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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


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    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.
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