Force field (physics)

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Plot of a two-dimensional slice of the gravitational potential in and around a uniform spherical body. The inflection points of the cross-section are at the surface of the body.

In physics, a force field is a vector field that describes a non-contact force acting on a particle at various positions in space. Specifically, a force field is a vector field , where is the force that a particle would feel if it were at the point .[1]

Examples[edit]

  • Gravity is the force of attraction between two objects. A gravitational force field models this influence that a massive body (or more generally, any quantity of energy) extends into the space around itself.[2] In Newtonian gravity, a particle of mass M creates a gravitational field , where the radial unit vector points away from the particle. The gravitational force experienced by a particle of light mass m, close to the surface of Earth is given by , where g is the standard gravity.[3][4]
  • An electric field is a vector field. It exerts a force on a point charge q given by .[5]

Work[edit]

Work is dependent on the displacement as well as the force acting on an object. As a particle moves through a force field along a path C, the work done by the force is a line integral

This value is independent of the velocity/momentum that the particle travels along the path.

Conservative force field[edit]

For a conservative force field, it is also independent of the path itself, depending only on the starting and ending points. Therefore, the work for an object travelling in a closed path is zero, since its starting and ending points are the same:

If the field is conservative, the work done can be more easily evaluated by realizing that a conservative vector field can be written as the gradient of some scalar potential function:

The work done is then simply the difference in the value of this potential in the starting and end points of the path. If these points are given by x = a and x = b, respectively:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mathematical methods in chemical engineering, by V. G. Jenson and G. V. Jeffreys, p211
  2. ^ Geroch, Robert (1981). General relativity from A to B. University of Chicago Press. p. 181. ISBN 0-226-28864-1., Chapter 7, page 181
  3. ^ Vector calculus, by Marsden and Tromba, p288
  4. ^ Engineering mechanics, by Kumar, p104
  5. ^ Calculus: Early Transcendental Functions, by Larson, Hostetler, Edwards, p1055

External links[edit]