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What are Forces?

A force results from the interaction between two objects. A force can be defined as a push or a
pull which acts upon an object as a result of its interaction with another object.
When one object exerts a force on another object it always experiences an equal opposing
force in return from the object it exerted the force on. Or in other words when two objects
interact, the forces they exert on one another are equal and opposite. These forces are referred
to as the action and reaction forces.
Forces are measured in units called Newton (N). The unit is named after the famous physicists
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) who Laws of Motion are instrumental in understanding the
effects of forces.
Examples of forces
Weight
Weight is the force of gravity, which is the pull of the Earth on an object. To understand the
force of gravity the concept of mass needs to be understood as well.
The mass of an object is the amount of matter it contains. Thus mass is a measure of how much
stuff is in an object. Mass is measured in kilograms (kg) and is the same no matter where the
object is located in the universe. For example and object of mass 10kg on the Earth will have
the same mass of 10kg on the moon or anywhere else in the universe. Weight on the other
hand is a measure of the pull of a planet i.e. Earth on the stuff contained in the object. The
direction of the force of gravity is downwards towards the centre of the Earth.
As mentioned earlier when two objects interact they exert equal and opposite forces. The force
that opposes the force of gravity in called the Normal Force. This is equal to the force of gravity
and acts in an upwards direction (opposite to the downwards direction of the force of gravity).
This is exerted by the surface upon which the object is positioned on. Therefore the force of
gravity is the action force and the normal force is the reaction force.
FREE BODY FORCE DIAGRAMS
Free-body force diagrams are used to give a clear and simple indication of the effect of the
forces acting on an object. In a free-body force diagram only the forces acting directly on the
object are shown. The forces are represented by arrows, the direction of the arrow gives the
direction of the force and the size of the arrow represents the size of the force. This assists the
reader in determining the net force acting on the object.

Friction
Frictional forces are the forces that oppose or prevent motion. These forces are a result of the
interaction between the surfaces of two objects (more precisely due to the attractions between
the molecules of the surfaces in contact). The reason why a football that is kicked eventually
comes to rest is due to the friction forces between the surface of the rolling ball and the grass
and air it is in contact with.
Magnetic Forces
This is the force produced by magnetic materials which pulls or repels other materials. For
example the magnetic strip on a refrigerator door catch pulls the door to the refrigerator frame
to keep the door closed.
The relationship between forces and motion were first fully explained by Sir Isaac Newton in
the sixteenth century. Before explaining Newtons laws of Motion it is important the term
resultant force is understood.
Resultant Force
The resultant force on an object is the sum of all the individual forces acting on the object
taking into account the direction in which they are acting. Therefore all the forces acting on an

object may be replaced by a single force which has the same effect as all the original forces
acting together.

Newtons First Law of Motion


Newtons first law deals with objects at rest or those moving at constant speed.
Newton stated that if the resultant force on an object is zero then an object at rest will remain
at rest and an object in motion will continue its motion in the same direction at constant speed.
This means that all objects have a natural tendency to keep on doing what they are doing. All
objects have a reluctance to change their state of motion and require an unbalanced force to
bring about a change.
The reluctance or resistance for a mass to change its state of motion is referred to as inertia.
This is why it is critical for drivers and passengers to wear seat belts. Passengers in cars possess
a lot of inertia; if the car is forced to stop suddenly the passengers in the car will still move
forward, the seatbelts however exert large forces on the passengers to stop them.
The animation below explains Newtons first law of motion:

Newtons Second Law of Motion


Newtons first law deals with objects at rest or objects moving at constant velocity. His second
law deals with the motion of accelerating and decelerating objects.
We know from everyday life examples such as pushing a car that if two people push a car on a
flat road it will accelerate faster than if one person was pushing it. Thus, there is a relationship
between the size of the force and the acceleration. We also know that it is easier for two
people to push a small car than a large truck and for the same applied force the small car will
accelerate faster than a large truck. Therefore there is also a relationship between mass and
acceleration.
Experimentation proves that acceleration of a body is proportional to the force applied. This
means that acceleration doubles when the force doubles or acceleration trebles when the force
trebles, thus the greater the force the greater the acceleration. This relationship is represented
as:

(Where represents "directly proportional to")


Experiments also show us if you keep the force constant and double the mass, the acceleration
will halve. This means the acceleration is inversely proportional to the mass i.e. the greater the
mass the less the acceleration.

It is important to note that the acceleration is parallel to the force applied.


