# Tagged Questions

Potential energy is the energy of a body or a system due to the position of the body or the arrangement of the particles of the system.

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### Is it possible to prove that planets should be approximately spherical using the calculus of variations?

Is it possible to use the Lagrangian formalism involving physical terms to answer the question of why all planets are approximately spherical? Lets assume that a planet is 'born' when lots of ...
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### What is potential energy truly?

I have a problematic question for which I have been unable to attain a satisfactory answer. What is potential energy truly? - I have read about how potential energy can be seen as the "highering" ...
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### Shape of a string/chain/cable/rope/wire?

The height of a string in a gravitational field in 2-dimensions is bounded by $h(x_0)=h(x_l)=0$ (nails in the wall) and also $\int_0^l ds= l$. ($h(0)=h(l)=0$, if you take $h$ as a function of arc ...
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### Why does a system try to minimize potential energy?

In mechanics problems, especially one-dimensional ones, we talk about how a particle goes in a direction to minimize potential energy. This is easy to see when we use cartesian coordinates: For ...
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### Why is potential energy negative when orbiting in a gravitational field?

I had to do a problem, and part of it was to find the mechanical energy of satellite orbiting around mars, and I had all of the information I needed. I thought the total mechanical energy would be the ...
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### Potential Energy in General Relativity

I often hear about how general relativity is very complicated because of all forms of energy are considered, including gravitation's own gravitational binding energy. I have two questions: In ...
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### Why is gravitational potential energy negative, and what does that mean?

I usually think of gravitational potential energy as representing just what it sounds like: the energy that we could potentially gain, using gravity. However, the equation for it (derived by ...
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### Is there really no meaning in potential energy and potential?

I have been told all my physics life that potential energy between two mass/charge has no meaning and only their difference has meaning. The same goes for electric potential, only the difference ...
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### Why are L4 and L5 lagrangian points stable?

This diagram from wikipedia shows the gravitational potential energy of the sun-earth two body system, and demonstrates clearly the semi-stability of the L1, L2, and L3 lagrangian points. The blue ...
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### Why should Conservative forces have their curl equal to zero?(intuition)

There are several conditions that must be met in order for a force to be conservative. One of them is that the curl of that force must be equal to zero? What is the physical intuition behind this? If ...
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### Point charge potential (sign problem)

I'm a bit embarrassed, but I'm not able to compute the electric potential at point $P$ (at a distance $R$ from the origin) generated by a positive unitary point charge in the origin with the right ...
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### How is potential energy actually stored in a steel spring at the atomic level?

Elasticity is one the most intriguing phenomena, wiki gives a summary explanation of what happens in a steel spring: the atomic lattice changes size and shape when forces are applied (energy is ...
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### Potential energy in Special Relativity

In Special Relativity, the energy of a free particle is $E^2=p^2c^2+m^2c^4$. But what would be the energy when there is potential energy? If it's something like $E=\sqrt{p^2c^2+m^2c^4}+U$, what ...
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### Does contracted spring weigh more than stretched one?

(One of examples that potential energy contributes to mass.) Does hot object weigh more than cold one? (One of examples that kinetic energy contributes to mass.) If these are true and justified by ...
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### Can energy be created and destroyed?

The indroduction of the principle of conservation of mechanical energy has been tremendously useful from the practical point of view. But .. Consider the case in which we shoot an electron up in the ...
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### Has $E=mc^2$ been experimentally verified for macroscopic objects with potential energy?

In relation to this question: What is potential energy truly?, I'm wondering if $E=mc^2$ has been experimentally verified to hold true for macroscopic objects with increased potential energy? I'm ...
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### Deriving the Lorentz force from velocity dependent potential

We can achieve a simplified version of the Lorentz force by $$F=q\bigg[-\nabla(\phi-\mathbf{A}\cdot\mathbf{v})-\frac{d\mathbf{A}}{dt}\bigg],$$ where $\mathbf{A}$ is the magnetic vector potential and ...
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### Potential energy in $E_f^2=(mc^2)^2+(pc)^2$?

Let's consider $$E_f^2=(mc^2)^2+(pc)^2$$ where the $mc^2$ is the rest energy due to the rest mass -- in Finnish "lepomassa". $$\sqrt{(mc^2)^2+(pc)^2} - mc^2~=~(\gamma-1)mc^2$$ is the kinetic ...
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### A confusion regarding an example in The Feynman Lectures

In The Feynman Lectures, In the chapter entitled Work and potential energy, Feynman states: The work done in going around any path in a gravitational field is zero. This is a very remarkable ...
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### How does a sponge “suck” up water against gravity?

If I take a sponge and place it in a shallow dish of water (i.e. water level is lower than height of sponge), it absorbs water until the sponge is wet, including a portion of the sponge above the ...
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Here's how my book explains mass defect: Particles inside the nucleus interact with each other - they feel attraction. The potential energy $U$ of such attraction is negative, because in absence ...
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### Electrostatic energy integral for point charges

The electric energy stored in a system of two point charges $Q_1$ and $Q_2$ is simply $$W = \frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0}\frac{Q_1Q_2}{a}$$ where $a$ is the distance between them. However, the total ...
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### Does the mass of an object change as it moves away from the earth?

The mass of a helium nucleus is less than the mass of two isolated protons and two isolated neutrons. When the component hadrons are assembled, this mass is lost as energy ($E=mc^2$). This makes it (...
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### Why does $\omega = \sqrt{V''(x_0) / m}$?

