Potential Energy
//Tampan//, Paminggir people. Lampung region of Sumatra, 19th century, 50 x 56 cm. From the library of Darwin Sjamsudin, Jakarta. Photograph by D Dunlop.
Tampan, Paminggir people. Lampung region of Sumatra, 19th century, 50 x 56 cm. From the library of Darwin Sjamsudin, Jakarta. Photograph by D Dunlop.

Consider a particle P that is described by its kinetic energy $K$ and mechanical energy $E$. Definition: the number $\mathcal{U} \:$ is called the total potential energy of P

$\mathcal{U} \equiv E - K$

This quantity may be posiive, negative or zero, whereas the sum of the potential and kinetic energies is always positive.

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Sensory interpretation: As discussed previously in an ideal frame of reference the kinetic energy characterizes the sensory magnitude of visual sensations. Also in an ideal frame, the mechanical energy is like the enthalpy which represents the magnitude of all classes of sensation. The potential energy is defined by the difference between mechanical and kinetic energies, and so it depends mostly on thermal sensations.
Right.png Next step: dynamic equilibrium.
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