In physics, motion is change of location or position of an object with respect to time. Change in motion is the result of an applied force. Motion is typically described in terms of velocity also seen as speed, acceleration, displacement, and time. An object’s velocity cannot change unless it is acted upon by a force, as described by Newton’s first law also known as Inertia. An object’s momentum is directly related to the object’s mass and velocity, and the total momentum of all objects in a closed system (one not affected by external forces) does not change with time, as described by the law of conservation of momentum.
Motion is always observed and measured relative to a frame of reference. As there is no absolute reference frame, absolute motion cannot be determined; this is emphasised by the term relative motion. A body which is motionless relative to a given reference frame, moves relative to infinitely many other frames. Thus, everything in the universe is moving.
More generally, the term motion signifies any spatial and/or temporal change in a physical system. For example, one can talk about motion of a wave or a quantum particle (or any other field) where the concept location does not apply.
Laws of Motion
In physics, motion in the universe is described through two sets of apparently contradictory laws of mechanics. Motions of all large scale and familiar objects in the universe (such as projectiles, planets, cells, and humans) are described by classical mechanics. Whereas the motion of very small atomic and sub-atomic sized objects is described by quantum mechanics.
 Classical mechanics
Classical mechanics is used for describing the motion of macroscopic objects, from projectiles to parts of machinery, as well as astronomical objects, such as spacecraft, planets, stars, and galaxies. It produces very accurate results within these domains, and is one of the oldest and largest subjects in science, engineering and technology.
Classical mechanics is fundamentally based on Newton’s Laws of Motion. These laws describe the relationship between the forces acting on a body and the motion of that body. They were first compiled by Sir Isaac Newton in his work Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, first published on July 5, 1687. His three laws are:
- In the absence of a net external force, a body either is at rest or moves with constant velocity.
- The net external force on a body is equal to the mass of that body times its acceleration; F = ma. Alternatively, force is proportional to the time derivative of momentum.
- Whenever a first body exerts a force F on a second body, the second body exerts a force −F on the first body. F and −F are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.
Newton’s three laws of motion, along with his law of universal gravitation, explain Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, which were the first to accurately provide a mathematical model or understanding orbiting bodies in outer space. This explanation unified the motion of celestial bodies and motion of objects on earth.
Classical mechanics was later further enhanced by Albert Einstein’s special relativity and general relativity. Special relativity explains the motion of objects with a high velocity, approaching the speed of light; general relativity is employed to handle gravitation motion at a deeper level.
Quantum mechanics is a set of principles describing physical reality at the atomic level of matter (molecules and atoms) and the subatomic (electrons, protons, and even smaller particles). These descriptions include the simultaneous wave-like and particle-like behavior of both matter and radiation energy, this described in the wave–particle duality.
In contrast to classical mechanics, where accurate measurements and predictions can be calculated about location and velocity, in the quantum mechanics of a subatomic particle, one can never specify its state, such as its simultaneous location and velocity, with complete certainty (this is called the Heisenberg uncertainty principle).
In addition to describing the motion of atomic level phenomenon, quantum mechanics is useful in understanding some large scale phenomenon such as superfluidity, superconductivity, and biological systems, including the function of smell receptors and the structures of proteins.
List of “imperceptible” human motions
Humans, like all things in the universe are in constant motion, however, aside from obvious movements of the various external body parts and locomotion, humans are in motion in a variety of ways which are more difficult to perceive. Many of these “imperceptible motions” are only perceivable with the help of special tools and careful observation. The larger scales of “imperceptible motions” are difficult for humans to perceive for two reasons: 1) Newton’s laws of motion (particularly Inertia) which prevent humans from feeling motions of a mass to which they are connected, and 2) the lack of an obvious frame of reference which would allow individuals to easily see that they are moving. The smaller scales of these motions are too small for humans to sense.
- Spacetime (the fabric of the universe) is actually expanding. Essentially, everything in the universe is stretching like a rubber band. This motion is the most obscure as it is not physical motion as such, but rather a change in the very nature of the universe. The primary source of verification of this expansion was provided by Edwin Hubble who demonstrated that all galaxies and distant astronomical objects were moving away from us (“Hubble’s law“) as predicted by a universal expansion.
