Main content

## Physics library

### Course: Physics library > Unit 1

Lesson 3: Acceleration- Acceleration
- What is acceleration?
- Airbus A380 take-off time
- Airbus A380 take-off distance
- Why distance is area under velocity-time line
- What are velocity vs. time graphs?
- Acceleration vs. time graphs
- What are acceleration vs. time graphs?
- Acceleration and velocity

© 2023 Khan AcademyTerms of usePrivacy PolicyCookie Notice

# Acceleration vs. time graphs

David explains how to read an acceleration vs. time graph. He then shows how the area under the curve gives the change in velocity and does a few examples. Created by David SantoPietro.

## Want to join the conversation?

- why v0 is equal to 1m/s?(26 votes)
- We didn't know what the initial velocity was, so he defines it7:08. Now we know the
**change**in velocity was 8 m/s (but not the actual velocity) and the initial velocity was 1 m/s. So at 4 seconds the velocity is 8 m/s(the change) + 1 m/s(initial) = 9 m/s or V4= 8 m/s + V0. V0 is defined as 1 m/s.(8 votes)

- why the acceleration at the 0 second is 1 m/s? shouldnt that be 2 m/s because the graph's line is horizontal. Isnt that means the acceleration is constant?(13 votes)
- You are correct that the horizontal graph means the
*acceleration*is constant! But look at the units to help you. It is the acceleration that is constant at 2 m/s^2, not 2 m/s. At7:08, what he says is that v = 1 m/s (velocity) at t = 0, this is the initial velocity of the dog. Since the dog accelerates at 2 m/s^2, the velocity will not be constant, but will increase. But there is no velocity graph in this video, only an acceleration graph.(37 votes)

- How come the velocity after 4 seconds isn't negative? Why is it higher at 6 seconds, and then decreases after the line moves into the fourth quadrant? From what I can understand, the acceleration was less at six seconds than it was at four seconds - the object was decelerating - so wouldn't that mean that by default the velocity was less?(1 vote)
- I am very new to the physics scene, but I thought I might make an attempt to answer your question so that I can test my own knowledge. I'm sure one of the very helpful members of Khan Academy will approve/disprove my answer. So here goes...

Values above the horizontal (time) line represent positive acceleration (i.e. speeding up), while values below the line indicate negative acceleration (i.e. slowing down). This, of course, is based on the assumption that "Daisy the dog" is travelling in the direction where positive is forward (i.e. increasing in positive integers) and negative is a backward direction.

That being said, Daisy's velocity is greater at 6 seconds because the acceleration is positive (i.e. above the horizontal line), and is increasing at 2 m/s/s between 4 and 6 seconds. Therefore, she is speeding up.

I hope this helps, but more importantly, is correct! :)(17 votes)

- At5:25, can you explain what does he mean

thanks(4 votes)- He is just trying to tell that when we add up the area of all those small rectangles, their sum gives the area of the triangle. Therefore we need to find the area of the triangle.

Thus we must apply the area of triangle formula. Which is why we divide it by 2.

Hope that helps :)(7 votes)

- I don't get how velocity can be negative.(3 votes)
- It is only assuming,in the real,velocity cant be negative but for the problems solving its very useful.

As velocity is a vector quantity,it has a direction.

If I drive from my home to my workplace (and then defining my positive direction in that way), then my velocity is positive if I go to work, but negative when I go home from work. It is all about direction seen from how I defined my positive axis.(8 votes)

- What does negative acceleration mean? Does is mean that the object is slowing down?(2 votes)
- No, a negative acceleration just means that the acceleration is in the negative direction. If an object is traveling in the direction that is considered negative then a negative acceleration means that the object is getting faster. But if an object is traveling in the positive direction then a negative acceleration would mean that it is slowing down.(6 votes)

- How can we represent a body at rest on an acceleration vs time graph?(2 votes)
- You can only indicate velocity is constant in an acceleration vs time graph by having the graph be a flat line along the time axis so the acceleration is 0. On the graph you can't tell if the constant velocity is 0 or 1,000 m/s.(4 votes)

