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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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 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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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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In the Lennard-Jones potential, why does the attractive part (dispersion) have an $r^{-6}$ dependence?

The Lennard-Jones potential has the form: $$U(r) = 4\epsilon\left[ \left(\frac{\sigma}{r}\right)^{12} - \left(\frac{\sigma}{r}\right)^{6} \right]$$ The (attractive) $r^{-6}$ term describes the ...
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Why does acceleration seem not to be the gradient of gravitational potential?

Consider a spherically symmetric distribution of density $\rho(r)$. We can define the mass enclosed within each radius $r$ using $\frac{dM(r)}{dr} = 4\pi r^2 \rho(r)$, with the condition that $M(r=0) ...
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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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Origins of many-particle interactions

The internal potential energy of an $N$ particle system is a general function of the coordinates of the particles: $U(r_1,...,r_N)$. In some approximations and expansions - e.g. virial expansion - it ...
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Direction of rotation of proton in magnetic field--opposite to a dipole

Chatroom created by @pcr for discussing this: http://chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/2824/direction-of-rotation-of-proton-in-magnetic-field Here's a small paradoxical question I was asked a long ...
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204 views

What do we mean when we talk about Gibbs Free Energy?

Before I start, I'm aware that this question may be better suited on the Chemistry or Biology site, but it's my belief that physicists are more likely to have a clear understanding on what certain ...
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Does potential energy in gravitationall field increase mass?

I was just taught (comments) that any type of energy contributes to mass of the object. This must indeed include potential energy in gravitational field. But here, things cease to make sense, have a ...
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464 views

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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About mass defect

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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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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1answer
213 views

Orbital mechanics and rocketry: Is it ever a good idea to intentionally lower periapsis?

tl;dr: Hohmann Transfer appears to be the optimal way to achieve a circular-to-circular orbit, but is it possible to lower the periapsis in order to achieve a more elliptical orbit with apoapsis at ...
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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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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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1answer
295 views

Physics of every-day life: rotating bag of tea

Whilst studying for my physics courses, I like to drink tea. Today, I noticed that if you pull a bag of tea out of a hot cup of water, it gradually starts to rotate, picking up speed as time ...
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400 views

Energy Gain with capacitor?

I have a question about energy gain in capacitors. Assume the following system: As the electron gets accelerated inside the capacitor, it will have more kinetic energy coming out than going in. But ...
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Gravitational potential outside Lagrangian points or Lagrange points

The diagram in Why are L4 and L5 lagrangian points stable? shows that the gravitational potential decreases outside the ring of Lagrange points — this image shows it even more clearly: If I ...
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Particle coming across a step potential barrier

My quantum mechanics textbook says that when a particle (in the classical case) comes across a potential-step barrier of finite height, if it has sufficient energy to surmount the barrier, it will ...
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1answer
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What does energy represent in $E= mc^2$?

Due to energy-mass equivalence, any object with mass can be said to have a corresponding amount of energy. So in a 5kg object there are 450,000,000,000 joules. A joule as i understand it is the ...
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What is the energy required to create mass of m at a height of h above the Earth?

What is the energy required to create mass of m at a height of h above the Earth? Is it $E= m c ^2$ or $E = mc ^ 2 + mgh$ ? Let's reverse the process also. If you convert mass $m$ at $h = 0$ to ...
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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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Potential energy of a spring

I'm puzzled about the potential energy of a spring. A spring is a conservative system. So the potential energy should be defined only up to a constant -- can be defined to be 0 anywhere. However, ...
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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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What exactly is ''electric energy''?

If the two fundamental types of energy are kinetic and potential energy, is electric energy simply the kinetic energy of charge carriers? Also, is the statement "A cell converts chemical potential ...
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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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Sea surfer position displacement

Waves are means by which the energy propagates through a medium (e.g., sea water). This is not associated with a net movement of water in the direction of wave propagation. If this is the case, then ...
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electrical potential energy stored in vacumm for a single point charge?

