Centrifugal force

  1. is there such a term as centrifugal force?
    what exactly is it??
     
  2. jcsd
  3. HallsofIvy

    HallsofIvy 40,382
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Yes, there is such a term- you just used it!

    On the other hand, if you mean is there really such a FORCE, the answer can be yes or no depending on your point of view.

    Objects tend to continue moving in a straight line at a constant speed unless they are acted on by a force. In order to make a rock tied to a rope, for example, move in a circle rather than a straight line, we have to apply a force to it- this called the "centripetal" force (NOT centrifugal: notice the spelling). Of course, you will feel the rope pulling on your arm as the rock "tries" to continue in a straight line- that's the "centrifugal" force which you can think of as a "fictitious" force: it's really the reaction to your pulling on the rope.
     
  4. Actually, they way that I've always heard the term "centrifugal force" used, it's not really a force. People use it to refer to the "outward pull" that you experience when turning. For example, when you make a sharp turn to the left in a car, your body shifts to the right compared to the car. However, there is no force that makes you move to the right. Rather, it is a lack of force. It is due to intertia--the tendency to move in a straigh line. When the car moves to the left, your momentum does not instantaneously change with the car. You body wants to continue moving in a straigh line when the car moves to the left. This difference is often experienced as your body moving to the right relative to the car, but it is really the car moving to your left.
     
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