# What are some characteristics of r as in $\tau = mr^2\alpha$?

Can r just be the distance from an object center of mass to the axis of rotation?

If not, it will be very hard to calculate r for things that are not particles, which doesn't exist in real life.

Like here: I am assuming that my book uses the distance from the center of the perfect sphere to to the axis of rotation. When the radius of rotation is small and close to the radius of the sphere, can you still take the distance from the center as r and ignore the mass of other parts of the sphere?

Also does the position vector along r have to perpendicular to the Angular acceleration vector?

So like if a problem just give you the acceleration which however is not tangent to the circular path of a rotating object, you have to ask for angle to find the component that is tangent to the path and perpendicular to r.

• This is an application of $\sigma=I\alpha$: torque equals inertial moment times angular acceleration, here with $I=mr^2$. In reality, $I$ will take on form and value on a case-by-case basis. – Gert Nov 29 '15 at 14:08

The torque and angular acceleration are related by the moment of inertia. For a general body with an extended mass distribution, the moment of inertia is given by an integral: $$I = \iiint r^2\, \rho(\vec r) \;\mathrm dV,$$ where $$\rho(\vec r)$$ is the volumetric mass density and $$r$$ is the (cylindrical) distance to the axis of rotation.
For bodies that are localised in confined regions, the factor of $$r^2$$ can be factored out, since it takes basically the same value throughout the integral. The remaining integral gives simply the mass, and the formula reduces to the $$I=mr^2$$ in your question.