Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Work done by a force field

  1. Mar 3, 2004 #1
    Find the work done by the force field F in moving an object from P to Q.

    F(x,y) = (x^2)(y^3)i + (x^3)(y^2)j
    P(0,0) Q(2,1)

    so i need to integrate the gradient dot dr right?
    how do i do that?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 3, 2004 #2
    You can't do the gradient dot dr. dr is a vector, whereas the gradient is a scalar.

    You're looking for a line integral.


  4. Mar 3, 2004 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    WHAT?? Of course, the gradient is a vector! The "gradient" of the scalar function f(x,y) is defined as the vector fxi+ fyj. Wakingrufus was referring to vector quantity F(x,y) = (x^2)(y^3)i + (x^3)(y^2)j AS a gradient, not taking the gradient of it. (At least I hope not!)

    Yes, you could do this by picking some arbitrary path from P to Q (straight line might be easy), since the problem did not give you one. If this is not a "conservative" force field then the work depends on the path and there is not enough information.

    Assuming that this a good problem and the force field is conservative, then a simpler way to do this is to find the potential (the function f so that this vector is the gradient of f).

    Such a function would have to have fx= x2y[/sup]3[/sup] and fy= x3y2.
    From fx= x2y[/sup]3[/sup], f(x,y)= (1/3)x3y3+ g(y) (Since differentiating wrt x treats y as a constant). Differentiating that, fy= x3y2+ g' and that must be equal to x3y2. Okay, that just tells us g is a constant so the "potential function" (really and anti-derivative) is (1/3)x3y3+ C
    Evaluate that at P and Q and subtract.
  5. Mar 3, 2004 #4
    thank you. yes it is conservative. i forgot to mention that i guess.
  6. Mar 3, 2004 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Actually, I checked that it was "conservative" (REAL mathematicians would say "exact differential"!) before I did the problem:
    The derivative of x2y3 with respect to y is
    3x2y2 and the derivative of x3y2 with respect to y is 3x2y[/sup]. Those are the same so the differential is "exact".
  7. Mar 4, 2004 #6
    Heh, heh, heh... cookiemonster's confusing himself again. Oops?

    Mixed up gradient and divergence. Was thinking [itex]\nabla[/itex] applied to a vector (which, little to my credit, is a scalar...).

    Moral of the day: read slower and think more. Sorry about that. Please excuse me while I jump off a bridge.

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

Have something to add?
Similar Discussions: Work done by a force field