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ZingPath: Mechanical Energy

Why Does Kinetic Energy Change?

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Mechanical Energy

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Lesson Focus

Why Does Kinetic Energy Change?


Learning Made Easy

You will discover how to perform experiments to see how gravity gives objects potential energy, and how this energy is converted to kinetic energy as the objects fall. Learn how potential energy is stored in springs, and discover the relationship between the kinetic energy of molecules and their temperature.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Explain why kinetic energy decreases on frictional surfaces.
  • Explain why the kinetic energy of a pendulum decreases during its oscillation.

Everything You'll Have Covered

When an object slides down an inclined plane, what happens to the object's kinetic energy when it reaches the bottom?

~ When an object sliding down an inclined plane reaches the bottom, its kinetic energy is converted to thermal energy by the force of friction, and the object slows and comes to a stop.

Why does the weighted object attached to a pendulum gradually stop moving as it swings from side to side?

~ The weighted object attached to a pendulum gradually stops moving as it swings from side to side because a small amount of friction slowly converts its kinetic energy into thermal energy.

What happens to the kinetic energy of this weighted object when it reaches the end of its swing?

~ When the object reaches the end of its swing, its kinetic energy is entirely converted into potential energy. This is why the object is momentarily stationary.

How does the weighted object remain in motion?

~ The weighted object on the pendulum remains in motion because of the conversion of kinetic energy to and from potential energy with very little loss to friction. Each downswing is caused by potential energy being converted to kinetic energy. During the upswing, kinetic energy is converted back to potential energy. At the end of a swing, the object's kinetic energy is entirely converted into potential energy, and the object is momentarily at rest before the next swing begins.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 2 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Students should be familiar with kinetic energy and potential energy.
Course Physics
Type of Tutorial Animation
Key Vocabulary kinetic energy, potential energy,