Classical Physics


Gravity as Centripetal Force

Authors: Sosale Chandrasekhar

The earth’s gravity can be viewed as the centripetal force resulting from the coupling of its rotational and orbital motions. These motions were (presumably) set in train in the early universe, when the solar system formed from a spinning nebula. The original angular momentum of the nebula has (apparently) been largely conserved during the subsequent evolution of the solar system. In an idealized (frictionless) system, involving the circulation of an object around a centre at constant velocity, a centripetal force is exerted by the object towards the centre; in the case of the coupled rotational-orbital motion of the earth, the centripetal force would be directed towards its own centre. The law of conservation of angular momentum requires that the circulation continue ad infinitum in the absence of an external force. The gravity apparently experienced by objects approaching the earth, and the variation of gravity with latitude are explicable by extending the above ideas. (The estimated value of the above centripetal acceleration on the earth is 1.4x102 ms-2, which compares reasonably with the observed value of g of 9.8 ms-2, considering the approximations employed.)

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[v1] 2012-04-07 01:30:00

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