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  • State the types of equilibrium.
  • Describe stable and unstable equilibriums.
  • Describe neutral equilibrium.

It is one thing to have a system in equilibrium; it is quite another for it to be stable. The toy doll perched on the man’s hand in [link] , for example, is not in stable equilibrium. There are three types of equilibrium : stable , unstable , and neutral . Figures throughout this module illustrate various examples.

[link] presents a balanced system, such as the toy doll on the man’s hand, which has its center of gravity (cg) directly over the pivot, so that the torque of the total weight is zero. This is equivalent to having the torques of the individual parts balanced about the pivot point, in this case the hand. The cgs of the arms, legs, head, and torso are labeled with smaller type.

In the figure a man is shown balancing a child on his hand. The child is enjoying the activity.
A man balances a toy doll on one hand.

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 to the direction of the displacement. For example, a marble at the bottom of a bowl will experience a restoring force when displaced from its equilibrium position. This force moves it back toward the equilibrium position. Most systems are in stable equilibrium, especially for small displacements. For another example of stable equilibrium, see the pencil in [link] .

A pencil is balanced vertically on its flat end. The weight W of the pencil is acting at its center of gravity downward. The normal reaction N of the surface is shown as an arrow upward. A free body diagram is shown at right of the pencil. The midpoint of the flat base of the pencil is marked as pivot point.
This pencil is in the condition of equilibrium. The net force on the pencil is zero and the total torque about any pivot is zero.

A system is in unstable equilibrium    if, when displaced, it experiences a net force or torque in the same direction as the displacement from equilibrium. A system in unstable equilibrium accelerates away from its equilibrium position if displaced even slightly. An obvious example is a ball resting on top of a hill. Once displaced, it accelerates away from the crest. See the next several figures for examples of unstable equilibrium.

A pencil is tilted slightly toward left. The left end point of its flat surface is marked as the pivot point. The weight W of the pencil is acting at the center of gravity of the pencil. The normal reaction N of the pencil is acting upward at the pivot point. The line of action of the normal reaction is toward left of the line of action of the weight of the pencil.
If the pencil is displaced slightly to the side (counterclockwise), it is no longer in equilibrium. Its weight produces a clockwise torque that returns the pencil to its equilibrium position.

A pencil is tilted toward left so that the line of action of its weight is toward left of the pivot point which is the left end of the flat end of the pencil.
If the pencil is displaced too far, the torque caused by its weight changes direction to counterclockwise and causes the displacement to increase.

A vertical pencil balanced at its sharp end is shown. The weight of the pencil is acting at its center of gravity and is in the line with the normal reaction N at the pivot point of the pencil.
This figure shows unstable equilibrium, although both conditions for equilibrium are satisfied.

A vertical pencil tilted toward left is shown. The sharp end of the pencil is down and labeled as pivot point. The weight of the pencil is acting at its center of gravity and the line of action of the weight is toward left of the pivot point.
If the pencil is displaced even slightly, a torque is created by its weight that is in the same direction as the displacement, causing the displacement to increase.

A system is in neutral equilibrium    if its equilibrium is independent of displacements from its original position. A marble on a flat horizontal surface is an example. Combinations of these situations are possible. For example, a marble on a saddle is stable for displacements toward the front or back of the saddle and unstable for displacements to the side. [link] shows another example of neutral equilibrium.

In figure a,  a ball is lying on a flat surface and the point of contact with the surface is labeled pivot point. The weight of the ball is acting at the center of gravity of the ball. The normal force N is in the same line as the weight of the ball. The torque on the ball is zero. In figure b, a side view of a pencil lying flat on a table is shown. The sharp end of the pencil is toward right. The weight of the pencil is acting at the center of gravity of the pencil. The normal reaction N of the table surface is in the same line of action as the weight but in the upward direction.
(a) Here we see neutral equilibrium. The cg of a sphere on a flat surface lies directly above the point of support, independent of the position on the surface. The sphere is therefore in equilibrium in any location, and if displaced, it will remain put. (b) Because it has a circular cross section, the pencil is in neutral equilibrium for displacements perpendicular to its length.

Questions & Answers

what is physics
Rhema Reply
a15kg powerexerted by the foresafter 3second
Firdos Reply
what is displacement
Xolani Reply
movement in a direction
Jason
hello
Hosea
Explain why magnetic damping might not be effective on an object made of several thin conducting layers separated by insulation? can someone please explain this i need it for my final exam
anas Reply
Hi
saeid
hi
Yimam
What is thê principle behind movement of thê taps control
Oluwakayode Reply
while
Hosea
what is atomic mass
thomas Reply
this is the mass of an atom of an element in ratio with the mass of carbon-atom
Chukwuka
show me how to get the accuracies of the values of the resistors for the two circuits i.e for series and parallel sides
Jesuovie Reply
Explain why it is difficult to have an ideal machine in real life situations.
Isaac Reply
tell me
Promise
what's the s . i unit for couple?
Promise
its s.i unit is Nm
Covenant
Force×perpendicular distance N×m=Nm
Oluwakayode
İt iş diffucult to have idêal machine because of FRİCTİON definitely reduce thê efficiency
Oluwakayode
if the classica theory of specific heat is valid,what would be the thermal energy of one kmol of copper at the debye temperature (for copper is 340k)
Zaharadeen Reply
can i get all formulas of physics
BPH Reply
yes
haider
what affects fluid
Doreen Reply
pressure
Oluwakayode
Dimension for force MLT-2
Promise Reply
what is the dimensions of Force?
Osueke Reply
how do you calculate the 5% uncertainty of 4cm?
melia Reply
4cm/100×5= 0.2cm
haider
how do you calculate the 5% absolute uncertainty of a 200g mass?
melia Reply
= 200g±(5%)10g
haider
use the 10g as the uncertainty?
melia
which topic u discussing about?
haider
topic of question?
haider
the relationship between the applied force and the deflection
melia
sorry wrong question i meant the 5% uncertainty of 4cm?
melia
its 0.2 cm or 2mm
haider
thank you
melia
Hello group...
Chioma
hi
haider
well hello there
sean
hi
Noks
hii
Chibueze
10g
Olokuntoye
0.2m
Olokuntoye
hi guys
thomas
Practice Key Terms 3

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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