What is Potential energy?
The scientific definition of potential energy is, “The energy possessed by a body by virtue of its position relative to others, stresses within itself, electric charge, and other factors”. In simpler terms,”Potential energy is the energy an object has because of its position; it is energy waiting to be released” (Nelson, M. Rae.Nov. 2016.) Your daily life can relate to many academic fields in a lot of ways; one example is the way you use potential energy to accomplish certain goals in both areas. An example of potential energy can be seen as a rock at the top of a cliff. Why or what does this have to do with energy?
Energy is not just about energy flowing through an object to produce a certain outcome. Energy can be displayed and stored in many ways. The rock in this case has the potential energy to fall or roll to the bottom of the cliff. Another example is when looking at a rubber band; you don’t really see much except for a piece of rubber. Looking at the rubber band, what do you think happens when it is stretched? As the rubber band is being stretched further and further apart it’s storing energy (potential energy). The image below shows the exact moment the energy goes from potential to kinetic when the rubber band is released.
The further you pull each end away the more energy is building up. This energy is potential energy. Potential is also defined as “having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.” Google, (2016). When you let one or both ends go the rubber band rapidly shoots back into the original position that it was in. As soon as you let go of the rubber band the potential energy that was stored turns into kinetic energy. Now that you have a better understanding of potential energy and how it works or what it is, let’s think about how this scientific concept is used in everyday life.
In your everyday life
Whether you are a student, a 9 to 5 worker, stay at home mom, or even a baby, chances are potential energy shows up in your everyday life without you even knowing. In can come in ways like the flip of a light bulb or your phone just sitting there. Have you ever open an ice-cold coke on a hot summer day?
The “pssh (coke product, 1886, every coke bottle ever) sound…that’s the sound of potential energy being turned into kinetic energy. The pressure in the soda is far greater than the atmospheric pressure outside of it. When you open the soda, the loud hiss is the two pressures equalizing each other until they are the same. When the soda is closed, the pressure keeps the carbonated bubbles in the liquid. Once the pressure is released there is now not enough force to keep the bubbles submerged, hence why the soda bubbles up or even sometimes overflows. That gas or sound is potential energy waiting for someone to uncap the bottle, and the bubbles are also this energy waiting for the gas pressure to decrease. It is not just this in which potential energy is displayed.
Potential energy is everywhere regardless if we know it or not. Another example, I know a majority of people have been on a roller coaster, right? So, when the roller coaster is waiting at the very top right before it takes off that is potential energy. The energy is being stored right before it is released and becomes kinetic energy. As the roller coaster approaches the top, during that time it is still storing energy. If there wasn’t potential energy would the roller coaster be able to take off, or even become kinetic energy? No, it would not. It needs to store energy to be able to complete the track. It is things as simple as that, of course while you are riding a roller coaster you are not going to think or say at this moment the roller coaster cart is at its potential energy no, you will be scared out of your mind because you could potentially die.
Saying that the two examples are very similar could seem a little confusing but they relate in many ways not only because they share potential energy. The bubbles from the coke is the same as the roller coaster resting at the very top. They both have a main purpose the coke gives off the pressure that is being contain by the carbonated drink. The roller coaster is waiting to descend to have enough force to be able to complete the track. Not only is this energy mentioned in everyday life but also in your academic life.
In your academic life
Potential energy doesn’t just stop at your everyday life in continues with your academic life as well including different careers and classes you would need for that said career. Mechanical engineering is one example that has potential energy written all over it. No matter who you are If you were thinking about making this your major then physics is a class you should consider taking. The main energy sources that are used are kinetic and potential energy. Some examples of what mechanical engineers work on are refrigerators, air conditioning, elevators, escalators, etc. All of these items are in our everyday lives. These items are in buildings, homes, and department stores everywhere. All of these start out as potential energy when they first begin to run, once they keep running they become kinetic energy. Mechanical engineers help with building all of these items and creating the potential energy that happens before kinetic energy takes over.
A specific item that mechanical engineers work on are BB guns. When a spring is inserted in a BB gun the spring serves as a type of energy for shooting a bullet. When you cock the gun the spring is compressed and held by something in place. Once the trigger is pulled the spring is released and the bullet fires at a rapid pace. Mechanical engineers work with science and how energy works to solve how to make this bullet fire at such a high pace with very little cost and even no electricity needed. Choosing this career for your major could give you more information about what potential energy is and how it is used when manufacturing items such as air-conditioning, refrigerators, escalators, etc.
So, we have talked about how people incorporate this energy in their daily life and how we use it for certain careers. Now ask yourself this question; how or why does knowing about this topic help different people including yourself?
Let’s refer back to the different examples that we went over, one of the big examples that I really think many people could relate to was the comparison between the coke battle and the roller coaster. The coke bottle is in potential energy when the cap is closed and the pressure from the bubbles is still contained, as for the roller coaster it is in potential energy when it is at the very top before it descends to the bottom of the track. Another good one could be our BB image demonstration it shows when potential energy is happening and when kinetic energy is happening.
Seeing this through a scientific way can help you better understand life. Although this is not true for everything, it is true for most things. Science can get boring sometimes or may even seem impossible to understand but it is in our everyday life and comparing the two can make us understand of how things work and science so much easier.
Anonymous (2016). Physlink.com. Retrieved from http://www.physlink.com/education/askexperts/ae653.cfm
Company (June 30,2016). Science Buddies. retrieved from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/ApMech_p017.shtml
(Nelson, M. Rae. “Potential and Kinetic Energy.” Experiment Central: Understanding Scientific Principles Through Projects, edited by Kristine Krapp, 2nd ed., UXL, 2010. Accessed 23 Nov. 2016.)
“Potential Energy.” World of Physics, Gale, 2001. Science in Context, ez1.maricopa.edu:2048/login?url=http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/scic/ReferenceDetailsPage/ReferenceDetailsWindow?disableHighlighting=true&displayGroupName=Reference&currPage=&scanId=&query=&prodId=SCIC&search_within_results=&p=SCIC&mode=view&catId=&limiter=&display-query=&displayGroups=&contentModules=&action=e&sortBy=&documentId=GALE%7CCV2434500395&windowstate=normal&activityType=&failOverType=&commentary=true&source=Bookmark&u=mcc_chandler&jsid=c2516082f08ac817ca4abdb448c2470d.