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Potential energy of a system is the energy possessed by the system by virtue of the configuration of different elements with respect to one another. It can be given any arbitrary value, by adding or subtracting a constant value.

But can we do the same to kinetic energy? Is it possible to add a constant to the definition of kinetic energy?


I'm not asking for opinions on whether it would make things simple or complicated. Rather the whole point of this question is to ask for elaboration of the degree of freedom we get while defining kinetic energy.

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But can we do the same to kinetic energy? Is it possible to add a constant to the definition of kinetic energy?

Yes, that is done by choosing your reference frame. Just as your choice of ground sets the zero position for voltage, your choice of reference frame sets the zero velocity for kinetic energy

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    $\begingroup$ Understood, thanks! I was initially thinking that we can modify the structure of the kinetic energy equation (like from $\frac 12 mv^2$ to something else.) $\endgroup$
    – user249968
    Sep 24 '20 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ @JohanLiebert You can modify equations all you want, you just won't be talking about kinetic energy anymore. It's not like there first was "kinetic energy" and then we needed to figure out a definition for it. $\endgroup$ Sep 24 '20 at 3:23

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