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

Edited by Sawaira Riaz || By Sumera Saeed || Published on November 19, 2023
Centrifugal relates to a force moving away from a center; centripetal refers to a force moving towards a center.

## Key Differences

Centrifugal and centripetal are terms that describe forces in relation to a center point. Centrifugal force points outwards from the center of rotation, pushing objects away. In contrast, centripetal force pulls objects towards the center of rotation. Though they sound somewhat similar, they represent opposite directional forces.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023
In a spinning washing machine, centrifugal force pushes water and clothes to the outer edges. This is the force that causes the water to be extracted from the clothes during the spin cycle. Centripetal force, on the other hand, would be what keeps the clothes from flying out of the machine entirely, drawing them towards the axis of rotation.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023
When driving a car in a circular path or taking a sharp turn, passengers might feel themselves being pushed to the side. This sensation is due to centrifugal force. Conversely, the tires of the car grip the road and provide the necessary centripetal force to prevent the car from skidding outward and to keep it moving in its curved path.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023
In the context of celestial bodies, the earth's gravity acts as a centripetal force, keeping the moon in its orbit. Without this centripetal force, the moon would move in a straight line. On the contrary, if one were to swing a bucket of water in a vertical circle and the water doesn't fall when the bucket is upside down, it's because of the centrifugal force acting on the water.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023
It's worth noting that while centrifugal force is often called a "fictitious force" because it arises from the inertia of an object in a rotating system, centripetal force is a "real" force, responsible for the acceleration directed towards the center.
Sara Rehman
Nov 19, 2023

## Comparison Chart

### Direction

Outwards from the center
Inwards towards the center
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023

### Common Example

Water in a spinning washing machine being pushed outwards
Tires of a car providing grip during a turn
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023

### In Physics

Often considered a "fictitious force"
A "real" force responsible for center-directed acceleration
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023

### Felt In

Spinning objects
Objects moving in a circular path
Sara Rehman
Nov 19, 2023

### Relation to Spin

Causes objects to move away from the axis of rotation
Causes objects to move towards the axis of rotation
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023

## Centrifugal and Centripetal Definitions

#### Centrifugal

Moving or tending to move away from a center.
In the centrifuge, the heavier particles settled on the outside due to the centrifugal motion.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 31, 2023

#### Centripetal

Relating to a force moving towards the center.
The centripetal force keeps the planets in orbit around the sun.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 31, 2023

#### Centrifugal

Relating to a force moving away from the center.
The centrifugal force of the spinning wheel threw the mud outward.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 31, 2023

#### Centripetal

Operating or moving in a direction towards the center.
The centripetal motion of the fluid created a vortex.
Sara Rehman
Oct 31, 2023

#### Centrifugal

Operating by the action of centrifugal force.
A centrifugal pump moves fluids by spinning them rapidly.
Harlon Moss
Oct 31, 2023

#### Centripetal

Tending or directed towards a center.
The flowers exhibited a centripetal arrangement of petals.
Sara Rehman
Oct 31, 2023

#### Centrifugal

Emanating from a central point.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 31, 2023

#### Centripetal

Pertaining to the force that causes objects to move in a circular path.
Without centripetal force, cars would skid out of circular tracks.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 31, 2023

#### Centrifugal

Pertaining to the apparent outward force on a rotating body.
The children felt a centrifugal push while on the merry-go-round.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 31, 2023

#### Centripetal

Attractive or drawing towards a center.
The sculpture had a centripetal design, drawing the eye inwards.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 31, 2023

#### Centrifugal

Moving or directed away from a center or axis.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

#### Centripetal

Moving or directed toward a center or axis.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

#### Centrifugal

Operated by means of centrifugal force.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

#### Centripetal

Operated by means of centripetal force.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

## FAQs

#### What does centrifugal mean?

Centrifugal relates to a force that moves or pushes objects away from a center.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023

#### How is centripetal different from centrifugal?

Centripetal refers to a force drawing objects towards a center, while centrifugal pushes objects away.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 19, 2023

#### Which force, centrifugal or centripetal, keeps the moon orbiting the Earth?

The centripetal force, provided by Earth's gravity, keeps the moon in its orbit.
Sara Rehman
Nov 19, 2023

#### Why don't clothes fly out of a spinning washing machine?

Centrifugal force pushes them outwards, but the walls of the machine and centripetal force keep them inside.
Sara Rehman
Nov 19, 2023

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

It acts outwards, away from the center of rotation.
Sara Rehman
Nov 19, 2023

#### Is centrifugal force responsible for the artificial gravity in space stations?

Yes, the spinning motion creates a centrifugal force that pushes objects outwards, simulating gravity.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023

#### Is it accurate to say centrifugal force is an "outward pull"?

It's more accurate to say it's an "outward push" due to the inertia of rotating objects.
Sara Rehman
Nov 19, 2023

#### How is centripetal acceleration related to centripetal force?

Centripetal force is the force responsible for centripetal acceleration, which keeps an object moving in a circular path.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023

#### What provides the necessary centripetal force for a car taking a turn?

The tires of the car grip the road, providing the necessary centripetal force.
Janet White
Nov 19, 2023

#### Do we experience centrifugal forces daily?

Yes, in activities like taking turns in vehicles, using mixers, or being on rides at amusement parks.
Harlon Moss
Nov 19, 2023

#### Can centrifugal and centripetal forces exist simultaneously in a system?

Yes, they are two sides of the same coin; while centripetal force pulls inward, centrifugal force is the perceived outward push due to inertia.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 19, 2023

#### Is centrifugal force considered "real" in physics?

No, centrifugal force is often termed a "fictitious force" arising from inertia in a rotating system.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023

#### Why do passengers feel pushed to the side in a turning car?

They are experiencing the centrifugal force.
Harlon Moss
Nov 19, 2023

#### What role does centripetal force play in a roller coaster loop?

Centripetal force keeps the coaster and riders pressed against the track, especially at the top of the loop.
Janet White
Nov 19, 2023

#### Why is centrifugal force called a "fictitious force"?

It's because it's not a force resulting from any physical interaction but rather from the inertia of a rotating system.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023

#### Do both centrifugal and centripetal forces have the same magnitude in a rotating system?

Yes, they have the same magnitude but act in opposite directions.
Sara Rehman
Nov 19, 2023

#### Which force is responsible for the spiral pattern of galaxies?

Both forces play roles; gravitational (centripetal) forces hold stars in orbit, but their inertia creates centrifugal effects.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 19, 2023

#### Can centripetal force be felt directly?

Yes, for example, when swinging an object in a circular motion, the tension in the string provides a feel of centripetal force.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 19, 2023

#### What happens to an object in circular motion if centripetal force is removed?

The object will move in a straight line tangent to the circular path due to its inertia.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 19, 2023

#### Why does water stay in a bucket when spun vertically?

Centrifugal force pushes the water outward, keeping it in the bucket, especially at the topmost point.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 19, 2023