A force is a push or pull upon an object resulting from the object's interaction with another object. Whenever there is an interaction between two objects, there is a force upon each of the objects. When the interaction ceases, the two objects no longer experience the force. Forces only exist as a result of an interaction. For simplicity sake, all forces (interactions) between objects can be placed into two broad categories:
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contact forces, and forces resulting from action-at-a-distance

Contact forces are types of forces in which the two interacting objects are physically contacting each other. Examples of contact forces include frictional forces, tensional forces, normal forces, air resistance forces, and applied forces. Action-at-a-distance forces are types of forces in which the two interacting objects are not in physical contact with each other, yet are able to exert a push or pull despite a physical separation. Examples of action-at-a-distance forces include gravitational forces (e.g., the sun and planets exert a gravitational pull on each other despite their large spatial separation; even when your feet leave the earth and you are no longer in contact with the earth, there is a gravitational pull between you and the Earth), electric forces (e.g., the protons in the nucleus of an atom and the electrons outside the nucleus experience an electrical pull towards each other despite their small spatial separation), and magnetic forces (e.g., two magnets can exert a magnetic pull on each other even when separated by a distance of a few centimeters).

Contact Forces
Frictional Force Tensional Force Normal Force Air Resistance Force Applied Force Spring Force

Action-at-a-Distance Forces
Gravitational Force Electrical Force Magnetic Force

Force is a quantity which is measured using the standard metric unit known as the Newton. One Newton is the amount of force required to give a 1-kg mass an acceleration of 1 m/s/s. A Newton is abbreviated by a "N." To say "10.0 N" means 10.0 Newtons of force. Thus, the following unit equivalency can be stated:

A force is a vector quantity. a vector quantity is a quantity which has both magnitude and direction. To fully describe the force acting upon an object, you must describe both the magnitude (size) and the direction. Thus, 10 Newtons is not a full description of the force acting upon an object. In contrast, 10 Newtons, downwards is a complete description of the force acting upon an object; both the magnitude (10 Newtons) and the direction (downwards) are given. Because a force is a vector which has a direction, it is common to represent forces using diagrams in which a force is represented by an arrow. The size of the arrow is reflective of the magnitude of the force and the direction of the arrow reveals the direction which the force is acting. (Such diagrams are known as free-body diagrams). Furthermore, because forces are vectors, the influence of an individual force upon an object is often canceled by the influence of another force. For example, the influence of a 20-Newton upward force acting upon a book is canceled by the influence of a 20-Newton downward force acting upon the book. In such instances, it is said that the two individual forces "balance each other"; there would be no unbalanced force Other situations could be imagined in which two of the individual vector forces cancel each other ("balance"), yet a third individual force exists that is not balanced by another force. For example, imagine a book sliding across the rough surface of a table from left to right. The downward force of gravity and the upward force of the table supporting the book act in opposite directions and thus balance each other. However, the force of friction acts leftwards, and there is no rightward force to balance it. In this case, an unbalanced force acts upon the book to change its state of motion.

Types of Force:These types of individual forces will now be discussed in more detail. To read about each force listed above, continue scrolling through this page. Or to read about an individual force, click on its name from the list below.

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Applied Force Gravitational Force Normal Force Frictional Force Air Resistance Force Tensional Force Spring Force

Type of Force (and Symbol)
Applied Force Fapp

Description of Force
An applied force is a force which is applied to an object by a person or another object. If a person is pushing a desk across the room, then there is an applied force acting upon the object. The applied force is the force exerted on the desk by the person.

Gravity Force

The force of gravity is the force at which the earth, moon, or other massively large object attracts another object towards itself. By definition, this is the weight of the object. All objects upon earth experience a force of gravity which is directed "downward" towards the center of the earth. The force of gravity on earth is always equal to the weight of the object as found by the equation:

(also known as Weight)

Fgrav = m g
where g = 9.8 m/s2 (on Earth) and m = mass (in kg)

The normal force is the support force exerted upon an object which is in contact with another stable object. For example, if a book is resting upon a surface, then the surface is exerting an upward force upon the book in order to support the weight of the book. On occasions, a normal force is exerted horizontally between Normal Force two objects which are in contact with each other.


F= M a M= Mass of body a = acceleration The friction force is the force exerted by a surface as an object moves across it or makes an effort to move across it. The friction force opposes the motion of the object. For example, if a book moves across the surface of a desk, then the desk exerts a friction force in the opposite direction of its motion. Friction results from the two surfaces being pressed together closely, causing intermolecular attractive forces between molecules of different surfaces. As such, friction depends upon the nature of the two surfaces and upon the degree to which they are pressed together. The friction force can be calculated using the equation:

Friction Force

Air Resistance Force

The air resistance is a special type of frictional force which acts upon objects as they travel through the air. Like all frictional forces, the force of air resistance always opposes the motion of the object. This force will frequently be neglected due to its negligible magnitude. It is most noticeable for objects which travel at high speeds (e.g., a skydiver or a downhill skier) or for objects with large surface areas.

Tensional Force

The tension is the force which is transmitted through a string, rope, or wire when it is pulled tight by forces acting from each end. The tensional force is directed along the wire and pulls equally on the objects on either end of the wire.

The spring force is the force exerted by a compressed or stretched spring upon any object which is attached to it. An object which compresses or stretches a spring is always acted upon by a force which restores the object to its rest or Spring Force equilibrium position. For most springs (specifically, for those which are said to obey "Hooke's Law"), the magnitude of the force is directly proportional to the amount of stretch or compression.


Slress ∞ Strain

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