For this problem, we're looking for the horizontal distance the baseball travels given the magnitude and direction of the initial velocity and the height it was batted from. Then we also want to know how fast the centerfielder runs to catch the ball as it lands given his horizontal distance from the launch point.
For projectile motion problems in general, we'll follow these steps to solve:
- Identify the target variable and known variables for each direction—remember that only 3 of the 5 variables (Δx or Δy, v0, vf, a, and t) are needed for each direction. Also, it always helps to sketch out the problem and label all your known information!
- Choose a UAM equation—sometimes you'll be able to go directly for the target variable, sometimes another step will be needed in between.
- Solve the equation for the target (or intermediate) variable, then substitute known values and calculate the answer.
The four UAM (kinematics) equations are:
In our coordinate system, the +y-axis is pointing upwards and the +x-direction is horizontal along the launch direction. That means ay = −g, and ax = 0 (because the only acceleration acting on a projectile once it's launched is gravity.)
For projectiles with a positive launch angle, we also need to know how to decompose a velocity vector into its x- and y-components: