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7-2 Work

If you accelerate an object to a greater speed by applying a force to the object, you increase the kinetic energy of the object. Similarly, if you decelerate the object to a lesser speed by applying a force, you decrease the kinetic energy of the object. We account for these changes in kinetic energy by saying that your force has transferred energy to the object from yourself or from the object to yourself.

In such a transfer of energy via a force, work is said to be done on the object by the force. More formally, we define work as follows:

Work is energy transferred to or from an object by means of a force acting on the object. Energy transferred to the object is positive work, and energy transferred from the object is negative work.

"Work," then, is transferred energy; "doing work" is the act of transferring the energy. Work has the same units as energy and is a scalar quantity.

The term transfer can be misleading. It does not mean that anything material flows into or out of the object; that is, the transfer is not like a flow of water. Rather it is like the electronic transfer of money between two bank accounts: The number in one account goes up while the number in the other account goes down, with nothing material passing between the two accounts.

Note that we are not concerned here with the common meaning of the word "work," which implies that any physical or mental labor is work. For example, if you push hard against a wall, you tire because of the continuously repeated muscle contractions that are required, and you are, in the common sense, working. However, such effort does not cause an energy transfer to or from the wall and thus is not work done on the wall as defined here.

To avoid confusion in this chapter, we shall use the symbol only for work and shall represent a weight with its equivalent .

Date: 2015-01-12; view: 1175

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