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!

B How do conservative forces conserve mechanical energy?

  1. Aug 29, 2016 #1
    How do conservative forces exactly conserve mechanical energy while non conservative forces do not. Also why is potential energy defined only for conservative forces?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 29, 2016 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It's not so much that conservative forces do anything to conserve energy. It would be more accurate to say that a conservative force does nothing to dissipate energy. If a force field is conservative, the change in energy in moving from point A to point B is independent of the path taken. Potential energy is essentially a measure of this hypothetical change in moving from point A to point B. If the force was not conservative and the energy change was dependent on the path, then there would be no single-valued potential associated with moving from A to B since moving along different paths produces different answers, so the concept of potential energy doesn't really make sense anymore.

    This is all intimately related to the scalar potential, which is a concept that pops up in many fields in physics and is quite powerful and interesting.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted