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Centripetal force is the force that keeps an object moving in a circular path.

In more detail, centripetal force is a fundamental concept in physics, particularly when studying circular motion. It is the force that acts on an object moving in a circular path and is directed towards the centre of the path. This force is necessary to keep an object moving along a circular path, as it continually changes the object's direction of motion.

The term 'centripetal' comes from the Latin words 'centrum', meaning centre, and 'petere', meaning to seek. Thus, centripetal force can be thought of as the 'centre-seeking' force. Without this force, an object in motion would continue in a straight line due to inertia, as stated by Newton's first law of motion.

The magnitude of the centripetal force on an object of mass m moving at a speed v along a path with radius r is given by the formula F = mv²/r. This equation tells us that the centripetal force increases with the square of the speed, meaning that if you double the speed, the centripetal force quadruples. It also tells us that the force decreases with the radius, so the wider the circle, the less force is needed to keep the object moving in a circular path.

Centripetal force can be provided by various forces depending on the situation. For example, the tension in a string provides the centripetal force for a tetherball moving in a circle, the friction between the tyres and the road provides the centripetal force for a car making a turn, and the gravitational force provides the centripetal force for the Earth orbiting the Sun.

In conclusion, understanding centripetal force is crucial for understanding circular motion. It is the force that keeps an object moving in a circular path, continually changing its direction of motion.

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