Combing these two results we get:

Rearranging the above equation:

This equation gives the mathematical form of Newtons second law of motion,
which states:
The acceleration of an object is inversely proportional to the mass of the object and directly
proportion to the force acting on the object.
Provided the force is measured in Newton the second law can be written mathematically as:

The unit for measuring force is the Newton. One Newton is defined as:
The force which gives a mass of 1kg an acceleration of 1 m/s2
The animation below explains Newtons second law of motion:

Force Acting in Free Fall


The force acting on an object in free fall is called its weight. The acceleration of the object is
due to the force of gravity, therefore from Newtons second law of motion we know;
F=mxa
Acceleration due to gravity is represented by g and is equal to 9.8m/s2.
Therefore,
F=mx g
(where g is acceleration due to gravity)
We know that force acting due to gravity is weight so,
W=mxg
Newtons Third Law of Motion
Newton noticed that forces always come in pairs as a result of the interaction between two
bodies and that the two forces were always equal in size and opposite in direction.
In his third law Newton states:

If body A exerts a force on body B, then body B exerts a force on body A that is equal in size
but opposite in direction.
Newtons third law can be explained by the example of the space shuttle shown in the
animation below:

This is an important point to remember. The two forces in an action-reaction force pair always
act on two different objects. Therefore, the two forces can never cancel each other out. The
forces acting on the shuttle are the weight and thrust (although there will also be a drag force
caused by friction in the atmosphere). The thrust is the reaction force from the exhaust gases.
The action force i.e. the exhaust gases from the rear of the shuttle are not acting on the rocket
rather the rocket pushes on the exhaust gases.
Momentum
Momentum is defined as the product of mass and velocity.

The unit for momentum is kilogram meters per second (kgm/s) and it is a vector quantity as it
has both size and direction. The direction is given by the velocity (velocity = speed in a
particular direction).

Momentum has the symbol p and can be written mathematically as:


p =mxv
Thus, the momentum of an object depends on its mass and its velocity. A 5000kg van travelling
with a velocity of 6m/s will have a greater momentum than a 2000kg car travelling at the same
velocity of 6m/s. However, a 2000kg car travelling at a velocity of 20m/s will have a greater
momentum than the 5000kg van travelling at 6m/s.
From Newtons second laws we know that:

And that the acceleration is the change in velocity by the time taken:

By substituting the value of a into the force equation it gives:

The above equation can be written as:


Resultant Force x time taken = change in momentum
This equation confirms that when a resultant force acts on an object it will cause a change of
momentum in the direction of the force and the size of the change depends on the size of the
force and the time for which it acts.
This can be explained by considering a sportsman or sportswoman striking a ball. A good
sportsperson will always follow through when playing a shot. This means the force is applied
for a longer time and so a greater change in momentum can be achieved for a given force.

Lets consider the following example. A batsman strikes a cricket ball of mass 0.15kg
accelerating it from 10m/s to 25m/s. The illustration below shows the force required when the
bat acts on the ball for 1/100th of a second and for 1/10th of a second.

The above example illustrates that the longer the duration of contact or impact in a collision
the smaller the force exerted. Seat belts, airbags and crumple zones in cars also make use of
this concept. During a car accident the seat belt is designed to stretch slightly, thereby
increasing its time of contact with the wearer. This reduces the force of the impact on the seat
belt wearer. Crumple zones in vehicles also increase the length of time of impact with a
colliding object thus reducing the force on the passengers.

Conservation Of Momentum
We know from the equation mentioned in the section above that when a force acts on a body
for a time it results in a change of momentum. When two bodies collide they exert a force over
the same period of time which results in a change in momentum. From Newtons third law we
know if object A exerts a force on object B then object B exerts an equal and opposite force on
object A.
This means that the change in momentum will be equal and opposite.
The principle of conservation of momentum is as follows:
Total momentum before collision = total momentum after collision
For the principle of conversation to hold no external forces must act on the colliding bodies as
this would result in momentum being added to the system.
The principle of conservation of momentum also applies to explosions. Explosions are the
opposite to collisions. In explosions objects move apart. An example of this is a rocket. A rocket
gains momentum by the controlled explosion of fuel as the hot exhaust gases move in one
direction the rocket moves in the opposite direction. Thus the momentum of the hot exhaust
gases equals the momentum of the rocket.
Friction
Friction is defined as a force that opposes motion.
When two objects are brought into contact the molecules from the surface of one object get
very close to the molecules on the surface of the other object. This results in forces of
attraction between the molecules and this must be overcome so that one surface can move
over the other.
Objects moving through fluids such as air or water also encounter frictional forces which
reduce their motion. This is known as drag.
Friction prevents objects from moving or slows them down. It also causes wear on surfaces as
they rub against each other and generates heat. Thus energy is wasted in overcoming friction.
Reducing friction
Lubrication
Oil is used as a lubricant and provides a thin layer of liquid which separates the moving
surfaces.

