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written by Wolfgang Christian and Mario Belloni
This item is an applet-based problem for introductory physics on the topic of inertia in motion.  A hockey puck moving on a frictionless air hockey table is given a momentary push in the +y direction.  What is the motion of the puck after the push?  The user chooses from four animations that represent possible results.  Physlet-based problems are intended to probe student understanding, elicit misconceptions, and serve as a springboard for discussion.  Electronic student response systems (clickers) are often used to allow anonymous "voting" on the correct answer.

SEE RELATED ITEMS BELOW for a link to the full collection of introductory physlet-based problems by the same authors and for a companion physlet depicting a sustained push of an object traveling at constant velocity.

Please note that this resource requires at least version 1.1 of Java.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Newton's First Law
= Inertia in Motion
Education Foundations
- Cognition
= Cognition Development
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Cooperative Learning
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Problem/Problem Set
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- Assessment
- New teachers
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© 2001 Davidson College
Additional information is available.
In-class questions, Law of Inertia, Newton's First Law, acceleration, clicker questions, concept questions, inertia, java applets, peer instruction
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created January 14, 2009 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
March 17, 2014 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
December 31, 2007

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.
  • 9-12: 4F/H8. Any object maintains a constant speed and direction of motion unless an unbalanced outside force acts on it.

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion. (6-8)
  • All positions of objects and the directions of forces and motions must be described in an arbitrarily chosen reference frame and arbitrarily chosen units of size. In order to share information with other people, these choices must also be shared. (6-8)

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Dynamics: Forces and Motion
Unit Title: Newton's First Law & Inertia

A simulation-based problem to spark student discussion about inertia and force interactions.  A  puck traveling on a frictionless air hockey table is given a momentary push.  What is the resulting path of its motion?  Pair this applet with the one below on sustained push.  Assesses student understanding of how resultant motion is affected by the type of force applied.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
W. Christian and M. Belloni, (2001), WWW Document, (
W. Christian and M. Belloni, Physlets: Mechanics Problems: Newton's Laws - Momentary Push, (2001), <>.
APA Format
Christian, W., & Belloni, M. (2007, December 31). Physlets: Mechanics Problems: Newton's Laws - Momentary Push. Retrieved July 29, 2016, from
Chicago Format
Christian, Wolfgang, and Mario Belloni. Physlets: Mechanics Problems: Newton's Laws - Momentary Push. December 31, 2007. (accessed 29 July 2016).
MLA Format
Christian, Wolfgang, and Mario Belloni. Physlets: Mechanics Problems: Newton's Laws - Momentary Push. 2001. 31 Dec. 2007. 29 July 2016 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Wolfgang Christian and Mario Belloni", Title = {Physlets: Mechanics Problems: Newton's Laws - Momentary Push}, Volume = {2016}, Number = {29 July 2016}, Month = {December 31, 2007}, Year = {2001} }
Refer Export Format

%A Wolfgang Christian
%A Mario Belloni
%T Physlets: Mechanics Problems: Newton's Laws - Momentary Push
%D December 31, 2007
%O application/java

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A Christian, Wolfgang
%A Belloni, Mario
%D December 31, 2007
%T Physlets: Mechanics Problems: Newton's Laws - Momentary Push
%V 2016
%N 29 July 2016
%8 December 31, 2007
%9 application/java

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Electronic References.

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Physlets: Mechanics Problems: Newton's Laws - Momentary Push:

Is Part Of Physlets Chapter 8: Mechanics, Waves and Thermodynamics Physlet-Based Curriculum

This is the full collection of physlet-based problems for introductory mechanics, waves, and thermodynamics.

relation by Caroline Hall
Accompanies Physlets: Mechanics Problems: Newton's Laws - Sustained Push

A companion physlet-based problem.  A satellite traveling at constant velocity is given a sustained push produced by rocket thrust.  How does the resulting motion differ when this type of force is applied?

relation by Caroline Hall
Is a Teaching Guide For Physics Classroom: Newton's Second Law

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