I have come to know the electrostatic potential energy in vacuum is given by $${\frac{1}{2}} \epsilon_0\int d^3x {E^2} $$ and this energy is due to the mutual electrostatic coulomb potential energy. ...
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speed of sound and the potential energy of an ideal gas; Goldstein derivation

I am looking the derivation of the speed of sound in Goldstein's Classical Mechanics (sec. 11-3, pp. 356-358, 1st ed). In order to write down the Lagrangian, he needs the kinetic and potential ...
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Rubber Band Forces

I have a question regarding the force a band places on an object. Say I have a rubber band wrapped around 2 pegs at a certain distance, and at that distance I know the pounds of force per inch it is ...
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Hamiltonian function for classical hard-sphere elastic collision

I'm trying to find the Hamiltonian function for a system consisting of a single particle in one dimension colliding elastically with a wall at x = 0. Everything I've read on the topic (e.g. this ...
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How do you know which way to choose the limits of an integral?

I am reading http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/I_13.html#Ch13-S4 In the beginning of equation 13.18, in which Mr. Feynman calculates the potential energy of an object outside a spherical shell, ...
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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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The “stationary potential energy” condition for static equilibrium in mechanical systems

I've often read that, for a mechanical system which can be described by $n$ generalized coordinates $q_1,...,q_n$, a point $\mathbf{Q}=(Q_1,...,Q_n)$ is a point of equilibrium if and only if the ...
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1answer
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In $\textbf{f} = -\boldsymbol{\nabla} u$, what is $u$?

I know that force is the negative gradient of the potential: $$\textbf{f} = -\boldsymbol{\nabla} u$$ where force $\textbf{f}$ is a vector and $u$ is a scalar. This is a relatively soft question, ...
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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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What is the mathematical definition of work?

I'm looking for the pure mathematical definition of work, but I haven't yet learned line integrals. My book says that the work due to a force ${\bf F}$ from point $A$ to point $B$ is $$ W= |AB|\cdot ...
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Why do organisms accumulate potential energy?

I can understand that animals need some battaries to run. But, we learn that plants serve like batteries for animals because they accumulate the sun energy in the first place! You can eat them or burn ...
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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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Potential energy of a rotating bar

I have a bar of length $L$, mass $m$, and negligible width. The bar can rotate along an axis through its center of mass (the rotation is in the $x$-$y$ plane), and also can move up and down (in the ...
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How do I correctly express the work required to put an object with positive buoyancy down into a certain depth (of water)?

It seems to me that I can express the work required to put an object under water in the same way that I express lifting an object up against gravity. I. e., in both cases I increase the potential ...
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storing energy (as mass)

When chemical energy is released mass is reduced, if only by a negligible amount. Presumably that's true for all energy. And presumably that works in reverse as well: storing energy involves an ...
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Internal potential energy and relative distance of the particle

Today, I read a line in Goldstein Classical mechanics and got confused about one line. To satisfy the strong law of action and reaction, $V_{ij}$ can be a function only of the distance between ...
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1answer
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Where does energy in a field come from?

Let us consider for example Earth's gravitational field. If we put a ball somewhere in this field, the ball starts to accelerate due to the gravitational force exerted on it. I understand the ...
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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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Trying to understand Laplace's equation

I'm struggling here so please excuse if I'm writing nonsense. I understand that the gravitational potential field, a scalar field, is given by $$\phi=\frac{-Gm}{r}$$ where $\phi$ is the ...
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What is the mathematical justification for the quadratic approximation to the energy of a spring in a one-dimensional lattice?

It follows easily from this draw, the length $l$ of this spring as a function of the vertical distance $x$, as $l(x)=\sqrt{1+x^{2}}$ Now, $l$ can be expressed as a MacLaurin expansion: $$l(x) = ...
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Why do hydrogen atoms attract?

That is, why is the potential energy with the orbitals overlapping less than with the Hydrogen atoms 'independent'. Similarly, why is a noble gas configuration stabler than if an electron were to be ...
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About constructing potential energy functions

There are many classical systems with different potential functions. My problem is that I do not understand how one can construct a certain potential function for a certain system. Are there any ...