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2 Characteristics of a Force
For practical applications, a force must be completely described. The graphical
representation of a force in a diagram is an arrow, a line ending with an arrowhead. The
complete description of a force includes the following information:

1. Magnitude: Refers to the size or amount of the force in acceptable units. A 1000-
lb force has a larger magnitude than a 500-lb force. Magnitude is represented
graphically by the length of the arrow.
2. Direction: Refers to the path of the line along which the force acts. This line is
commonly called the line of action. The force may act vertically, horizontally,
or at some angle with the vertical or horizontal. Graphically, direction of a force
is represented by the direction of the shank of the arrow.

1. Sense: Refers to the way in which a force acts along its line of action. The
direction of a force may be vertical, but the sense could be up or down.
Similarly, the direction may be horizontal, but the sense could be to the left or
to the right. Graphically, the arrowhead of the arrow denotes sense.
2. Point of application: Refers to the point on, or in, the object at which the force
is applied. Graphically, this is the point at which the arrowhead contacts the
Figure 2.1 portrays the characteristics of a force.

2.3 Units of a Force

The unit generally used for expressing the magnitude of a force in the U.S. Customary
System is the pound (lb). Multiples of the pound, also commonly used, are the kip,
which is equal to 1000 lb, and the ton (short ton), which is equal to 2000 lb.
In the SI, the unit of force is the newton (N). The various prefixes discussed in Chapter
1 are also used, with the kilonewton (kN), which is equal to 1000 N, being common.

2.4 Types and Occurrence of

Forces may be broadly classified according to the way in which they are exerted. Forces
may be exerted by contact of one solid body on another solid body (e.g., through a push
or pull). Forces may also be exerted directly against a solid body by wind or by water.
In addition, forces may be exerted without contact, as in the gravitational attraction of
one body for another. Forces in engineering applications that may be analyzed using
the principles of statics encompass any of the foregoing forces acting singly or in
combination. When a part of a structure or a machine resists these forces, the element
is said to be loaded, and the applied forces are often referred to as applied loads. In this
text, we use the terms force and load almost interchangeably because most applications
discussed here involve structures, machines, or their elements, with forces acting on
them as loads.