# Centrifugal Force vs. Centripetal Force: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sawaira Riaz || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 7, 2023
Centrifugal force refers to the apparent force that pulls a rotating object away from the center of rotation, while centripetal force is the actual force that keeps the object in its curved path, directed towards the center.

## Key Differences

In exploring the realms of physics, particularly in rotational motion, centrifugal force manifests itself noticeably. Centrifugal force is often described as a pseudo or fictitious force because it does not have a physical agent applying it. This force appears to act outwardly away from the axis of rotation, and interestingly, it is observed only in a rotating frame of reference. For example, when swinging a bucket of water in a vertical circle, the water does not spill, which may be attributed to the outward centrifugal force.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
On the contrary, centripetal force exists as a tangible entity with a clear applying agent. Centripetal force always acts towards the axis of rotation, ensuring objects stay in their circular path. This inward force is essential in preventing objects in circular motion from moving in a straight-line path, which they would naturally do due to inertia. For instance, the tension in a string holding a whirling object is a tangible example of centripetal force.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
Centrifugal force, owing to its outward direction, can often create the illusion of an invisible barrier holding an object in place. When you spin a bucket in a circle, the centrifugal force, perpendicular to the axis of rotation, gives the impression that it is counteracting gravity, keeping the water inside. However, it's crucial to remember that in a non-rotating frame, this force is non-existent and cannot be utilized to explain the phenomenon occurring.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
Centripetal force, being real and perceptible, is essential in explaining the mechanics of numerous phenomena in our natural world. Without centripetal force, planets would not maintain their orbits, and cars would not make it around bends. The gravitational pull between the Earth and the Moon, acting as the centripetal force, prevents the Moon from flying off into space, keeping it in orbit instead.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023
While centrifugal force can be regarded as a by-product of inertia and is considered an apparent force, it still plays a vital role in understanding rotational mechanics from within a rotating frame. Simultaneously, centripetal force serves as a fundamental concept that explains why objects move in a circle in the first place, offering insight into various physical occurrences from a particle in a cyclotron to planets in an orbit.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

## Comparison Chart

### Direction

Acts away from the center of rotation.
Acts towards the center of rotation.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

### Nature

Fictitious or pseudo force, without a physical agent.
Real force with a physical agent applying it.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

### Frame of Reference

Observed in a rotating frame of reference.
Applicable in all frames of reference.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

### Example

The force you feel pushing you outward while taking a sharp turn.
The tension in a string swinging an object in a circular motion.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

### Usage in Calculations

Often used in calculations in a rotating reference frame.
Commonly used in physics to describe circular motion in any frame.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

## Centrifugal Force and Centripetal Force Definitions

#### Centrifugal Force

The reactive force equal in magnitude but opposite in direction to centripetal force, described in a rotating system.
The centrifugal force can be felt by a car's passengers as an outward push when the car takes a tight curve quickly.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Centripetal Force

The force that acts on an object moving in a circular path, directed towards the center around which the object is moving.
The tension in the string provides the necessary centripetal force to keep the spinning ball moving in a circular path.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Centrifugal Force

An effect perceived in a rotating frame of reference, experienced as an outward push.
In a rapidly turning car, a loose object in the vehicle appears to move to the side due to the centrifugal force.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Centripetal Force

A force that acts on a body moving in a circular path to keep it on its path.
The friction between the tires and the road provides the centripetal force that prevents the car from skidding when making a turn.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Centrifugal Force

An apparent force that acts outward on a body moving around a center, arising from the body's inertia.
The centrifugal force causes the clothes in the spinning washing machine to be pushed to the drum's outer wall.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Centripetal Force

The inward force required to keep an object moving in a circle at a constant speed.
The gravitational pull between the Earth and the Moon acts as a centripetal force, keeping the Moon in its orbit.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

#### Centrifugal Force

A force that tends to move objects radially away from the axis of rotation when they are rotating around an axis.
Riders on a merry-go-round experience centrifugal force pushing them towards the outer edge.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Centripetal Force

A force that is responsible for keeping an object in its circular path and is always directed towards the center of the circle.
The centripetal force keeps the planets in our solar system in orbit around the Sun.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

#### Centrifugal Force

A pseudo-force that appears to push an object away from the center of a circular path when it is moving along that path.
When spinning a bucket of water over your head in a circle, the water does not fall out due to the centrifugal force acting on it.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Centripetal Force

The net force exerted towards the center of a circular path that maintains an object’s circular motion.
When twirling a rock tied to a string, the string exerts a centripetal force towards your hand to keep the rock in its circular path.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

## FAQs

#### What is centrifugal force?

Centrifugal force is a perceived outward force on an object moving in a circular path due to its inertia.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Which force keeps a car turning on a curved road?

Centripetal force, generated by the friction between tires and the road.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023

#### What is centripetal force?

Centripetal force is the real inward force that keeps an object moving in a circular path.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 07, 2023

#### Why do we feel thrown outward in a rapidly turning car?

Due to the centrifugal force, a result of our inertia wanting to keep us moving in a straight line.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Is centrifugal force a real force?

No, it's a fictitious or pseudo force observed in a rotating frame of reference.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Which force do you combat when tightening a string with a spinning object?

You combat the centrifugal force pushing the object outward.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

#### Why does a car's speed need to be limited on curved roads?

To ensure the necessary centripetal force is within limits, preventing the car from skidding.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Does an object's weight affect the centripetal force needed?

Yes, more massive objects require a greater centripetal force to keep them in a circular path.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

#### How does centrifugal force affect the shape of rotating celestial bodies?

It causes them to bulge at the equator and flatten at the poles, leading to an oblate shape.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

#### What provides the centripetal force for planets orbiting the Sun?

Gravitational attraction between the planet and the Sun provides the necessary centripetal force.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

#### Is centrifugal force dependent on the speed of rotation?

Yes, greater rotation speeds lead to a stronger perceived centrifugal force.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

#### In which direction does centrifugal force act?

It acts radially outward, away from the center of the circular path.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

#### How does a washing machine use centrifugal force?

The spinning drum pushes water and soap outwards, helping in the rinsing and spinning cycles.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Is tension in a string acting as centripetal force in a spinning ball?

Yes, tension provides the necessary inward force for the ball to move in a circular path.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Why isn't centrifugal force present in Newton's laws?

Because it's a pseudo force perceived in rotating systems, not a fundamental force.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### Can we feel centrifugal force on a merry-go-round?

Yes, it's the force that makes you feel pushed outward when the merry-go-round spins.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

#### What happens if centripetal force ceases to act on an object in circular motion?

The object would move in a straight line tangent to the circular path, due to its inertia.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023

#### How do banked roads utilize centripetal force?

Banking provides a horizontal component of the normal force to act as centripetal force, aiding cars in taking turns without skidding.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

#### Why is it harder to hold a bucket of water while spinning faster?

Due to increased centrifugal force pushing the water outward with faster spins.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

#### How is centripetal force calculated?

It's calculated as F = (mv^2)/r, where m is mass, v is velocity, and r is the radius of the circular path.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023