All the forces in the universe are based on four fundamental interactions. The strong and weak forces act only at very short distances, and are responsible for the interactions between subatomic particles including nucleons and compound nuclei. The electromagnetic force acts between electric charges and the gravitational force acts between masses. All other forces are based on the existence of the four fundamental interactions. For example, friction is a manifestation of the electromagnetic force acting between the atoms of two surfaces, and the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which does not allow atoms to pass through each other. The forces in springs, modeled by Hooke's law, are also the result of electromagnetic forces and the Exclusion Principle acting together to return the object to its equilibrium position. Centrifugal forces are acceleration forces which arise simply from the acceleration of rotating frames of reference.
The development of fundamental theories for forces proceeded along the lines of unification of disparate ideas. For example, Isaac Newton unified the force responsible for objects falling at the surface of the Earth with the force responsible for the orbits of celestial mechanics in his universal theory of gravitation. Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell demonstrated that electric and magnetic forces were unified through one consistent theory of electromagnetism. In the 20th century, the development of quantum mechanics led to a modern understanding that the first three fundamental forces (all except gravity) are manifestations of matter (fermions) interacting by exchanging virtual particles called gauge bosons. This standard model of particle physics posits a similarity between the forces and led scientists to predict the unification of the weak and electromagnetic forces in electroweak theory subsequently confirmed by observation. The complete formulation of the standard model predicts an as yet unobserved Higgs mechanism, but observations such as neutrino oscillations indicate that the standard model is incomplete. A grand unified theory allowing for the combination of the electroweak interaction with the strong force is held out as a possibility with candidate theories such as supersymmetry proposed to accommodate some of the outstanding unsolved problems in physics. Physicists are still attempting to develop self-consistent unification models that would combine all four fundamental interactions into a theory of everything. Einstein tried and failed at this endeavor, but currently the most popular approach to answering this question is string theory.
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