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mush64

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I was assigned to work on teaching a unit about energy; for the most part, it stays relatively consistent and can be solved algebraically.

Another topic in this unit is Potential Energy Curves, which I understand for the most part: you can derive the force of an object by taking the negative derivative of a potential energy equation, and from there you can identify points of equilibrium while also using conservation of energy to solve for the speed of a particle.

However, while devising a few examples to explain this, the ones that I found all end up having a negative potential energy, and once I went through the class, I wasn't able to explain why this really occurred, because I myself couldn't figure it out either. I've read a few older forums trying to explain this, but it's just not clicking with me.

I understand that reference points can be relative in regards to energy, but in these examples, the total energy is also negative. How can there be a negative potential energy in the first place, and how would it even be possible to have negative total energy, especially is energy is technically defined as a scalar quantity with no direction.

I would really appreciate it if somebody could go into this concept a little bit more in depth.

Thank you!