Kinetic Energy of a Mass

*Kinetic energy* is energy associated with *motion*. For
example, when a spring uncompresses and accelerates a mass, as in the
configuration of Fig.B.2, work is performed on the mass
by the spring, and we say that the potential energy of the spring is
converted to *kinetic energy* of the mass.

Suppose in Fig.B.2 we have an initial spring compression by meters at time , and the mass velocity is zero at . Then from the equation of motion Eq. (B.5), we can calculate when the spring returns to rest ( ). This first happens at the first zero of , which is time . At this time, the velocity, given by the time-derivative of Eq. (B.5),

can be evaluated at to yield the mass velocity , which is when all potential energy from the spring has been converted to kinetic energy in the mass. The square of this value is

and we see that if we multiply by , we get

which is the initial potential energy stored in the spring. We require this result. Therefore, the kinetic energy of a mass must be given by

in order that the kinetic energy of the mass when spring compression is zero equals the original potential energy in the spring when the kinetic energy of the mass was zero. In the next section we derive this result in a more general way.

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Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), Stanford University