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What is Centrifugal force?

  1. Nov 7, 2012 #1
    In physics today, my teacher told me that Centrifugal force is a fake force? Is this true? What exactly is Centrifugal force? Any help would be greatly appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 7, 2012 #2


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    In a rotating frame of reference, centrifugal force is a "fictitious" force used to compensate for the rotating (non-inertial) frame. There's also the debatable term "reactive centrifugal force" that refers to the newton 3rd law reaction force exerted by a centripetally accelerated object onto the object producing the centripetal force in an inertial (non-accelerating) frame. Wiki articles:


  4. Nov 7, 2012 #3
    Its simply the tendency of an object following a curved path to fly away from the center of curvature.

    If you need further understanding, there is always the google box :)
  5. Nov 7, 2012 #4
    So does it actually exist? Why Is it "fictionious"?
  6. Nov 7, 2012 #5


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  7. Nov 7, 2012 #6


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    In physics, the common usage for centrifugal force is in a rotating frame. If you read the wiki articles, it explains that it is a "fictitious" force because the apparent force is one that causes objects in "free fall" to accelerate "outwards", when in fact, it's some point of observation on the rotating frame that is accelerating while the observed object in "free fall" is not being acted upon by any force or accelerating. There's also an apparent "fictitious" coriolis force in a rotating frame.

    For the less common usage, "reactive centrifugal force" is one of the two newton 3rd law pair of forces involving centripetal acceleration. Say an object is attached to a string and that the object is moving in a circular path. The string exerts a centripetal force onto the object, and the object reacts to the acceleration by exerting an equal but opposing "reactive centrifugal force" onto the string.

    Note that "fictitious" centrifugal force is one that appears to be exerted onto an object, while "reactive centrifugal force" is a force that the accelerated object exerts onto something else.
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