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Can a force do a thing it is not supposed to do?
Question Date: 2020-04-21
Answer 1:

Whether a force can do something it's "supposed to" depends on what you mean by "supposed to". When we use the phrase "supposed to", we very often mean "what we want", and not "what will happen as a result of". For example, if a baseball flies at a window, it will break the window. In this case, when we say that the ball is not "supposed to" break the window, we really mean "we do not want the ball to break the window."

If we're talking about the baseball flying with enough force at the piece of glass that's in the window, then it will definitely break the window because the window will not be strong enough against the baseball's force, so from the perspective of "will it happen", then yes, the baseball is "supposed to" break the window. We can see the same thing with dropping a heavy pot onto our foot.

On the one hand, if we take "supposed to" as "want something to happen", the pot is not "supposed to" bruise our toe because we would definitely not want the pot to do so; on the other hand, if we take "supposed to" as "this will happen because of how physics works", then the pot, dropped from our hand, being as heavy as it is, will probably bruise our toe, so it is "supposed to" bruise the toe.

Now, we go back to your question by making these examples more general, and say that a force can definitely do a thing that it is not "supposed to" because we don't want the force to do that thing, but the force will not do anything it's not "supposed to" because the force cannot disobey the principles of physics. If we were to substitute "supposed to" and make our meaning more clear, we may want to say that a force can definitely do something we do not want, but cannot do anything that does not adhere to physical laws.

Hope this helps! Best,

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