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  • Explain gravitational potential energy in terms of work done against gravity.
  • Show that the gravitational potential energy of an object of mass m size 12{m} {} at height h size 12{h} {} on Earth is given by PE g = mgh .
  • Show how knowledge of the potential energy as a function of position can be used to simplify calculations and explain physical phenomena.

Work done against gravity

Climbing stairs and lifting objects is work in both the scientific and everyday sense—it is work done against the gravitational force. When there is work, there is a transformation of energy. The work done against the gravitational force goes into an important form of stored energy that we will explore in this section.

Let us calculate the work done in lifting an object of mass m size 12{m} {} through a height h size 12{h} {} , such as in [link] . If the object is lifted straight up at constant speed, then the force needed to lift it is equal to its weight mg size 12{ ital "mg"} {} . The work done on the mass is then W = Fd = mgh size 12{ ital "W = Fd = mgh"} {} . We define this to be the gravitational potential energy     ( PE g ) put into (or gained by) the object-Earth system. This energy is associated with the state of separation between two objects that attract each other by the gravitational force. For convenience, we refer to this as the PE g size 12{"PE" rSub { size 8{g} } } {} gained by the object, recognizing that this is energy stored in the gravitational field of Earth. Why do we use the word “system”? Potential energy is a property of a system rather than of a single object—due to its physical position. An object’s gravitational potential is due to its position relative to the surroundings within the Earth-object system. The force applied to the object is an external force, from outside the system. When it does positive work it increases the gravitational potential energy of the system. Because gravitational potential energy depends on relative position, we need a reference level at which to set the potential energy equal to 0. We usually choose this point to be Earth’s surface, but this point is arbitrary; what is important is the difference in gravitational potential energy, because this difference is what relates to the work done. The difference in gravitational potential energy of an object (in the Earth-object system) between two rungs of a ladder will be the same for the first two rungs as for the last two rungs.

Converting between potential energy and kinetic energy

Gravitational potential energy may be converted to other forms of energy, such as kinetic energy. If we release the mass, gravitational force will do an amount of work equal to mgh size 12{ ital "mgh"} {} on it, thereby increasing its kinetic energy by that same amount (by the work-energy theorem). We will find it more useful to consider just the conversion of PE g size 12{"PE" rSub { size 8{g} } } {} to KE size 12{"KE"} {} without explicitly considering the intermediate step of work. (See [link] .) This shortcut makes it is easier to solve problems using energy (if possible) rather than explicitly using forces.

(a) The weight attached to the cuckoo clock is raised by a height h shown by a displacement vector d pointing upward. The weight is attached to a winding chain labeled with a force F vector pointing downward. Vector d is also shown in the same direction as force F. E in is equal to W and W is equal to m g h. (b) The weight attached to the cuckoo clock moves downward. E out is equal to m g h.
(a) The work done to lift the weight is stored in the mass-Earth system as gravitational potential energy. (b) As the weight moves downward, this gravitational potential energy is transferred to the cuckoo clock.

Questions & Answers

what is a half life
Mama Reply
the time taken for a radioactive element to decay by half of its original mass
ken
what is radioactive element
mohammed
Half of the total time required by a radioactive nuclear atom to totally disintegrate
Justice
radioactive elements are those with unstable nuclei(ie have protons more than neutrons, or neutrons more than protons
Justice
in other words, the radioactive atom or elements have unequal number of protons to neutrons.
Justice
state the laws of refraction
Fabian
state laws of reflection
Fabian
Why does a bicycle rider bends towards the corner when is turning?
Mac
When do we say that the stone thrown vertically up wards accelerate negatively?
Mac
Give two importance of insulator placed between plates of a capacitor.
Mac
Macho had a shoe with a big sole moving in mudy Road, shanitah had a shoe with a small sole. Give reasons for those two cases.
Mac
when was the name taken from
Biola Reply
retardation of a car
Biola
when was the name retardation taken
Biola
did you mean a motion with velocity decreases uniformly by the time? then, the vector acceleration is opposite direction with vector velocity
Sphere
Atomic transmutation
Basirat Reply
An atom is the smallest indivisible particular of an element
mosco Reply
what is an atomic
Awene Reply
reference on periodic table
Titus Reply
what Is resonance?
Mozam Reply
phenomena of increasing amplitude from normal position of a substance due to some external source.
akif
What is a black body
Amey Reply
Black body is the ideal body can absorb and emit all radiation
Ahmed
the emissivity of black body is 1. it is a perfect absorber and emitter of heat.
Busayo
Why is null measurement accurate than standard voltmeter
Neemat Reply
that is photoelectric effect ?
Sabir Reply
It is the emission of electrons when light hits a material
Anita
Yeah
yusuf
is not just a material
Neemat
it is the surface of a metal
Neemat
what is the formula for time of flight ,maxjmum height and range
agangan Reply
what is an atom
Awene
how does a lightning rod protect a building from damage due to lightning ?
Faith Reply
due to its surface lustre but due to some factors it can corrode but not easily as it lightning surface
babels
pls what is mirage
babels
light rays bend to produce a displaced image of distant objects; it's an natural & optical phenomenon......
Deepika
what is the dimensional formula for torque
Otto Reply
L2MT-2
Jolly
same units of energy
Baber
what is same units of energy?
Baber
Nm
Sphere
Ws
Sphere
CV
Sphere
M L2 T -2
Dokku
it is like checking the dimension of force. which is ML2T-2
Busayo
ML2T-2
Joshua
M L2 T-2
Samuel
what is the significance of moment of inertia?
study
an object of mass 200g moves along a circular path of radius 0.5cm with a speed of 2m/s. calculate the angular velocity ii period iii frequency of the object
Faith Reply
w = 2/(0.005) period = PIE(0.005) f = 1/(PIE(0.005)) assuming uniform motion idk..
Georgie
w=2/(0.005)×100
isaac
supposed the speed on the path is constant angular velocity w (rad/s) = v (m/s) : R (m) period T (s) = 2*Pi * R : v frequency f ( Hz) = 1: T
Sphere
a=w.w.r=mv.v/r,w=mv/r=0.2×2/0.005=80rads-s
Mac
in the pole vaulter problem, how do they established that the mass is 5.00kg? where did that number come from?
-- Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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