I know that in an equation such that $$\ddot{x} + \omega^2x = 0,$$ the angular frequency $= \omega$. But why is that ever $\sqrt{V''(x_0) / m}$? (where $x_0$ is the equilibrium point). I just saw ...
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### System of potential energy

Is potential energy calculated between a system? More specifically, if we say 'potential energy of a ball with respect to earth', does it mean that the Earth + the ball is a system?
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### What maintains constant voltage in a battery?

I know there's lots of questions that address similar situations, (Batteries connected in Parallel, Batteries and fields?, Naive Question About Batteries, and the oft-viewed I don't understand ...
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### Coincidence, purposeful definition, or something else in formulas for energy

In the small amount of physics that I have learned thus far, there seems to be a (possibly superficial pattern) that I have been wondering about. The formula for the kinetic energy of a moving ...
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### Actual meaning of “Gravitational Potential”?

In a gravitational field, the gravitational force acting on a body (of mass m) at a point x metres away from the attracting body (of mass M) is $\frac{GMm}{x^2}$. Integrating this force from a point ...
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### Confusion with Grounded Conductor: bringing in a point from infinity

Suppose, for sake of argument, we have a spherical grounded conductor at the origin. Additionally, let our reference voltage be at infinity. Now, I view the potential of a point in space as being the ...
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### Potential energy curve for intermolecular distance

I'm trying to understand this curve better, but I can't quite figure out what "negative potential energy" means. The graph should describe a molecule oscillating between $A$ and $B$, however where I'...
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### Is quantum tunneling related to imaginary time?

I was studying for my exam and looking at the chapter which talks about Potential-energy graphs. Let's take this as an example: My book states that: "If the object is in $B$ and has a total energy ...
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### What can be known about the formulas for energy only from the fact that it is conserved?

The question is to figure out how the energy can be derived knowing just one thing: There is a quantity called Energy that is conserved over time. The goal is to get an equation that somehow ...
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### Mass in special relativity?

Is the mass of a object at rest defined by $$E=mc^2$$ where $m$ is the rest mass. I.e. does the rest mass include every thing from thermal to gravitational potential energy and every other possible ...
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### What has the potential energy: the spring or the body on the spring?

Particles have gravitational potential energy due to its position in the gravitational field. We say the particle has potential energy and not the Earth (the body doing the work). Why is it not the ...
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### Potential energy sign conventions

Almost every book on physics that I read have some weird and non-clear explanations regarding the potential energy. Ok, I do understand that if we integrate a force over some path, we'll get a ...
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### Mechanical Equivalent of Heat

Recently I have been looking up James Joule's experiment regarding the mechanical equivalent of heat. After viewing some drawings of the apparatus, I assumed that the lines holding the weights would ...
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### what is the 2D gravity potential?

In 3D, I can calculate the total force due to gravity acting on a point on the surface of the unit sphere of constant density, where I choose units so that all physical constants (as well as the ...
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### Why can't the work done by a non-conservative force be zero?

Why can't the work done by a non-conservative force be zero? The displacement along a closed path is always zero. So, whatever be the type of force, variable or constant, the work has to be zero. Why ...
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### Electricity & Magnetism - Is an electric field infinite?

The inverse square law for an electric field is: $$E = \frac{Q}{4\pi\varepsilon_{0}r^2}$$ Here: $$\frac{Q}{\varepsilon_{0}}$$ is the source strength of the charge. It is the point charge divided ...
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### Electrostatic Potential Energy Derivation

How is the boxed step , physically as well as mathematically justified and correct ? Source:Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_potential_energy As work done = $- \Delta U$. for Conservative ...
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### While holding an object, no work done but costs energy (in response to a similar question)

I read the answer to Why does holding something up cost energy while no work is being done? and wanting to know more, I asked my teacher about it without telling him what I read here. Instead of ...
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### Sign of Work and potential energy in electrostatics

Conceptual question: Suppose we have a configuration of point charges. If the potential of the energy of the system is negative, this means work is positive. I'm kind of rusty with my mechanics, ...
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### Charging by induction

When we charge an conductor by induction and grounding, we first bring a negative charge to the conductor. As a result the mobile electrons of the conductor get repelled and stay far from the negative ...
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### What is potential energy in special relativity?

I know what is rest energy $E_0=m_0 c^2$, total energy $E=\gamma E_0$, kinetic energy $E- E_0=(\gamma-1) E_0$, and momentum $p=\gamma m_0 c$. But what is potential energy in special relativity?
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### Feynman Lectures: Why a non-reversible weight lifting machine cannot lift higher that a reversible one?

Consider weight-lifting machinesâ€”machines which have the property that they lift one weight by lowering another. Let us also make a hypothesis: that there is no such thing as perpetual motion with ...
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### Locally every force admits a potential?

I have a little doubt about a force being or not conservative. Well, as I understood, some forces cannot be expressed as exterior derivative of some scalar potential because the work done by the force ...
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### Gravitational binding energy and integrated potential energy not the same?

Before looking up the formula for the gravitational binding energy of a uniform sphere, I simply figured that the general formula for binding energy of an arbitrarily-shaped mass distribution would be ...
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### Energy stored in a clothespin spring (non linear spring)

I was wondering how one would go about figuring out the energy stored in a spring in a clothespin. When opened the spring is deformed, but I don't have any intuition for why it gets stronger with ...