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The turning effect of a force is known as the moment. It is the product of the force multiplied
by the perpendicular distance from the line of action of the force to the pivot or point where
the object will turn.

When undoing a nut fastened to a screw by hand one realises that the amount of force
required is a lot greater than when undoing the same nut using a spanner. The spanner
increases the distance between the fulcrum and the line of action of the force, thus for the
same force a greater moment is obtained.


The distance from the fulcrum to the line of The distance from the fulcrum to the line of
action of force is very small action of force is large

Principle of Moments
The principle of moments states that when in equilibrium the total sum of the anti clockwise
moment is equal to the total sum of the clockwise moment.

When a system is stable or balance it is said to be in equilibrium as all the forces acting on
the system cancel each other out.

In equilibrium
Total Anticlockwise Moment = Total Clockwise Moment

This principle can be explained by considering two people on a seesaw.

Moments Acting On A Seesaw

Both people exert a downward force on the seesaw due to their weights.

Person A’s weight is trying to turn the seesaw anticlockwise whilst person B’s weight is
trying to turn the seesaw clockwise.

Person A’s Moment = Force x perpendicular distance from fulcrum

1000 x 1 = 1000 Nm

Person B’s Moment = Force x perpendicular distance from fulcrum

500 x 2 = 1000 Nm
Persons A’s moment = Persons B’s Moment
Anticlockwise moment = Clockwise moment
Therefore seesaw is in equilibrium.
Types of forces
A force is any influence that causes an object to undergo a specific change. Related concepts
 thrust - increases the velocity of an object
 air resistance - decreases the velocity of an object
 torque - changes the rotation of an object
The Thrust supersonic car (ThrustSSC) was the first car to break the sound barrier when it
was driven at 763 miles per hour in 1997. It has huge thrust and is streamlined to minimise
air resistance.

The ThrustSSC car and its team on the track at Farnborough, UK

Isaac Newton was an English physicist and mathematician. He determined that gravity was a
force that acts between two masses. The larger the masses, the larger the gravitational
force between them.

Charles-Augustin de Coulomb was a French physicist. He first described the electrostatic

force. This is a force that acts between two charges.

Forces and Newton’s laws

In his laws of motion, Isaac Newton made statements about the effect of balanced and
unbalanced forces.
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Newton's First Law
Newton’s First Law of Motion states that objects with balanced forces acting on them will
stay at rest or stay in constant motion.
Newton discovered that objects will continue to do what they are doing until an unbalanced
force acts on the object. From this we can determine that:
 forces act on objects
 forces cause changes
We can also determine that forces acting on an object can change the shape of the object,
the speed of the object, and the direction in which the object is moving.
Newton’s Second Law of Motion states that when an unbalanced force acts on an object:
 the direction of the object's acceleration is the same as the direction of the unbalanced force
 the magnitude of the object's acceleration varies in direct proportion with the size of the unbalanced
 the magnitude of the object's acceleration varies inversely with the mass of the object
The unit of force is called the newton (N).
1 newton is defined as that unbalanced force which produces an acceleration of 1 m/s2 when
it acts on a mass of 1 kg. An average-sized apple weighs about 1 newton.
Newton's Second Law of Motion can be written as the following relationship:
F = ma
F = unbalanced force
m = mass
a = acceleration
Note that when you use this relationship, F always stands for unbalanced force.

Another common force is friction.
When two surfaces slide past each other, the interaction between them produces a force of
friction. Friction is a force that opposes motion.
In this diagram, the book is moving to the right across the table.

There is also an interaction pair of friction forces:

 the book experiences a backwards force - this will tend to slow it down
 the table experiences a forwards force - this will tend to move it forwards with the book
When you push backwards on the floor with your foot, the friction between your foot and the
floor exerts a backwards force on the floor. The other force of the interaction pair is the floor
pushing your foot forwards.
The result is that you move forwards, but the floor stays still.
A common experiment is to show the change in friction with different surfaces. In this
experiment, a block of wood is pulled along a surface with a force meter. The surface might
be a table top, or the same table covered with sheets of sandpaper or plastic.
The greater the forces needed to pull the block, the higher the friction. More friction is
usually seen when pulling a block across sandpaper. Covering a table with plastic usually
reduces the friction.
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The causes of friction

Calculating unbalanced forces

An object may have several different forces acting on it, which can have different strengths
and directions. But they can be added together to give the resultant force. This is a single
force that has the same effect on the object as all the individual forces acting together.

