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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 crucial concept in understanding 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 responsible for keeping the object in motion along the circular path, preventing it from moving in a straight line, which would be its natural tendency due to inertia.

The term 'centripetal' comes from Latin words 'centrum' meaning 'centre' and 'petere' meaning 'to seek', which aptly describes the direction of this force. It's important to note that centripetal force is not a new kind of force, but rather a role played by forces already present such as gravity, tension, or friction.

The magnitude of the centripetal force required to keep an object moving in a circular path is directly proportional to the square of its speed and the radius of the circle, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object. This relationship is expressed in the formula: F = mv²/r, where F is the centripetal force, m is the mass of the object, v is the speed of the object, and r is the radius of the circular path.

Without centripetal force, an object in motion would continue to move in a straight line due to its inertia. This is in accordance with Newton's first law of motion, which states that an object in motion will stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. In the case of circular motion, that unbalanced force is the centripetal force.

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