Bearings
Ball bearings reduce frictions by making the moving surface roll rather than slide.
Streamlining
By designing the object to allow the easy flow of fluid around it (streamlining) as is done for
rockets and racing cars the drag can be reduced considerably.
Uses of friction
Although in a lot of cases friction is a hindrance but it is also very essential. In order to walk we
depend on the friction between the soles of our feet or shoes and the ground. The tyres and
brakes on vehicles depend on friction to stop, slow down and start moving. It is the air
resistance or drag that slows down a parachute.
Stopping Distance
Cars rely on friction at the brakes and tires in order to stop.
The total distance a car requires to stop is called the total stopping distance. This is the sum of
the distance covered in the time it takes for the driver to react known as the thinking distance
and the distance the car travels before coming to rest after the brakes are pressed called the
braking distance.
Total stopping distance = thinking distance + braking distance
The diagram below gives the shortest stopping distances for a car on a dry road with good
brakes and tires.

From the diagram a clear pattern can be seen between the velocity of the car and the total
stopping distance. The average reaction time of a driver is about 0.7s as the velocity of the car
increases so will the thinking distance from the relationship;
Distance travelled = velocity x reaction time
The braking distances increases because at a faster velocity the car possesses more kinetic
energy. This energy has to be transferred to the brakes; this is transferred as heat and is the
reason why brakes become hot. The relationship between velocity and kinetic energy is,
Kinetic Energy (Joules) = x mass x velocity2
Therefore if the car travels three times the velocity it has 9 times the kinetic energy which
means the braking distance will be nine times longer.
Factors affecting the total stopping distance
The drivers reaction time
The thinking distance depends on the drivers reaction time. Reactions are strongly influenced
by the state of the mind. Thus, a driver under the influence of a drug such as alcohol will have a
much reduced reaction time which will increase the thinking distance. Tiredness and fatigue
also influence reaction time. A tired driver will react a lot slower than an alert driver.

Velocity
As illustrated in the chart above the braking distance increases with velocity. This is explained
by the relationship between kinetic energy and velocity. The greater the velocity the greater
the kinetic energy the brakes have to transfer.
Mass
The mass of the vehicle is also related to kinetic energy in the relationship;
Kinetic Energy (Joules) = x mass x velocity2
The greater the mass the greater the kinetic energy, thus a heavier car will require a longer
braking distance.
Road Surface
Friction between the car tires and the road surface stop it from skidding and sliding. On a wet
or icy road surface the contact between the tires and the road is considerably reduced. If the
driver brakes hard the car will skid therefore the driver needs to apply a reduced force on the
brakes increasing the braking distance.
Tire Condition
Tires are designed with grooves which channel the water away on wet roads in order to ensure
contact of the tire is made with the road. If the tires are worn the friction between the road and
tires is reduced increasing braking distance.
Brake Condition
Worn brakes will take longer to transfer the kinetic energy of the car increasing the braking
distance.
Air Resistance
The force that resists the motion of an object through a gas and liquid is called drag.
For objects moving through air sometimes instead of drag the term air resistance is used. As an
object moves through air, the gas molecules in the air push against the surface of the moving
object resulting in friction between the gas molecules in the air and the surface of the moving
object.
The amount of drag encountered depends on the following:

Shape
An object with smooth lines will allow the air to flow over it more easily reducing the drag. This
is known as streamlining and is why objects built for speed such as racing cars have smooth
bodies.
Speed
Drag increases with speed.
Area
The larger the area of contact the more drag it will experience.
The type of fluid
There will be more drag in a liquid compared to a gas as the molecules are a lot closer together.
A stone will fall much faster in air than in water.
Terminal Velocity
When an object falls it accelerates due to its weight (the downward force of gravity acting on
the objects mass). As it accelerates its velocity increases. The increase in velocity is
accompanied by an increase in air resistance (drag). Eventually the air resistance acting
upwards on the objects equals the weight acting downwards. The overall force on the object is
balance or zero; it therefore cannot accelerate and continues to fall at constant velocity. This is
referred to as the terminal velocity.
The animation below shows the terminal velocity of a skydiver: