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What Is The Difference Between An Active And A Reactive Force? (The Contrast)

What Is The Difference Between An Active And A Reactive Force? (The Contrast)

For active and reactive forces to work, there must at least be two objects. You can’t tell active and reactive forces apart. The only difference would be that the forces act in opposite directions. 

Interestingly, both forces will occur at the same time without any time lag. Kicking a table will cause the table to act as an active force, while your leg will act as a reactive force. This is what Newton’s law implies.

As we just discussed how they both are different, let’s have a look at some similarities between them both.

  • Both happen all together
  • The magnitude of both the forces is equivalent 
  • Action is also a reaction and the same goes for a reaction 

Despite being working simultaneously, both forces do not cancel each other. 

Throughout this article, I’m going to explain these terminologies. I’ll also discuss different types of forces.

So if you are feeling intrigued then let’s dive into it…


Let us clarify what does force mean in the first place:

Force Pushing or pulling an object indicates that a force is applied to an object and is causing a movement. Though, this definition of force doesn’t explain the whole concept. Even if an object is in a stationary position, it is still known as being acted upon by forces.
Does force always make an object move? No, not all forces make an object move. Let’s take an example of a round object lying on the ground. Now, you would see it won’t move until you push it. This doesn’t mean that no force is acting upon it. There is a balance between all the forces acting upon it causing the net force to be zero. Keep in mind that net force shouldn’t be equal to zero for objects to move
Force Definition

If you want to dive deeper in the meaning of force, you should watch this video:

Active And Reactive Force

Both active and reactive forces have no difference in size and magnitude. They just act in opposite directions, one in reaction of the other.

If you hit your toe against the wall, the wall will exert the same force on your toe, causing it to hurt. 

Walking is another example of these forces. Your feet pushing the ground backward will be an active force, while your body being moved forward will be an example of reactive force. You can understand from here that how both these forces act in opposite directions.

Types Of Forces

Frictional Force

This force helps objects stop moving. If there was no friction the objects would be unstoppable. Vehicle brakes are the greatest example of friction. 

What are the types of force?
Frictional Force

Applied Force

What you can mean by this force is the involvement of pushing or pulling. For instance, you apply force on a box to move it forward. 

Gravitational Force

Earth has this force that pulls the objects towards the ground. As a result, objects and people cannot float and stay on the ground. This force also exists in objects. The more massive the object, the more gravitational force it has. 

It’s important to note that not all planets have the same level of gravity. 

Are Active And Reactive Forces Equal?

Yes, both the forces are, undoubtedly, equal and occur in opposite directions. This is what you have learned in Newton’s law. Even so, many people equate active and reactive with cause and effect, which is misleading. Association between two objects gives rise to opposite forces. 

Energy VS. Force

What is the difference between energy and force?
Energy Vs. Force

You should see energy and force as to cause and effect. When you want an action to occur, it is the result of energy. While the effect that is caused by energy is known as force. Although, they’re two individual quantities

The more energy you’ve, the more work you’ll be able to perform.

Final Thoughts 

Active and reactive forces need a pair of objects to happen. These forces occur simultaneously, and therefore there is no gap in time. 

That is exactly what Newton says in his third law of motion. Most people have a misconception about the law that this law works exactly the way cause and effect work. While the scenario is opposite in this case.

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