Path independence of energy change

Path independence of changes in potential energy.

Gravitation is often the context for conservation of energy problems on comprehensive exams. The work a conservative force performs on an object in moving it from A to B is does not depend on the path. Gravity is a conservative force. With gravitation, the work does not depend on the path taken. It depends only on the end points of the motion.

Let's talk about an important consequence. If the work performed were not path independent, a circular path could be conceived which would dissipate energy, but on the contrary, because gravity is a conservative force, any path which ends in the same initial position must necessary result in no change in potential energy state. This means that for an isolated gravitational system, the total energy must be be the same everywhere. And because or an initial state has both kinetic and potential energy, this total energy value gives the total of the kinetic energy plus the potential energy for all other possible states, regardless of the path between states, as long as only gravitational force is involved.












The WikiPremed MCAT Course is a comprehensive course in the undergraduate level general sciences. Undergraduate level physics, chemistry, organic chemistry and biology are presented by this course as a unified whole within a spiraling curriculum. Please read our policies on Privacy and Shipping & Returns.  Contact Us. MCAT is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which does not endorse the WikiPremed Course. WikiPremed offers the customers of our publications or our teaching services no guarantees regarding eventual performance on the MCAT.


Creative Commons License
WikiPremed is a trademark of Wisebridge Learning Systems LLC. The work of WikiPremed is published under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike License. There are elements of work here, such as a subset of the images in the archive from WikiPedia, that originated as GNU General Public License works, so take care to follow the unique stipulations of that license in printed reproductions.