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When we consider how far a system in stable equilibrium can be displaced before it becomes unstable, we find that some systems in stable equilibrium are more stable than others. The pencil in [link] and the person in [link] (a) are in stable equilibrium, but become unstable for relatively small displacements to the side. The critical point is reached when the cg is no longer above the base of support. Additionally, since the cg of a person’s body is above the pivots in the hips, displacements must be quickly controlled. This control is a central nervous system function that is developed when we learn to hold our bodies erect as infants. For increased stability while standing, the feet should be spread apart, giving a larger base of support. Stability is also increased by lowering one’s center of gravity by bending the knees, as when a football player prepares to receive a ball or braces themselves for a tackle. A cane, a crutch, or a walker increases the stability of the user, even more as the base of support widens. Usually, the cg of a female is lower (closer to the ground) than a male. Young children have their center of gravity between their shoulders, which increases the challenge of learning to walk.

Part a of the figure shows a man standing on the ground. The feet are a shoulder-width apart from each other. The weight W of the man is acting at the center of gravity of the body of the man. Two normal reactions N each are shown acting on the feet of the man. The distance between the feet of the man is marked as the base of support. A free body diagram is also shown on the left side of the figure.  Part b of the figure shows a man standing upright with his knees bent. The feet are a distance apart from each other. The weight W of the man is acting at the center of gravity of the body of the man. Two normal reactions N each are shown acting on the feet of the man. The distance between the feet of the man is marked as the base of support.
(a) The center of gravity of an adult is above the hip joints (one of the main pivots in the body) and lies between two narrowly-separated feet. Like a pencil standing on its eraser, this person is in stable equilibrium in relation to sideways displacements, but relatively small displacements take his cg outside the base of support and make him unstable. Humans are less stable relative to forward and backward displacements because the feet are not very long. Muscles are used extensively to balance the body in the front-to-back direction. (b) While bending in the manner shown, stability is increased by lowering the center of gravity. Stability is also increased if the base is expanded by placing the feet farther apart.

Animals such as chickens have easier systems to control. [link] shows that the cg of a chicken lies below its hip joints and between its widely separated and broad feet. Even relatively large displacements of the chicken’s cg are stable and result in restoring forces and torques that return the cg to its equilibrium position with little effort on the chicken’s part. Not all birds are like chickens, of course. Some birds, such as the flamingo, have balance systems that are almost as sophisticated as that of humans.

[link] shows that the cg of a chicken is below the hip joints and lies above a broad base of support formed by widely-separated and large feet. Hence, the chicken is in very stable equilibrium, since a relatively large displacement is needed to render it unstable. The body of the chicken is supported from above by the hips and acts as a pendulum between the hips. Therefore, the chicken is stable for front-to-back displacements as well as for side-to-side displacements.

A chicken is shown standing on the ground. The weight of the chicken is acting at the center of gravity of the chicken’s body. The distance between the feet of the chicken is labeled as base of support. The normal forces N each are acting at the feet of the chicken. A free body diagram is shown at the right side of the figure.
The center of gravity of a chicken is below the hip joints. The chicken is in stable equilibrium. The body of the chicken is supported from above by the hips and acts as a pendulum between them.

Engineers and architects strive to achieve extremely stable equilibriums for buildings and other systems that must withstand wind, earthquakes, and other forces that displace them from equilibrium. Although the examples in this section emphasize gravitational forces, the basic conditions for equilibrium are the same for all types of forces. The net external force must be zero, and the net torque must also be zero.

Take-home experiment

Stand straight with your heels, back, and head against a wall. Bend forward from your waist, keeping your heels and bottom against the wall, to touch your toes. Can you do this without toppling over? Explain why and what you need to do to be able to touch your toes without losing your balance. Is it easier for a woman to do this?

Section summary

  • A system is said to be in stable equilibrium if, when displaced from equilibrium, it experiences a net force or torque in a direction opposite the direction of the displacement.
  • A system is in unstable equilibrium if, when displaced from equilibrium, it experiences a net force or torque in the same direction as the displacement from equilibrium.
  • A system is in neutral equilibrium if its equilibrium is independent of displacements from its original position.


