A noninertial reference frame is a frame of reference that is undergoing acceleration with respect to an inertial frame.^{[1]} An accelerometer at rest in a noninertial frame will in general detect a nonzero acceleration, and in a curved spacetime all frames are noninertial. The laws of motion in noninertial frames do not take the simple form they do in inertial frames, and the laws vary from frame to frame depending on the acceleration.^{[2]}^{[3]} To explain the motion of bodies entirely within the viewpoint of noninertial reference frames, fictitious forces (also called inertial forces, pseudoforces^{[4]} and d'Alembert forces) must be introduced to account for the observed motion, such as the Coriolis force or the centrifugal force, as derived from the acceleration of the noninertial frame. ^{[5]} As stated by Goodman and Warner, "One might say that F ma holds in any coordinate system provided the term 'force' is redefined to include the socalled 'reversed effective forces' or 'inertia forces'."^{[6]}
Avoiding fictitious forces in calculations
In flat spacetime, the use of noninertial frames can be avoided if desired. Measurements with respect to noninertial reference frames can always be transformed to an inertial frame, incorporating directly the acceleration of the noninertial frame as that acceleration is seen from the inertial frame.^{[7]} This approach avoids use of fictitious forces (it is based on an inertial frame, where fictitious forces are absent, by definition) but it may be less convenient from an intuitive, observational, and even a calculational viewpoint.^{[8]} As pointed out by Ryder for the case of rotating frames as used in meteorology:^{[9]}
Detection of a noninertial frame: need for fictitious forces
That a given frame is noninertial can be detected by its need for fictitious forces to explain observed motions.^{[10]}^{[11]}^{[12]}^{[13]}^{[14]} For example, the rotation of the Earth can be observed using a Foucault pendulum.^{[15]} The rotation of the Earth seemingly causes the pendulum to change its plane of oscillation (which plane actually is fixed in space) because the surroundings of the pendulum move with the Earth. As seen from an Earthbound (noninertial) frame of reference, the explanation of this apparent change in orientation requires the introduction of the fictitious Coriolis force.
Another famous example is that of the tension in the string between two spheres rotating about each other.^{[16]}^{[17]} In that case, prediction of the measured tension in the string based upon the motion of the spheres as observed from a rotating reference frame requires the rotating observers to introduce a fictitious centrifugal force.
In this connection, it may be noted that a change in coordinate system, for example, from Cartesian to polar, if implemented without any change in relative motion, does not cause the appearance of fictitious forces, despite the fact that the form of the laws of motion varies from one type of curvilinear coordinate system to another.
Fictitious forces in curvilinear coordinates
A different use of the term "fictitious force" often is used in curvilinear coordinates, particularly polar coordinates. To avoid confusion, this distracting ambiguity in terminologies is pointed out here. These socalled "forces" are nonzero in all frames of reference, inertial or noninertial, and do not transform as vectors under rotations and translations of the coordinates (as all Newtonian forces do, fictitious or otherwise).
This incompatible use of the term "fictitious force" is unrelated to noninertial frames. These socalled "forces" are defined by determining the acceleration of a particle within the curvilinear coordinate system, and then separating the simple doubletime derivatives of coordinates from the remaining terms. These remaining terms then are called "fictitious forces". More careful usage calls these terms "generalized fictitious forces" to indicate their connection to the generalized coordinates of Lagrangian mechanics. The application of Lagrangian methods to polar coordinates can be found here.
Relativistic point of view
Frames and flat spacetime
If a region of spacetime is declared to be Euclidean, and effectively free from obvious gravitational fields, then if an accelerated coordinate system is overlaid onto the same region, it can be said that a uniform fictitious field exists in the accelerated frame (we reserve the word gravitational for the case in which a mass is involved). An object accelerated to be stationary in the accelerated frame will "feel" the presence of the field, and they will also be able to see environmental matter with inertial states of motion (stars, galaxies, etc.) to be apparently falling "downwards" in the field along curved trajectories as if the field is real.
In framebased descriptions, this supposed field can be made to appear or disappear by switching between "accelerated" and "inertial" coordinate systems.
More advanced descriptions
As the situation is modeled in finer detail, using the general principle of relativity, the concept of a framedependent gravitational field becomes less realistic. In these Machian models, the accelerated body can agree that the apparent gravitational field is associated with the motion of the background matter, but can also claim that the motion of the material as if there is a gravitational field, causes the gravitational field  the accelerating background matter "drags light". Similarly, a background observer can argue that the forced acceleration of the mass causes an apparent gravitational field in the region between it and the environmental material (the accelerated mass also "drags light"). This "mutual" effect, and the ability of an accelerated mass to warp lightbeam geometry and lightbeambased coordinate systems, is referred to as framedragging.
Framedragging removes the usual distinction between accelerated frames (which show gravitational effects) and inertial frames (where the geometry is supposedly free from gravitational fields). When a forciblyaccelerated body physically "drags" a coordinate system, the problem becomes an exercise in warped spacetime for all observers.
See also
References and notes
be: cs:Neinerci ln vzta n soustava es:Sistema de referencia no inercial fr:R f rentiel non inertiel it:Sistema di riferimento non inerziale pl:Nieinercjalny uk ad odniesienia pt:Referencial n o inercial ru: sk:Neinerci lna vz a n s stava
