The Big Idea
In the absence of a net force, objects move in a straight line. If they turn — that is, if their velocity changes, even only in direction — there must be an applied force. Forces which cause objects to turn around continuously in a circle are known as centripetal forces. When an object moves in a circle its velocity at any particular instant points in a direction tangent to the circle. The acceleration points towards the center of the circle, and so does the force acting on it. This is only natural, when you think about it — if you feel a force pushing you towards your left as you walk forward, you will walk in a circle, always turning left.
In this chapter students will learn about circular motion, centripetal acceleration and how to think about and solve problems on centripetal forces and motion.