Active Physics Vocabulary List (2005)


How close the measured value is to the standard or accepted value of that measurement.
A unit of measure in the metric system of measurement equivalent to 1/100 of a meter or 0.3927 inch; abbreviated is cm.
controlled variable
An object or condition you want to remain constant when you carry out a scientific investigation.
A unit of mass.
A unit of length equal to 1 meter.
A unit of speed meters per second.
manipulated variable
Object or condition that you change on purpose to test your hypothesis.
A measure of how much material something contains. This shouldn't be confused with weight, which is a measure of the force of gravity on an object.
The standard unit of length in the SI system of measure that equals 39.37 inches.
responding variable
Object or condition that changes when you change the manipulated variable in a scientific investigation.
SI system
A complete system of units of measurement for scientists; fundamental quantities are length (meter) and mass (kilogram) and time (second) and electric current (ampere) and temperature (Kelvin) and amount of matter (mole) and luminous intensity (candela).
slope of graph
The mathematical result of the change in the y axis of a line divided by the corresponding change on the x axis.
Mechanical energy vibrations transmitted as waves through a solid, liquid, or a gas that can be detected by the human ear.
Distance traveled per unit time.
A major part of a system which itself has the characteristics of a system.
Group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent parts made up of matter and energy that form a complex whole.
thought experiment
An experiment that cannot be or is not carried out in practice; it is reasoned through by thought and intuition.

Chapter 2 Motion

The rate at which an object's velocity changes with time. It involves a change in the speed (increase or decrease) OR direction OR both speed and direction.
centripetal force
The force making a motion is a circle possible, always directed to the center of the circle.
Push or pull that gives energy to an object, sometimes causing a change in the motion of the object.
frame of reference
Any system for specifying the precise location of objects in space.
A force that resists motion between two objects in contact.
The transfer of energy from one object at a higher temperature to another object at a lower temperature.
The tendency of matter to remain at rest if at rest, or to remain in motion in a straight line if in motion.
The base units that make up a Newton (a unit of force).
kinetic energy
The energy possessed by a moving object. = ½ mv2.
A unit of acceleration meters per second squared.
Mass times velocity; a quantity that determines the potential force that an object can impart to another object by collision.
A change in the position or location of one thing with respect to another.
net force
Sum of all the forces acting on an object.
potential energy
Stored energy of a material, a result of its position in an electric, magnetic, or gravitational field. PE=mgh.
thermal energy
Energy in the form of heat - the total internal kinetic and potential energy of an object due to the random motion of its atoms and molecules.
unbalanced force
A force that is not countered by another force in the opposite direction.
A measurement having both magnitude and direction. It may be represented as a directed line segment.
Rate of change of position or direction of an object.
The force of gravity acting on a body, equal to the mass of the body multiplied by the acceleration of gravity.
The transfer of energy from one object or system to another by applying a force over a distance. The formula is (force) x (distance).

Chapter 3 Waves

The height of the wave.
constructive interference
When waves align and the resulting wave has troughs and crests that are larger.
destructive interference
When waves align and the resulting wave has troughs and crests that are smaller.
electromagnetic waves
Radiation consisting of waves of energy sent through space and matter associated with electric and magnetic fields resulting from the acceleration of an electric charge (light, x-rays, microwaves, gamma rays, etc.).
The number of back-and-forth cycles per second, in a wave or wave-like process.
gravitational field
Field created by any object with mass, extending outward in all directions, which determines the influence of that object on all others.
Laser-generated image with three-dimensional properties.
longitudinal waves
A wave in which the individual particles of a medium vibrate back and forth in the direction in which the wave travels. Sound is this type of wave.
mechanical waves
Waves which travel through a medium - sound waves, water waves and waves in solid objects.
photovoltaic cell
An electronic device consisting of layers of semiconductor materials that is capable of converting light directly into electricity.
primary waves
P waves, or compression waves, are seismic body waves that shakes the ground back and forth in the same direction as the direction the wave is moving.
The change in direction (or return) of waves striking a surface.
Waves change direction as they pass from one medium to another.
secondary waves
S waves, are seismic body waves that shakes the ground back and forth perpendicular to the direction the waves are moving.
transverse waves
A wave in which the vibrations of the medium are perpendicular to the direction the wave is moving.
wave crest
The highest part of a wave. The curved tops or ridges of an oscillating wave.
wave interference
The superposition (overlapping) of two or more waves resulting in a new wave pattern.
wave medium
The material that can carry a mechanical wave.
wave period
The time for one wavelength to pass a point. The time for a wave to travel the distance of one wavelength. P= 1/frequency.
wave speed
The velocity of a traveling wave (distance traveled per time).
wave superposition
The addition of two or more waves to produce a new wave.
wave trough
The lowest part of a wave, between successive crests.
A rhythmic disturbance that transfers energy from place to place.
The distance measured from crest to crest of one complete wave or cycle.