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Force

Force is a term we use in an everyday language all of the time. Sometimes people talk about 'The force of nature, and sometimes we refer to authorities such as the police force. Perhaps your parents are 'forcing' you to revise right now? We don't want to force the concept of force down your throat, but it would definitely be useful to know what we mean by force in physics for your exams! That's what we'll discuss in this article. First, we go through the definition of force and its units, then we talk about the types of forces and finally, we will go through a few examples of forces in our daily lives to improve our understanding of this useful concept.

Definition of Force

Force is defined as any influence that can change the position, speed, and state of an object.

Force can also be defined as a push or pull that acts on an object. The force acting can stop a moving object, move an object from rest, or change the direction of its motion. This is based on Newton's 1st law of motion which states that an object continues to be in a state of rest or move with uniform velocity until an external force acts on it. Force is a vector quantity as it has direction and magnitude.

Force Formula

The equation for force is given by Newton's 2nd law in which it is stated that the acceleration produced in a moving object is directly proportional to the force acting on it and inversely proportional to the mass of the object. Newton's 2nd law can be represented as follows:

it can also be written as

Or in words

whereis the force in Newton, is the mass of the object in, andis the acceleration of the body in. In other words, as the force acting on an object increases, its acceleration will increase provided the mass remains constant.

What is the acceleration produced on an object with a mass ofwhen a force ofis applied to it?

We know that,

The resultant force will produce an acceleration ofon the object.

Unit of Force in Physics

The SI unit of Force is Newtons and it is usually represented by the symbol.can be defined as a force that produces an acceleration ofin an object of mass. Since forces are vectors their magnitudes can be added together based on their directions.

The resultant force is a single force that has the same effect as two or more independent forces.

Forces The image shows resultant forces StudySmarterForces can be added together or taken away from each other in order to find the resultant force depending on whether the forces are acting in the same or opposite directions respectively, StudySmarter originals

Take a look at the above image, if the forces act in opposite directions then the resultant force vector will be the difference between the two and in the direction of the force that has a greater magnitude. Two forces acting at a point in the same direction can be added together to produce a resultant force in the direction of the two forces.

What is the resultant force on an object when it has a force ofpushing it and a frictional force ofacting on it?

The frictional force will always be opposite to the direction of motion, therefore the resultant force is

The resultant force acting on the object isin the direction of motion of the body.

Types of Force

We spoke about how a force can be defined as a push or pull. A push or pull can only happen when two or more objects interact with each other. But forces can also be experienced by an object without any direct contact between objects occurring. As such, forces can be classified into contact and non-contact forces.

Contact Forces

These are forces that act when two or more objects come in contact with each other. Let us look at a few examples of contact forces.

Normal reaction force

The normal reaction force is the name given to the force that acts between two objects in contact with each other. The normal reaction force is responsible for the force we feel when we push on an object, and its the force that stops us from falling through the floor! The normal reaction force will always act normal to the surface, hence the reason its called the normal reaction force.

The normal reaction force is the force experienced by two objects in contact with each other and which acts perpendicularly to the surface of contact between the two objects. Its origin is due to the electrostatic repulsion between the atoms of the two objects in contact with each other.

Forces Normal force acting on the ground StudySmarterWe can determine the direction of the normal reaction force by conidering the directipn perpendicular to the surface of contact. The word normal is just another word for perpendicular or 'at right-angles', StudySmarter Originals

The normal force on the box is equal to the normal force exerted by the box on the ground, this is a result of Newton's 3rd law. Newton's 3rd law states that for every force, there is an equal force acting in the opposite direction.

Because the object is stationary, we say that the box is in equilibrium. When an object is in equilibrium, we know that the total force acting on the object must be zero. Therefore, the force of gravity pulling the box towards the Earth's surface must be equal to the normal reaction force holding it from falling towards the centre of the Earth.

Frictional Force

The frictional force is the force that acts between two surfaces which are sliding or trying to slide against each other.

Even a seemingly smooth surface will experience some friction due to irregularities on the atomic level. Without friction opposing the motion, objects would continue to move with the same speed and in the same direction as stated by Newton's 1st law of motion. From simple things like walking to complex systems like the brakes on an automobile, most of our daily actions are possible only due to the existence of friction.

Forces The image shows the  force of friction acting on a moving body StudySmarterThe frictional force on a moving object acts due to the roughness of the surface, StudySmarter Originals

Non-contact forces

Non-contact forces act between objects even when they're not physically in contact with each other. Let's look at a few examples of non-contact forces.

Gravitational force

The attractive force experienced by all objects that have a mass in a gravitational field is called gravity. This gravitational force is always attractive and on the Earth, acts towards its centre. The average gravitational field strength of the earth is. The weight of an object is the force it experiences due to gravity and is given by the following formula:

Or in words

Where is the weight of the object, is its mass and is the gravitational field strength at the Earth's surface. On the surface of the Earth, the gravitational field strength is approximately constant. We say that the gravitational field is uniform in a particular region when the gravitational field strength has a constant value. The value of the gravitational field strength at the surface of the Earth is equal to.

