## When a ball swings in a horizontal circle at the end of a string, what’s the for…

#### When a ball swings in a horizontal circle at the end of a string, what’s the force on the ball pulling it straight? What’s the force pulling it out?

Let’s neglect gravity, which isn’t important in this horizontal motion problem. When a ball swings in a circle at the end of a string, there is only one force on it and that force is inward (toward the center of the circle). We call such a force a centripetal force, meaning toward the center. There are many kinds of centripetal forces and the string’s force is one of them. As for the ball’s tendency to travel in a straight line, that’s just the ball’s inertia. With no forces acting on it, it will obey Newton’s first law and travel in a straight line. There is no real force pulling the ball outward. But a person riding on the ball will feel pulled outward. We call this feeling a fictitious force. Fictitious forces always appear in the direction opposite an acceleration. In this case (an object traveling in a circle) the outward fictitious force is called centrifugal “force.” But remember that it’s not a real force; it’s just the object’s inertia trying to make it go in a straight line.

## When you spin an object around a fixed point, a sling for example, does the obje…

#### When you spin an object around a fixed point, a sling for example, does the object at the end build up energy that causes it to shoot out quickly when released?

Yes. As you whip the object around on a string, you are doing work on it. You do this by making subtle movements with your hand, exerting forces that aren’t exactly toward the center of the circle. When you do this, the object begins to travel faster and faster, so its kinetic energy increases. Traveling in a circle doesn’t change this kinetic energy because kinetic energy is proportional to speed squared, and doesn’t depend on direction. Finally, when you let go of the string, the object stops circling and begins to travel in a straight line. It carries with it all the kinetic energy you gave it by whipping it about.

## Why is the outward force in a loop-the-loop a “fictitious” force? Why isn’t it…

#### Why is the outward force in a loop-the-loop a “fictitious” force? Why isn’t it a “real” force?

A real force causes acceleration. If the outward “fictitious” force on a circling object were “real,” that object wouldn’t circle. It would accelerate outward. When you swing an object around on a string, you feel the object pulling outward on the string. But it isn’t itself being pulled outward by anything. What you’re feeling is the object’s inertia trying to make it travel straight. The inward force you’re exerting on it isn’t opposing some real force, it’s causing the object to accelerate inward.