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Distribution of Force over Distance

Inclined planes work by increasing the distance the load must be moved, thereby decreasing the force necessary to move the load. An example is pushing a couch up the platform of a moving van. A few people could probably heave the couch up into the van, although it would be difficult; the better solution is to have two people use the ramp to the van (a classic inclined plane) to lift the couch.

Mathematics

By increasing the distance that the load moves, the force necessary to move the load decreases. For example, a 100-lb weight lifted straight up to a resting position three feet above the floor requires the lifter to lift all 100 lbs. For a six-foot plane, twice the length of the original distance, the lifter only has to exert 50 lbs of force. If the inclined plane was 12 feet, four times the length of the original distance, the lifter would only have to exert 25 lbs. Note, though, that this is assuming a frictionless plane, which is highly theoretical as friction is unavoidable.

Splitting Vectors

The force of gravity, split into component forces.

The reason that inclined planes allow us to reduce the force necessary to move items is because the work required to do both (Work = Force x Distance) is the same. When pushing up an inclined plane, the pusher only has to counteract the component of gravity that wants to slide the object back down the plane, instead of fighting against the entire force of gravity. Using an inclined plane decreases the force necessary to accomplish the task but increases the distance required.

Read more: How Does an Inclined Plane Work? | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how-does_5122555_inclinedplane-work.html#ixzz1mRl56iN6