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Simon Bridge

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Since forces can point every which way, it is often handy to represent them as components, usually at right angles to each other, which add up to the actual force. This is to make the maths easier.

A ladder leans against a wall - the feet of the ladder are on a rough floor.

It is easy to see that the floor prevents sliding away from the wall and also prevents the ladder falling directly downwards - so these are two components of the overall force provided from the floor. The total force from the floor is the sum of these two. It is a lot harder to find the total force in one go.

The total force does not act normal to the floor - so the total is sometimes called a reaction force.

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