Forces The image shows the gravitational force acting the earth and the moon StudySmarterThe gravitational force of the earth on the moon acts toward sthe centre of the Earth. This means that the moon will orbit in a nearly perfect circle, we say nerly perfect because the moon's orbit is actually slightly elliptical, like all orbiting bodies, StudySmarter originals

Magnetic force

A magnetic force is the force of attraction between the like and unlike poles of a magnet. The north and south poles of a magnet have an attractive force while two similar poles have repulsive forces.

Forces The image shoes the magnetic forces of attraction and repulsion between like and unlike moles of a magnet StudySmarterMagnetic force, StudySmarter originals

Other examples of non-contact forces are nuclear forces, Ampere's force, and the electrostatic force experienced between charged objects.

Examples of Forces

Let us look at a few example situations in which the forces we talked about in the previous sections come into play.

A book placed on a tabletop will experience a force called the normal reaction force which is normal to the surface that it sits on. This normal force is the reaction to the normal force of the book acting on the tabletop. (Newton's 3rd law). They are equal but opposite in direction.

Even when we're walking, the force of friction is constantly helping us push ourselves forward. The force of friction between the ground and the soles of our feet helps us get a grip while walking. If not for friction, moving around would have been a very difficult task. An object can only start moving when the external force overcomes the force of friction between the object and the surface on which it rests.

Forces The image shoes the frictional force while walking on different surfaces StudySmarter

Frictional force while walking on different surfaces, StudySmarter originals

The foot pushes along the surface, hence the force of friction here will be parallel to the surface of the floor. The weight is acting downwards and the normal reaction force acts opposite to the weight. In the second situation, it is difficult to walk on ice because of the small amount of friction acting between the soles of your feet and the ground which is why we slip.

A satellite re-entering the earth's atmosphere experiences a high magnitude of air resistance and friction. As it falls at thousands of kilometres per hour towards Earth, the heat from friction burns up the satellite.

Other examples of contact forces are air resistance and tension. Air resistance is the force of resistance that an object experiences as it moves through the air. Air resistance occurs due to collisions with air molecules. Tension is the force an object experiences when a material is stretched. Tension in climbing ropes is the force that acts to keep rock climbers from falling to the ground when they slip.

Forces - Key Takeaways

  • Force is defined as any influence that can change the position, speed, and state of an object.
  • Force can also be defined as a push or pull that acts on an object.
  • Newton's 1st law of motion states that an object continues to be in a state of rest or move with uniform velocity until an external force acts on it.
  • Newton's 2nd law of motion states that the force acting on an object is equal to its mass multiplied by its acceleration.
  • The SI unit of force is the Newton () and it is given by , or in words,.
  • Newton's 3rd law of motion states that for every force there is an equal force acting in the opposite direction.
  • Force is a vector quantity as it has direction and magnitude.
  • We can categorise forces into contact and non-contact forces.
  • Examples of contact forces are friction, reaction force, and tension.
  • Examples of non-contact forces are gravitational force, magnetic force and electrostatic force.

Frequently Asked Questions about Force

Force is defined as any influence that can bring about a change in the position, speed, and state of an object.

Force acting on an object is given by the following equation:

F=ma, where F is the force in Newton, M is the mass of the object in Kg, and a is the acceleration of the body in m/s2

The SI unit of Force is the Newton (N).

There are many different ways of categorising forces. One such way is to split them into two types: contact and non-contact forces depending on whether they act locally or over some distance. Examples of contact forces are friction, reaction force, and tension. Examples of non-contact forces are gravitational force, magnetic force, electrostatic force, and so on.

An example of force is when an object placed on the ground will experience a force called the normal reaction force which is at right-angles to the ground. 

Final Force Quiz

Question

Does a body need to be in motion for it to have momentum?

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Answer

Yes. 

Show question

Question

Is momentum a scalar quantity or a vector quantity?

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Answer

Vector. 

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Question

What do we call a force that is applied over a certain duration of time which causes a change in momentum in a moving object?

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Answer

Impulse. 

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Question

The unit for pressure ...

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Answer

Pascal

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Question

What happens to pressure when the area increases?

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Answer

It decreases

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Question

What happens to pressure when force increases?

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Answer

It increases

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Question

The atmospheric pressure increases as altitude increases.

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Answer

False

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Question

The pressure in liquids decreases as the depth increases.

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Answer

False

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Question

What are the correct units of pressure?


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Answer

All the option

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Question

Which situation exerts the highest pressure?

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Answer

Nails hammered on a wall

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Question

What is an example of pressure?

