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Work and Power

Introduction and Summary

Table of Contents

Terms and Formulae

Newton's Laws, and dynamics as a whole, provide us with fundamental axioms for the study of classical mechanics. Once these foundations are laid, we can derive new concepts from the axioms, furthering our understanding of mechanics and allowing us to extend our study to new and more complex physical situations.

Perhaps the most significant concept derived in dynamics is that of work. The understanding of work greatly simplifies many physical situations. Work, in a sense, introduces a dynamic understanding to mechanics. It allows us to evaluate forces over distance and time, to give us a broader understanding not just of the forces acting on a given object, but about what happens to that object over the course of a given journey. In addition, the concept of work makes our complicated kinematics equations virtually obsolete. It makes calculations easier, and allows us to extend our study to other realms.

We will begin by defining work, both mathematically and conceptually. Once we have an understanding of work, we can apply it to a new concept, energy, the measure of change within a system, and establish the Work-Energy Theorem. We will also look at power, a practical concept that is derived from work. Finally, as we begin to explore more complex situations, we will examine work from a calculus standpoint, and examine variable forces. A good understanding of work is essential for further studies in physics. Work is not only a gateway to more advanced mechanics concepts, it is a concept used in all areas of physics.

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