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Centrifugal Force

Teacher/Instructor Matt Jones
Matt Jones

M.Ed., George Washington University
Dept. chair at a high school

Matt is currently the department chair at a high school in San Francisco. In his spare time, Matt enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and two kids.

Many students call centripetal force centrifugal force, but the two are not the same. Centrifugal force is the reaction to centripetal force as explained by Newton's Third Law of Motion, but it is only important in its distinction from centripetal force.

Centrifugal Forces okay what's a centrifugal force? That's sound a lot like a centerfuge right well that's that thing that you put some material in, in a test tube you spin it around and the really dense stuff goes to the bottom and it's that force that's pulling it to the bottom right away from the rotation. That's pretty much what a centrifugal force is right, we've got a centripetal force remember which pulls towards the center of a rotation okay and so the centrifugal force it would seem is pushing away right. In Newton's third says that every force has an equal and opposite force, so centripetal force, centrifugal force right? The only problem is it's not a real force, and this is Physics we can't have fake forces right that's silly alright. Well why is it not a real force okay? Well let's look at it okay so we have an a object that's rotated in around the center, we have a couple of forces that are acting on the object right. We've got remember at any point along here we have a force called a inertia and a inertia is always going to be moving the object tangentially or at a right angle from the line to the center okay so the radius.

Okay so that force wherever we are in here is going to be perpendicular to the center. So we've got these 2 forces and they're acting if we put them together and we say this force is going this way and our centripetal force is going this way okay they add up. Right we can add up these force factors and we get the feeling that there's a force pushing in the opposite direction right. But it's really the force of a inertia that's pushing the object away from the center which feels like it's going this direction but really it's continuing to go away from it right. Because if we released this object at any point it would move in a tangent it wouldn't just fly straight away from this center. So we know that, that's the force, the force of a inertia it's making us think that there's this centrifugal force which is just really a feeling but it's not a real force. And that's the truth behind the centrifugal force