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Symmetry 2017, 9(3), 45; doi:10.3390/sym9030045

Interweaving the Principle of Least Potential Energy in School and Introductory University Physics Courses

Department of Physics and Project Unit, Sapir Academic College, Sderot, Hof Ashkelon 79165, Israel
Department of Science and Technology Education, Ben-Gurion University of Negev, P.O.B. 653, Beer-Sheva 8410501, Israel
Department of Solar Energy and Environmental Physics, Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of Negev, P.O.B. 653, Beer-Sheva 8410501, Israel
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Angel Garrido
Received: 15 December 2016 / Revised: 16 March 2017 / Accepted: 16 March 2017 / Published: 22 March 2017
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [2415 KB, uploaded 22 March 2017]   |  


Understanding advanced physical phenomena such as vertically hanging elastic column, soap bubbles, crystals and cracks demands expressing and manipulating a system’s potential energy under equilibrium conditions. However, students at schools and universities are usually required to consider the forces acting on a system under equilibrium conditions, rather than taking into account its potential energy. As a result, they find it difficult to express the system’s potential energy and use it for calculations when they do need to do so. The principle of least potential energy is a powerful idea for solving static equilibrium physics problems in various fields such as hydrostatics, mechanics, and electrostatics. In the current essay, the authors describe this principle and provide examples where students can apply it. For each problem, the authors provide both the force consideration solution approach and the energy consideration solution approach. View Full-Text
Keywords: least potential; potential energy; catenary least potential; potential energy; catenary

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Ben-Abu, Y.; Eshach, H.; Yizhaq, H. Interweaving the Principle of Least Potential Energy in School and Introductory University Physics Courses. Symmetry 2017, 9, 45.

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