Force


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In physics, a force is any interaction that, when unopposed, will change the motion of an object. A force can cause an object with mass to change its velocity, i.e., to accelerate. Force can also be described intuitively as a push or a pull. A force has both magnitude and direction, making it a vector quantity. It is measured in the SI unit of newtons and represented by the symbol F.
The original form of Newton's second law states that the net force acting upon an object is equal to the rate at which its momentum changes with time. If the mass of the object is constant, this law implies that the acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the net force acting on the object, is in the direction of the net force, and is inversely proportional to the mass of the object.
Concepts related to force include: thrust, which increases the velocity of an object; drag, which decreases the velocity of an object; and torque, which produces changes in rotational speed of an object. In an extended body, each part usually applies forces on the adjacent parts; the distribution of such forces through the body is the internal mechanical stress. Such internal mechanical stresses cause no acceleration of that body as the forces balance one another. Pressure, the distribution of many small forces applied over an area of a body, is a simple type of stress that if unbalanced can cause the body to accelerate. Stress usually causes deformation of solid materials, or flow in fluids.

Development of the concept

Philosophers in antiquity used the concept of force in the study of stationary and moving objects and simple machines, but thinkers such as Aristotle and Archimedes retained fundamental errors in understanding force. In part this was due to an incomplete understanding of the sometimes non-obvious force of friction, and a consequently inadequate view of the nature of natural motion. A fundamental error was the belief that a force is required to maintain motion, even at a constant velocity. Most of the previous misunderstandings about motion and force were eventually corrected by Galileo Galilei and Sir Isaac Newton. With his mathematical insight, Sir Isaac Newton formulated laws of motion that were not improved for nearly three hundred years. By the early 20th century, Einstein developed a theory of relativity that correctly predicted the action of forces on objects with increasing momenta near the speed of light, and also provided insight into the forces produced by gravitation and inertia.
With modern insights into quantum mechanics and technology that can accelerate particles close to the speed of light, particle physics has devised a Standard Model to describe forces between particles smaller than atoms. The Standard Model predicts that exchanged particles called gauge bosons are the fundamental means by which forces are emitted and absorbed. Only four main interactions are known: in order of decreasing strength, they are: strong, electromagnetic, weak, and gravitational. High-energy particle physics observations made during the 1970s and 1980s confirmed that the weak and electromagnetic forces are expressions of a more fundamental electroweak interaction.

Pre-Newtonian concepts

famously described a force as anything that causes an object to undergo "unnatural motion"
Since antiquity the concept of force has been recognized as integral to the functioning of each of the simple machines. The mechanical advantage given by a simple machine allowed for less force to be used in exchange for that force acting over a greater distance for the same amount of work. Analysis of the characteristics of forces ultimately culminated in the work of Archimedes who was especially famous for formulating a treatment of buoyant forces inherent in fluids.
Aristotle provided a philosophical discussion of the concept of a force as an integral part of Aristotelian cosmology. In Aristotle's view, the terrestrial sphere contained four elements that come to rest at different "natural places" therein. Aristotle believed that motionless objects on Earth, those composed mostly of the elements earth and water, to be in their natural place on the ground and that they will stay that way if left alone. He distinguished between the innate tendency of objects to find their "natural place", which led to "natural motion", and unnatural or forced motion, which required continued application of a force. This theory, based on the everyday experience of how objects move, such as the constant application of a force needed to keep a cart moving, had conceptual trouble accounting for the behavior of projectiles, such as the flight of arrows. The place where the archer moves the projectile was at the start of the flight, and while the projectile sailed through the air, no discernible efficient cause acts on it. Aristotle was aware of this problem and proposed that the air displaced through the projectile's path carries the projectile to its target. This explanation demands a continuum like air for change of place in general.
Aristotelian physics began facing criticism in medieval science, first by John Philoponus in the 6th century.
The shortcomings of Aristotelian physics would not be fully corrected until the 17th century work of Galileo Galilei, who was influenced by the late medieval idea that objects in forced motion carried an innate force of impetus. Galileo constructed an experiment in which stones and cannonballs were both rolled down an incline to disprove the Aristotelian theory of motion. He showed that the bodies were accelerated by gravity to an extent that was independent of their mass and argued that objects retain their velocity unless acted on by a force, for example friction.

