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The four fundamental forces (gravity, the strong force, the weak force, and electromagnetism) are all supposed to be non-contact forces. Yet, electromagnetism governs all contact forces between macroscopic objects. This creates a predicament. Either:

  1. Contact forces and non-contact forces have no real distinction, making the terms irrelevant.

or

  1. Electromagnetism is both a contact and non-contact force.

Is there a reason for electromagnetism's current classification?

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1 Answer 1

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Contact forces have no real distinction from electromagnetic forces, but that doesn't make the term irrelevant. It is shorter and easier to say "contact force" than to say "short range force based on un-modeled local electromagnetic interactions between nearby solids". So we use the term whenever it is convenient and whenever the meaning is understood in context.

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