Essential University Physics: Volume 1 (4th Edition)

Published by Pearson
ISBN 10: 0-134-98855-8
ISBN 13: 978-0-13498-855-9

Chapter 7 - For Thought and Discussion - Page 130: 4


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Work Step by Step

Potential energy can be negative, for where the ground is can be considered an arbitrary definition. For instance, if I were to say that the ground was the floor while a different person said the ground was the top of a table, neither of us would be wrong. Therefore, anything below whatever is defined to be ground level has negative potential energy. Kinetic energy, however, equals $mv^2$. $v^2$ and can never be negative, for it is squared, and mass can never be negative, so kinetic energy will never be negative.
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