- I thought that finding the area is finding the distance traveled? I dont understand how V4 is equal to 9 m/s? the velocity was constant and always stayed at 2 and there was no change in velocity?(2 votes)
- What the area "is" depends on what the graph is. If the graph is velocity vs time, then finding the area will give you displacement, because velocity = displacement / time. If the graph is acceleration vs time, then finding the area gives you change in velocity, because acceleration = change in velocity / time.(3 votes)

- Is jerk expressed as a distance per s^3, or how many meters per second per second an object gains in a second? Can a jerk graph in time be linear?(2 votes)
- Jerk is the time derivative of acceleration, which is meters per second per second, so you are entirely right! A jerk graph can certainly be linear; that would imply an acceleration which increases quadratically with time.(3 votes)

- Could someone name an example of negative acceleration?(2 votes)
- It all depends on the coordinate plane, but here’s one example: a car is driving on the highway and begins to slow down as it prepares to exit. Supposing that it is moving in the positive direction, it’s slowing down would be negative acceleration.(3 votes)

## Video transcript

- [Instructor] All right,
I wanna talk to you about acceleration versus time graphs because as far as motion graphs go, these are probably the hardest. One reason is because
acceleration just naturally is an abstract concept for
a lot of people to deal with and now it's a graph and
people don't like graphs either particularly often times. Another reason is, if you wanted to know the motion of the object, let's say it was this doggie. This is my doggie Daisy. Let's say Daisy was accelerating. If you wanted to know the
velocity that daisy had, you can't figure it out
directly from this graph unless you have some extra information. You have to know information
about the velocity Daisy had at some moment
in order to figure out from this graph the velocity
Daisy had at some other moment. So, what can this graph tell
you about the motion of Daisy? Well, let's say this graph
described Daisy's acceleration. So Daisy can be accelerating. Maybe we're playing catch. We'll give her a ball. We'll throw the ball. Hopefully she actually lets
go and she brings it back. This graph is gonna
represent her acceleration. So this graph, we just read it, it says that Daisy had two
meters per second squared of acceleration for the first four seconds and then her acceleration dropped to zero at six seconds and then her
acceleration came negative until it was negative
three at nine seconds. But, from this we can't tell if she's speeding up or slowing down. what can we figure out? Well, we can figure out some stuff because acceleration
is related to velocity and we can figure out how
it's related to velocity by remembering that it is defined to be the change in velocity
over the change in time. So this is how we make
our link to velocity. So if we solve this for delta v, we get that the delta v, the change in velocity
over some time interval, will be the acceleration
during that time interval times interval itself,
how long did that take. This is the key to relating
this graph to velocity. In other words, let's consider
this first four seconds. Let's go between zero and four seconds. Daisy had an acceleration of
two meters per second squared. So that means, well,
two was the acceleration meters per second squared, times the accel, times
the time, excuse me, the time was four seconds. So there was four seconds
worth of acceleration. You get positive eight. What are the units? This second cancels with that second. You get positive eight meters per second. So the change in velocity
for the first four seconds was positive eight. This isn't the velocity. It's the change in velocity. How would you ever find that
for this diagonal region. This is as problem. Look at this. If I wanted to find, let's say
the velocity at six seconds, well the acceleration at this point is two but then the acceleration
at this point is one. The acceleration at this point is zero. That acceleration we keep changing. How would I ever figure this out? What acceleration would I
plug in during this portion? But we're in luck. This formula allows us to say
something really important. A geometric aspect of these graphs that are gonna make our life easier and the way it makes
our life easier is that, look at what this is. This is saying acceleration
times delta t, but look it. The acceleration we plug in was this, two. So for the first four seconds,
the acceleration was two. The time, delta t, was four. We took this two multiplied by that four and got a number, positive eight, but this is a height times the width. If you take height times width, that just represents
the area of a rectangle. So all we found was the