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Answer

Examples of pressure are

  • A nail being hammered into a wall
  • Knife cutting a fruit
  • Atmospheric pressure

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Question

The pressure exerted by an object on the ground will be the same on the earth and the moon.

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Answer

False

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Question

What are Newton's three laws of motion about?

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Answer

About the relationships between the forces acting on an object and the motion of the object. 

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Question

What did Aristotle believe related to the first law?

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Answer

Aristotle believed that all objects have a natural place in the universe. Heavy objects like rocks have a will to stand on Earth, light objects like smoke have a will to stay in the sky, and stars have a will to stay in heaven. 

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Question

What was the difference between Aristotle's and Galileo's ideas?

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Answer

Galileo said that the force acting on an object determines its acceleration, not its velocity. Again, unlike Aristotle, Galileo put forward this discourse based on experiment and observation, not on his beliefs.

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Question

What does Newton's first law state?

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Answer

If an object is at rest or in uniform motion, unless there is an external force, it will preserve its status. 

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Question

What is inertia?

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Answer

Inertia is the characteristic of matter that allows an object at rest to stay at rest and a moving object to continue traveling in a straight line until another force acts on it. 

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Question

What is an inertial frame of reference?

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Answer

An inertial frame of reference is one in which an object remains at rest or moves at a constant speed unless another force acts on it. 

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Question

What is a non-inertial frame of reference?

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Answer

In a non-inertial frame of reference, a body does not appear to be acting in line with inertia. In other words, a non-inertial reference frame is one that is accelerating in relation to an inertial reference frame.  

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Question

What does Newton's second law state?

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Answer

Force is the product of mass and acceleration. 

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Question

The SI unit of force is kg.m/s2  (True/False)

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Answer

False.

Newton (N)

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Question

If a box with a mass of 5 kg is pulled with a force of 20 N, what is the acceleration?

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Answer

4 m/s2

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If a box is pulled with a force of 35 N and has an acceleration of 7 m/s2, then what is the mass of the box?

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Answer

5 kg

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Question

Action and reaction forces make a pair. (True/False)

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Answer

True

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Question

Action and reaction forces act on the same object.

(True/False) 

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Answer

False

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Question

Action-reaction forces are in the same magnitude but in opposite directions.  (True/False)  


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Answer

True

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Question

The force applied that causes the momentum of a moving object to change is called as:

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Answer

Impulse

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Question

If the change of momentum happens over a longer duration of time, will the force exerted be smaller or larger?

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Answer

Smaller. 

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Question

If you move your hands back while catching the ball, will the force exerted on your hands be more or less?

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Answer

The force exerted will be less. 

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Question

Does an object that is not in motion have momentum?

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Answer

No. 

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Question

Is momentum only positive or negative?

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Answer

Momentum is either positive or negative depending on the direction. 

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Question

If the velocity of the moving object increases, what would happen to its momentum?

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Answer

The momentum would increase. 

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Question

What does the area under a force-time graph represent?

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Answer

Change in Momentum. 

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Question

Momentum is a property that applies to: 

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Answer

Mass in motion. 

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What is the definition of momentum?

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Answer

The product of mass and velocity. 

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Is momentum a scalar quantity or a vector quantity?

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Answer

Vector quantity. 

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Is momentum positive or negative? 

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Answer

Momentum can be considered either positive or negative depending on the direction of 
velocity. 

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What are the units for momentum?

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Answer

kg m/s

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Question

What does the Law of Conservation of Momentum state?

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Answer

The Law of Conservation of Momentum states that the total amount of momentum in a closed system is always the same

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Question

What is the definition of collision? 

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Answer

Whenever an object moves towards another object and is close enough to interact, exerting a force on each other for a short amount of time.  

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Question

Pick the correct statement from the following. 

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Answer

In an elastic collision, the objects remain separate after colliding with each other. 

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Question

Which of the following are conserved in an elastic collision?

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Answer

Momentum and Kinetic Energy. 

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Question

Pick the correct statement from the following. 

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Answer

A perfectly inelastic collision occurs when two objects collide and instead of moving separately, they both move as one mass. 

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Question

For inelastic collisions, which of the following statement is correct?

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Answer

Momentum is conserved but the total Kinetic energy is not conserved. 

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Question

In reality, can we label any collision as elastic or perfectly inelastic?

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Answer

No. 

Show question

Question

Is mass a scalar quantity or a vector quantity? 

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Answer

Scalar. 

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Question

Is force a scalar quantity or a vector quantity? 

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Answer

Vector. 

Show question

Question

Pick the correct statement from the following: 

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Answer

Vectors are represented with magnitude and direction. 

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Question

Can you represent a vector with an arrow? 

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Answer

Yes. 

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Question

What does the length of a vector signify?

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Answer

Magnitude. 

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