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We typically say that forces cause acceleration inversely proportionate to mass. Would it be any less correct to say that acceleration causes forces proportionate to mass? Why?

(Note that the underlying question in my mind - essentially, what distinguishes cause from effect - is far more general. But this seems like a good place to start.)

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closed as not constructive by David Z Jun 23 '11 at 9:53

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

There were controversial discussions in the history of physics and philosophy of science about that topic connected with physicists like Hertz, Helmholtz or Mach. One point was that the notion of "cause" is maybe to unclear to be used in an exact science. You may have a look at this: for a starting point. –  student Jun 23 '11 at 8:32
I think this may be a little too philosophical for this site; at least, it may need to be reworded in a more precise form. We can discuss this in Physics Chat or in a meta question. (Note that the question as written doesn't actually have anything to do with the physical concept of causality, thus I'm changing the tag.) –  David Z Jun 23 '11 at 9:55
Fair enough! Reposted (reworded) on Philosophy StackExchange:… Thanks guys. @student, I'll check that out. –  Toph Jun 25 '11 at 5:50

2 Answers 2

Newton's first law states that an object will keep doing what it is doing if left alone, in other words - The natural state of an object is static - unchanging - motion.

Newton's second law clarifies the first. Acceleration, or any change in motion, is an unnatural state for an arbitrary object left to its laurels, however it is a state that clearly exists all around us. Newton defines the "thing" that forces an object to change its state of being - a force.

In this most rigorous sense, a force is defined to be that which causes a change in motion.

The observation of a change in momentum necessitates that there is some force driving that change, so in this sense the two are equivalent (there is an equals sign there after all) - wherever you see a (net) force you will see an acceleration, wherever you see an acceleration you will find a force responsible for it. However, going back to the first law, acceleration is a change in the (kinetic) state of an object, an objects natural tendency is to statically maintain its state. The observation of an unnatural state of being would logically imply that there is a cause.

Intuitively it seems unnatural that accelerations would happen spontaneously and that the universe will invent a force just to balance the books if you will.

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I hope @Toph is not jesting whit this question but I will bite. There are 2 actions and effects when a force is applied. Say Object A pushes on object B the 1st cause/effect is that B resist moving “Static Resistance.” It’s apparent here that A courses the effect that B will resist. If B does not move then the effect is all on A and the energy is dissipated in heat and A stops. If B does move then is because A transfers the force to B or B takes the force from A. The only reason I contemplate this is that the more I learn of quantum-mechanics the more I wonder if physics of the big are what they appear to be.

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