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What is the difference between centrifugal force and centripetal?

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07/21/2009

Centripetal force is directed toward the center of rotation of an orbiting body or object following a curved path. Centrifugal force is the apparent force, equal and opposite to the centripetal force, drawing a rotating body away from the center of rotation, caused by the inertia of the body. Whenever you see a moving object that's not traveling in a straight line, you know that a force is acting upon it. That's because objects tend to resist changes to their velocities. The greater the mass, the greater the resistance to changes in velocity. That's called inertia. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, and objects in motion tend to stay in motion, unless acted upon by some external force. (See Newton's First Law.) Since velocity is a vector -- remember vectors have magnitude AND direction -- any change in an object's direction constitutes a changes in its velocity. When an object is flying around in a circle, its velocity is constantly changing because its direction is constantly changing! That means a force is working on it. That force is the centripetal force, and since force is equal to mass times acceleration, there must be an acceleration involved. You guessed it -- centripetal acceleration. There is a girl on a bike with a jump rope. Her spinning the bike pedals in centripetal force, though her spinning the jump rope around her is centrifugal force. The pedals are designed to keep the motion contained in a small area, keepiing the girl's feet right where they are, but the jump rope lashes out, with the chance of the girl losing her grip on it, due to its force. Centripetal Force is more directed towards the center of the axis of rotation of an object following an elliptical or circular path. Centrifugal Force is the force that pulls away from the center because of the objects inertia. Example: If you took a rock, tied it to a string, and swung it around, the force from the center of the axis of rotation is centripetal force. The force that causes the rock to pull away from the center, is centrifugal force. If you have ever been in a fast moving car that sharply turns and you feel as if you are pulled to the side, that too is centrifugal force caused by your inertia. The more mass the more inertia.