38 Center of Gravity

Finding the Center of Gravity

You may have heard the term   in reference to balance and you might intuitively know that a toddler’s big head raises their center of gravity, which makes them less stable than adults. We already know that the is what gives an object , but what is the center of gravity? Think about which body part you feel gravity  pulling on. Do you feel it pulling on just your leg, or your arm, or what? Actually, the force of gravity acts on all of your mass in the same way, according to down to every single molecule and atom.  If we break up your body into many many small chunks of equal mass we could calculate the tiny force of gravity on each one. If we add up all those tiny forces we get your total weight. If we average the locations of all those equal tiny forces, the resulting location would be the . If we averaged the location of all the equal chunks of mass that would be the . Everyday objects, like humans, are small enough that gravity acts on all parts of the object and the center of gravity and the center of mass are essentially the same location. Check out the following video to learn how to experimentally find the center of gravity (mass) of an irregular object.

Reinforcement Exercises


Being out of balance means that your is no longer above your (usually the space between your feet). When that happens you either fall down or take a step to widen your support base (regain your balance). Let’s examine why those are the only two options you have.

Computer generated graphic of a human skeleton captured from a computer simulation of a person moving. The person is bending at the waist with arms hanging down toward the floor. The center of mass is indicated by a dot slightly outside and in front of the body at waist level.
The center of gravity of an object (blue dot) is the average location of all gravitational forces. This average location does not necessarily have to be on the object. Image Credit: D. Gordon E. Robertson via wikimedia commons


Freely rotating objects tend to rotate around their . The following video shows a neat demonstration of that phenomenon:



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Body Physics: Motion to Metabolism Copyright © by Lawrence Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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