area of this rectangle. The area is giving us our delta v because area, right, of a rectangle is height times width. We know that the height is gonna represent the acceleration here and the width is gonna represent delta t. Just by the definition of
acceleration we arranged, we know that a times delta t has to just be the change in velocity. So area and change in
velocity are representing the exact same thing on this graph. Area is the change in velocity. That's gonna be really useful because when you come over to here the area is still gonna
be the change in velocity. That's useful because I know how to easily find the area of a triangle. The area of a triangle is
just 1/2 base times height. I don't easily know how to
deal with an acceleration that's varying within this formula but I do know how to find the area. For instance the area
here, though I have 1/2, the base is two seconds, the height is gonna be positive two meters per second squared. What are we gonna get? One of the halves, cancel. Well, the half cancels one of the twos and I'm gonna get that this
is gonna be equal to two meters per second. That's gonna be the area that represents the change in velocity. So Daisy's velocity changed by two meters per second during this time. Now you might object. You might say, "Wait a minute. "I'll buy this over here
because height times width "is just a times delta t, "but triangle, that has an
extra factor of a half in it, "and there's no half up here. "How does this, I mean, how
can we still make this claim?" We can make this claim because we'll do the
same thing we always do. We can imagine, all right,
imagine a rectangle here. We're gonna estimate the area
with a bunch of rectangles. Then this rectangle, and this rectangle in your
line like that looks horrible. That doesn't look like the
area of a triangle at all. It's got all these extra
pieces right here, right? You don't want all of that. And okay, I agree. That didn't work so well. Let's make them even smaller, right? Smaller width. So we'll do a rectangle like that. We'll do this one. You see we're getting better. This is definitely closer. This is not as bad as the other one but it's still not exact. And I agree, that is not exact so we'll make it even smaller rectangle and an even smaller rectangle here all of these at the same width but they're even smaller
than the ones before. Now we're getting really close. This area is really gonna get close to the area of the triangle. The point is if you make
them infinite testable small, they'll exactly represent
the area of a triangle. Each one of them can be
found with this formula. The delta v for each one will be the area, or sorry, the acceleration of
the height of that rectangle times the small infinite testable width and you'll get the total delta v which is so gonna be the total area. Long story short, area on a, acceleration versus time graphs represents the change in velocity. This is one you got to remember. this is the most important
aspect of an acceleration graph, oftentimes the most useful aspect of it, the way you analyze it. So why do we care about
change in velocity? Because it will allow
us to find the velocity. We just need to know the
velocity at one point then we can find the
velocity at any other point. For instance, let's say I gave
you the velocity Daisy had. For some reason I'm gonna stopwatch. I start my stopwatch at
right at that moment. At t equals zero, Daisy had a velocity of, let's say positive one meter per second. So Daisy was traveling
that fast at t equals zero. That was her velocity at
t equals zero seconds. Now I can get the
velocity wherever I want. If I want the velocity at four, let's figure this out. To get the velocity at four,
I can say that the delta v during this time period right here, this four seconds. I know what that delta v was. That delta v was positive eight. We found that area, height times width. So positive eight is what
the delta v is gotta equal. What's delta v? That's v at four seconds minus v at zero seconds. That's gotta be positive eight. I know what v at zero second was. That was one. So we can get that v at four
minus one meter per second is equal to positive
eight meters per second. So I get the velocity at four was positive nine meters per second. And you're like, phew, that was hard. I don't wanna do that every time. Yeah, I wouldn't wanna
do that every time either so there's a quick way to do it. We can just do this. What's the velocity we had to start with? That was one. What was our change in velocity? That was positive eight. So what's our final velocity? Well, one plus eight gives
us our final velocity. It's positive nine. Well it's just gonna take
this change in velocity of this area which represents
the change in velocity which is gonna add our
initial velocity to it when we solve for this final velocity. for instance, if I didn't
make sense, for instance, if we want to find the velocity at six, well, we can just say we
