I'm looking for a word or phrase to describe when one is pushing quite hard (physically) to connect two objects that are repelling one another. For example, the sensation of trying hard to push two like poles of a magnet together.

Specifically, I'm looking for a way to describe the sensation of futility from when it requires a lot of force to push two things close together, and then at the end they seem to violently separate themselves.

The use of futility isn't enough though because I want to capture the sensation of seemingly getting close with a lot of effort even though there is an inevitable failure.

  • 1
    a sample sentence please – lbf May 8 '18 at 2:57
  • 'to come close to' – lbf May 8 '18 at 3:02
  • Probably too narrowly scoped. You're getting more broadly scoped answers, but this reduces your question to a duplicate, any futile task. – Edwin Ashworth May 8 '18 at 3:29

Such a futility can be termed as a fool's errand.

fool's errand: ​ an effort that is unlikely to be successful:

It's a fool's errand trying to get Lena to join in anything

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I think the word 'frustration' expresses your concept, that is to say, a desire that is being frustrated.

The action of frustrating; disappointment; defeat; an instance of this.


The OED gives the following example :

1863 ‘G. Eliot’ Romola I. ii. 40 He thrust his hand into a purse..and explored it again and again with a look of frustration.

This bears resemblance to the magnet problem, the sense of repeated attempts to do something that will never be accomplished. It reminds me of my own feeling when I have put an article down and forgotten where I put it. I keep looking in the same places, knowing it isn't there, knowing I won't find it there, but at a loss to know where else to look.

Rising levels of 'frustration' at UN climate stalemate

BBC - 1st May 2018

This quote from a news item about a summit expresses the same concept as the polarisation of the magnetic items, the frustration of the attempt to bring two parties together who are irreconcilably parted.

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  • This is ridiculously broadly scoped. – Edwin Ashworth May 8 '18 at 9:50

Magnetic resistance works in the same way that an eddy current brake works. {See the Keiser M3 Plus spin bike as an example). As the flywheel (which acts as a conductor) turns it passes through the field of two magnets this causes the resistance on the flywheel. To vary the resistance the magnets are moved closer to the flywheel and to reduce the resistance the magnets are moved away from the flywheel, The magnets do not come into contact with flywheel.

Source: Magnetic Vs Friction Resistance For Spin Bikes, Indoor Fitness, March 3, 2015

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  • OP looking for a word for 'the sensation of futility' – lbf May 8 '18 at 2:56
  • @Ibf ~ Sensation, not emotional feeling. – Bread May 8 '18 at 3:00
  • It's a fool's errand trying to join together the like poles of a magnet. – mahmud k pukayoor May 8 '18 at 3:17
  • @mahmud koya ~ I can't argue with that! :) – Bread May 8 '18 at 3:20

a hopeless task webster

incapable of solution, management, or accomplishment : impossible

a hopeless task
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It's a Sisyphean task, since (like Sisyphus in Greek mythology) you can get so close to doing it, yet in the end all your efforts are wasted, as you were doomed to fail from the start:

This term for a task that is endless and ineffective comes straight out of Greek myth.

Sisyphus was a king of Corinth, a son of Aeolus (the ruler of the winds, hence our word aeolian for something produced by or borne on the wind). In later legend he was the father of Odysseus or Ulysses. His name actually meant “crafty” in Greek: he was noted for his deception and he’s the equivalent in Greek folklore of the master trickster who turns up in many folk beliefs, such as Coyote in American Indian mythology. He even managed to cheat Death the first time around, surviving the experience to live to a ripe old age.

In Greek legend Sisyphus was punished in Hades for his misdeeds in life by being condemned eternally to roll a heavy stone up a hill. As he neared the top, the stone rolled down again, so that his labour was everlasting and futile.
World Wide Words: Sisyphean

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  • Again, too broadly scoped (Sisyphus admittedly had to do a lot of pushing, but the gravitational force is not the magnetic force). – Edwin Ashworth May 8 '18 at 9:52

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