# the difference between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy and what does each one represent

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the difference between Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy and what does each one represent

In: Physics

A ball at the top of a slide has potential energy, when it starts down the slide the potential energy is being converted into kinetic energy (moving energy). The higher the ball is in the air the greater its potential energy the faster it moves the greater its kinetic energy.

You lift a ball 3 meters off the ground. Due to gravity wanting that ball back on the ground, you’ve just put potential energy into that ball. You let go of the ball and it falls. This is kinetic energy.

Dianna Cowern has a great series of physics videos that she started making back in September and she starts with energy explanations. They’re not ELI5, but they’re very easy to follow and entertaining. I definitely recommend if you want to know more.

Most objects have a position and motion. Kinetic energy is the energy possessed by the object due to motion. Potential energy is the energy contained by that object due to position.

For example: If something is attached to a spring and if it is located so that it stretches the spring, there is potential energy of position due to the spring.

Potential energy is the amount of force stored within an object that can be released if it was in motion. Kinetic energy is the amount of force that same object will exert when it is actually in motion. As the object moves faster it’s potential energy will become less and its kinetic energy will become greater, making both types of energy inversely proportional. How much of this energy an object actually has is dependent on how massive it is and how fast it can go.

Kinetic Energy is the energy that is completely dependent on objects’ momenta, regardless of their positions. Potential Energy is the energy that is completely dependent on the objects’ positions, regardless of their momenta. Note that both of them depend on mass and possibly also time, depend on the situation.

Think about them as simple ways to breaking out energy into 2 convenient mathematical terms. Neither of them are absolute, they depends on your perspective. What look like kinetic energy from one perspective can become potential energy from another perspective, or even disappear entirely.