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A balancing act



People always seem to try and test their balancing skills in almost every way possible, from stacking things on top of each other, to treacherous tightrope walks. But what exactly does it mean when something is balanced? It means that the object is not moving, so the net force, and net torque on the object is zero. The torque on a free standing object that can cause it to fall is the result of gravity acting on its center of mass while it's not centered. Theoretically it is possible to balance anything, but without some very precise machines, it's really improbable for a person to successfully balance something like a pencil by its tip for example. But sometimes it appears as if something is balanced, then it begins to fall over. This happens because even if the center of mass is a tiny tiny distance off center, it can still be enough for gravity to produce a very small torque, giving it a very small speed that gradually increases as it is accelerated until it falls over. So in order to balance things, sometimes you have to be really, really accurate


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