What is Gravitational Potential Energy?
Don't you just hate it when you are trying to do your homework and everything looks like it's in a foreign language. While some concepts in science are very easy to understand, they often seem to be written and sometimes explained by people who don't seem to speak the same language as you. The goal of this study guide is to translate and breakdown the gravitational potential energy formula and concept so that you can understand what is being discussed.
Gravitational Potential Energy is exactly what the name says. Potential energy is the energy that something had because of its location. While the object my not be currently moving or displaying energy, it has energy because every object does. In the case of gravitational potential energy, the energy is based on the position or location because of the existence of gravity.
For example, if you are holding a book in the air, that book has gravitational potential energy. Why? Because if you let go of that book, it will fall due to the effects of gravity. Likewise when you lift that book you are working against gravity. The higher you lift the book, the more potential energy the book has.
Consider this, work is done when there is a change in potential energy. If you have a penny and you drop it from 2 feet off the ground, it probably isn't going to do much damage. If you drop that same penny from 50 floors up however, it can do some serious damage. This brings us to the next section, which will explain how to use the gravitational potential energy formula.