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Momentum

  • Definition: A vector quantity that expresses the relation of the velocity of a body, wave, field, or other physical system, to its energy. The direction of the momentum of a single object indicates the direction of its motion. Momentum is a conserved quantity (it remains constant unless acted upon by an outside force), and is related by Noether's theorem to translational invariance. In classical mechanics, momentum is defined as mass times velocity. The theory of Special Relativity uses the concept of relativistic mass. The momentum of photons, which are massless, is equal to their energy divided by the speed of light. In quantum mechanics, momentum more generally refers to a mathematical operator applied to the wave equation describing a physical system and corresponding to an observable; solutions to the equation using this operator provide the vector quantity traditionally called momentum. In all of these applications, momentum is sometimes called linear momentum.

    Source: The American Heritage Science Dictionary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Credo Reference. Web. 17 August 2012.

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