The Weakest Force

Last night, Rachel had a going away thing at the bar she works at, and it happened to also be trivia night, so the group of us teamed up and prepared to dominate. (Spoiler: we didn’t.) It was fun, but we ran into a dispute:

Question: “What is the weakest force?”

My immediate response was “Van der Waals/London dispersion”. (In retrospect, I realize they’re not exactly the same, but at trivia night at a bar, that should be close enough.) In any event, in the end, when he was reading through the answers, he said he was skeptical, but what he had written down was gravity.

Immediately I screamed out in opposition, and thankfully the table behind us was also filled with nerds because we united in screaming Van der Waaaaaaaaaaaaaals!!! So there are the four fundamental forces:


The more I think about this, the more physics-type stuff we’re getting into, and the less comfortable I am, but I still feel I’m right. Intermolecular forces fall into electrostatic, so electromagnetic. Wikipedia says that electromagnetic forces are 1038 times stronger than gravity, but there are different classes of electromagnetic interactions, with Van der Waals being the weakest, right?

I guess if they wanted the weakest class of forces it would be gravity… I dunno. I’m not so confident anymore, but I’d love if someone would come clear this up for me.