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4  WORK AND ENERGY

4.1  Introduction

In this chapter we make another attack on the fundamental problem of classical mechanics—predicting the motion of a system under known interactions. We shall encounter two important new concepts, work and energy, which first appear to be mere computational aids, mathematical crutches so to speak, but which turn out to have very real physical significance.

As first glance there seems to be no problem in finding the motion of a particle if we know the force; starting with Newton’s second law, we obtain the acceleration, and by integrating we can find first the velocity and then the position. It sounds simple, but there is a problem; in order to carry out these calculations we must know the force as a function ...

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