Resultant force and acceleration

If the resultant force is zero, a moving object will stay at the same speed. If there is no
resultant force then a system is said to be in equilibrium.
If the resultant force is not zero, a moving object will speed up or slow down - depending on
the direction of the resultant force:
 it will speed up if the resultant force is in the same direction as the object is moving
 it will slow down if the resultant force is in the opposite direction
Note that the object could also change direction, for example if the resultant force acts at an

Calculating acceleration
Here is the equation that relates acceleration to force and mass:
force = mass × acceleration
force is measured in newtons, N
mass is measured in kilograms, kg
acceleration is measured in metres per second squared, m/s2.
For example, the force needed to accelerate a 10 kg mass by 5 m/s2 is
10 × 5 = 50 N
The same force could accelerate a 1 kg mass by 50 m/s2 or a 100 kg mass by 0.5 m/s2.
You should see that it takes more force to accelerate a larger mass.
Triangle showing force equals mass multiplied by acceleration
The triangle diagram may help you to rearrange the equation so you can calculate


An aircraft of mass of 1200 kg starts from rest and accelerates along a straight
horizontal runway. The aircraft engine produces a constant thrust of 3400 N. A
constant frictional force of 400 N acts on the aircraft.
Calculate the acceleration of the aircraft.
AHide answer
m = 1200 kg
Engine = 3400 N
Friction = 400 N
F = (3400 - 400) = 3000 N
F = ma
3000 = 1200 × a
a = 2.5 ms-2
In some situations, forces on an object act in more than one dimension. For example,
for an aircraft in flight there are at least four forces acting:
 the forces of the engine (horizontal force)
 air resistance (horizontal force)
 the force of gravity (vertical force)
 the up-thrust from the wings (vertical force)
When you are doing this kind of problem, always work in one dimension at a time.

Weight and mass

Weight is not the same as mass. Mass is a measure of how much matter is in an object.
Weight is a force acting on that matter. Mass resists any change in the motion of objects.
In physics, the term weight has a specific meaning - which is the force that acts on a mass
due to gravity. Weight is measured in newtons. Mass is measured in kilograms.
The mass of a given object is the same everywhere, but its weight can change. We use
balances to measure weights and masses.
Gravitational field strength
Weight is the result of gravity. The gravitational field strength of Earth is 10 N/kg (ten
newtons per kilogram). This means an object with a mass of 1 kg would be attracted towards
the centre of Earth by a force of 10 N. We feel forces like this as weight.
You would weigh less on the Moon because the gravitational field strength of the Moon is
one-sixth of that of Earth (1.6 N/kg). But note that your mass would stay the same.

On Earth, if you drop an object it accelerates towards the centre of the planet. The weight of
an object is calculated using this equation:
weight (N) = mass (kg) × gravitational field strength (N/kg)


A person has a mass of 60 kg. How much do they weigh on Earth, if the gravitational
field strength is 10 N/kg?
AHide answer
weight = mass × gravitational field strength
weight = 60 kg × 10 N/kg
weight = 600 N


How much would the same person weigh on the Moon, if the gravitational field
strength is 1.6 N/kg?
AHide answer
weight = mass × gravitational field strength
weight = 60 kg × 1.6 N/kg
weight = 96 N

1. Acceleration The rate of change in speed (or velocity) is measured in metres per
second squared. Acceleration = change of velocity ÷ time taken.
2. Charge Electrical charge can be positive or negative. Like charges (+ and + or - and -
) repel but unlike charges (+ and -) attract each other.
3. Equilibrium In chemical reactions, a situation where the forward and backward
reactions happen at the same rate, and the concentrations of the substances stay the
4. Gravity The force of attraction between all objects. The more mass an object has, the
larger the force of gravity it exerts.
5. Inversely Two variables are inversely related if one decreases when the other one
6. Magnitude The size of an object in comparison to other objects of a similar kind.
7. Mass The amount of matter an object contains. Mass is measured in kilograms (kg).
8. Matter Sub-atomic particles and anything made from them, such as atoms and
molecules, are matter. Energy and forces are not matter.
9. Oppose Work against something to reduce or eliminate its effect.
10. Velocity The speed of an object in a particular direction.

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