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Elementary_Mechanics_and_Thermodynamics_-_J._Norbury

Elementary_Mechanics_and_Thermodynamics_-_J._Norbury

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11/21/2012

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Now we know that

F = m a and so work can be written

W =

rf
ri


F ·d r = m

rf
ri

a·d r

where m is taken outside the integral because it’s a constant. Let’s just
consider 1-dimension to make things easier. Thus

W =

xf
xi

F dx = m

xf
xi

adx

Now use an old trick.

a = dv

dt = dv
dx

dx

dt

using the chain rule for derivatives. But v = dx

dt, giving

a = dv

dxv

= vdv
dx

Thus

W = m

xf
xi

adx = m

xf
xi

vdv

dxdx

= m

vf
vi

vdv

= m

1

2v2

vf
vi

= 1

2mv2

f − 1

2mv2

i

Notice that we have found that the work is equal to the change in the
quantity 1

2mv2

. We give this a special name and call it Kinetic Energy

K ≡ 1

2mv2

Thus we have found that W = Kf −Ki or

W = ∆K

The total work is always equal to the change in kinetic energy. Kinetic
energy is the energy of motion. If m is large and v small, or m is small and

6.2. KINETIC ENERGY

93

v large the kinetic energy in both cases will be comparable. Note also that

K must have the same units as W, namely Joule.
What happens when we do work on an object? Well if you lift up an
object, you increase its Potential energy (more about that in a moment). If
you work on an object you can also increase its kinetic energy. If you push a
marble on a table its speed will increase and so you have changed its kinetic
energy.

Example A sled of mass m is stationary on some frictionless
ice. If I push the sled with a force of F over a distance ∆x, what
will be the speed of the sled ?

Solution The force is constant and is 1-dimension, so

W = F ∆x = ∆K = Kf −Ki

= 1

2mv2

f − 1

2mv2

i

Now vi = 0, giving

F ∆x = 1

2mv2

f

or

vf =

2F ∆x
m

The neat thing is that we can get exactly the same answer with our old
methods, as the next example shows.

94CHAPTER 6. POTENTIAL ENERGY & CONSERVATION OF ENERGY

Example Work out the previous example using the constant ac-
celeration equations.

Solution The acceleration is just

a = F
m

The constant acceleration equation that helps us is

v2

= v2

0 + 2a(x−x0)

Now x−x0 = ∆x m and v0 = 0 giving

v =

2a(x−x0)

=

2F ∆x
m

which is the same answer as the previous example.

6.2. KINETIC ENERGY

95

In the previous two examples notice how the equation

W = F∆x = 1

2mv2

f − 1

2mv2

i

is equivalent to

v2

= v2

0 + 2a(x−x0)

Modify this to

1
2v2

= 1

2v2

0 +a(x−x0)

1
2v2

= 1

2v2

0 +a∆x

1
2mv2

= 1

2mv2

0 +ma∆x

= 1

2mv2

0 +F∆x

or

F∆x = 1

2mv2

− 1

2mv2

0

= ∆K

as we have above !

Thus the work-energy formulation provides an alternative approach to

mechanics.

96CHAPTER 6. POTENTIAL ENERGY & CONSERVATION OF ENERGY

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