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Force is the term used for an outside influence exerted by one body on another which produces a change in state of motion or state of configuration. This limited meaning in science compared to our everyday usage is most important because of the specific results of this out-side influence.

Force producing a change in state of motion gives a body acceleration. If forces acting on a body produces no acceleration, the body will experience some change in configuration: a change of size (longer or shorter), a change of shape (twisted or bent), or a positional change (relative to other masses, charges, or magnets). Changes of size or shape involve elastic properties of materials.

Forces are given various names to indicate some specific character. For example, a wagon can be made to go forward by pushing from behind or pulling from the front so push or pull is more descriptive. Electrical and magnetic forces can result in attraction (tendency to come together) or repulsion (tendency to move apart) but gravitational force results only in attraction of masses. The gravitational force exerted by Earth on a body is called weight. A body moving, or attempting to move, over another body experiences a force opposing the motion called friction. When wires, cables, or ropes are stretched, they then in turn exert a force which is called tension. Specific names give information about the nature of the force, what it does, and direction of action.

See also Laws of motion.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ferroelectric materials to Form and matter