# Centripetal versus centrifugal explained

• mitch bass
In summary, the terms "centripetal force" and "centrifugal force" are often used to describe forces that act towards or away from a center point. However, these are not actual forces, but rather terms used to describe the direction of a force. Centripetal force refers to a force that acts towards the center of a curve, while centrifugal force refers to a force that acts away from the center. Centrifugal force is often referred to as a "fictitious force" and is only relevant in a rotating reference frame. The actual force at play is the tangential velocity pushing an object away from the center.
mitch bass
can someone please compare and contrast the phenomenon of the centripetal force versus the centrifugal force.

Originally posted by mitch bass
can someone please compare and contrast the phenomenon of the centripetal force versus the centrifugal force.

First off, there is no such animal as the Centrifugal force or the Centripetal force, there are merely centrifugal and centripetal forces.

Centrifugal means " to flee the center" and Centripetal means "to seek the center"

They are just terms used to decribe whether any given force acts towards or away from a center.

Imagine swinging a rock on a rope. A moving object tends to move in a straight line. In order to make the rock move out of a straight line into a circle, you have to keep pulling on the rope: that "cetripetal" force.

Of course, you hand feels the rope pulling back on it ("equal and opposite reaction"). That's "centrifugal" force.

Centripetal force is always directed toward the center of the curve, centrifugal force is always directed away from the center.

Centrifugal force is a "fictitious force", hence it is not really a force.

Imagine if a person is on a Merry-go-around spinning. He would feel a "force" that is pulling him away from the Merry-go-around, therefore he has to hold on to the bar on the Merry-go-around enable to stay on, the force that he is exerting on the bar is acting directly inwards with respects to the center of the Merry-go-around, and this force is what we called a "centripetal force". Now imagine the person releases his grip on the bar, and got pull off by this "mysterious force" off the Merry-go-around. An observer that is on the same Merry-go-around, would see that the person is flying "radially" away from the Merry-go-around. But if there is an observer on the ground in a stationary reference frame, he would see this rather differently, he would see the person instead of flying radially, he would see him flying away from the Merry-go-around "tangetially".

People who have done physics knows that the veloctiy vector is always at right angle to the centripetal force, we can therefore say, from the viewpoint of the observer in a staionary non-rotational reference frame that the person is really flying away from the Merry-go-around due to his inertia, because inertia is the resistance of change in motion, in this case, the person's inertia has overcame the centripetal force, and thereby he will fly tangetially away from the Merry-go-around.

The reason that centrifugal force is called a fictitious force is because that it only agrees with the definition of a force (a push or a pull) when the observer is in the same rotating reference frame as the obejct; while an observer in an non-rotational stationary reference frame does not need to be equiped with the concept of centrifugal force. The existnce of centrifugal force is really a matter of fact that which frame of reference that the observers are in.

Hyperreality beat me to it, but there is no centrifugal force.

That force is really the tangential velocity "pushing" an object away from the center.

Just some repetitive info.

## What is centripetal force?

Centripetal force is the force that acts on an object moving in a circular path and is directed towards the center of the circle. It's necessary for an object to maintain its circular motion, as it constantly changes the object's direction.

## What is centrifugal force?

Centrifugal force is an apparent force that seems to act on an object moving in a circular path, directed away from the center of the circle. It's not an actual force but a result of the inertia of the object moving in a curved path.

## How do centripetal and centrifugal forces differ in terms of their direction?

Centripetal force acts towards the center of the circular path, while centrifugal force, being a perceived force, appears to act outward, away from the center. Their directions are opposite to each other.

## Are both centripetal and centrifugal forces real forces?

Centripetal force is a real force, caused by a tangible interaction. Centrifugal force, on the other hand, is a 'fictitious' force experienced in a rotating reference frame, and it is not caused by a physical interaction.

## Can you give an example of centripetal force?

An example of centripetal force is the tension in a string attached to a ball being swung in a circular path. The tension in the string pulls the ball towards the center, keeping it moving in a circle.

## When is centrifugal force experienced?

Centrifugal force is experienced in a rotating frame of reference, like when you're in a car taking a sharp turn and feeling pushed against the door, or in a spinning ride at an amusement park feeling pushed outwards.

## How do centripetal and centrifugal forces apply in planetary motion?

In planetary motion, the gravitational force acts as the centripetal force, keeping planets in their orbits. The centrifugal force is not a factor in this motion, as it's an apparent force observed only in rotating reference frames.

## Is it correct to say centrifugal force balances centripetal force?

No, it's not correct to say that centrifugal force balances centripetal force. Centrifugal force is an apparent force observed in a rotating frame and does not interact or balance with centripetal force, which is a real force in circular motion.

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