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written by Tom Henderson
One of the deadliest misconceptions among beginning physics students is that centrifugal motion (away from the center) is a "force".  Many students confuse the outdated centrifugal "force" definition with centripetal force.  The author gives an in-depth explanation supplemented with two animations to illustrate why the velocity vector is tangential to the circle and how this relates to the direction of the force on an object moving in a circular pathway.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Applications of Newton's Laws
- Motion in Two Dimensions
- Rotational Dynamics
- High School
- Middle School
- Instructional Material
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© 1996 The Physics Classroom
Keywords:
centrifugal, centrifugal force myth, centripetal force, circular motion
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created January 18, 2007 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
January 27, 2014 by Caroline Hall
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when Cataloged:
December 12, 2004
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AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 9-12: 4F/H8. Any object maintains a constant speed and direction of motion unless an unbalanced outside force acts on it.
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AIP Format
T. Henderson, (1996), WWW Document, (http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1d.cfm).
AJP/PRST-PER
T. Henderson, Physics Classroom: The Forbidden F-Word, (1996), <http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1d.cfm>.
APA Format
Henderson, T. (2004, December 12). Physics Classroom: The Forbidden F-Word. Retrieved September 16, 2019, from http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1d.cfm
Chicago Format
Henderson, Tom. Physics Classroom: The Forbidden F-Word. December 12, 2004. http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1d.cfm (accessed 16 September 2019).
MLA Format
Henderson, Tom. Physics Classroom: The Forbidden F-Word. 1996. 12 Dec. 2004. 16 Sep. 2019 <http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1d.cfm>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Tom Henderson", Title = {Physics Classroom: The Forbidden F-Word}, Volume = {2019}, Number = {16 September 2019}, Month = {December 12, 2004}, Year = {1996} }
Refer Export Format

%A Tom Henderson
%T Physics Classroom:  The Forbidden F-Word
%D December 12, 2004
%U http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1d.cfm
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A Henderson, Tom
%D December 12, 2004
%T Physics Classroom:  The Forbidden F-Word
%V 2019
%N 16 September 2019
%8 December 12, 2004
%9 text/html
%U http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/circles/U6L1d.cfm


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Physics Classroom: The Forbidden F-Word:

Has Student Extra The Physics Classroom: Inertia and the Right Hand Turn

Need to see it? View the Inertia and the Right Hand Turn animation from the Multimedia Physics Studios.

relation by Tom Henderson
Has Teaching Guide Physlets: Classroom Exercises: Mechanics - Circular Motion

Thinking Physics! Present your students with this short decision-making challenge.

relation by Tom Henderson
Has Student Extra Flickr Physics

Visit The Physics Classroom's Flickr Galleries and enjoy a visual overview of the topic of circular motion

relation by Tom Henderson
Has Student Extra Shockwave Studios

Think you get the idea? Try the Race Track activity from the Shockwave Studios.

relation by Tom Henderson
Has Teaching Guide PBS Teachers

View a lesson plan from PBS Teachers on the topic of centripetal acceleration and force.

relation by Tom Henderson

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