfrac{v_i + v_f}{2}
vav is the average velocity (vector)
vi is the initial velocity (vector)
vf is the final velocity (vector)
v_{f} = v_{i} + a \Delta t
vf is the final velocity (vector)
vi is the initial velocity (vector)
a is the acceleration (vector)
\Delta x = v_i \Delta t + \dfrac{1}{2} a (\Delta t)^2
Δ x is the displacement (vector)
vi is the initial velocity (vector)
a is the acceleration (vector)
\Delta x = v_f \Delta t - \dfrac{1}{2} a (\Delta t)^2
Δ x is the displacement (vector)
vf is the final velocity (vector)
a is the acceleration (vector)
\Delta x = \dfrac{v_f+v_i}{2} \Delta t
Δ x is the displacement (vector)
vf is the final velocity (vector)
vi is the initial velocity (vector)
v^2_f = v^2_i + 2 a \cdot \Delta x
vf is the final velocity (vector)
vi is the initial velocity (vector)
Δ x is the displacement (vector)
a is the acceleration (vector)


Relative Velocity


Formula Definition and explanations
v_{AC} = v_{AB}+v_{BC}
vAC is the velocity of A with respect to C (vector)
vAB is the velocity of A with respect to B (vector)
vBC is the velocity of B with respect to C (vector)


Kinematics (Quantitative Description of Projectile Motion)



Example of projectile motion

Formula Definition and explanations
v_{ix} = |v_i|\cos(\theta) \\ v_{iy} = |v_i|\sin(\theta)
vi is the initial velocity (vector)
vix is the component of the initial velocity along the horizontal direction x (scalar)
viy is the component of the initial velocity along the vertical direction y (scalar)
θ is the initial angle that vi makes with the horizontal.
\Delta x = |v_i|\cos(\theta) \Delta t
Δx is the displacement along the horizontal direction x
\Delta y = |v_i|\sin(\theta) \Delta t - \dfrac{1}{2} g (\Delta t)^2
Δy is the displacement along the vertical direction y
R = \dfrac{v^2_i \sin(2\theta)}{g}
R is the range or horizontal distance travelled when the projectile hits the ground
T = \dfrac{2 v_i \sin(\theta)}{g}
T is total time to hit the ground
H = \dfrac{v^2_i \sin^2(\theta)}{2 g}
H maximum height reached above the ground
g = 9.8 m / s2


Dynamics (Forces and Momentum)


Formula Definition and explanations
F = m a
F is the net force (vector)
m is the mass
a is the acceleration (vector)
F_g = m g
Fg is the weight (vector)
m is the mass
g is the acceleration (near the Earth) due to gravitation (vector)
| F_f | = \mu | F_N |
Ff is the force of friction (vector)
μ is the coefficient of friction (μ may be μk kinetic coefficient or μs static coefficient of friction)
FN is the normal (to the surface) force (vector)
p = m v
p is the momentum (vector)
m is the mass
v is the velocity (vector)
\Delta p = F \Delta t
Δ p is the change in momentum (vector)
F is the applied force (vector)
Δ t is the elapsed time
(F Δ t) is called impulse (vector)


Circular Motion


Formula Definition and explanations
a_c = \dfrac{v^2}{r}
ac is the centripetal acceleration
v is the velocity
r is the radius
F_c = \dfrac{m v^2}{r}
Fc is the centripetal force
v is the velocity
m is the mass
r is the radius
v = \dfrac{2 \pi r}{T}
v is the velocity
r is the radius
T is the period (time for one complete revolution)


Work, Potential and Kinetic Energies


Formula Definition and explanations
W = F d \cos(\theta)
W is the work done by the force F
F is the applied force (constant)
d is the distance
θ is the angle between F and the direction of motion
E_k = \dfrac{1}{2} m v^2
Ek is the kinetic energy
v is the velocity
m is the mass
E_p = m g h
Ep is the potential energy of an object close to the surface of Earth
m is the mass of the object
h is the height of the object with respect to some refernce (ground for example)
g = 9.8 m/s2
E_t = E_k + E_p
Et is the total energy
Ek is the kinetic energy
Ep is the potential energy


Springs, Hooke's Law and Potential Energy


Formula Definition and explanations
F_s = k x
F is the force applied to compress or stretch a spring
k is the spring constant
x is the length of extension or compression of the spring
E_s = \dfrac{1}{2} k x^2
Es is the potential energy stored in a spring when compressed or extended
k is the spring constant
x is the length of extension or compression of the spring


Period of Simple Harmonic Motions


Formula Definition and explanations
T_s = 2\pi \sqrt{\dfrac{m}{k}}
Ts is the time period of motion
k is the spring constant
m is the mass attached to the spring
T_p = 2\pi \sqrt{\dfrac{L}{g}}
Ep is the time period of motion
L is the length of the pendilum
g is the acceleration due to gravity


Gravitational Fields and Forces


Formula Definition and explanations
F = G \dfrac{m_1 m_2}{r^2}
F is force of attraction
G is the universal gravitational constant
m1 and m1 are the masses of the two objects attracting each other
r is the distance separating the centers of the two objects
g_r = \dfrac{G m}{r^2}
gr gravitational field intensity at a distance r
G is the universal gravitational constant
m is the mass
r is the distance (from mass m) where the field is measured
E_p = -\dfrac{G M m}{r}
Ep gravitational potential energy of mass m
G is the universal gravitational constant
G is the mass of the attracting body
m is the mass being attracted
r is the distance separating the centers of the masses M and m


