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

    boneh3ad

    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.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted



Similar Discussions: How do conservative forces conserve mechanical energy?
Loading...