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Centrifugal and centripetal force

April 1, 2010
An object traveling in a circle, even at constant speed, is accelerating. That's because its direction is constantly changing to point to the center of

An object traveling in a circle, even at constant speed, is accelerating. That's because its direction is constantly changing to point to the center of the circular path — a condition that's defined as centripetal acceleration, as expressed in the equation here. When this acts on mass objects, it generates centripetal force.

With the same Latin root as pedal, the suffix -petal translates to ftravelingcentripetal force is a “center heading” force. Electromagnetic forces, nuclear forces, and even gravity (in bodies orbiting in space and on Earth) can keep objects on circular paths by acting as centripetal-force sources.

With the same Latin root as fugitive, the suffix -fugal translates to fleeingcentrifugal force is a “center fleeing” force. This is a pseudoforce, an equal but opposite reaction to centripetal force (according to Newton's Third Law) so practical calculations generally only derive centripetal force.

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