The first law states that if the net force (the vector sum of all forces acting on an object) is zero, then the velocity of the object is constant. Velocity is a vector quantity which expresses both the object’s speed and the direction of its motion; therefore, the statement that the object’s velocity is constant is a statement that both its speed and the direction of its motion are constant.

The first law can be stated mathematically when the mass is a non-zero constant, as,{\displaystyle \sum \mathbf {F} =0\;\Leftrightarrow \;{\frac {\mathrm {d} \mathbf {v} }{\mathrm {d} t}}=0.}

\sum \mathbf {F}=0\;\Leftrightarrow \;{\frac {\mathrm {d} \mathbf {v} }{\mathrm {d} t}}=0.


  • An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless a force acts upon it.
  • An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless a force acts upon it.

This is known as uniform motion. An object continues to do whatever it happens to be doing unless a force is exerted upon it. If it is at rest, it continues in a state of rest (demonstrated when a tablecloth is skilfully whipped from under dishes on a tabletop and the dishes remain in their initial state of rest). If an object is moving, it continues to move without turning or changing its speed. This is evident in space probes that continuously move in outer space. Changes in motion must be imposed against the tendency of an object to retain its state of motion. In the absence of net forces, a moving object tends to move along a straight line path indefinitely.

Newton placed the first law of motion to establish frames of reference for which the other laws are applicable. However, Newton implicitly referred to the absolute co-ordinate of cosmos for this frame. Since we cannot precisely measure our velocity relative to a far star, Newton’s frame is based on a pure imagination, not based on measurable physics. In current physics, an observer defines himself as in inertial frame by preparing one stone hooked by a spring, and rotating the spring to any direction, and observing the stone static and the length of that spring unchanged. By Einstein’s equivalence principle, if there was one such observer A and another observer B moving in a constant velocity related to A, then A and B will both observe the same physics phenomena. if A verified the first law, then B will verify it too. In this way, the definition of inertial can get rid of absolute space or far star, and only refer to the objects locally reachable and measurable.

A particle not subject to forces moves (related to inertial frame) in a straight line at a constant speed Newton’s first law is often referred to as the law of inertia. Thus, a condition necessary for the uniform motion of a particle relative to an inertial reference frame is that the total net force acting on it is zero. In this sense, the first law can be restated as:

In every material universe, the motion of a particle in a preferential reference frame Φ is determined by the action of forces whose total vanished for all times when and only when the velocity of the particle is constant in Φ. That is, a particle initially at rest or in uniform motion in the preferential frame Φ continues in that state unless compelled by forces to change it


Relationship to the conservation laws
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