<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
net τ = 0 size 12{"net "τ=0} {}

where net means total. Torques, which are in opposite directions are assigned opposite signs. A common convention is to call counterclockwise (ccw) torques positive and clockwise (cw) torques negative.

When two children balance a seesaw as shown in [link] , they satisfy the two conditions for equilibrium. Most people have perfect intuition about seesaws, knowing that the lighter child must sit farther from the pivot and that a heavier child can keep a lighter one off the ground indefinitely.

Two children are sitting on a seesaw. On the left side, a lighter child is sitting and on the right, a heavier one. The distance of the lighter child from the fulcrum is more than that of heavier child. At the fulcrum, an upward force vector labeled as F-p is shown. The weights of the two children, w-one and w-two, are shown as vectors in the downward direction, and the force at the fulcrum, F-p, is shown as a vector in the upward direction.
Two children balancing a seesaw satisfy both conditions for equilibrium. The lighter child sits farther from the pivot to create a torque equal in magnitude to that of the heavier child.

She saw torques on a seesaw

The two children shown in [link] are balanced on a seesaw of negligible mass. (This assumption is made to keep the example simple—more involved examples will follow.) The first child has a mass of 26.0 kg and sits 1.60 m from the pivot.(a) If the second child has a mass of 32.0 kg, how far is she from the pivot? (b) What is F p , the supporting force exerted by the pivot?


Both conditions for equilibrium must be satisfied. In part (a), we are asked for a distance; thus, the second condition (regarding torques) must be used, since the first (regarding only forces) has no distances in it. To apply the second condition for equilibrium, we first identify the system of interest to be the seesaw plus the two children. We take the supporting pivot to be the point about which the torques are calculated. We then identify all external forces acting on the system.

Solution (a)

The three external forces acting on the system are the weights of the two children and the supporting force of the pivot. Let us examine the torque produced by each. Torque is defined to be

τ = rF sin θ . size 12{τ= ital "rF""sin"θ} {}

Here θ = 90º , so that sin θ = 1 for all three forces. That means r = r size 12{r rSub { size 8{ ortho } } =r} {} for all three. The torques exerted by the three forces are first,

τ 1 = r 1 w 1


τ 2 = r 2 w 2

and third,

τ p = r p F p = 0 F p = 0.

Note that a minus sign has been inserted into the second equation because this torque is clockwise and is therefore negative by convention. Since F p acts directly on the pivot point, the distance r p is zero. A force acting on the pivot cannot cause a rotation, just as pushing directly on the hinges of a door will not cause it to rotate. Now, the second condition for equilibrium is that the sum of the torques on both children is zero. Therefore

τ 2 = τ 1 , size 12{τ rSub { size 8{2} } =τ rSub { size 8{1} } } {}


r 2 w 2 = r 1 w 1 . size 12{r rSub { size 8{2} } w rSub { size 8{2} } =r rSub { size 8{1} } w rSub { size 8{1} } } {}

Weight is mass times the acceleration due to gravity. Entering mg for w , we get

r 2 m 2 g = r 1 m 1 g .

Solve this for the unknown r 2 size 12{r rSub { size 8{2} } } {} :

r 2 = r 1 m 1 m 2 . size 12{r rSub { size 8{2} } =r rSub { size 8{1} } { {m rSub { size 8{1} } } over {m rSub { size 8{2} } } } } {}

The quantities on the right side of the equation are known; thus, r 2 size 12{r rSub { size 8{2} } } {} is

r 2 = 1.60 m 26.0 kg 32.0 kg = 1.30 m . size 12{r rSub { size 8{2} } = left (1 "." "60"" m" right ) { {"26" "." 0" kg"} over {"32" "." " 0 kg"} } =1 "." "30"" m"} {}

As expected, the heavier child must sit closer to the pivot (1.30 m versus 1.60 m) to balance the seesaw.

Solution (b)

This part asks for a force F p . The easiest way to find it is to use the first condition for equilibrium, which is

net F = 0 .

The forces are all vertical, so that we are dealing with a one-dimensional problem along the vertical axis; hence, the condition can be written as

Questions & Answers

a rare fraction and adjacent contraction of a sound wave are travelling in air and are separated by distance of 15cm, taken that velocity sound is 330ms what is the frequency?
Jennifer Reply
what is speed and velocity
Yaseer Reply
speed is scaler quantity and velocity is vector quantity speed has only magnitude and velocity has magnitude+direction both speed and velocity has same unit m/s
I am finding it hard to draw the velocity time graph, please can anyone assist me to know how to draw it, please?
explain and draw how to measure length when using ruler, micrometer screw gauge and vernnier calliper
gift Reply
Calculate the average velocity in time interval 6sec to 12sec and determine the instantaneous velocity
Lekiisi Reply
the force is not constant in this case of tow car collide for short period of time ..why is the force is not constant?
Abel Reply
calculate the average velocity in time interval 6sec to 12sec ad determine the instantaneous velocity
meaning of the term si units
Chali Reply
what what causes electric current
what what causes electric current
Systeme international unitq@1qa@aaq
Correct one international system of units.
electric dynamo
Electric dynamo is the sources of electric magnetic forces which utilize electromagnetic induction.
A stone is dropped down a well, if it take 5 seconds to reach the water, how dip is the well
Mollamin Reply
an aircraft at as steady velocity of 70m/so eastwards at a height of 800me drops a package of supplies .a, how long will it take for the package to rich the ground? b, how fast will it be going as it lands?
Ng Reply
what is hypothesis theory law
physics is the science of measurement
Jide Reply
What is physics
Victor Reply
what is physics
Good question! Physics is the study of the nature world . Does this help?
physics is the study of matter in relations to energy.
physics is the science of measurements
physics is a science concern with nature and properties of matter and energy
what is a parallelogram law of motion?
describe how you would find the area of an irregular shaped body?
physics is the study of natural phenomena at their most fundamental level
Definition for physics
Adesola Reply
It deal with matter and relation to energy
physics is the Study of matter in relation to energy.
physics is a natural science that study matter its behaviour and relation to energy.
physic tells us more about quantities and measurement also
life as we know it that can be measured and calculated
what is a reference frame
Chukwu Reply
what is anatomy in relation to physics
Mubarak Reply
how does half life exist
Humble Reply
 The amount of time it takes a radioactive isotope to decay into a stable isotope is different for each radioactive isotope, and is characterized by its “half-life”. An isotope's half-life is the amount of time it takes for half the number of atoms of that isotope to decay to another isotope.
what is the difference between Mass and weight
mass is constant while weight varies. unit of mass is kg, unit of weight is newton
how can a coin float in water and what principle governs it
Mercy Reply
in my opinion that work of surface tension but restrictions on coin is that coin do not break surface energy of molecules but some days before scientists prove that's another types of force
which force hold floating coins together thats my confusion
Practice Key Terms 4

Get the best College physics course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'College physics' conversation and receive update notifications?