How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 63

In the book, you discussed pushing on a file cabinet that was resting on the sidewalk. Why doesn't the file cabinet move when you push even a little — you're making the net force greater than zero?
When you exert a small horizontal force on the file cabinet, it doesn't move because static friction between the ground and the file cabinet exerts a second horizontal force on the file cabinet that exactly balances your force. If you push the file cabinet west, the ground will exert a static frictional force on the file cabinet, pushing it east. The file cabinet will thus experience a net force of zero. You'll have to push very, very hard before static friction will be unable to match your force. One you do exceed the limit of static friction, the friction will no longer be able to balance your force and the file cabinet will experience a net force in the horizontal direction. The file cabinet will then accelerate in the direction of your force.

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