Satelite motion, orbital speed, period and radius


Formula Definition and explanations
v = \sqrt{ \dfrac{G M}{r} }
v is the orbital speed of the satellite
G is the universal gravitational constant
M is the mass of the attracting body (Earth for example)
r is the distance from the center of mass M to the position of the satellite
T = \sqrt{ \dfrac{4\pi^2r^3}{G M} }
T is the orbital period of the satellite
G is the universal gravitational constant
m is the mass
r is the distance from the center of mass M to the the position of the satellite
v = \dfrac{2\pi r }{T}
v is the orbital speed of the satellite
r is the distance from the center of mass M to the the position of the satellite
T is the orbital period of the satellite


Electric forces, fields and potentials


Formula Definition and explanations
F = k \dfrac{q_1 q_2}{r^2}
F is the electric force
k is a constant
q1 and q1 are the charges attracting or repulsing each other
r is the distance separating the two charges
F = q E
F is the electric force
q is the charge
E is the eletcric field
E = k \dfrac{q}{r^2}
E is the electric field due charge q
k is a constant
q is the charge
r is the distance from the charge q where E is being calculated
E_p = k \dfrac{q_1 q_2}{r}
Ep is the electric potential energy for a system of two charges
k is a constant
q1 and q1 are the charges
r is the distance separating the two charges
V = k \dfrac{q}{r}
V is the electric potential
k is a constant
q is the charge
r is the distance from the charge q
E = \dfrac{V}{d}
E is the electric field between two large, oppositely charged, conducting parallel plates
V is the electric potential difference between the plates
d is the distance separating the two plates


Magnetic fields and forces


Formula Definition and explanations
B = \dfrac{\mu _0 I}{2 \pi r}
B is magnetic field due to current I in a long conductor of length L
μ0 is permeability in vacuum
I the current in the conductor
L is the length of the conductor
r is the distance from the conductor to where the field B is calculated
B = \dfrac{\mu _0 N I}{L}
B is the magnetic field (in the center of the solenoid) due to current I in a solenoid of length L
μ0 is permeability in vacuum
I the current in the solenoid
L is the length of the solenoid
N is the number of turns of the solenoid
F_m = q v B \sin(\theta)
Fm is the magnetic force (due to B) on a charge q moving at a velocity v
B the magnetic field
θ is the angle between B and the direction of motion of q
F_m = I L B \sin(\theta)
Fm is the magnetic force (due to B) on a wire with current I and length L
B the magnetic field
θ is the angle between B and the wire
F_m = \dfrac{ \mu _0 I_1 I_2 L }{2 \pi r}
Fm is the magnetic force of attraction or repulsion between two parallel wires
μ0 is permeability in vacuum
I1 and I2 are the currents in the two wires
L is the common length between the two wires


Waves


Formula Definition and explanations
v = \lambda f
v is the wave velocity
λ is the wavelength
f is the frequency
f = \dfrac{1}{T}
f is the wave frequency
T is the period of the wave


Optics


Formula Definition and explanations
v = \dfrac{c}{n}
v is the velocity of light in a medium of index n
c is speed of light in vacuum ( = 3.0 108m/s)
n is the index of refraction of the medium
n_1 \sin \theta_1 = n_2 \sin \theta_2
n1 is the index of refraction of medium 1
n2 is the index of refraction of medium 2
θ1 is the angle of incidence in medium 1
θ2 is the angle of refraction in medium 2
\theta_c = \sin^{-1}(\dfrac{n_2}{n_1})
θc is the critical angle such that when the angle of incidence is bigger that θc all light is reflected to medium 1
n1 is the index of refraction of medium 1 (medium of incidence)
n2 is the index of refraction of medium 2 (medium of refraction)
\dfrac{1}{D_0} + \dfrac{1}{D_i} = \dfrac{1}{F}
D0 is the distance to the object
Di is the distance to the image
F is the focal length


Photoelectric Effects


Formula Definition and explanations
E = h f
E is the energy of the photon
h is Plank's constant
f is the wave frequency of the photon
E_k = h f - \phi
Ek is the kinetic energy
h is Plank's constant
f is the wave frequency of the photon
φ is the work function of the metal (minimum work required to extract an electron)
p = \dfrac{h}{\lambda}
p is the momentum of the photon
h is Plank's constant
λ is the photon wavelength


DC Circuits


Formula Definition and explanations
V = R I
V is the voltage across a resistor
R is the resistance of the resistor
I is the current through the resistor
P = I^2 R = \dfrac{V^2}{R} = I V
P is the power dissipated as heat into a resistor
I is current through the resistor
R is the resistance of the resistor
V is the voltage across the resistor
R_s = R_1 + R_2+...
Rs is the total resistance equivalent to several resistors in series (end to end)
R1 resistance of resistor 1
R2 resistance of resistor 2
\dfrac{1}{R_p} = \dfrac{1}{R_1} + \dfrac{1}{R_2} ...
Rp is the total resistance equivalent to several resistors in parallel (side by side)
R1 resistance of resistor 1
R2 resistance of resistor 2
C = \dfrac{\epsilon A}{d}
C is the capacitance of a capacitor made up of two parallel plates
ε is the permittivity of the dielectric inside the two plates
A is the common area of the two plates
d is the distance between the two plates
Q = C V
Q is the total charge in a capacitor made up of two parallel plates
C is the capacitance
V is the voltage across the capacitor
W = \dfrac{C V^2}{2}
W is the total energy stored in a capacitor
C is the capacitance
V is the voltage across the capacitor
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