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Homework Help: Mastering physics help Gravitational Potential Energy

  1. Nov 17, 2004 #1
    can anyone help me with this problem
    A shaft is drilled from the surface to the center of the earth. Make the rather unrealistic assumption that the density of the earth is uniform. With this approximation, the gravitational force on an object with mass m, that is inside the earth at a distance r from the center, has magnitude Fg=G*me*m*r/(re^3) and points toward the center of the earth.
    Q: a) Derive an expression for the gravitational potential energy U(r) of the object-and-earth system as a function of the object's distance from the center of the earth. Take the potential energy to be zero when the object is at the center of the earth
    b) If an object is released in the shaft at the earth's surface, what speed will it have when it reaches the center of the earth?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 17, 2004 #2
    Hi, as far as part (a) is concerned, think that the gravitational potential will only be influenced by whatever portion of the earth that is below you, the outside will cancel out. This is already shown in you expression for the force and from there you should be able to get something . You can also think of the general formulation of the gravitational potential in terms of G, M and r and then just plug in the varying M(r). As far as part (b), there's an easy ways and a hard one, the hard one involves calculating accelerations and other stuff, and the other way (so much simpler) is just to think of the conservation of mechanical energy (U_i + KE_i = U_f + KE_f). That should get you through.
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