Conservative vs. Nonconservative Forces Any discussion of energy must be prefaced with one of the fundamental statements of physics: energy is always conserved . This guiding principle forms the basis for many branches of physics. That said, though total energy in a system cannot change in total amount, energy can change forms. Electrical energy can turn into mechanical energy; mechanical energy can turn into heat. However, since at this point we are only familiar with mechanical energy, for now we can only use the principle of the conservation of energy if no energy is converted to other forms. That is, for our purposes, all mechanical energy must remain mechanical energy. In order to know when mechanical energy is conserved, we must define those forces that do conserve mechanical energy. Friction Friction is the most common nonconservative force, and we will demonstrate why it is not conservative. Consider a crate on a rough floor, of weight W. The crate is pushed from one end of the floor to the other, a distance of h meters, and then back to its original spot. What is the net
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This note was uploaded on 02/09/2012 for the course PHY PHY2053 taught by Professor Davidjudd during the Fall '10 term at Broward College.