Force
Forces and Motion | Electricity and Magnetism

Action-at-a-distance

Teaching Guidance for 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching

Action without contact

Wrong Track: How can the Earth pull on a ball to make it fall? It's not even touching it!

Right Lines: Some forces can act on objects without touching them. Gravity is one example of these non-contact forces.

Explaining action-at-a-distance

Thinking about the learning

If a pupil made this kind of statement, you might think that they were starting to go along the Right Lines with their thinking by questioning the very essence of the gravitational force. Gravitational, magnetic and electric effects happen at a distance.

Thinking about the teaching

Emphasise that non-contact forces are special. If pupils think that the action-at-a-distance effects of gravity are obvious, they are missing the point. Action at a distance is a very strange phenomenon indeed!

As a teacher you are not expected to offer any explanations about the origins of gravity. We can say, however, that we have sufficient knowledge about how gravity works to get people to the Moon and back. A fantastic achievement.

IOP DOMAINS Physics CPD programme

New videos on forces

Our first collection of videos gives teachers and coaches of physics a preview of the training we offer ahead of this term's live support sessions.

Find out more