How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 37

How do you push a shopping cart and have the cart exert the same force on you, if you are still traveling forward? Friction? Air Resistance?
When you push a shopping cart straight forward down an aisle, you are pushing it forward and it is pushing you backward. If nothing else were pushing on the two of you, the cart would accelerate forward and you would accelerate backward. But the cart is experiencing friction and air resistance, both of which tend to slow it down. They are pushing the cart backward (in the direction opposite its motion). So you must keep pushing it forward to ensure that it experiences zero net force and continues at constant forward velocity. As for you, you need a force to keep yourself heading forward; otherwise the cart's backward force on you would slow you down. So you push backward on the ground with the soles of your shoes. In return, the ground pushes on you (using friction) and propels you forward. As a result, you also experience zero net force and move forward at constant velocity.

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