- the Milky Way Galaxy, is hurtling through space at an incredible speed. It is powered by the force left over from the Big Bang. Many astronomers believe the Milky Way is moving at approximately 600 km/s relative to the observed locations of other nearby galaxies. Another reference frame is provided by the Cosmic microwave background. This frame of reference indicates that The Milky Way is moving at around 552 km/s.
[ Solar System
- The Milky Way is rotating around its dense galactic center, thus the solar system is moving in a circle within the galaxy‘s gravity. Away from the central bulge or outer rim, the typical stellar velocity is between 210 and 240 km/s (or about a half-million mi/h).
- The Earth is rotating or spinning around its axis, this is evidenced by day and night, at the equator the earth has an eastward velocity of 0.4651 km/s (or 1040 mi/h).
- The Earth is orbiting around the Sun in an orbital revolution. A complete orbit around the sun takes one year or about 365 days; it averages a speed of about 30 km/s (or 67,000 mi/h).
- The Theory of Plate tectonics tells us that the continents are drifting on convection currents within the mantle causing them to move across the surface of the planet at the slow speed of approximately 1 inch (2.54 cm) per year. However, the velocities of plates range widely. The fastest-moving plates are the oceanic plates, with the Cocos Plate advancing at a rate of 75 mm/yr (3.0 in/yr) and the Pacific Plate moving 52–69 mm/yr (2.1–2.7 in/yr). At the other extreme, the slowest-moving plate is the Eurasian Plate, progressing at a typical rate of about 21 mm/yr (0.8 in/yr).
- The human heart is constantly contracting to move blood throughout the body. Through larger veins and arteries in the body blood has been found to travel at approximately 0.33 m/s. Though considerable variation exists, and peak flows in the venae cavae have been found to range between 0.1 m/s and 0.45 m/s.
- The smooth muscles of hollow internal organs are moving. The most familiar would be peristalsis which is where digested food is forced throughout the digestive tract. Though different foods travel through the body at rates, an average speed through the human small intestine is 2.16 m/h or 0.036 m/s.
- Typically some sound is audible at any given moment, when the vibration of these sound waves reaches the ear drum it moves in response and allows the sense of hearing.
- The human lymphatic system is constantly moving excess fluids, lipids, and immune system related products around the body. The lymph fluid has been found to move through a lymph capillary of the skin at approximately 0.0000097 m/s.
- Cytoplasmic streaming is a way which cells move molecular substances throughout the cytoplasm.
- Various motor proteins work as molecular motors within a cell and move along the surface of various cellular substrates such as microtubules. Motor proteins are typically powered by the hydrolysis of adenosine triphosphate, (ATP), and convert chemical energy into mechanical work. Vesicles propelled by motor proteins have been found to have a velocity of approximately 0.00000152 m/s.
- According to the laws of thermodynamics all particles of matter are in constant random motion as long as the temperature is above absolute zero. Thus the molecules and atoms which make up the human body are vibrating, colliding, and moving. This motion can be detected as temperature; high temperatures (which represent greater kinetic energy in the particles) feel warmer to humans, whereas lower temperatures feel colder.
- Within each atom the electrons are speeding around the nucleus so fast that they are not actually in one location, but rather smeared across a region of the electron cloud. Electrons have a high velocity, and the larger the nucleus they are orbiting the faster they move. In a hydrogen atom, electrons have been calculated to be orbiting at a speed of approximately 2,420,000 m/s
- Inside the atomic nucleus the protons and neutrons are also probably moving around due the electrical repulsion of the protons and the presence of angular momentum of both particles.
Light propagates at 299,792,458 m/s (about 186,282.397 mi/s).
- Simple harmonic motion – (e.g. pendulum).
- Linear motion – motion which follows a straight linear path, and whose displacement is exactly the same as its trajectory.
- Reciprocating (i.e. vibration)
- Brownian Motion (i.e. the random movement of particles)
- Circular motion (e.g. the orbits of planets)
- Rotary motion – a motion about a fixed point ex. the wheel of a bicycle