Newton’s Second Law Applied to Uniform Circular Motion
A force causing a centripetal acceleration acts toward the center of the circularpath and causes a change in the direction of the velocity vector. If that forceshould vanish, the object would no longer move in its circular path; instead, it would move along a straight-line path tangent to the circle. This idea is illustratedin Figure 6.2 for the ball whirling at the end of a string. If the string breaks at some instant, the ball moves along the straight-line path tangent to the circle at the point where the string broke.
Is it possible for a car to move in a circular path in such a way that it has a tangential accel-eration but no centripetal acceleration?
Quick Quiz 6.1
Forces That Cause Centripetal Acceleration
Consider some examples. For the motion of the Eartharound the Sun, the centripetal force is
For an object sitting on a rotating turntable, the centripetal force is
For a rock whirled on the end of a string, the centripetalforce is the force of
in the string. For an amusement-park patron pressed against the inner wall of a rapidly rotat-ing circular room, the centripetal force is the
ex-erted by the wall. What’s more, the centripetal force couldbe a combination of two or more forces. For example, as aFerris-wheel rider passes through the lowest point, the cen-tripetal force on her is the difference between the normalforce exerted by the seat and her weight.The force causing centripetal acceleration is sometimescalled a
We are familiar with a variety of forcesin nature—friction, gravity, normal forces, tension, and soforth. Should we add
force to this list?
No; centripetal force
be added to thislist. This is a pitfall for many students. Giving the force caus-ing circular motion a name—centripetal force—leads many students to consider it a new kind of force rather than a new
for force. A common mistake in force diagrams is to drawall the usual forces and then to add another vector for thecentripetal force. But it is not a separate force—it is simply one of our familiar forces
acting in the role of a force that causes a circular motion.
When the string breaks, theball moves in the direction tangent to thecircle.
An athlete in the process of throw-ing the hammer at the 1996Olympic Games in Atlanta, Geor-gia. The force exerted by the chainis the force causing the circularmotion. Only when the athlete re-leases the hammer will it movealong a straight-line path tangent tothe circle.