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Home > Physics > Transport > Forces at work


Forces at work


We use words like acceleration, steady speed and stationary to describe motion. We can think of motion as either "changing" or "unchanging". In your Standard grade Physics course you are expected to know that it is the forces acting on a body that cause the motion of the body to be either changing or unchanging. You are also expected to know how to use Newton's First Law and Second Law in explaining different types of motion.

The motion of all objects that are speeding up, slowing down or changing direction is governed by Newton's Second Law of Motion. In your Standard Grade Physics course you are expected to use Newton's Second Law to explain different types of motion and to do calculations involving force, mass and acceleration.

You may wish to print a hard copy for your reference.

Balanced and unbalanced forces

"Unchanging motion" is when the body is at rest or is moving with a steady speed in a straight line. Balanced forces are responsible for unchanging motion.

Balanced forces are forces where the effect of one force is cancelled out by another. A tug of war, where each team is pulling equally on the rope, is an example of balanced forces. The rope will have an acceleration of zero under the action of these balanced forces. It will therefore remain stationary.

A tug of war where each team is pulling equally on the rope is an example of balanced forces.

Video: Balanced and unbalanced forces

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"Changing motion" includes movement where the body is speeding up or slowing down. It also includes motion where the direction in which the body moves is changing ie the body is moving in a curved path. It is unbalanced forces that cause "changing motion".

A space shuttle lifting off is an example of an unbalanced force in action. Upward force is the thrust from the rocket engine force T), and the downward force is weight (force W).

The lift-off of a space shuttle is an example of an unbalanced force in action. The space shuttle accelerates upwards from its launch pad. The thrust T from the rocket engines is greater than the weight W of the rocket system. Because force T is greater than the force W, the effect of one force does not cancel that of the other. The forces acting are unbalanced.



A young girl standing perfectly straight.

Class Clips

Video clip about Newton's First Law.

Watch the clips below to learn more about forces:

Newton's Second Law

Newton's three Laws of Motion

Cutting with blunt knives

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