Many students think that an object moving in a circle experiences a force away from the centre of the circle (a centrifugal force)

Forces and Motion


Resources to Address This

  • Whirling a rubber bung on a string (11-16)

    This resource in an introduction to exploring circular motion with your students.

    View Resource
  • Circular motion (11-14)

    To make anything move along a circular path it is essential to have a force that acts towards the centre of that path.

    View Resource
  • Episode 224: Describing circular motion (16-19)

    Motion in a circle is an everyday occurrence and the students should be given time to discuss their experiences of such motion. It is important that they should actually feel the force exerted when an object on a string is whirled around their head.

    View Resource


  • Klaassen, K., Westra, A., Emmett, K., Eijkelhof, H. and Lijnse, P. () Introducing Mechanics by Tapping Core Causal Knowledge. Physics Education, 43 (4), 433.

    Paper digest

  • McCloskey, M., Caramazza, A. and Green, B. () Curvilinear Motion in the Absence of External Forces: Naïve Beliefs About the Motion of Objects. Science, 210 (4474), 1139-1141.

    47 US-based university students (15 without formal physics education, 22 with high school physics, and 10 with university-level physics) were asked to draw the path a moving object would follow in several different situations. Over half of the students evidenced striking misconceptions: many believed that even in the absence of external forces, objects would move in curved paths.

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