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Review Energy-8

This magnet attracts the compass and the magnetized needle without having to come in contact with them. This is an example of a force acting at a distance.

Which of the following is another example of a force that acts at a distance without actual contact?

  1. Wind turning a windmill.

    No. The moving air is pushing against the blades of the windmill. Because a physical object (moving air) is pushing on the windmill, this is a contact force.
  2. Sound causing you to hear something.

    No. For you to hear a sound, the vibrations of the object make the air vibrate. That is a contact force because there is direct contact between the vibrating object and the air. The vibrating air is in contact with your ear drum, causing it to vibrate too. That lets you hear the sound. Because a physical object (vibrating air) is moving your ear drum, this is a contact force.
  3. Gravity causing a rock to fall.

    Yes. The gravitational attraction between the Earth and the rock does not need physical contact. The rock would fall, even if it was in a total vacuum, with no physical object to push or pull on it. This is a force acting at a distance.
  4. Throwing a ball to knock over a target

    No. To throw the ball, your arm pushes against it. Your arm moving the ball is a contact force. The moving ball hits the target to knock it over. The ball is touching the target to knock it over, so this is also a contact force.

Click to see which state standards this question tests, and which of my videos, experiments, and other resources support that topic.


SC.5.P.10.3 Investigate and explain that an electrically-charged object can attract an uncharged object and can either attract or repel another charged object without any contact between the objects.

>>> Teacher Page: Electrostatic Charges

SC.6.P.13.1 Investigate and describe types of forces including contact forces and forces acting at a distance, such as electrical, magnetic, and gravitational.
Challenge: Paper, Coin, Cup, part 1 video
Making a Compass video, checked
Torque video
Versorium video, checked
Water in a Glass, part 2 video, checked
Water in a Glass, part 3 video, checked
Water in a Glass, part 1 video, checked
Challenge: Paper, Coin, Cup, part 2 video
Light a Bulb with a Balloon video, checked
Crushed Can video, checked
Electricity video, free, Updated
The Compass and Magnetic Fields video, ClosedCaptions, checked
Review Energy-6 quest
Review Energy-7 quest
Review Energy-8 quest


UT.3.IV.2.c Pose questions about gravity and forces.


MS-PS3-2 Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system.