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In physics, a force is an influence that can cause an object to change its velocity, i.e., to accelerate, meaning a change in speed or direction, unless counterbalanced by other forces. The concept of force makes the everyday notion of pushing or pulling mathematically precise. Because the magnitude and direction of a force are both important, force is a vector quantity. The SI unit of force is the newton (N), and force is often represented by the symbol F.
|, F, F
|dyne, pound-force, poundal, kip, kilopond
|In SI base units
|F = ma
|Part of a series on
Force plays a central role in classical mechanics, figuring in all three of Newton's laws of motion, which specify that the force on an object with an unchanging mass is equal to the product of the object's mass and the acceleration that it undergoes. Types of forces often encountered in classical mechanics include elastic, frictional, contact or "normal" forces, and gravitational. The rotational version of force is torque, which produces changes in the rotational speed of an object. In an extended body, each part often applies forces on the adjacent parts; the distribution of such forces through the body is the internal mechanical stress. In equilibrium these stresses cause no acceleration of the body as the forces balance one another. If these are not in equilibrium they can cause deformation of solid materials, or flow in fluids.
In modern physics, which includes relativity and quantum mechanics, the laws governing motion are revised to rely on fundamental interactions as the ultimate origin of force. However, the understanding of force provided by classical mechanics is useful for practical purposes.
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