Suppose a horse leans against a wall as in [link] . Calculate the force exerted on the wall assuming that force is horizontal while using the data in the schematic representation of the situation. Note that the force exerted on the wall is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the force exerted on the horse, keeping it in equilibrium. The total mass of the horse and rider is 500 kg. Take the data to be accurate to three digits.

In part a, a horse is standing next to a wall with its legs crossed. A sleepy-looking rider is leaning against the wall. Part b is a drawing of the same horse from a rear view, but this time with no rider.  The horse is crossing its rear legs, and its rump is leaning against the wall. The reaction of the wall F is acting on the horse at a height one point two meters above the ground. The weight of the horse is acting at its center of gravity near the base of the tail. The center of gravity is one point four meters above the ground. The line of action of weight is zero point three five meters away from the feet of the horse.

F wall = 1.43 × 10 3 N size 12{F rSub { size 8{"wall"} } =1 cdot "43"` times `"10" rSup { size 8{3} } `N} {}

A person carries a plank of wood 2 m long with one hand pushing down on it at one end with a force F 1 size 12{F rSub { size 8{1} } } {} and the other hand holding it up at 50 cm from the end of the plank with force F 2 size 12{F rSub { size 8{2} } } {} . If the plank has a mass of 20 kg and its center of gravity is at the middle of the plank, what are the magnitudes of the forces F 1 and F 2 size 12{F rSub { size 8{2} } } {} ?

A 17.0-m-high and 11.0-m-long wall under construction and its bracing are shown in [link] . The wall is in stable equilibrium without the bracing but can pivot at its base. Calculate the force exerted by each of the 10 braces if a strong wind exerts a horizontal force of 650 N on each square meter of the wall. Assume that the net force from the wind acts at a height halfway up the wall and that all braces exert equal forces parallel to their lengths. Neglect the thickness of the wall.

A seventeen meter high wall is standing on the ground with ten braces to support it. At the base of the figure a brown colored ground is visible. Only one brace is visible from a side. A brace makes an angle of thirty five degree with the wall. The point of contact of the brace is eight point five meters high. You have to find the force exerted by this brace on the wall to support.

F B = 2.12 × 10 4 N size 12{F rSub { size 8{B} } =2 cdot "12" times "10" rSup { size 8{4} } `N} {}

Suppose the weight of the drawbridge in [link] is supported entirely by its hinges and the opposite shore, so that its cables are slack. (a) What fraction of the weight is supported by the opposite shore if the point of support is directly beneath the cable attachments? (b) What is the direction and magnitude of the force the hinges exert on the bridge under these circumstances? The mass of the bridge is 2500 kg.

A small drawbridge is shown. There is one vertical and one horizontal wooden plank. The left end of the horizontal plank is attached to the vertical plank near its middle. At the point of contact, a hinge is shown. A wire is tied to the right end of the horizontal end, is passed over the top of the vertical plank and is connected to a pulley. The angle made by the wire with the horizontal plank is forty degrees. The reaction F at the hinge is inclined at an angle theta.
A small drawbridge, showing the forces on the hinges ( F size 12{F} {} ), its weight ( w size 12{w} {} ), and the tension in its wires ( T size 12{T} {} ).

a) 0.167, or about one-sixth of the weight is supported by the opposite shore.

b) F = 2 . 0 × 10 4 N size 12{F=2 "." 0 times "10" rSup { size 8{4} } N} {} , straight up.

Questions & Answers

how can chip be made from sand
Eke Reply
are nano particles real
Missy Reply
Hello, if I study Physics teacher in bachelor, can I study Nanotechnology in master?
Lale Reply
no can't
where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
has a lot of application modern world
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
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Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Unit 7 - statics and torque. OpenStax CNX. Feb 03, 2016 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11967/1.1
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