Newtonian mechanics

Sir Isaac Newton described the motion of all objects using the concepts of inertia and force, and in doing so he found they obey certain conservation laws. In 1687, Newton published his thesis PhilosophiƦ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. In this work Newton set out three laws of motion that to this day are the way forces are described in physics.

First law

Newton's First Law of Motion states that objects continue to move in a state of constant velocity unless acted upon by an external net force. This law is an extension of Galileo's insight that constant velocity was associated with a lack of net force. Newton proposed that every object with mass has an innate inertia that functions as the fundamental equilibrium "natural state" in place of the Aristotelian idea of the "natural state of rest". That is, Newton's empirical First Law contradicts the intuitive Aristotelian belief that a net force is required to keep an object moving with constant velocity. By making rest physically indistinguishable from non-zero constant velocity, Newton's First Law directly connects inertia with the concept of relative velocities. Specifically, in systems where objects are moving with different velocities, it is impossible to determine which object is "in motion" and which object is "at rest". The laws of physics are the same in every inertial frame of reference, that is, in all frames related by a Galilean transformation.
For instance, while traveling in a moving vehicle at a constant velocity, the laws of physics do not change as a result of its motion. If a person riding within the vehicle throws a ball straight up, that person will observe it rise vertically and fall vertically and not have to apply a force in the direction the vehicle is moving. Another person, observing the moving vehicle pass by, would observe the ball follow a curving parabolic path in the same direction as the motion of the vehicle. It is the inertia of the ball associated with its constant velocity in the direction of the vehicle's motion that ensures the ball continues to move forward even as it is thrown up and falls back down. From the perspective of the person in the car, the vehicle and everything inside of it is at rest: It is the outside world that is moving with a constant speed in the opposite direction of the vehicle. Since there is no experiment that can distinguish whether it is the vehicle that is at rest or the outside world that is at rest, the two situations are considered to be physically indistinguishable. Inertia therefore applies equally well to constant velocity motion as it does to rest.
's most famous equation is
, he actually wrote down a different form for his second law of motion that did not use differential calculus.

Second law

A modern statement of Newton's Second Law is a vector equation:
where is the momentum of the system, and is the net force. If a body is in equilibrium, there is zero net force by definition. In contrast, the second law states that if there is an unbalanced force acting on an object it will result in the object's momentum changing over time.
By the definition of momentum,
where m is the mass and is the velocity.
If Newton's second law is applied to a system of constant mass, m may be moved outside the derivative operator. The equation then becomes
By substituting the definition of acceleration, the algebraic version of Newton's Second Law is derived:
Newton never explicitly stated the formula in the reduced form above.
Newton's Second Law asserts the direct proportionality of acceleration to force and the inverse proportionality of acceleration to mass. Accelerations can be defined through kinematic measurements. However, while kinematics are well-described through reference frame analysis in advanced physics, there are still deep questions that remain as to what is the proper definition of mass. General relativity offers an equivalence between space-time and mass, but lacking a coherent theory of quantum gravity, it is unclear as to how or whether this connection is relevant on microscales. With some justification, Newton's second law can be taken as a quantitative definition of mass by writing the law as an equality; the relative units of force and mass then are fixed.
The use of Newton's Second Law as a definition of force has been disparaged in some of the more rigorous textbooks, because it is essentially a mathematical truism. Notable physicists, philosophers and mathematicians who have sought a more explicit definition of the concept of force include Ernst Mach and Walter Noll.
Newton's Second Law can be used to measure the strength of forces. For instance, knowledge of the masses of planets along with the accelerations of their orbits allows scientists to calculate the gravitational forces on planets.