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Electromagnetic forces

Almost all of the forces that we experience in everyday life are electromagnetic in origin. They have this unusual name because long ago people thought that electric forces and magnetic forces were different things. After much work and experimentation, it has been realised that they are actually different manifestations of the same underlying theory.

Electric or electrostatic forces

If we have objects carrying electrical charge, which are not moving, then we are dealing with electrostatic forces (Coulomb's Law). This force is actually much stronger than gravity. This may seem strange, since gravity is obviously very powerful, and holding a balloon to the wall seems to be the most impressive thing electrostatic forces have done, but if we think about it: for gravity to be detectable, we need to have a very large mass nearby. But a balloon rubbed against someone's hair can stick to a wall with a force so strong that it overcomes the force of gravity between the entire Earth and the balloon—with just the charges in the balloon and the wall!

Magnetic forces

The magnetic force is a different manifestation of the electromagnetic force. It stems from the interaction between moving charges as opposed to the fixed charges involved in Coulomb's Law. Examples of the magnetic force in action include magnets, compasses, car engines and computer data storage. Magnets are also used in the wrecking industry to pick up cars and move them around sites.


According to Newton's First Law (we will discuss this later in the chapter) an object moving without a force acting on it will keep on moving. Then why does a box sliding on a table come to a stop? The answer is friction. Friction arises where two surfaces are in contact and moving relative to eachother as a result of the interaction between the molecules of the two contact surfaces—for instance the interactions between the molecules on the bottom of the box with molecules on the top of the table. This interaction is electromagnetic in origin, hence friction is just another view of the electromagnetic force. Later in this chapter we will discuss frictional forces a little more.

Drag forces

This is the force an object experiences while travelling through a medium like an aeroplane flying through air. When something travels through the air it needs to displace air as it travels and because of this, the air exerts a force on the object. This becomes an important force when you move fast and a lot of thought is taken to try and reduce the amount of drag force a sports car or an aeroplane experiences. The drag force is very useful for parachutists. They jump from high altitudes and if there was no drag force, then they would continue accelerating all the way to the ground. Parachutes are wide because the more surface area you have, the greater the drag force and hence the slower you hit the ground.

Systems and external forces

The concepts of systems and forces external to such systems are very important in Physics. A system is any collection of objects. If one draws an imaginary box around such a system then an external force is one that is applied by an object or person outside the box. Imagine for example a car pulling two trailers.

Questions & Answers

What is a vector
Mercii Reply
vector is anything that has both a direction and a magnitude .they are usually drawn as pointed arrows ,the length of which represents a vector's magnitude
what is electronics?
how to calculate the reading on voltmeter or ammeter
mosima Reply
why is HCl considered a strong acid
Sphiwe Reply
it dissociate almost completely
what is metal displacement
Andile Reply
what is an electric field?
Noluthando Reply
is the charge of an electron always 1,6 ×10^-19? and the mass is always 9,1×10^-13?
Neo Reply
how to calculate a distance between charges
Celucolo Reply
juss apply the formula of the Electrostatic force
how to show polarity
Sandiso Reply
what can ii do to pass physics
Slindile Reply
Use previous years question papers to understand how questions are answered and asked
but it hard ii am a slow learner
Then the best thing to do is that immediately you are done reading through a certain topic, and you think you understood everything in that topic that's when you can use previous question papers and answer questions related to the topic. I think that's not difficult
mm ii will try
Here's a tip in reading textbooks, don't read it like a novel. First, flip through the pages—scan the chapter that you wanted to read. Second, go to the end of the chapter. Usually, there's a quiz at the end, so if will give you the important information that you need to know.
Third, go to the beginning of the chapter and read through the words that were printed in bold: Titles, subtitles, headings, important words —because it helps to break down information.
Fourth, read the first sentence of the chapter—if it is written by a good author; therefore, it will also have a good introduction. Check also the last sentence of the chapter to sum it up. Finally, read the whole chapter. You won't read it twice anymore.
It looks hard, cause there are so much to do but read it thoroughly, it's easy and it will help you to save time and comprehend better. If you don't really have interest on reading—there are various of videos in youtube😊
Oh, so em dashes turn into question marks :' (( nvm. Goodluck to all of us!
How many ways can we calculate the empirical formula
Joseph Reply
How is current divided between resistors in parallel
ii know 2 ways
what's the other way
What is the meaning of Coulomb's law
Nozipho Reply
Electronic magnetic field
Pride Reply
what is an emf ?
Nobuhle Reply
electromotive force
what are moments of a force
Mercy Reply
the moment of a force" is a measure of a tendency to cause a body to rotate about a specific point or axis....a moment is due to force not having equal and opposite force directly along its line of action.
how to calculate the magnitude of the force of repulsion
Vicky Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Siyavula textbooks: grade 11 physical science. OpenStax CNX. Jul 29, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11241/1.2
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