1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Homework Help: Gravitational potential

  1. Nov 10, 2014 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    2. Relevant equations
    g = G*M / r^2, where g is the gravitational field strength, G is the gravitational constant, M is the mass of the attracting body, r is the distance from the center of mass of the body.
    V = -G*M / r, where V is the gravitational potential.

    3. The attempt at a solution
    For the gravitational field strength, as P is at a midpoint, we can say that r is 1/2*r, and as the masses are also equal, G*M / 1/2*r^2 = G*M / 1/2*r^2 (as they are equal, and in opposite directions), and they will simply cancel to 0. Therefore, it can't be A or B.

    For gravitational potential, again, the masses are equal, and r is 1/2*r, so -GM / 1/2*r = -GM / 1/2*r, they will again cancel to 0. However, the answer is apparently C, where gravitational potential is -4G*M / r? I can't see why.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 10, 2014 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    2017 Award

    In V = -G*M / r there are no vectors, only scalars. r is a distance in this formula.

    (dividing by a vector is awkward....)
  4. Nov 10, 2014 #3
    I see, so then you're left with -2GM / r + -2GM / r, my mistake.
  5. Nov 10, 2014 #4


    User Avatar
    2017 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    The problem statement should clarify that the potential "at infinity" is defined as zero. Otherwise the question is ambiguous - you can always add a constant value to the potential without changing physics.
    Using this, you can rule out answer (D) simply from the fact that an object there would need energy to escape, therefore the potential there cannot be zero.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted