What is Gravitational Force?
According to Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation, the gravitational force is a force that exists between any two objects with a certain mass. Every body in this nature, irrespective of the size and mass, exerts a certain amount of gravitational force on the objects around it. But in the end, it is the body with the biggest mass wins and can draw the objects towards it.
To understand gravitational force better, consider the example of a see-saw. When two boys of the same weight are sitting on the see-saw, an equilibrium is maintained. If one of the boys is too heavy, then the see-saw tends to slide towards the heavier boy and the lighter boy also tends towards the heavier boy. This exactly is what happens in gravitation.
Sir Isaac Newton, the father of Modern Physics, is the one who discovered the gravitational force.
Gravitational force is one of the four forces that drive nature. The other three are:
- Weak Nuclear Force
- Electromagnetic Force
- Strong Nuclear Force
Interestingly out of all these forces, the gravitational force is the weakest but has the highest reach.
What is the formula to calculate gravitational force?
Consider that two masses M1 and M2 as shown in the figure are separated by a distance R. Let us assume that the force of gravitation Fg exists between them.
According to Newton’s Inverse square law, the gravitational force of attraction between them is directly proportional to the product of their masses and is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.
= G × M1
where G is the constant of proportionality called Universal Gravitational Constant
The value of Universal Gravitational Constant is given by G = 6.674 × 10-11
in SI units.
What is the importance of Gravitational Force?
- The gravitational force of an object is a force that can pull another object towards its center. This is the principle underlying our solar system where planets are being pulled towards the center of the sun. If there were no gravitational force exerted by the sun, planets would never have been in their orbits!
- Air is present on the Earth only because it is bounded by Earth’s gravitational force which draws it towards the center of the Earth constantly. Similar is the case with the water in lakes, rivers, and oceans. Now imagine what if there is no gravitational force??? Air and water would have drifted into space!
- The weight of every body on the Earth, including yours, is determined by gravitational force. The gravitational pull at the poles is more at the poles of the Earth; hence, one feels weightier at poles than at the equator.
- Every planet has its own gravitational force; it means you weigh differently on when you are on different planets.
- Space is as it is now without any clashes of celestial objects owing to the gravitational force only. Even moon rotates around Earth due to the gravitational force of Earth.
- Tides are caused by two major factors: rotation of the Earth and the gravitational force of the moon.
- The human body is designed as per the principles of gravity. If there is no weight exerted due to the gravitational force, the bones that are designed for weight bearing will lose calcium and become fragile easily. This is the reason why astronauts have to do regular exercise to keep their body running normally in space that has no gravitational force.
Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love. – Albert Einstein
Fun Facts about Gravitational Force
- Earth’s weight determines your weight. This is because Earth’s weight is that which is responsible for gravitational force on you and hence your weight. If you stand a planet that has lesser gravitational force than that of Earth, for example, on Mercury or Venus, you would weigh lesser.
- Do you know? Jupiter has the highest mass in the solar system and hence if you stand on Jupiter, you would weigh the highest than when you stand on any other planet of the solar system. If you weigh 100lbs on Earth, you would weigh around 300lbs on Jupiter. Now, will you ever think of stepping on Jupiter?
- Black holes can attract anything into them and keep them inside them because their gravitational power is strong enough so much that even light cannot pass through them.
- Physics says that gravity travels at a speed of light.
- It is impossible for mountains to be taller than 49,213 feet on Earth because of the gravitational force of the Earth.
- Carbonated drinks and sodas too rely on gravitational force. Air and liquid can stay apart in such drinks due to gravitational force itself. It means in zero gravity situations; for example, for astronauts, it is not possible to drink sodas because there would be no gravity to separate liquid and gas.
- Gravitational force is not dual – it means it can only attract, and cannot repel.
- If you want to escape Earth’s gravitational pull, you have to travel at a speed of 7miles per second. Technically, this is termed as escape velocity of Earth.
- Though the strength of gravitational force decreases with an increase in distance, theoretically the reach of gravitational force is infinite.
What if there was no gravitational force?
Scientists say that if there was no gravity:
- Our red blood cells count falls and causes something called space-anemia. Ever heard of this disease??
- Our sleep also gets affected if there was no gravity.
- Also, if the gravitational force is absent on the Sun, it would have busted and exploded by now!
Gravitation is so far, not understandable in terms of another phenomenon. – Richard P Feynman
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