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Thread: Is gravitational potential energy real?

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2004

    Is gravitational potential energy real?

    Does it have some kind of quantum carrier?
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Falls Church, VA (near Washington, DC)
    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Does it have some kind of quantum carrier?
    Do you mean gravitons?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Wellington, New Zealand
    Gravitational potential energy is a real property of an object, e.g. if you drop a rock it will gain kinetic energy and lose gravitational potential energy. The quantum carrier involved is that of gravity - the hypothetical graviton.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    RC is correct. The property of the object is its location in relation to a gravity source.
    The "carrier" is not a particle; it is an external force that does work. Say, you.

    A rock sits on the ground.
    You pick it up.
    Your muscle effort in lifting the rock is converted into potential energy of the rock.
    You let it go. The potential energy is converted to kinetic energy.
    Rinse, repeat.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Gravitational potential energy is as "real" as any other form of energy. Energy and momentum are just conserved book-keeping properties, arising from the fact that physics behaves symmetrical in time and space - there has to be a conservation law for each of these symmetries, and those conserved quantities look like energy (time), linear momentum (translation in space) and angular momentum (rotation in space).
    Under general relativity, potential energy gets stirred in with kinetic energy to form a constant of motion, so there's no way in which one could be "real" and the other not. Whether you think of energy as being a fundamentally real or fundamentally mathematical entity is a philosophical choice best avoided here, but it has to be equally real in all its manifestations, otherwise it wouldn't be conserved.

    Grant Hutchison

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    The Great NorthWet
    It had better be, or trebuchets wouldn't work! On the other hand, Trebuchet is retired and doesn't work any more.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Metrowest, Boston
    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Does it have some kind of quantum carrier?
    check your private messages

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