Answers

2016-07-18T20:57:06+08:00

The motion of a pendulum is a classic example of mechanical energy conservation. A pendulum consists of a mass (known as a bob) attached by a string to a pivot point. As the pendulum moves it sweeps out a circular arc, moving back and forth in a periodic fashion. Neglecting air resistance (which would indeed be small for an aerodynamically shaped bob), there are only two forces acting upon the pendulum bob. One force is gravity. The force of gravity acts in a downward direction and does work upon the pendulum bob. However, gravity is an internal force (or conservative force) and thus does not serve to change the total amount of mechanical energy of the bob. The other force acting upon the bob is the force of tension. Tension is an external force and if it did do work upon the pendulum bob it would indeed serve to change the total mechanical energy of the bob. However, the force of tension does not do work since it always acts in a direction perpendicular to the motion of the bob. At all points in the trajectory of the pendulum bob, the angle between the force of tension and its direction of motion is 90 degrees. Thus, the force of tension does not do work upon the bob.

Since there are no external forces doing work, the total mechanical energy of the pendulum bob is conserved. The conservation of mechanical energy is demonstrated in the animation below. Observe the KE and PE bars of the bar chart; their sum is a constant value.


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