Physics

Centrifugal Forces Explained



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Centrifugal force is not a real force.

This is not to say that you cannot feel its effect. It is called a 'fictional' or 'virtual' force, such as the one you feel when you slam the brakes in your car. i.e. When you slam on your brakes, the momentum of your body makes you feel "pulled" forward relative to your frame of reference (the car). No force is actually pulling you forward. The only forces acting on your body are the resistance of your forward momentum by the seat belt and the friction of your seat.

Similarly, when you are travelling in a cirle, your momentum wants you (at any given point in time) to continue travelling forward in a straight line... but some force (called CENTRIPETAL force) is instead altering your path into an arc.

i.e. You are a passenger in a car. The car you are in is turning left and you feel the seat pushing at you from the right into the leftwards arc of the car... you "feel" like you are being drawn to the right (this feeling is what people refer to as CENTRIFUGAL force), and the seat (or door) is keeping you from going that way. In reality, no force is "pulling" you to the right. Your bodies natural tendency, when in motion, is to continue in a straight line. The CENTRIPETAL force exerted on you by the seat, seatbelt, and door is what keep you from doing so by altering your trajectory into an arc. The feeling of altering your path of momentum creates a 'virtual' force that we have named CENTRIFUGAL force.

It does not actually exist.

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