Conservation laws are extremely important in physics. They are enormously helpful, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in figuring out what is going on in a physical system. When we say that something is “conserved”, we mean that it is constant over time. If a certain quantity is conserved, for example, while a ball rolls around on a hill, or while a group of particles interact, then the possible final motions are greatly restricted. If we can write down enough conserved quantities (which we are generally able to do, at least for the problems in this book), then we can restrict the final motions down to just one possibility, and so we have solved our problem. Conservation of energy and momentum are two of the main conservation laws in physics. A third, conservation of angular momentum, is discussed in Chapters 6-8. It should be noted that it is not necessary to use conservation of energy and momentum when solving a problem. We will derive these conservation laws from Newton’s laws. Therefore, if you felt like it, you could always simply start with first principles and use F = ma , etc. You would, however, soon grow weary of this approach. The point of conservation laws is that they make your life easier, and they provide a means for getting a good idea of the overall behavior of a given system.