started at t equals four seconds with a velocity of positive nine. We start here with positive nine. Our change was positive two so we're gonna end with
positive 11 meters per second. You might object. You might say, "Wait
a minute, hold on now. "If we want delta v, "right, and that's positive two, "shouldn't delta v be the whole thing "from like zero to six seconds? "Shouldn't I say v at six
seconds minus v at zero "is positive two meters per second?" I can't do that. The reason I can't do that is because look at what I did on the left hand side, my time interval goes from zero to six but on the right hand side, I only included the area from four to six. That's the area, there's a
yellow triangle right here. If I wanted to put six and
zero on this left hand side, I could do that but from my total area, I wouldn't use that. I have to use the total area. In other words, the total are
from zero all the way to six because that's what I define on this side. These sides have to agree with each other. So from zero to six,
my total area would be, this area here was eight, right? We found that rectangle was eight. This area here was two. So my total area would be 10. I can do that if I want. I could say v at six minus v at zero was, well v at zero we said was one because I just gave you that, equals 10 meters per second. I get that the v at six
would be 11 meters per second just like we got it before. So you can still do it
mathematically like this but make sure your time
intervals agree on those sides. Now let's do the last part here. So we can find this area. This area and the area always represents the area from the curve
to the horizontal axis. So in this case it's
below the horizontal axis. That means it can negative area. The reason is it's a triangle again. So 1/2 base times height. So 1/2, the base is
one, two, three seconds. The height is negative three, negative now, negative three meters per second squared. I get that the total area is gonna be negative 4.5 meters per second. All right, now Daisy's gonna
have a change in velocity of negative 4.5. If we want to get the velocity at nine, there's a few ways we can do it. Right, just conceptually, we
can say that Daisy started at six with a velocity of 11. Her change during this
period was negative 4.5. If you just add the
two, you add the change to the value she started with. Well you're gonna get positive 6.5 if I add 11 and negative
4.5 meters per second or, if that sounded like
mathematical witchcraft, you can say that, all right, delta v equals, what, negative 4.5 meters per second. Delta v would be, all
right, you gotta be careful, this negative 4.5 represents this triangle so it's gotta be the delta
v between six and nine. So v at nine minus v at six has to be negative 4.5 meters per second. V at nine minus the v at six we know, v at six was 11. So I've got minus 11 meters per second equals negative 4.5. Wow, we ran out of room. V at nine would be negative 4.5 plus 11. That's what we did up here. We got that it was just
6.5 meters per second and that agrees with what we said earlier. So finding the area can get
you the change in velocity and then knowing the velocity
at one unknown at a time can get you the velocity at
any other moment in time. Just be careful. Make sure you're associating
the right time interval on both the length and the right side. They have to agree. One more thing before you go. The slope on these graphs often represents something meaningful. That's the same in this graph. So the slope of this graph, let's try to interpret what this means. The slope on an acceleration
versus time graph. Well the slope is always represented as the rise over the run and the rise is y two minus y one over x two minus x one except instead of y
and x, we have a and t. So we're gonna have a two minus a one over t two minus t one. This is gonna be delta a, the change in a over the change in time. What is that? It's the rate of change
of the acceleration. That is even one more layer removed from what we're used dealing with, right? Velocity, velocity is
the change in position with respect to time. Acceleration is the change in
velocity with respect to time. Now we're saying that the
something is the change in acceleration with respect to time. What is it? It's the jerk. So this is often called the jerk. That's the name of it. It's not used all that often. It's quite honestly not the most useful motion variable you'll ever meet and you won't get asked
for that often most likely on test and whatnot but it has its application sometimes that exist and it has a
name that's called the jerk. So recapping, the area,
the important fact here is that the area under
acceleration versus time graphs gives you the change in velocity. Once you know the velocity at one point, you could find the velocity
at any other point. The slope of an acceleration
versus time graph gives you the jerk.