CIE AS Physics (9702) exams from 2022

Revision Notes

4.1.1 Centre of Gravity

Centre of Gravity

  • The centre of gravity of an object is the point at which the weight of the object may be considered to act
  • For example, for a person standing upright, their centre of gravity is roughly in the middle of the body behind the navel, and for a sphere, it is at the centre
  • For symmetrical objects with uniform density, the centre of gravity is located at the point of symmetry

Point of symmetry, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

The centre of gravity of a shape can be found by symmetry

 

Stability

  • The position of the centre of gravity of an object affects its stability
  • An object is stable when its centre of gravity lies above its base

Stability, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

The object on the right will topple, as its centre of mass is no longer over its base

 

  • The wider base an object has, the lower its centre of gravity and it is more stable
  • The narrower base an object has, the higher its centre of gravity and the object is more likely to topple over if pushed

Stability and base, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

The most stable objects have wide bases and low centres of mass

 

Centre of gravity v centre of mass

  • In a uniform gravitational field, the centre of gravity is identical to the centre of mass
  • The centre of mass does not depend on the gravitational field
  • Since weight = mass ✕ acceleration due to gravity, the centre of gravity does depend on the gravitational field
  • When an object is in space, its centre of gravity will be more towards the object with larger gravitational field for example, the Earth’s gravitational field on the Moon

Centre of gravity vs centre of mass, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

The Earth’s stronger gravitational field pushes the Moons centre of gravity closer to Earth

 

Exam Tip

Since the centre of gravity is a hypothetical point, it can lie inside or outside of a body. The centre of gravity will constantly shift depending on the shape of a body. For example, a human body’s centre of gravity is lower when learning forward than upright

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