A Propensity to Plop [Potential and Kinetic Energy]


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  • "Calm down, Mom. I'll be fine, I swear."
  • "Be careful, Kai! I told you to wait for me to unpack, you know you're not exactly careful!"
  • a) "Hey, aren't you learning about potential and kinetic energy in school?"
  • b) "Yeah, but I don't under- stand it that much."
  • d) "Gravitational potential energy is calculated by multiplying  an object's weight and height together, right?"
  • c)  "That's fine, I can always help you. Say, consider that box. Do you know how to calculate its gravitational potential energy (GPE)?"
  • c) "After multiplying 44 by 1, I got 44, so the GPE is 44 Joules."
  • d) "Yes, that's correct! Now on to kinetic energy!"
  • b) "To find it's GPE I'd have to multiply its weight, 44 newtons, by its height, 1 meter. I also have to keep in mind the the units for GPE are in Joules, commonly denoted as 'J'."
  • a) "Yes!, Now assume that the box weighs 44 newtons (about 10 pounds), and that it's 1 meter (about 3 feet) above the ground. What would its gravitational potential energy be then?"
  • Kai was always clumsy when it came to carrying things. Her mother knows this, and thus was hesitant when letting her carry boxes into their new apartment. Deciding that failure was likely when it came to Kai, her mother concluded it would be more beneficial to turn her propensity to plop into a learning opportunity.
  • a) "I know that kinetic energy is found by using the equation 1/2 * mass * speed2."
  • d) "That's right! potential and kinetic energy aren't as complicated as they sound. As long as you remember your equations, you should be just fine."
  • b) "Yes, that's correct! The box has a mass of 4 kg, and falls at a rate of 0.5 m/s. Use what you know to calculate the kinetic energy (KE)."
  • Gravitational potential energy is potential energy related to an object's height. Kinetic energy is dependent on the mass and speed of an object. Kai must find the gravitational potential energy for the box. How will she do it?
  • b) "Got it, mom. Thanks for helping me understand a little more."
  • a) "Also Kai, don't forget that energy transformations occur between potential energy and kinetic energy. The box was held up in your hands. Supposing you drop it, its speed increases and its potential becomes kinetic energy. Any rising or falling object experiences a change in its kinetic and gravitational potential energy."
  • Kai has been given her values for weight and height (44 newtons and 1 meter, respectively) and can now calculate the GPE of te box in her hand.  She multiplies the weight times the height (44 * 1) and gets 44. Kai has found that the box has a gravitational potential energy of 44 Joules.
  • THE
  • END
  • Kinetic energy is the energy an object has due to motion. Kai learns that the kinetic energy of an object is dependent on two factors: its mass and its speed. KE's equation is: KE = 1/2ms2 where m = mass, and s =speed (s may be subtituted with v, for velocity).
  • c) "I plugged in the values and found that the kinetic energy of the box is 0.5 Joules."
  • Any object that rises or falls experiences a change in its kinetic and gravitational potential energy. Energy cannot be created or destroyed according to the law of conservation of energy.
  • Kai's understanding of potential and kinetic energy has been helped along a little bit She still drops the box. The end.
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