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What is Kinetics?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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Kinetics is a branch of classical mechanics that is focused on the movements of various bodies and the forces that can act on both bodies in motion and bodies at rest. Some people confuse the term with “kinematics,” because the two words sound similar, and they both have to do with the science of motion. Kinematics, however, is solely focused on the movement of various bodies, without addressing the forces that can influence movement.

In fact, “kinetics” itself is an outdated term. Scientists prefer to say “analytical dynamics” or simply “dynamics.” Whatever you call it, it is the cornerstone of classical mechanics, explaining how and why things move in the ways they do. Newtonian physics is an important part of the study of kinetics, and numerous other branches of physics and mechanics have been brought to bear in the field.

The science of motion in the form of kinematics relies on some very clearly-defined laws, such as the concept that an object in motion tends to remain in motion. Kinetics expands upon these laws, adding some additional principles that help to explain what happens when external forces act on an object. This branch of classical mechanics recognizes the fact that many things can influence the outcome of a series of events, ranging from whether an object is dropped or hurled, to the obstacles the object encounters on its way to a destination.

There are numerous practical applications for kinetics. Car companies, for instance, use it to predict the outcome of crashes, and to design cars that will protect their occupants as much as possible. They also test their theories in controlled crash testing facilities to see if their science was correct. Physicists use their understanding of of this field to follow the patterns of celestial bodies and made predictions about their future movements. Many people are unconsciously aware of the laws of kinetics, because they use them on a daily basis, whether they are tossing a dirty fork into the sink from across the kitchen or designing bridges.

Chemists also use the term in a slightly different way than physicists and engineers do. In chemistry, this term refers to the rate and progress of chemical reactions. To reduce confusion, in chemistry it is often referred to as chemical or reaction kinetics, to make it clear that chemistry is under discussion. Like dynamics, chemical kinetics has a number of implications for daily life in addition to being involved in abstract theoretical concepts.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All The Science researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By hananali — On Apr 28, 2010

How does catalyst affect the chemical reaction from thermodynamic and kinetic point of view?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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