Applications of the Lever
Man's Way of Helping Himself
By means of a lever, a 600-pound bowlder can be easily pried out of the ground. Let the lever, any strong metal bar, be supported on a stone which serves as fulcrum; then if a man exerts his force at the end of the rod , the force arm will be the distance from the stone or fulcrum to the end of the bar, and the weight arm will be the distance from the fulcrum to the bowlder itself. The man pushes down with a force of 100 pounds, but with that amount succeeds in prying up the 600-pound bowlder. If, however, you look carefully, you will see that the force arm is 6 times as long as the weight arm, so that the smaller force is compensated for by the greater distance through which it acts.
At first sight it seems as though the man's work were done for him by the machine. But this is not so. The man must lower his end of the lever 3 feet in order to raise the bowlder 6 inches out of the ground. He does not at any time exert a large force, but he accomplishes his purpose by exerting a small force continuously through a correspondingly greater distance. He finds it easier to exert a force of 100 pounds continuously until his end has moved 3 feet rather than to exert a force of 600 pounds on the bowlder and move it 6 inches.
By the time the stone has been raised the man has done as much work as though the stone had been raised directly, but his inability to put forth sufficient muscular force to raise the bowlder directly would have rendered impossible a result which was easily accomplished when through the medium of the lever he could extend his small force through greater distance.